The BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme featured our friends and colleagues from JRS Poland where JRS staff, volunteers and priests are working around the clock to help welcome 100’s of thousands of refugees fleeing Ukraine following the Russian invasion.
Fr Damian Czerniak SJ spoke from Warsaw of the involvement of Jesuit Parishes organising accommodation for refugees with parish families. Meanwhile, volunteers are gathering funds and needed supplies for the refugees.
Fr Damian said that apart from fulfilling all the immediate material needs, they try to support their emotional and spiritual needs: “…they need our support, our love and closeness. We need to be with them because the closest people in their lives cannot be there. They need support from us and we want to provide psychological help as well and we do that as JRS and Jesuit communities in Poland.”
Families have been torn apart by the conflict, as husbands, brothers and fathers have remained in Ukraine to defend the country. Fr Damian explained that they are organising immediate direct help in Poland and the Ukraine where retreat houses have been converted to receive and host refugees. Apart from this immediate aid, they aim to organise long-term help to educate children – for which scholarships will need to be raised.
Read more about JRS’ response to the conflict in Ukraine, and how we’re responding.
Testimony of Three Women Refugees
The feature includes some recordings collected by Fr Damian of women who recently arrived from the Ukraine. Olga is staying in Warsaw with a Polish family who she has found to be so kind and sympathetic; the kindness constantly moves her to tears.
Natalia – also now staying in Warsaw, relates her feelings of fear, depression and disbelief at what has happened in her homeland.
And Sonia who is 22 years old and travelled 50 hours to reach accommodation organised by the local church. She felt guilty at being safe whilst others were in danger. She commented, “under such terrible events, my faith became stronger”.
Listen to the recording on BBC Sounds. The JRS piece begins at approx. 11.10 minutes into the programme