File photo of Caritas aid workers File photo of Caritas aid workers 

Caritas Poland: ‘Many Poles have helped Ukraine and pray for peace’

As Russia’s war continues to ravage Ukraine, Caritas Poland’s head of communications describes the ongoing outpouring of humanitarian assistance offered by some 80 percent of Polish households.

By Devin Watkins

“It is estimated that about 80 percent of Poles have been involved in helping Ukraine… It is amazing how much help was given by families, parishes, religious orders, NGOs or companies.”

Dominika Chylewska, the head of communications for Caritas Poland, offered that statistic on Poland’s aid to its eastern neighbor since Russia’s invasion began on 24 February.

Pope Francis praised the people of Poland on Wednesday for their welcome of Ukrainian refugees, calling their country “a hospitable home” and asking everyone to pray for peace.

Massive outpouring of assistance

Speaking to Vatican News, Ms. Chylewska said that Polish parishes and religious orders have donated nearly 50 million Euro to help Ukrainian refugees.

“Housing has been provided for 320,000 people and care for more than 145,000 children,” she said. “More than 1,000 houses of various congregations of women’s orders in Poland and Ukraine are providing assistance.”

Caritas Poland, the Church’s national humanitarian branch, also assists in that massive aid effort.

Assistance has shifted from offering emergency housing, medical care, and food aid in the early weeks of the war to helping people in their daily lives in Poland.

Caritas has organized summer vacations for Ukrainian children, as well as a major psychological assistance project, according to Ms. Chylewska, since most refugees “want to lead a normal life in Poland.”

“More than 30 Caritas Migrant and Refugee Assistance Centers provide all-round support, including in learning the Polish language or finding a job,” she noted.

“Thousands of assisted people and millions of Euros in donated aid illustrates the solidarity of our society with our eastern neighbors. Poles have shown their great sensitivity to the suffering of others, especially mothers and children and the elderly.”

Ongoing displacement

However, the intensification of fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine has kicked off another wave of migration.

The humanitarian situation appears increasingly bleak in parts of the country, with a lack of housing and problems with energy supplies, besides the devastation wrought by Russian bombs.

So far, over 5.5 million Ukrainians have fled to Ukraine, and the UN’s refugee agency says at least 2.6 million of those will remain in Poland through the end of the year.

Ms. Chylewska pointed out that few refugees return to Ukraine permanently.

“Some go for a short time because they want to see the state of their homes and meet loved ones who have stayed there,” she said. “Those who return most often come from Western Ukraine, or other places where there is no heavy fighting.”

Turning faith into help for the suffering

In his appeal for Ukraine at the Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis invited everyone to pray to Our Lady of Częstochowa for peace in Ukraine and the world.

Ms. Chylewska noted that Poles have a special relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary, and have turned their faith into action.

“Many people set out from their ‘comfortable couch,’ as Pope Francis has encouraged, to experience prayer on the road by participating in pilgrimages,” she said. “August is also a time to reflect on human life, and ask for the intercession of the Mother of God for peace on earth.”

Parishes across Poland continue to pray for peace, concluded the head of communications for Caritas Poland, who said that Poles “believe there is a chance for peace, and we pray for it, together with the people of Ukraine.”

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18 August 2022, 13:25