Another Critical Update. This update courtesy of Fr. Dismas Sayre, OP, a Dominican friar from Holy Name Province in the United States. Please continue to pray for peace, and the safety of these Dominican friars.
Another Critical Update from a Dominican in Ukraine
February 26, 2022
Dear sisters and dear brothers,
I just came back from shopping – I managed to find a market still open in my neighborhood, despite the fact that almost everything in Kyiv is closed. Now I can sit down and try to describe what’s happening around us.
The night was supposed to be difficult and dangerous in the capital of Ukraine. Luckily, the warnings about the possible mass-bombardments did not actualize, although in some regions of the town there were sporadic fights both with the use of heavy equipment as well as street shootouts.
A lot of fighting happened in the vicinity of Kyiv, among others in the region of Vasylkiv, which is in the direction of Fastiv. When we were finishing our morning prayer, we got information that the city was already “clear” and that the enemy was pushed out. We can hear now, while I’m sitting at the computer, occasional distant explosions.
Doing Important Things
This morning and the whole day is very sunny, inviting people to get out of home, although walks are not advisable because of the possibility of finding yourself under fire. If however something important needs to be done, one must act. Brothers Oleksandr and Thomas left in the morning to donate their blood. If we can manage to get to the city center and the cathedral we will collect the medical kits which the curia gives away to priests. Unfortunately, although we have a doctor among the people who stay with us, we don’t have too many medical supplies if they become needed.
One can still see people on the streets of Kyiv. Many of them carry weapons – they check documents, especially from men, and they also check cars. On the way to the store, I passed one of those checkpoints. There are women among the defenders of Kyiv – at my checkpoint, I saw one beautiful, young Ukrainian girl with an assault weapon on her shoulder. I was checked by an older, bearded man, though. The Polish passport does not raise any suspicions in the present situation, rather sympathy.
The subway system was turned into a shelter and functions only for a very short time of the day. So far, we still have communication (telephone and internet), water, light, and natural gas. Some of us, me included, spent the night in the basement. Our priory has two basements which also serve as ministry space, so the standard of living is not bad. At this moment, one of the basements is for women who stay with us, and the other for us and other men.
Almost twenty people from our ministries have asked for the possibility to temporarily stay with us because their regular housing is located in the dangerous neighborhoods of the city, or they live alone, or their buildings have no access to basements or shelters. So you can see that our “war community” has substantially increased.
There were street shootouts in Fastiv last night, some of them not far from our priory; local Ukrainian forces were dealing with Russian saboteurs. For this reason, a number of persons were seeking shelter in the chapel under the church. Father Misha stays in contact with the local authorities who try to ensure the safety of our neighborhood as much as they can. They know very well that the House of Saint Martin is a temporary home for many people, among them children, who try to hide from danger.
A group of thirty children from Mariupol left yesterday for Poland. They will be hosted there by one of the parishes. We have received, however, another thirty from the Donetsk Oblast region. The youngest among these children is David, who is only sixteen days old, and he comes from the village of Zaitseve (Zhovanka), close to Bachmut in the Donetsk Oblast. Fastiv also became a shelter for people escaping from Kyiv.
Among them is a foreign doctor and first response instructor from the Red Cross; they are now using the opportunity to train people at the Center of Saint Martin. The brothers and sisters are holding well. If the situation allows and we can safely travel by car to Fastiv, I will attempt as soon as I can to visit the brothers and to deliver health packages which got stuck with us in Kyiv a couple days ago. It’s hard to predict, however, when and if it will be possible.
Half-Night Vigil for Peace
Father Ireneusz with a group of parishioners left Kharkiv yesterday and moved to Yazlovets (not far from Chortkiv, western Ukraine). They arrived safely, and now they are planning to continue to Zakarpattia. I just spoke a moment ago with our brother Bishop Nicholas. He sends his very best. He prays a lot for peace – yesterday they spent half the night at a vigil at the cathedral. He is also preparing places to receive war refugees. He intends to write a letter to his diocese asking for kindness in accepting refugees into their homes. So far there has been no fighting in Zakarpattia.
Lviv is relatively calm, although one could hear sirens through the night warning of possible attacks. In the evenings, the streets seem empty, which for Lviv is something completely abnormal. Chortkiv is also peaceful. I talked to Father Julian Różycki who was just going to the church to celebrate his noon Mass, and he told me that there are significantly fewer people on the streets, and many stores are closed.
In Khmelnytskyi, peace. Father Włodzimierz managed to come back to Khmelnytskyi from his vacation in Poland, although the trip took a long time; he left before the war started. Father Jakub says that a lot of people are volunteering for the army to defend their country, including some young men from our ministry.
We are Grateful
We are very grateful for your prayers, for all the words of support and solidarity. We try to answer, but it is not always possible to keep up with the number of emails, information, and phone calls. We are very grateful that you are with us and help Ukraine in so many ways, including materially. The state of our bank accounts is a great sign of your compassion and generosity. The means you send are very helpful: we can shop for all of the people who stay with us because credit cards are still working. It’s a very mundane thing, but in this moment very important. You are offering good for people who found themselves in war.
Please help as much as you can all the Ukrainians who have escaped to Poland. Ukraine does not allow men of military age to leave the country, so women left alone, especially those with children, need your help.
We are sending our warmest greetings to all of you, and we ask for the protection of the Protectress of our Order, Saint Hyacinth, and Saint Michael the Archangel who is the patron of the Dominican Vicariate of Ukraine.
You can check back on our website for the latest news.