Below is another update from Jarosław Krawiec, OP. It describes acts of heroism and service on the part of Dominicans in Kyiv. By Dominicans, it includes all branches of the Order. The friars, nuns, brothers, sisters and laity are all performing heroic service to help those suffering from this senseless violence.
Update on Service
Dear sisters and dear brothers,
March 1 is the first day of spring in Ukraine. I read on one of the local internet sites that “it is a day for which people always wait with longing.” The Ukranian first day of spring started in Kyiv with a snow storm. In the morning everything was white on the streets. But most of us did not look for the first snowdrops or other signs of nature waking to life; above all we looked for the disturbing signs of war: another bombardment, sirens, news of what’s happening on the streets, and how the world is reacting to the events.
Last night Misha Romaniv called from Fastiv. I was very worried about them because the firefights started on the streets of the city after 8pm. The Ukrainian army shot down a Russian airplane, which crashed somewhere nearby. One could see from a distance burning columns of military vehicles. It all started to feel intense, and almost immediately, close to 80 people from the neighborhood came to us looking for shelter. Some of them with their dogs, cats, and other animals.
There was never a lack of animals around the House of Saint Martin, starting with horses and donkeys and ending with parrots and some colorful birds. Father Pawel keeps a dog in the priory, and Father Jan has great sympathy for cats. The brothers understand well that people don’t want to leave their animals behind, especially since nobody knows what is going to happen and when they will come back home.
Someone arrived on a motorbike; specially designed bags for the transportation of cats were attached to a brand new Honda. The volunteers from Poland brought with them in their minivan some food and, the most needed items among them, a couple bags of dog food. Father Misha was delighted.
Someone else stopped in a very elegant car and took out a more than 10 kg sturgeon which must have cost a fortune, and he donated it to the House of Saint Martin. He was on his way to his family or friends but decided that the food will be more useful for us. At present, all the exits from Fastiv are guarded by soldiers. Everybody is afraid of the continuous escalation of events and the streetfights. Even more so now that the Chechens apparently showed up in the city.
Luckily, Brother Igor Selishchev whom I mentioned yesterday safely arrived in Fastiv by train through Przemysl and Lviv. His travel was peaceful, and the train arrived on time. Igor is from Donetsk. He has just finished his religious formation and studies in Krakow. Now he has joined us, the Brothers of the Vicariate of Ukraine.
The Master of the Order, Father Gerard Timoner III, wrote to us yesterday. He tried in vain to call me and Father Peter Balog but somehow couldn’t succeed. The brothers and sisters from the whole world are now united with Ukraine. It is very important to all of us. And not just the Dominicans worry about us. It is good that the pandemic taught us how to work online.
At noon we had a Zoom meeting of the priests serving the diocese of Kyiv-Zhytomyr and our Bishop Vitalij. He remains here in Kyiv. The priests are a little nervous, but most of them are still in good spirits. Even the oblates from Chernivtsi, who are almost completely cut off from the world. More often than not they are sitting with their parishioners in the basement of the church.
I would like today to write a little bit about these unusual women: the religious sisters. As Father Misha just told me, he was looking today for some way to bring an oven for baking bread from the east side of Kyiv. (This is the most dangerous region of the city, and one has to cross the bridge over the Dnieper.) There were no volunteers. He almost lost any hope of doing it when Sister Anastasia from Slovakia who serves at the Caritas Center said that she is getting in her minivan and will bring the oven. I hope she will get to Fastiv safely. I know I would not have the courage to do that.
The sisters from the Dominican congregation in Zolochiv in western Ukraine were feeding war refugees on the Polish-Ukrainian border crossing in Rava-Ruska. The first moments of evacuations, lines 25 km long, endless human drama, tears, uncertainty, separated families… These brave women in white habits stayed with those people. Sister Matthew told me that today on the way to the border one could see a lot of abandoned cars, travel bags, and personal items. In Chortkiv the Dominican sisters are sharing their basement, which is normally a classroom, with their neighbors. The city has frequent air-raid alarms, but no shots have been fired yet.
Last night I wrote in the letter to my Provincial: “One more thing… It moved me very deeply personally. Please pray for Nikita, our postulant who is in Kharkiv, and Kirill, who is now in our priory with one of the families from the parish. He is considering joining the Order but will probably have to wait. Even today he told me that maybe he could wait as a Lay Dominican. It is some strange sign that the two youngest Dominican “infants” are in the city under bombardment in eastern Ukraine. Sign, witness…” At night Kharkiv was heavily bombed. The shooting keeps going anyways. This afternoon I talked to Kirill — the rocket fell close to the priory. He is holding up well; I didn’t feel in his voice any fear or doubt. Amazing. Let us pray for them.
A moment ago I heard a number of strong explosions in our neighborhood. It was the first time they were that loud. A moment later we saw pictures on the internet showing that it was a rocket attack on the TV tower located about a mile away from our priory. They missed.
We are receiving a lot of emails and phone calls with the offer of help. My heart is welling with hope, and I’m authentically moved by your readiness to help. We are not capable however, especially in Kyiv or in Fastiv, to coordinate material help, facilitate refugee transfer to Poland, or organize transport of things. Please act in your own locations, wherever you live. If we need anything and we know it would be possible to achieve, we will let you know, and we will ask you.
Please connect to our Dominican priories in Poland — I know that my brothers and sisters are up to the task. You can write to Marzena from the group Charytatywni-Freta in Warsaw (email@example.com) who is coordinating help for us. She will know what to do and together with her coworkers will make sure that the gifts can eventually find their way to us. You can always support us financially. We are gathering means that we intend to use now and also in the future. I know for sure that they will be very needed.
At the end of this letter, I am attaching information about our bank. Here “on the front lines” we are not able to deal with this ocean of good initiative from the whole world, and we have to stay focused on those who are immediately next to us. I want to send you my warmest greetings.
Jarosław Krawiec OP, Kyiv, March 1, 2022, 6 pm
This website will continue to provide updates as we become aware of them.