Kyiv: This is an update from Jarosław Krawiec, OP, the Vicar Provincial who lives in Kyiv that was sent October 10. While the situation is depressing, the faith of the Dominicans and others who have done so much to sustain the faith of the people is amazing.
Rockets Makes for a Terrible Day in Ukraine
Dear sisters, dear brothers,
“We are asking for prayers. Today is a terrible day. Multiple rockets are flying over us. Explosions in Kyiv; we have dead and wounded casualties. Similar situations in many larger cities. I haven’t slept in a couple days. I am afraid. I have started to feel overwhelmed.” — This is the message I received at 8am today from Ukraine. I am currently in Poland, so I immediately read the message with great worry. Nightmarish news about tens or maybe hundreds of instances of rocket artillery fire across the territory of the country.
The president of Ukraine lists surroundings of many cities that were under attack: Kyiv, Khmelnytskyi, Lviv, Dnipro, Vinnytsia, Ivano-Frankivsk, Sumy, Kharkiv, Zhytomyr, Zaporizhzhia. In the recording published on social media, Volodymyr Zelenskyy is standing in front of his administration building in the heart of Kyiv. A moment earlier, some missiles had fallen nearby. A litany of places, a litany of death, pain, tears, and destruction.
I didn’t plan to write this letter today, just like millions of Ukrainians didn’t plan to begin this new day of a new week in terrible fear, uncertainty, and concern for their lives, their children, and their loved ones. Today’s attacks are Russia’s revenge for the destruction of the Crimean bridge on Saturday. One of the rockets hit the Glass Bridge, an ultra-modern pedestrian path connecting two hills in the center of Kyiv, built by the initiative of the city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko. As far as I can tell, the attack didn’t damage this delicate structure made of steel and glass. A very telling sign.
Our priories and churches remain untouched. The brothers in Kyiv could clearly hear the explosions when rockets hit the city center. A lot of people on their way to work or school immediately looked for shelter, especially in the subway stations, and the normal functioning of the trains was suspended to ensure safe shelter in the underground tunnels. Some rockets attacked the neighborhood of the train station. Father Misha saw rockets flying over Fastiv. “I was just doing my shopping at the city farmer’s market when the Russian rockets appeared over our heads,” he told me over the phone. “People sat or layed down on the ground.”
He managed, however, to do his shopping and to bring the priory a very tasty Ukrainian salo, he told me with a laugh. In Khmelnytskyi, the lights went out during the Eucharist. Since the rockets attacked the national electric grid, many Ukrainian cities and villages don’t have electricity. In some places they don’t have water, either. In Chortiv, it was announced that all kindergartens and schools have to switch to remote learning until the end of the week. The coming days will certainly be difficult for Ukrainians.
Yesterday, Father Lukasz — the Polish Provincial — and I, returned from Lourdes, where we participated in the Dominican rosary pilgrimage. We were invited by the French friars, who have been supporting us since the beginning of the war. They had asked us to speak about what is happening in Ukraine. The meeting took place on Friday in the enormous hall at the shrine of Lourdes. The hall was filled with people.
The three of us — Father Lukasz, me, and Father Zdzislaw Szmanda from Geneva who had lived in Kyiv for a number of years — described the ministry of the Dominicans in a country torn by war, the daily life of people in Ukraine, the spiritual experience of this time, and the social and historical consequences of this war.
On the way to Lourdes, Father Lukasz and I paid a visit to the Dominican nuns in Dax. It was uplifting to meet our nuns and pray with them for Ukraine. I am aware that this was an experience of just one of the many monasteries around the world that pray for us daily. We are very grateful to the sisters! We left Lourdes with gratitude to our French brothers, sisters, and members of the Dominican family for their solidarity with Ukraine.
Last week brought a number of joyful events in the life of the House of Saint Martin de Porres in Fastiv. Father Misha and almost a hundred other people — representatives of different religions and denominations — were awarded for their ministry in the time of war by the president of the Ukrainian parliament, Ruslan Stefanchuk. This ceremony took place in the heart of the Ukrainian capital in the oldest church in Kyiv, the Holy Sophia Cathedral.
In the meantime in Poland on Thursday, in the great hall of Krakow Philharmonics, a ceremony of awarding the Pope John Paul II Veritatis Splendor prize took place. This “Krakow Nobel Prize” is awarded every two years by the leadership of the Lesser Poland voivodeship for particular efforts in the area of dialogue among cultures in society. This year three entities were awarded, and one of them was the House of Saint Martin.
At the festive celebration, apart from Dominicans from Krakow and Warsaw, Fastiv was represented by Vera and Marzena, as well as other Crakovian friends of the House. I am very happy with this distinction, and I would like to congratulate Father Misha and all the people who make up the House of Saint Martin: all volunteers, Charytatywni Freta, individuals, communities, and institutions who support it by finances, material help, and prayer. It is your award and your distinction for your great service to those in need.
Recently, Ukraine was visited by Father Alain Arnauld, the socius to the Master of the Order. He came to us for the second time since the beginning of the war, this time to visit Fastiv, Kyiv, and Khmelnytskyi. I highly value meetings with Father Alain. He is a man of great heart, who offers wisdom and fraternal love. He spent a lot of time meeting with brothers and volunteers from the House of Saint Martin, as well as the Dominican tertiaries in Fastiv and Kyiv.
Last week Father Misha joined Father Ruslan — the rector of the diocesan seminary in Kyiv — and a group of volunteers from the house of Saint Martin; they went to eastern Ukraine to deliver humanitarian help. After a short stop at our priory in Kharkiv, now served by Father Andrew, they went south to Balakliia and a number of villages around Izium. These places had recently been liberated from the Russian army’s occupation. They told me these towns look like a wounded, beaten person.
One can see huge destruction: burned and ruined buildings, bruised trees, the earth plowed by tanks, and, worst of all, people with physical and spiritual wounds, tears, and pain. Very clearly, the needs are enormous. The inhabitants of these territories that were under occupation for almost half a year are in desperate need, especially of anything that can protect them from the coming cold and winter. “We have to start making pillows and comforters so that we have something to give them next time,” added Father Misha. So far we managed to deliver over 7 tons of food, medication, and wood-powered heaters and natural gas canisters that the villagers can use to cook food.
Today we all realized again that this horrible war isn’t over, and it keeps taking lives, health, and hope from millions of Ukrainians. In Kyiv and Fastiv, we are thinking with fear of the threat from the North, the possible invasion by the Russian and Belarussian armies. However, I share the view of the enormous majority of Ukrainains when I say I am convinced of the strength and effectiveness of our army that has been bravely defending its country for so many months. May their work be finished as soon as possible.
I ask you very fervently for continuous prayer for Ukraine and for us. Do not stop sending your help of any kind. It is still very needed.
With greetings and prayer,
Jarosław Krawiec OP,
Kyiv, October 10, 2:45pm
For updates on the situation in Ukraine you can check out this section of the friar. Also, if you would like to help the Dominican friars serving in Ukraine, there is a website that is facilitating this. Go to https://helpukraine.dominikanie.pl/.
One benefit of helping here is that it is not only cash donations that are sought, but also items that are helpful for people in need. You can collect items and send them to the Dominicans in Poland who will bring them to the priories where they can be used. You can also learn more about the presence of Dominican friars, sisters, nuns and laity, as well as things that are really needed to help them continue to serve the people suffering so much. These updates come from Kyiv. The Dominicans have been in this part of the world almost since their founding.