December 11, 2023

Every Update from Ukraine 2022-2023

We Have Family in Ukraine

Update. These are the collection of every update we have received from Jarosław Krawiec, OP, the Vicar Provincial in Ukraine. 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.

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/.

Image by Wilfried Pohnke from Pixabay

Every Update from Ukraine

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Thursday, May 18, 2023

May nights in Kyiv are unusually restless this year. Especially the one between Monday and Tuesday. The noise made by the defenders of the Ukrainian sky as they shot at Russian rockets and drones was accompanied by car alarms. While the earth was shaking and the sky was pulsating with repeated explosions, they were going on and off maddeningly.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

There is a painted icon of Our Lady Orans of Kyiv on the wall of a street bomb shelter in Kherson. These small, safe shelters made out of cement, located at bus stops, are called “hideouts” in Ukrainian. The original of the icon is found in a mosaic on the dome of the Sophia Sobor, one of the oldest and most important churches in Kyiv. Mary, raising both hands to heaven in a gesture signifying constant prayer, complete surrender to God, and subjection to his will, has become for us in these days a “hideout.”

Sunday, February 5, 2023

My last letter contained a moving testimony of the pain that is tearing apart the hearts of many Ukrainian women. Men are suffering in the same way — because their girlfriends, mothers, and wives are also dying on the front lines. Many of them are serving in the ranks of the Ukrainian Army as medical personnel. There are young women as well as many who already have significant medical experience as doctors or nurses. January 22 was celebrated as a national holiday — the Day of Ukrainian Unity. I went to a concert of Taras Kompanichenko and Chorea Kozacka. It took place in a place special to Kyiv, the Pechersk Lavra.

Sunday, January 21, 2023

I’ve been waiting to send this letter until Father Misha and his volunteers from the House of Saint Martin de Porres are safely on their way back to Fastiv. They left yesterday with the humanitarian transport to Kherson. Unfortunately I couldn’t join them, so I’m only getting reports over the telephone. These days Kherson is very dangerous because both the city and the vicinity around it are being shelled daily.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

I never thought that one could long for lights. When I got off the Kyiv train in Warsaw, I was surprised by the festival of brightly lit streets, buildings, and, above all, colorful Christmas decorations. When you add to it the snow that just fell in Poland in abundant supply, it all looked like a New Year’s fairytale.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Once again Fr. Misha, the volunteers from Saint Martin, and I traveled to Izium and Balakliya. This time we were joined by Mr. Bartosz Cichocki, the Polish ambassador to Ukraine. He’s one of the diplomats who didn’t abandon their posts in Kyiv at the beginning of the war. He and his wife Monika strongly support all kinds of activities and centers of aid, including the House of Saint Martin in Fastiv.

Monday, November 15, 2022

I did not expect how euphoric the Ukrainians’ joy would be after the liberation of Kherson. This city, one of the most important in the south, had been under Russian occupation for 256 days. I’ve heard many times from Father Misha about his dream to finally load the cars and personally deliver aid to the people of that city. Now Misha is just waiting for the signal from his friends over there, before starting the drive

Monday, October 31, 2022

Evenings are now dark on the streets of Ukrainian cities. Due to the need to save electricity, most of the lights are off. Recently, when I was leaving the store, I saw a beautiful German Shepherd, which looked at me with curiosity. The dog then started speaking with a woman’s voice. I was astonished! After a few seconds, however, I realized his owner was sitting next to the dog. Disguised by darkness and invisible to the world, she was speaking loudly on the phone.

Monday, October 10, 2022

“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.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Prayer is a particularly important form of help for Ukraine. Prayer is what allowed us to survive the most difficult time at the beginning of the war and that it continually brings strength to the Dominicans and lay volunteers daily serving people in need.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

I have to admit that Saint Hyacinth becomes closer and closer to me every year. I see my ministry in Ukraine as a realization of his desire to preach the Gospel on the shores of the Dnieper. I had the great joy of visiting Rome on Holy Saturday this year, when I went to the Basilica of Santa Sabina, accompanied by Father Alain, the socius to the Master of the Order, and I could see its fresco depicting the vestition of Saint Hyacinth.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

I wrote the last letter from Ukraine over a month ago. That’s a long time. Since life in Kyiv has become calmer and more normal, it’s harder to force yourself to write. Routine, weariness of repeated air alarms, beginning each day with checking the phone to see where bombs fell overnight and how many casualties, the fear of repeating what everyone already knows… all this contributed to my procrastination in writing.

Wednesday, June 27, 2022

It’s been over two weeks since my last letter from Ukraine. This longer period between correspondences might give the impression of a return to normalcy. If one of you arrived now in Kyiv or Lviv not knowing a war has been going on for over four months, you might not see at first glance that not all is in order.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Today I made a phone call to an older woman whose son fights on the frontlines. “Good morning, this is Father Jarosław…” On the other end: silence. I introduced myself again and explained why I’m calling. After a while, she told me that the unfamiliar male voice in the receiver had surprised and frightened her. How true; during wartime a phone call like this could have brought bad news about her son. Mrs. Nadia isn’t the only mother though, or wife or daughter, who picks up the phone with apprehension.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Recently I’ve spent most of my time sending letters. It was hard to find spare time to do it sooner, but it’s very important to me that thank-you notes from the brothers in Ukraine find their way to all the people supporting the Dominican mission in the country at war. Many people and many institutions around the world help us, so the work of sending letters will still take some time. Writing addresses, signing letters, and attaching post stamps might seem boring and purely mechanical.

It isn’t so, however. For me, all these actions became emotionally absorbing, stirring my curiosity and, above all, bringing forth an enormous gratitude. I know that behind every name, address, priory, province, and institution are good and generous people. You are our friends — our sisters and brothers. Unfortunately, we don’t have the addresses of all our benefactors, so if any of you don’t receive my handwritten letter, please be assured that we remember all of you in our prayers. We are in Ukraine, and we serve all those in need on your behalf as well.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

As I’m walking through springtime Kyiv, it feels like the war has just ended. Each day, the streets are filling with a growing number of people; new stores are opening up; new coffee shops, restaurants, and services are unlocking their doors. Even the bazaar, not far from our priory, is seeing merchants returning, although until recently it was just a mess of a place, since the adjacent building was destroyed two months ago by Russian rockets. It’s not particularly unusual. Since the beginning of war, 390 buildings in the capital, including 222 apartment buildings, have been damaged or destroyed; 75 schools, pre-K, and kindergarten buildings suffered damage, as well as 17 hospitals and healthcare facilities.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Dear sisters, dear brothers,

“Father, the air raid alarm has been going for over two hours. Are you in the shelter?” As I was beginning to write, I received this message from Vera, from the House of Saint Martin in Fastiv. Tonight, just like yesterday, the air raid was announced covering almost the whole country; the news reported multiple rocket attacks in different cities of Ukraine. Although the attacks are mostly aimed at railroads and strategic locations, we all know those rockets don’t always hit their targets.

Thursday, April 8, 2022

Dear sisters, dear brothers,

Little Romek celebrated his sixth birthday yesterday. When I was visiting the brothers in Chortkiv two days ago, he was sitting with his dad in our priory’s parish office, which also functions as a guest room. They were looking at something on his computer. We peeked in for a moment, and he immediately ran to us, embraced Father Svorad, and announced to everyone: “I will have a birthday in two days!” He became a little embarrassed when I said that if that’s the case, we’ll have to find some kind of a gift for him. His dad immediately responded that the greatest gift for them was being able to take shelter with us.

Monday, April 5, 2022

Dear sisters, dear brothers,

On Sunday, the world learned about the horrible war crimes committed against the defenseless civilian population in Bucha, the city located less than 20 km west of Kyiv. Until recently, it had been an oasis of peace. Now this beautifully located town has become part of the history of human wickedness.

Friday, April 2, 2022

Dear sisters, dear brothers,

Yesterday Kyiv had one of its quietest days since the beginning of the war. I didn’t hear a single siren, although when I looked at the “Digital Kyiv” app, I found out there had been two air raid alarms. Only two; other days there had been as many as twenty. Yesterday you couldn’t hear repeated explosions, but only something like a distant “thunder” from time to time. No wonder a lot of people have appeared on the streets.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Dear sisters, dear brothers,

It’s been a bit longer than usual since my last letter. Looking at what’s going on around us, it seems like we’re witnessing a transition from a certain kind of romanticism of the first days of war to the realism and pragmatism of the second month. What do I mean? First of all, that we’re getting used to living in different conditions. I see it clearly in Kyiv. On Monday, the curfew was shortened. Now it lasts from 9pm to 6am.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Dear sisters, dear brothers,

Like many of the faithful around the world, we spent yesterday focused on Mary, Mother of God. In the evening, together with a few fathers and most of the people who now live in our priory, we went to the Kyiv Cathedral of Saint Alexander where, in spiritual unity with Pope Francis, we prayed the Act of Consecration of Ukraine and Russia to the Most Sacred Heart of Mary. The Mass was presided by Bishop Vitalij, the ordinary of the Kyiv-Zhytomyr diocese. The homily was preached by the apostolic nuncio.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Dear sisters and dear brothers,

Yesterday I went for a long walk through Kyiv. It’s good for my health, and my temptation to shorten the distance using a bus or a subway, which I often give into, disappeared on its own. Public transportation practically doesn’t exist. At the door of our priory, there is a stop for buses and trolleybuses. Its electronic timetable transmits the charming line: “We apologize for the temporal inconvenience.” Temporal inconvenience… how much one would like to think of war that way. As for apologies — I think apologies should rather come from the Russian army and those who started this whole hell!

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Dear sisters and dear brothers,

After almost an hour of driving from Kyiv, Father Thomas and I have reached Fastiv. I always visit this city and the brothers and sisters working there with great pleasure. Just before I left this morning, I met a woman who had managed to evacuate a few days earlier from one of the cities outside of Kyiv that had been destroyed by the Russians. She and her husband, together with an elderly mother, decided to stay in Kyiv, despite their friends in Poland urging them to leave. They don’t want to run anymore. They love this city and Ukraine. I understand them.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Dear sisters and dear brothers,

In the last few days, Kyiv has become unsettled. The noise of blaring sirens has become more frequent, which means increased risk of air raids. I also seem to sense an increase in the sounds of battles fought on the outskirts of the city, all kinds of explosions, and the hiss and whizz of things flying over our heads. Yet the beautiful blue sky over Kyiv today seemed so pure and filled with sunlight.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Dear sisters and dear brothers,

It’s already been a couple days since my last letter. This interruption doesn’t mean that something tragic has happened to us. Quite the opposite. I finally managed to travel to Fastiv. I had already started missing the conversations with my brothers Misha, John, Paul, and Igor, and Dominican sisters Damion, Monica, Augustine, and Gala, as well as the wonderful volunteers who work at the House at Saint Martin, Vera, Katia, and Sophie, just to mention a few. Phone conversations can’t replace actual meetings, after all.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Dear sisters and dear brothers,

Let me start with Fastiv today. The House of Saint Martin de Porres run by the Dominicans and lay volunteers has been a place of escape and rest for people affected by the hostilities, ever since the beginning of the war. One of the ladies who had been among the first to take shelter in Fastiv and now is already safe in Poland, is from Hostomel, a town located just a dozen kilometers from Kyiv.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Dear sisters and dear brothers,

On this first Sunday of Lent, the Year of the Holy Cross begins in Ukraine, as announced by the Roman Catholic Bishops. In reality it began on Thursday February 24 at 4am, when the first Russian rockets hit Ukraine. “Now, like never before,” write our shepherds, “we understand Christ on his way of the cross.”

Friday, March 4, 2022

Dear sisters and dear brothers,

As the night was relatively calm in Kyiv, so since the early morning, the city is filled with the howl of sirens and the sounds of explosions. Sometimes close, sometimes far away. Despite being somewhat used to it at this point, these sounds are still very unpleasant, especially since we can see what the Russian troops are doing in many Ukrainian cities.

We are still capable of functioning relatively normally in this abnormal situation, but many people at this moment are sitting in shelters and basements. Food is starting to run out, and it’s getting colder. I heard from my friends that they are starting to get phone calls from people who just want to say goodbye or say something important, just in case…

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Dear sisters and dear brothers,

Yesterday we brothers of Ukraine received a link to some short video clips prepared by the ministry of vocations of the Polish Dominican Province. You can see them here: https://www.youtube.com/c/dominikaniepowolania. “You cannot even imagine how much you live in the hearts of every one of us, and particularly in my own,” Brother Mykyta Janusz, a Dominican novice from Ukraine, told us in Ukrainian.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Dear sisters and dear brothers,

Another day of war. The seventh day not of creation but destruction. Increasing brutality, relentless and terrible. At the same time I am deeply convinced that when God looks at these good, helping, selfless people, at the vastness of love, he can see that what he made was very good (Gen 1:31). Today is Ash Wednesday and Lent begins. Father Peter, our Bible scholar, burned a small bonfire on the terrace, so we have new ashes.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

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.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Dear Sisters, Dear Brothers,

Yesterday, when I wrote to you, I mentioned “normality”, which ended in the morning. Before 5:00 a.m. I was awakened by a phone call from Fastov from Misha Romaniwa and his question: how is Kiev? In Fastov, explosions were heard as Russian troops bombed the air force base in Wasylków (between Fastov and Kiev).

We had complete peace and quiet. In the morning I went to celebrate Mass at Carmel. A trip that usually takes 25 minutes lasted almost an hour and it was only because google was guiding me through back roads. The sisters have a monastery just outside the city. In such circumstances, the Eucharist brings real peace. The sisters, of whom there are five at the moment, said that they had decided to stay in Kiev and pray. I hope that in the following days we will be able to reach them to say Mass.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

New Critical Update. This update is provided by Fr. Dismas Sayre, OP, a friar of the Holy A message from the Dominicans.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

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.

The Friar will continue to provide information as we receive it.