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Schoenstatt
Apostolic Movement

Solidarity amidst the horrors of war – where is our home?

By: Claudia Brehm

A cruel war has been raging in Ukraine for weeks. Superhuman suffering, death, escaping, rape, torture, starvation, never-ending daily struggle for survival, are all keeping people in suspense, amidst the unbearable and false attempts to provide explanations for this war and the false accusations of the Russian propaganda system.

The belligerent war and the cruel massacres have generated a great willingness to help from neighboring countries, other European countries and other continents. Hungarian Schoenstatt families living near the Ukrainian border as well as Western Ukrainians who are not directly affected by the war are helping as much as possible those who have fled and those who want to stay in the country.

A couple of teachers from western Ukraine, Nóra and István Bardos, members of the Schoenstatt Movement, assist the refugees. István relates:

“We are happy to know that our children are safe. Who knows when our recruited sons will be able to return home, and who knows what we can call home. In the last week of February there was a lot of activity, extra work, travel, planning. I was in Budapest, Hungary, as a volunteer interpreter at the West and East Railway Stations. There I helped numerous mothers with children rushing to catch the train, carrying their luggage, and providing translating assistance.

Now my wife Nóra and I are back home, here in western Ukraine. As educators, we are providing online teaching, which is more difficult than hands-on teaching, and requires different skills. Nóra has recurrent 12-hour assignments at her school, which has become an emergency shelter. She deals with the various problems of the refugees, who, depending on the group, number between 70 and 80. In our school there are neither showers nor hot water, so no refugees have been sheltered there yet. The classrooms are mainly used as storage facilities by the city. In addition to classes, we are constantly on the lookout.

Always ready to serve

As soon as a call comes in, we have to pack. Today, for example, we packed cots and bedding, another time it was food, blankets, etc., all of which is transported to the war zones to the east and south. At Caritas I also help to pack and transport the emergency supplies in our own vehicle. Sometimes refugee families – often from Kharkov – arrive late at night and we find shelter for them. We do what we can, but there are increasingly fewer of us, as many of us are also on the run. In the meantime, we are having choir rehearsals: on Palm Sunday and Good Friday we performed the Passion. I lead the tenor and bass solos by myself, because otherwise our choir consists only of sopranos and altos.

Soon the army will call for me

The younger men are all gone. I am somewhat protected because of my age, I turned 60 a few months ago. Since all the men between 18 and 60 are fighting now, we have to expect that the age limit will soon be extended. Then it will be my turn as well and I will have to go. We have to get used to living in uncertainty and in fear over the fate of our loved ones, family, friends and communities.

The population of our city has shifted, the city park is full of children and mothers and people glued to their cell phones. The number of participants in church life has decreased. We also have to make a choice: Will we celebrate Easter at home with our community and actively participate in the celebrations as before, or will we choose our family and celebrate with our children abroad? But our home has not been destroyed and we do not have to wonder where we can start a new life, as millions of people have been forced to do. We thank the Lord for providing for us and giving us the strength to help others with the skills and opportunities that God’s providence has given us”.

Covenant of Love lived amid horror

Other families write that what they suffer most is being separated as a family, but they are glad that some family members were able to find housing in Hungary. One family informs that their children were infected with Covid. One of the children was so sick that he had to be hospitalized for a long time, fortunately in Hungary. A mother whose husband has been working in Hungary for a long time fervently hopes that he will not get drafted and forced to go to war. Ukrainians in the West, who are not directly affected by the war, are doing all they can together with the Order of Malta, Caritas, in kindergartens, schools and refugee shelters, to be able to help their countrymen fleeing from this war as effectively as possible.

Tangible Covenant of Love. May Our Lady guard everyone under her protective mantle.

Note: it is possible to collaborate with the Schoenstatt Sisters and Fathers of Poland, who open their homes to receive Ukrainian refugees in need of all kinds of help, here.

 

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