“Only the Church helps us”

With God’s help, Catholic institutions across Ukraine have been able to help put people’s lives back on track. About one and a half million refugees have to live on less than $80 a month.

Out of necessity, Viktor breaks down his floor.

Now that he and his wife have no stable job, due to the war in Ukraine, Viktor and his sons Wasiliej and Kola proceed to saw the boards into pieces for the stove to heat the house. The boys both hope to find work in agriculture in the spring. Until then, it’s survival. “Only the Church helps us,” says Viktor, grateful for the soup, tea and bread he received that morning from the Albertine Brothers in the town of Zaphorizhya.

The bread the family eats was baked by Micha, a young man taken off the streets by the same brothers. Until a few years ago, he lived in the tunnels of the city’s heating system, along with five other people, most of whom are now on drugs or in prison. Micha is married and recently became a father. “In my case, everything changed because I got to know the Albertine brothers. They showed me a different path. It all came together through prayer. Now I help the brothers and bake bread for those who are poor or homeless, as I was before.

The community of Albertine brothers not only lives alone in its monastery, but also offers shelter to many homeless people, giving them a temporary roof over their heads. The brothers advise and support these people in all respects, helping many of them to find their way back to a normal and independent life. There is room here for up to 26 homeless men to share with the brothers, but in winter the number often increases to 40 men who come for shelter. The brothers also run a soup kitchen near the city’s cathedral, where they provide meals to the poor and needy every day. Many of these people are elderly retirees who otherwise would not be able to afford a hot meal, due to soaring prices in the country.

Outside, in front of their house, the brothers have built a small chapel in honor of Mary, with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima, illuminated at night. There is not a single church in the suburb where their monastery is located, but many passers-by stop in front of their small chapel or even kneel on the ground to pray. Thanks to the generosity of ACN donors, the Albertine brothers were able, a few years ago, to renovate the central heating system, install thermal insulation, eliminate condensation on the walls and carry out various other urgent repairs.

Many homeless men staying at the monastery actively helped with the renovation. Last year, also thanks to the support of ACN, the brothers were able to replace the 16-year-old car they used to distribute food parcels and provide pastoral care to families.

With God’s help, religious brothers and sisters and parishes across Ukraine were able to help put people’s lives back on track. About one and a half million refugees have to live on less than $80 a month. It’s hard work, but Brother Wieslaw and his confreres see it as an opportunity. “There are rich people here, but for a long time there was no Church, no place of love and sharing. That’s why God had to bring us here. By our prayer, by the wearing of the habit, by the cross and by our chapel, we try to change the world by the attitude of the other.

Bishop Stanislav Szyrokoradiuk of Odessa and Simferopol, a former apostolic administrator of Kharkov, is hopeful about the future of the Church in Ukraine even in the current situation: “When we recovered our church from the communists, in the 1990s, only seven people came to the first Holy Mass. Now the church is full on Sunday at each of the seven masses. Even the Orthodox come to bring us relief goods, because the Catholic Church really helps refugees and the poor.

Jher article was first published by Aid to the Church in Need-USA and is republished here with kind permission. To learn more about ACN’s mission to help the suffering Church, visit www.churchinneed.org

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