From the Famvin Homeless Alliance.
Fourteen million people fled their homes in search of safety and more than 800,000 homes have been destroyed: frightening numbers that have been seen in Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February 2022 to today (UNHCR).
The Vincentian Family has showed great commitment and dedication towards those in need since the beginning of the war, including by providing essential and emergency aid on the ground. We are now pleased to say that last December we welcomed a new 13 Houses project in Ukraine, which is aimed at helping families living in villages near the capital whose homes were completely destroyed.
Sister Marta Meshko of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mary of the Miraculous Medal, serving in Kyiv since 2005, tells us stories of extreme suffering. Many families lost everything they had in just a matter of minutes.
Among these, we find Mrs Tania and her husband’s story. By hiding in the cellar – where the people of the village also kept the little food available – they managed to survive the bombings for a while. However, the darkness, cold, insecurity and the continuing explosions brought them too much suffering and one day they decided to flee.
During the journey, Tania, with tears in her eyes, prayed Psalm 91 by heart:
“You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shade of the Almighty, Say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.’ He will rescue you from the fowler’s snare, from the destroying plague, He will shelter you with his pinions, and under his wings you may take refuge; his faithfulness is a protecting shield.”
Tania recalls the strength of this prayer and how God protected her, ‘covering the eyes’ of the Russian military, saving her life and allowing her to escape the bombings. After some time, Tania and her husband had to return to their village, but unfortunately, they didn’t find their house: it had been completely destroyed.
For several months, the Vincentian Fathers and Sisters – together with the volunteers of ‘Depaul Ukraine’ – have been providing building materials to the inhabitants of the villages around the capital, so that they can start rebuilding their houses destroyed by the bombs. Thanks to the materials received, Tania and other families were able to build an emergency shelter and then a new house to start her life again.
Sister Marta still remembers the vast number of requests for help during the first months of the Russian invasion, and the sense of helplessness in the face of so much suffering. The answer to this pain came from the collaborative strength of the international Vincentian Family.
‘It is a privilege to receive so much solidarity. I have experienced the strength of the universal church, your desire to help has given us the courage to stand up and organize aid services. The pain brought by the war was so great, but you consoled us and like a light, you showed us the direction to follow. Thanks to God, solidarity matters, it is our strength’.
After visiting the villages of Moshchun and Zahaltsi, the Vincentian Family in Ukraine helped 21 families to rebuild their homes – thanks to various donations from benefactors from Slovenia, the collaboration of several Vincentian branches, and the action of the ‘Biscotto Vincenziano’ project.
“It is a true miracle to see how these people, after having lost everything, instead of complaining about the harm suffered unjustly, react immediately to a gesture of kindness and find hope in life again. I am moved to see how, in this tragic situation, they are able to show gratitude and hope”.
We are very grateful to Sister Marta and her entire community for the work done in the service of the poorest, and for how the project became part of the 13 Houses Campaign.
Sister Marta expressed her recognition thus:
“The 13 Houses Campaign represents a direction in which to move within our services. Being part of a Vincentian collaborative initiative is beautiful, empowering and encouraging. It is as if there were an invisible hand guiding the path of our response. Thank you for welcoming us”.
Guided by the charism of St Vincent and St Louise at the service of the poorest we want to address our prayers to all those who are suffering in Ukraine. We hope that they will soon be able to live in peace and harmony with a safe place to call ‘home’.