One year after the Russian invasion of Ukraine — which has displaced a third of the nation’s 41 million people, killed, scarred and wounded tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians, and devastated the country’s infrastructure and economy — CNEWA’s support to its churches and peoples remains steadfast.
“The Catholic communities in Eastern Europe, and the partnerships they have forged in times of peace, and now in times of war, have positioned them to be among the most effective vehicles of direct humanitarian assistance and support for Ukrainians whose lives have been shattered by an all-out assault on their nation, their way of life and their identity,” says CNEWA’s Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari.
In the past year, CNEWA has rushed $5.8 million in emergency funds to support church-led relief initiatives in Ukraine and neighboring countries hosting Ukrainian refugees: Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Moldova and Georgia.
Mobilizing its vast network of local charities, Caritas Ukraine, the charitable initiative of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, has reached more than 2.1 million people alone, primarily in the form of food and hygienic services, shelter, bedding and provision of water.
“Such comprehensive assistance has been made possible thanks to the unprecedented mobilization and support of local and international donors,” Caritas Ukraine states in a recent report to CNEWA.
CNEWA has supported more than 100 specific relief initiatives in Ukraine — about $4.2 million in direct assistance — much of it through Caritas, but also through Greek Catholic and Orthodox eparchies, parishes, seminaries and religious houses, as well as the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, including:
- emergency food packages for more than 40,000 people in areas under siege
- care for displaced pensioners near Odesa
- shelter for people with special needs in Sambir-Drohobych
- spiritual and psychological counseling for those displaced to Ternopil
- temporary housing for displaced families from Mariupol in Zaporizhzhia
- medicines and other aid to nine medical facilities, including Lviv’s Sheptytsky Hospital.
“We are very grateful to CNEWA,” writes Greek Catholic Archbishop Cyril Vasil, S.J., of Kosice, Slovakia, “which helped us … to do such great things as we managed to do in the last months.”
The archbishop, whose eparchy borders Ukraine, was among the first to receive refugees and to mobilize resources for the women and children pouring into Slovakia.
“At the beginning [of the crisis] we dealt with everything from hunger, [provision of] clothing, accommodations and transfers to other countries to join their relatives through medical treatment, spiritual service and psychological counseling,” he continues.
“Then later, when the situation calmed down a bit, we mainly dealt with accommodations and work for those who decided to stay.” The archbishop notes that many of those who returned to Ukraine “have now returned to us … after the war situation escalated again.”
He says that in addition to the obvious physical needs occasioned by the war are the emotional and spiritual scars that lie beneath the surface:
“We try to be easy and not ask too much [of those who come to us]. We know what they are going through; they will open up and tell us about themselves … [and the] tragic memories of losing loved ones or losing property destroyed by rockets. Priests and our counseling centers are available to them … they were set up with the very intention of helping them deal with such a crisis situation.”
In addition to rushing aid to the Eparchy of Kosice, Slovakia, CNEWA funded the relief efforts of:
- Caritas Georgia, Caritas Hungary, Caritas Poland and Caritas Slovakia
- the archeparchies of Hajdudorog in Hungary and Przemysl-Warsaw in Poland
- Diocese of Chisinau, Moldova
- Knights of Columbus Mercy centers and parish council activities for refugees in Poland
- Greek Catholic Theological Seminary in Oradea, Romania
In the United States, donations can be made online at www.cnewa.org; by phone at 800-442-6392; or by mail, CNEWA, 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022.