Poland - One year of war in Ukraine: report on intense Salesian efforts

23 February 2023

(ANS - Warsaw) - Tomorrow, Feb. 24, 2023, will mark one year since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. "An anniversary that we all would have preferred to forget. We sincerely wish that this war had never started. However, it was not our choice. We could only face its devastating consequences," they report from the Salesian Emergency Coordination in Ukraine. In view of this sad occasion, the Warsaw-based coordination team, which organized the implementation of aid to the victims of this war in Ukraine and surrounding countries, presents a small summary and assessment of what has been accomplished in these months of much suffering and generosity, while expressing gratitude to all its benefactors, large and small.

A total of more than 9.6 million euros was raised and used for aid, thanks to the contributions of 66 entities, organizations and communities from all five continents. The projects implemented and supported included the construction of emergency shelters, support for refugees abroad and internally displaced persons, educational programs for children and youth, the special emergency plan to cope with winter, as well as general support for managing such a complex situation.

Here is what Krzysztof Grzendziński, Head of the Warsaw Coordination Team, shares today:

Since the beginning of March 2022, the Coordination Team for Ukraine Emergency has witnessed the great solidarity of the Salesian Family towards the victims of the war in Ukraine. Thanks to the support of many Mission Offices, Salesian Organisations, Provinces and the support of the Emergency Response Coordinator of the Salesian Congregation – Fr. George Menamparampil, assisted by the Don Bosco Network Coordinator, Fonny Grootjans, in the first months and Angel Gudiña more recently. Thanks to this, we have carried out over 100 humanitarian aid projects – including the provision of material aid (food, clothes, blankets, heating units and other such items), psychological support, legal assistance, language classes, formal and non-formal education and provided recreational activities for the Ukrainian children. During 2022, as a Coordination Team, we organised 20 humanitarian aid convoys to Ukraine where the items were distributed with the help of our Salesian Brothers and Sisters across Ukraine.

In close cooperation with other Polish Salesian Provinces, we are supporting refugees who now reside in our country. Almost a year after the war began, there are still guests from Ukraine in Salesian houses all over Poland (currently about 250 people), and our main goal now is to support them to find work and become independent. The process of finding a job is very challenging. In some of the small cities where the Salesian Houses are, opportunities for work are either very seasonal or almost completely lacking. Whenever it is possible, local Salesians involve or employ the Ukrainians refugees in their facilities – maintaining the building, cooking, caring for children. The Team also conducted a survey to discover the qualifications and education levels among the refugees staying, and are trying to match the jobs to the people who are available for work.

For several months, we have been happily observing the process of integration of Ukrainians, especially children, into the Polish society, and we are happy to contribute to their safety and proper development. Lots of these people are dealing with the trauma caused by the events they have experienced, that is why we as a Coordination Team place a strong emphasis on ensuring that psychological support is available for them at all times.

On a daily basis, we maintain contact with Salesian communities in Ukraine and try to respond, as quickly and efficiently as possible, to the needs they present on behalf of the people they help locally and in the other parts of the country. Support is provided to the residents of the Salesian parishes in Ukraine (Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic).  This support reaches the numerous internally displaced persons, local schools and centres for young people whom have lost their parents. A particular focus is given to helping people from the areas most heavily attacked by the Russians.

Also, Salesians are delivering help to the Eastern parts of Ukraine, the part of the country most affected by the activities of war. The prevailing winter conditions are having a very serious and negative impact on the people and their need for aid and support. Salesians have continued to provide aid in recognition of these needs over the last months. Low temperatures, frequent power outages, food shortages and, above all, incessant attacks in various parts of the country, are making life very difficult for Ukrainians, especially those who have lost their homes and property due to the war. That is why it is so important that we, as the Salesian Family, keep up our efforts in providing aid. In the first days of 2023 two trucks with food items reached the warehouse established in cooperation with the Vice-Province of Greek-Catholics in Ukraine as part of the “Winterisation” project. With the continued help of our donors and partners we plan to successively fill the warehouse with items necessary to help people in need.

An ongoing task and responsibility recognised by the Coordination Team is the duty of  ensuring that all processes related to the implementation and financing of projects are transparent and clear, and that the aid provided is properly documented. This not only avoids dual funding of projects, but most importantly allows us to verify the most urgent needs and prioritize them. This is possible, thanks to very good communication and networking between the Mission Offices, the Coordination Team and the Salesians working in Ukraine.

While responsible for coordination, we not only keep an eye on and support the process of matching needs with the donor agencies, but also apply for the funds ourselves. In this way we were able to implement two projects using funds from the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This enabled us to purchase food and non-food items and 4 vehicles to help with the distribution of the humanitarian aid within Ukraine itself.

None of this would be possible without the support of generous and open-hearted donors around the world. On the Team’s behalf and on behalf of Ukrainian people, I would like to say a sincere and deep felt Thank You for the help and solidarity you show as donors on a daily basis.

We all hope that the war will soon end, and that the humanitarian aid carried by the Salesians will be replaced by development aid aimed at rebuilding the country.



ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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