Religious Sisters in Ukraine now have cookers, washing machines and other essential items they need to care for a never-ending stream of refugees – thanks to support from Welsh members of an ancient chivalric order.
Women’s religious orders in western Ukraine put out an urgent plea for the household goods so they could continue to feed and care for hundreds of IDPs – mostly women and children who fled Russian assaults on major cities including Kyiv, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia and Odessa.
The Sisters’ plea for help was heard by the Welsh Commandery – a local group – of the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem, an ecumenical Christian chivalric organisation founded in the eleventh century.
An appeal launched by the Commandery of Wales raised £20,000 for Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) which is running a number of projects in conjunction with Sisters in Ukraine, helping some of the more than 14 million people who have fled their homes.
Dr David Woolf, Commander of Wales for the Order of St Lazarus, said that they were moved by the plight of the refugees.
He said: “When these women and children in Ukraine arrive at the doors of the convents tired, hungry and dirty how could our hearts not go out to them?
“The Welsh Commandery of the Order of St Lazarus is delighted to have been able to have given the Sisters the tools they need to clean the refugees’ clothes and provide them with warm food after they have made incredible journeys of hundreds of miles to find safety from the horrors of warfare.”
Sister Olena Bys of the Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine described the work being done by the Sisters.
She said: “In areas far from the fighting, they open the doors of their monasteries to welcome people who have left their homes and fled to other cities or countries, primarily to save the lives of their children.”
She added: “Sisters, who take in refugees, cook food and do laundry for them,” – which is why the new machines are essential, so they can look after the large numbers of families coming through their doors.
Sister Olena explained that some refugees are making their way to neighbouring countries and only stay one or two nights before continuing their journeys.
But she added: “There are also people who have nowhere to go, or no money to pay for accommodation, and they stay for an indefinite period of time.”
Sisters also provide pastoral care. Sister Olena said: “It is very important to listen to the refugees, to show them love and tenderness after the hard times they have gone through, living under fire with explosions going on all around them.”
The Order of St Lazarus, Commandery of Wales, has previously supported ACN’s emergency work – with appeals having raised funds for projects supporting Christian refugees in Syria and Lebanon.