Helping Distraught People in Ukraine
Amid the chaos and violence in Ukraine—and a refugee crisis so profound that it lacks precedent in this century—our Salesian missionaries are serving on the front lines of despair … helping thousands of distressed civilians with crucial humanitarian aid and more.
Within the country, and in neighboring countries where displaced civilians have fled, our dedicated men and women of Don Bosco are leading massive relief, relocation and other related efforts to help people rebuild their lives and restore hope. It’s exhausting work carried out at a relentless pace, and not without significant risk to their own lives. But our missionaries draw strength from the overwhelming generosity of faithful supporters around the world.
“This situation continues to be tragic,” explains one Salesian priest serving in Ukraine. “Throughout the country, there is a danger of bombing. People are fleeing their homes and they need our help.”
Such help took swift, concrete shape in the form of rescue operations—with missionaries collecting and evacuating families, mostly women and children, to safety across the borders. Many of these families were already fragmented, with husbands, fathers and sons remaining behind to defend their country. Missionaries ferried their precious cargo in a makeshift convoy comprised of two mini-buses and a car, covering nearly 250 miles in one 12-hour round trip.
“You understand that I can’t say much,” reported one of our missionaries, “but there were many troops. When they passed close by, we could feel the danger in the air, so we tried to speed up to protect the people in our care.”
Today, Salesian missionaries inside Ukraine continue to evacuate as many families as they can. They have opened their centers and churches as emergency shelters for the internally displaced, feeding and housing those who need help. And they are working with their peers throughout Europe and beyond to address the broader needs of those who have fled their homes, their country and everything else they hold dear.
“These efforts are carefully thought out, deliberately planned and well-coordinated,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “While the capabilities and capacity of our missionaries on the ground differ from place to place, and the needs of refugees vary, we are united by the common goal of restoring their hope by supporting their resilience.”
The Rector Major of the Salesian order has called upon his congregation to collectively address this ongoing crisis. The emergency response from the Salesian headquarters in Rome oversees the many simultaneous coordinated efforts happening around the world, including—but not limited to:
- Collecting gas, food, clothing, blankets and other emergency supplies from several countries and transporting them into Ukraine.
- Providing ongoing transportation assistance to families fleeing the violence.
- Sheltering and caring for the displaced in Salesian centers, houses and programs within and outside of Ukraine.
- Coordinating with host families throughout Europe to safely relocate and resettle refugees.
- Offering language classes, housing assistance and other social support initiatives to help refugees establish new roots.
Each of these efforts has been made possible thanks to an outpouring of generosity from caring individuals worldwide—including the many compassionate friends of Salesian Missions here in the United States. As of this writing, donors had already contributed more than $100,000 to our dedicated Ukraine Emergency Relief Fund, which provides immediate, direct and critical support for our missionaries’ work on the ground.
This outstanding show of solidarity joins similar efforts from as far away as South Korea and as close by as England. And “it’s truly making a real difference for suffering people,” says Fr. Gus. We’re helping people like Lydia, a young mother who recently arrived in Poland with her children after a harrowing four-day journey. “The Salesians and volunteers asked us what we needed as soon as we arrived; they offered us everything, they gave us everything, they helped us with everything,” she says. “We will never forget this.” As this situation continues to evolve so, too, will our missionaries’ response.
Our missionaries are always there serving the poor, even in the worst of times. What’s your mission?