The Knights of Columbus in Poland recently expanded their ongoing response to the crisis in Ukraine by opening several parish-based Mercy Centers to serve Ukrainian refugees. Expanding upon the mission of Knights of Columbus Mercy Centers at the Polish border, which have focused on welcoming Ukrainians as they arrive and providing immediate relief, the new centers will help refugees feel settled and integrated in their community by offering a space to socialize and learn, in addition to receiving material aid.
Mercy Centers were recently opened at St. Klemens Hofbauer Parish in Warsaw, supported by St. Klemens Hofbauer Council 17050; Our Lady of Częstochowa Parish in Radom, supported by St. Casimir IV Jagiellon, King of Poland Council 15216; and St. Wojciech Parish in Częstochowa, supported by Primate Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński Council 15672, Bishop Teodor Kubina Council 14955 and Holy Spirit Council 16300.
“The Mercy Centers provide a place of welcome and assistance — spiritual, physical and educational, as well as psychological assistance for those suffering from the trauma of war,” said Dominican Father Jonathan Kalisch, director of chaplains and spiritual development for the Knights of Columbus.
Father Kalisch, who previously served refugees at the Order’s Mercy Centers on the Polish-Ukrainian border, helped welcome Ukrainian refugees to a barbecue at the new Mercy Center in Warsaw April 2. The event, which marked the 17th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s death, was intended to introduce Ukrainian refugees and their children to the parish community.
“This is a center of His mercy and will be the center of integration too,” said Redemptorist Father Andrzej Kukła, chaplain of Council 17050. “It is to enable these people to integrate also with our society, with our parishioners.”
In addition to such community building events, the center will offer educational opportunities for younger refugees.
“We will take care of the children,” explained Grand Knight Grzegorz Tyczyński of Council 10750. “We will teach Polish, and are planning art and English classes.”
Mammadov Sevinch, a refugee from Kharkiv, Ukraine, now living in Radom with her daughter and granddaughter, is grateful for the Knights’ hospitality at St. Wojciech Parish, particularly for making children feel at home and providing a space for people to bond.
“The children are already attending kindergarten and schools, and we have been coming to church for the second week in a row,” Sevinch said. “Here we have meetings with other Ukrainians, here we gather and we are treated every time with cakes.”
Reflecting on the work of the Knights of Columbus, she added, “We are very grateful that there is such an organization in the Church.”
Stanisław Dziwiński, state advocate of Poland, has been assisting the Order’s ongoing efforts to ship supplies to Ukraine and serve refugees at the border. As a member of Council 14955, he is also supporting the Mercy Center in Częstochowa and has witnessed firsthand the emotional toll of the war on refugee families.
“Some of those little children were so scared that they were even afraid to take sweets from us,” said Dziwiński. “You have to be strong, not so much physically but mentally, because we need to help these people.”
Kosyruk Lyuba was one person who needed assistance. On March 11, Lyuba’s home in Lutsk shook when the Russian military destroyed an air base outside the city. As she watched the pillars of smoke rise from the devastation, her granddaughter Louise rushed into a space underneath the stairs. Despite Lyuba’s best attempts to calm her, her granddaughter refused to come out — and wouldn’t do so for three days.
Eventually, the young girl was coaxed out from under the stairs and, with her grandmother and other relatives, fled Lutsk to the Polish-Ukrainian border, where they were greeted with food, water and shelter.
On April 3, Lyuba served pierogi at the Our Lady of Częstochowa Parish Mercy Center to thank the Knights and other parishioners who have welcomed her and her family with open arms.
“We were very well received,” she said. “We are very grateful to Poland, to the Polish people, to all the people who have welcomed us.”
The Ukraine Solidarity Fund is providing hope and help for those affected by the war in Ukraine. 100% of your gift will directly meet essential needs of refugees and those displaced, including food, medical supplies, clothing and religious supplies. Donate to the Ukraine Solidarity Fund.
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