Fr. Andrzej Sudol, SCJ, has been a member of the US Province for many years; however, he is originally from Poland. Almost daily he has been in contact with family, friends and fellow SCJs in his homeland, learning first-hand about their efforts to welcome and support Ukrainian refugees. The following is his personal reflection on the attack on Ukraine and the response of so many in support of the Ukrainian people.
Fr. Andrzej writes…
On behalf of my fellow Dehonians and especially those of us from Poland and Europe, I want to thank the U.S. Province for allowing me the opportunity to write a short reflection about the war in Ukraine. What is currently happening in Ukraine is very dear to me and I follow it closely. Ukraine is fighting for two things: first for its existence as its own sovereign country, and second, it is fighting for the freedom of many other countries that are in similar situations. No matter what country one lives in, it matters to all of us what happens during and after the war.
Like most of us, I was caught by surprise when Russia attacked Ukraine. I did not expect it. I did not believe that such a war could ever take place right in the middle of Europe at the beginning of the early 21st century. I thought Europe and the world learned a painful lesson of wars in the last century that would deter and prevent war from ever happening again.
I am deeply troubled by the pictures I see of the destruction everywhere in Ukraine. Even more so, I am very saddened by seeing the people suffer, mostly women and children hiding in bunkers, or subways, and running away leaving behind their husbands, relatives, friends, houses and belongings. It is hard for any of us to imagine and feel what the Ukrainians are going through, and how much they are suffering every day.
In general, this war affects me a great deal. Since the war began, I talk more frequently with my parents and my family in Poland. I do not worry so much about their safety, but rather I think of how their lives will be significantly impacted by the war. With great love and care, my younger sister decided to take in three war refugee Ukrainian families into their home who obviously escaped from the war zone. Also, some of my cousins and friends did the same. I admire them for their actions. I am now motivated to reserve time to speak with them often. In those conversations, they share with me the stories of the refugees. After hearing these courageous narratives, I now have difficulties focusing and keeping my life organized. I am distracted these days during my prayers, my work, and my ministry.
Another worry of mine has to deal with our six SCJ communities in the District of Ukraine that are ministered by confreres who are Polish and Ukrainian. These men decided to remain with the local people and serve them during the war. I know some of them well, and they are part of my overall distress and concerns. I keep them in my daily prayers. I am impressed with their radical decision to stay behind and their dedication to serve the people entrusted to them. As of this writing, they are alive and safe.
The side consequence or effect of this war is the massive immigration flow out of Ukraine. There are thousands of Ukrainians who decided to leave everything behind and flee to another European country or abroad. As of today (3/9/22) there are over two million Ukrainian people who left their country since the beginning of the war. It is scary to think how many more will migrate to the neighboring countries in coming days and weeks. According to my parents, Ukrainians are everywhere in Poland. According to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, there are 1.3 million of Ukrainian refugees who have fled to Poland.
Despite suffering and death, there is a lot of good work and solidarity by many countries with the suffering people of Ukraine. It is so visible these days that “where sin is powerful, God’s kindness is even more powerful” (Rom 5:20). I am impressed by the powerful political and religious leaders of the world speaking together in a unified voice and understanding each other in the process. This war has enabled people to connect with each other in prayer and visible support. I am glad that Ukraine is being helped by other countries and is not left alone during the war. The world is now united by and against the evil of war in Ukraine.
I see this type of positive support in Poland where no refugee is left alone or isolated. Every family is attended to. They are provided the necessary material needs to include a safe place to live. The Ukrainian refugees received comfortable logging, free health insurance for the duration of the war, sim cards, and free transportation in Poland.
So far, it is a miracle that there are no refugee camps being set up. Polish people voluntarily travel to the eastern border to welcome the refugees, and bring them to their homes. Ukrainian citizens, as well as those who escaped from war zone, are in every town, and many parishes across the southern part of Poland. The Polish government challenged its people to help and do whatever is required for this emergency. And the people of Poland have responded favorably to the crisis.
The Polish Province keeps in touch and supports the SCJs in Ukraine. Humanitarian help is organized on a daily basis. This aid includes transportation of food, water, clothes, generators, and any other necessary items are sent forward every few days. I am inspired to know from that the Polish Provincial Superior, Fr. Slawek Knopik, and the US Province are actively involved in helping to raise the challenge of the war, both by pastoral and financial needs.
Additionally, every Polish SCJ community and parish, as well as retreat and formation houses, are encouraged to receive as many refugee families as they can. The SCJ parish in Belchatow began daily classes for children in Ukrainian. This warms my heart, and makes me feel good, proud and have an enthusiastic spirit for the efforts displayed by our SCJ confreres in Poland, the US and all Dehonians across the world who are involved with the immigrant-refugees. The political divisions and cultural differences are not important now. I hope that this spirit of solidarity and unity will prevail for a longtime.
I am grateful for many good words of support and encouragement among us SCJs in the US Province and the Plainfield Parish where I minister. During a concert for peace last Sunday in Plainfield, IL, the parish collected a good amount of money that will be sent to Ukraine and where Ukrainian refugees are. One of the speakers underlined the reality of this humanitarian crisis by stating that this war united us in good way, and that we will win the war if we will become better people to each other.