Sisters of Saint Joseph in Ukraine: ‘Our convents have become refugee centers’

MILLIONS OF PEOPLE HAVE HAD TO FLEE THEIR HOMES TO SAVE THEMSELVES AND THEIR CHILDREN, abandoning the regions of the east and south of Ukraine, and heading west. According to recent figures by UNHCR almost four million have crossed the borders into neighboring countries, but more than six million are thought to be displaced within the country. 

“There are people sleeping in every corner of the monastery, both in beds and on mattresses on the floor. They are very grateful for the opportunity to wash, eat hot meals and get some rest. Some spent several days in basements or in air-raid shelters,” says Sister Tobiasza, a nun from the Congregation of Saint Joseph, in a conversation with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which has just approved a special aid package for nuns from all the Latin rite religious orders carrying out this charitable and hospitable work in the Archdiocese of Lviv.

“We help the refugees and locals who are in difficult situations due to the war,” the nun explains. The Sisters of Saint Joseph set up a transit point for refugees in their monastery in Lviv, where refugees can rest and recover their strength. The sisters also help make contacts and search for families that can welcome refugees in other places, mostly in Poland. Finally, they coordinate the drivers to transport families, many of which are composed of mothers with their children.

Whether big or small, each of the order’s houses or convents has been turned into a point of refuge for the neediest: “In another of our convents, in the city of Stryi, the sisters prepared a room to host a family of two children and a grandmother. With the help of local and foreign benefactors they managed to buy a washing machine, a refrigerator, beds, and so on. All the basics to be able to live. One of the boys is sick and needs special care and food,” explains Sister Tobiaszca.

Since the ACN aid package will benefit all the nuns in the Archdiocese of Lviv, Sister Edita Duszczak, president of the association of women’s Latin rite Catholic congregations of Ukraine, wrote to the foundation to say: “In the name of all the religious sisters of the Archdiocese of Lviv, I express my great gratitude for the help you have provided us until now; and, therefore, we dare to ask for support once again, to be able to serve and help in this difficult time of war in Ukraine which God has seen fit to allow us to live through.” 

—Maria Lozano