Ukraine: Diocese cares for people traumatized by war

A bishop from western Ukraine tells ACN about his struggle to help the 400,000 people who have arrived in his region since the Russian invasion began in February 2022.

Ukraine’s Zakarpattia region, which has a population of one million people, has taken in 400,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from other parts of Ukraine, and in response, the Diocese of Mukachevo is helping them.

Diocesan buildings have been turned into places of shelter, and “almost half of Roman Catholic families in the region have housed IDPs in their own homes,” Bishop Mykola Petro Luchok told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

The diocese also supports local organizations offering trauma counselling to people affected by the war, including soldiers returning from the frontline and the families of those who died in battle, the Auxiliary Bishop and Apostolic Administrator of Mukachevo said. He added, “ACN will provide funding to help us offer psychological and therapeutic courses to mental health professionals, so they can care for those returning with deep mental wounds in the future.”

Ukraine: Diocese cares for people traumatized by war
Emergency aid in the Diocese of Mukachevo

Last winter, when the region was left without electricity after air strikes on thermal and hydroelectric power stations, ACN also provided generators and battery-powered energy storage systems to help people keep warm.

Many of those seeking refuge in the region are families with children, so the diocese has organized “summer camps in the mountains and other natural settings, with creative activities for displaced children” and “events for displaced families to strengthen and renew their spirit,” the bishop said.

He highlighted the psychological and financial toll the war has taken on IDPs and locals alike, many of whom have lost all means of supporting themselves and their families. As a result, he said, “a lot of people have left Zakarpattia. Many of those running things in the region and in our diocese have also left. Therefore, one of the challenges has been completely reorganizing the way everything functions daily.”

Bishop Luchok makes regular pastoral trips around the diocese, and everywhere he goes people tell him “how much the war has wounded them in various ways.” He said, “One aspect of the hardship is that there is no end in sight. People are mentally fatigued. Then, there are also those who have been physically injured in the war.”

He said that in these difficult times for Ukraine, “we should not dwell on how things used to be and why our suffering has not ended.” Instead, “we should immerse ourselves in prayer and reflect on the meaning and power of Calvary. We should not focus on what we have lost, but instead, we should concentrate on carrying our crosses and on finding ways to help others. Life is easier when we think not about our own suffering, but rather about how we can help other people.”

Bishop Luchok concluded, “We are very grateful to ACN for all the help we have received. We hope for continued support, because the war is still ongoing, resulting in a lot of loss in our lives.”

—Amy Blog