In Rome, the Ukrainian community calls for solidarity

Since the first day of the conflict in Ukraine, Hagia Sophia has become a center for collecting donations, and today the Greek Catholic Church is the new appeal for aid to civilians affected by the war and until winter. Interview with Father Marco Semehen, rector of Sainte-Sophie.

Svitlana Duhovic – Vatican

More than nine months after the start of the war in Ukraine, humanitarian aid sent by the international community or exiles remains the only source of survival for the civilian population, which suffers from severe electricity restrictions due to the bombing. winter temperatures prevail. Calls for help are more urgent.

Shipping trucks from Rome

Hagia Sophia in Rome became a center for collecting donations from the first days of the occupation. Diapers, clothes, food and medicine flooded the city’s Greek Catholic place of worship. It is from here that dozens of trucks left for Ukraine. The church receives appeals from civilians, referred by priests of areas recently liberated by Ukrainian forces. Adding to the list is the need for warm blankets or generators to keep warm. Ukrainians also want to replace the windows and doors of their houses that were damaged by the explosions.

As the appeals are increasing, Father Marko Semehen, rector of Hagia Sophia, repeats his call for solidarity with the Ukrainian people: “He notes that even a small contribution ignites a glimmer of hope. “Many people have very big hearts, and as we prepare for Christmas, we feel compelled to tap those big hearts once again, to ask for help and, above all, to pray for an end to war.”

Father Marco, more than nine months have passed since the start of the war, what makes you renew the call?

One of the reasons is undoubtedly the requests coming directly from Ukraine. At the beginning of the war, the help was extraordinary, then in the summer it practically stopped, and since November we have received many calls from our friends, bishops, people we know. We get news that the economic situation is deteriorating, and as we see later, the bombing of power plants has practically paralyzed many areas of daily life. This is the idea of ​​relaunching the appeal to support the people of Ukraine and help them survive a very harsh winter.

What are the most important needs of people, especially those who live in areas that have recently been liberated, but where so many people are left homeless?

People need basic necessities, because now we know from the priests who have returned to the liberated areas that the Russian soldiers took almost everything, from houses to destroying them in some cases. So, today we receive various appeals, from ordinary blankets to contributions to pay for windows, house doors, ovens, cans, and hygiene kits to be able to wash without water. They need everything they need to survive such a harsh winter and at least fix the state’s electricity and water systems.

How much aid have you received mainly from Italy? Are you able to trace the origin of these donations you sent to Ukraine and know who they went to?

Since the collection began in Hagia Sophia in Rome, we have sent 64 trucks of 20 tons each. Every truck shipped can be tracked. We don’t always have photos for security reasons, but we do have all the reports. The first truck we sent after the summer vacation, along with the basic necessities donated by the University of Unicusano, left for Kyiv under the command of the Great Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk. A second truck was loaded with warm clothes and sent to his Mudra Sprava (French for “Work of Wisdom”) foundation. Two more trucks were sent to Kharkov, from where we received photos of both the time of arrival and the time of the delivery of aid by the Bishop and Exarchate staff. We are preparing cargo for Zaporozhye and will continue to help people in the liberated areas. As for donors, of course, individuals come here and give what they can. The attention of the Holy Father, who expresses himself through his priest, is undoubtedly very great. Cardinal Konrad Krajewski regularly arrives with a van full of basic necessities that we send to Ukraine. Help also comes from the Red Cross, the Food Bank or various companies willing to contribute to our humanitarian mission.

The arrival of help in Kharkiv.

What is your message to all people this Christmas time?

Christmas is always a family holiday, a time to come home, and we have to understand that there are so many people in Ukraine now who live in houses without heat, with little comfort, or without a home at all. Nevertheless, we must remember that Jesus was born in a stable without light and heat, of course, but peace came. That is why, on the occasion of Christmas, we hope that Europe will renew its faith in Christ, and at the same time, we will be able to help Ukrainians with concrete gestures, donations, charity work, and thus light the light of hope and help those who have been bombed, bereaved, despaired. to tell the afflicted that they are not alone, that God always reaches out through man to all who trust in him.

From the first months of the war, but also in the months that followed, we saw many cars arriving in Saint Sophia loaded with humanitarian aid. Did you expect this great solidarity from Italian society?

We did not expect this solidarity, we are amazed and very grateful to all Italians, from private citizens to large corporations, who have made offers and donations to support the mission not only here in Rome, but also in different communities of Ukraine. Greek Catholic Church in Italy. At first, great efforts were made to help IDPs and refugees arriving in Italy, but now they are also helping people in the liberated territories.

Do you remember an incident that particularly impressed you regarding the help offered?

23,000 euros of an entrepreneur who brings hygiene products into circulation. A very important gift. I also remember a very impressive incident: once a disabled man came with an electric cart, bringing two packages of pasta and a package of flour. He said to me: “Father, this is all I can give to my fellow countrymen who are suffering.” I realized that many Italians have very big hearts, and as we prepare for Christmas, we feel compelled to tap those big hearts again, to ask for help and, above all, to pray for a quick end to the war.

A new call for solidarity to Ukraine

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