Today, February 24, marks one year since Russia attacked Ukraine. Since then, the worldwide Kolping community has shown overwhelming solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
Immediately after the beginning of the war, different Kolping levels organised a network of relief aid that has supported tens of thousands of people suffering from the war until today. Thanks to countless helpers, especially from the East European Kolping Associations, as well as a veritable flood of in-kind and cash donations, KOLPING Ukraine has so far been able to distribute more than 180 tons of food, clothing as well as other vital relief goods to about 90,000 people. To date, KOLPING Romania has sent relief transports to Ukraine 39 times, KOLPING Poland 16 times. More transports came from Hungary and the Czech Republic, eleven from Germany.
Great things were also achieved in refugee aid. Since the beginning of the war, more than 2,800 internally displaced people have received emergency shelter and food in the various KOLPING Ukraine centres. More than 1,000 people have received psychological or therapeutic help. Thanks to KOLPING, tens of thousands of other refugees have found support and shelter in neighbouring countries. KOLPING INTERNATIONAL has helped coordinate many activities and has received the overwhelming donation sum of 2.3 million Euros for the Ukraine emergency aid to date. A heartfelt thank you to all who are a part of this commitment – be it through their energy or donations!
Zoom conference provided insights
In a Zoom conference attended by around 150 donors and volunteers, KOLPING INTERNATIONAL reported on how donations reach people on the ground and in neighbouring countries. Participants from the front row including Vasyl Savka (national secretary KOLPING Ukraine), Patrycja Kwapik (project manager KOLPING Poland), Ingrid Arvay (project manager KOLPING Romania) and Msgr. Christoph Huber (General Praeses KOLPING INTERNATIONAL) reviewed one year of Ukraine emergency aid. They spoke in an impressive way about the beginnings of the relief network, their daily work and the many moving stories and fates of people they had met in the first year of the war. “It was a year full of solidarity and dedicated work“, said Vasyl Savka from KOLPING Ukraine, when he summarized what all Kolping associations involved have achieved so far with their combined efforts. “I always felt at home with Kolping and knew that our friends would not let us down. I am and we all are extremely grateful for that, because without you it would be impossible for us to help the people in Ukraine.”, Savka went on to say. “On behalf of all the people you have helped, I want to thank you for your support. You do not only alleviate hardship, you also give us hope.”
A bridge to Ukraine: help from neighbouring countries
Project coordinator Ingrid Arvay reported on the assistance from Romania: “The items are collected and when the van is full, we set off,” Ingrid Arvay described the procedure; friendly organisations and religious congregations often provide additional minibuses and join the Kolping convoy. In Romania we are already referred to as a bridge to Ukraine,” says Arvay. The average journey takes 15-17 hours, “including waiting and hassle at the border”, but this does not diminish the joy of arriving in Chernivtsi, from where the relief operations are coordinated by KOLPING Ukraine.
Apart from Romania, KOLPING Poland is also doing an incredible job to help its struggling neighbours. Staff member Patrycja Kwapik reported in the Zoom conference about the first transports from Poland to the border town of Uzhhorod: on the journey to the country, relief supplies were brought in, and on the way back, 20 displaced people were taken along, “mostly women with children and very small suitcases; we wanted to give them things, but they said, no, I only have two hands and I have to hold my children with them,” said Patrycja Kwapik. Meanwhile, KOLPING Poland has set up a job counselling service for the refugees and hired a young Ukrainian woman to do translation work. To give you an idea: There are currently 100,000 refugees from Ukraine living in Krakow alone.
“It’s about joining in without a lot of words”.
“I have only really understood in the last year what the purpose of Kolping is“, summarizes Patrycja Kwapik her experience with the war in Ukraine: “We used to meet at nice conferences, educational events and similar occasions, where the community spirit was in the foreground. That is important, but it is also about being able to act immediately in times of crisis without having to say a lot of words. In serious situations you realise how good it is to be able to count on each other.“ General Praeses Christoph Huber emphasised the collaborative nature of this emergency aid, involving many different countries and levels, and where that special Kolping spirit is always vibrant. Patrycja Kwapik also emphasised that it was the strength of the community that she experienced more clearly than ever before and that motivated her anew every day. “Everyone pitched in and things fit together like cogwheels,” reported Ingrid Arvay from KOLPING Romania.”
Kolping as a humanitarian lighthouse
The closing words at the online conference on the anniversary of the outbreak of the war were spoken by Vasyl Savka, national secretary of KOLPING Ukraine; he wished, he said, that Europeans had a better understanding: What is at stake in his country are European and humanist values. “This fight must be taken even more seriously by all, there must be increased economic, humanitarian but also military support; if this does not happen, not only will the hopes of 40 million Ukrainians be betrayed, but also the values on which Europe was built.” Vasyl Savka referred to the Kolping community as a “humanitarian lighthouse“: It is not so painful and hard to fight on all fronts “if you know that there are people who will help you. Without that community of Kolping people it would be impossible to persevere! So, our prayers are for you and your families, that you never hear air alarms and that the skies above your heads remain peaceful forever.”