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Ukraine – More than a hundred thousand candles are burning in the darkness, in the silence of the area outside the cathedral. Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk speaks to the believers, and then the Archbishop of Olomouc Jan Graubner starts his preaching. Words that inspire, words that invoke the mind. This is the first time a foreign guest spoke to people in their native language at a national pilgrimage in Zarvanica. Archbishop Jan Graubner also for the first time visited places where the Archdiocesan Caritas Olomouc is helping. Orphanage for boys in Bortnyky, canteen for poor children in Lopatyn, Charity Kolomyja and Ternopil. The Archbishop and Charity’s trip lasted from 11 to 17 July.

This year’s national pilgrimage in Zarvanica was dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the withdrawal of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church from illegality and also to prayer for peace in Ukraine. On the way to this place of pilgrimage, Zarvanica seemed to be hiding from the Charity team and Archbishop. On the back seat of the car there was a map, a large map, so it could fit the wall. When the Charity team laid it out, Ukraine spread across the whole width of the car. But Zarvanica was not marked here too. It’s discovery was the great experience.

Archbishop Jan Graubner shared his impressions: “I was extremely delighted by the strength and breadth of the local religious life. The great pilgrimage site grew like a miracle. And I don’t only mean temples and buildings, but also the many thousands of pilgrims who came from all over the country, many of them had to walk for five days. Many young people, great organization. Everything grew out of donations and volunteer work. And all of this in a country that is suffering from occupation and struggle, unemployment and migration of the poor, ”. The Holy Mass alternated each other, the Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk answered the questions of the young, and placed the impressive sermons in a crowd of thousands of mass believers. On the main night worship, when the whole area in front of the cathedral lit up in the dark Archbishop Jan Graubner spoke to the faithful in their native language. People appreciated it and many of them came to him for a blessing.


Speech of Archbishop Jan Graubner in Ukrainian

Zarvanica is afflatus

According to legend, a monk-hermit fell asleep near the healing spring in Zarvanica. He had a dream of an icon with the Virgin Mary. This sudden awakening, the awakening from the dream – zarvanytsya, Caritas team with the Archbishop were trying to translate and name appropriately. “I was thinking about it for a long time and I now know. It means afflatus, ” the next day remarked the Archbishop aptly.

In Ukraine, the Caritas team and the Archbishop followed in the footsteps of service to their neighbors and people in need. As the Archbishop mentioned, liturgy is important, but it  is also very important to bring Gospel to life. And when people watch Charity, they understand.

“Effective assistance to the Church grows from the close relations between people, and I have to mention at least some of the experiences after my trip to Ukraine: the church established a cooperative in Zarvanica for private farmers in the country to double the price of joint milk sales and so they don’t have to run out of the countryside. Orphanage in Bortnyky for thirty boys, where the religious life and family atmosphere, was based on donations and their own work. Organization in Lopatyn cooking lunch for forty poor children. Some days, an old woman, already raising five grandchildren, who feed on her miserable retirement and occasional earnings, cook there as a volunteer. Faith that manifests itself in love has amazing power. ”

In Lopatyn

Following the trail of love, helping people in need

Orphanage for boys, Bortnyky village. Founded 15 years ago by the Miles Jesu community, it looked after for about thirty boys. At that time Ruslan Markiv as a new member arrived there. However, it became his life mission and he succeeded in giving those wounded boys a new family and thus a future. From the beginning, the Archdiocesan Caritas Olomouc (ACHO) has supported that orphanage. “At the start they all were in a single house, on the ground floor, there was a crowded accommodation, dining room, kitchen, showers and toilets, school, chapel… The boys slept crammed in small rooms, because of the dampness and mold there was no order. In the 2.5 x 5-meter kitchen a food for thirty people and farm animals was cooked. There were pieces of fiberglass in the windows as isolation, so that it does not pull in so much, ”described ACHO director Václav Keprt. Despite all this, he saw that the children in that orphanage were treated well and believed that it would continue to develop. And it really happened. Unlike state institutions, where there are still 300, 400 children.

Children with traumas (some of them  have lost their parents, others have been abused), who dwell in state homes, have no ability to get the proper help. “It is not possible to satisfy the emotional needs of so many children in state institutions, and they lack social skills. They can’t take care of food, cook or buy something, they can’t communicate with others. There is also a restrictive regime. In the orphanage in Bortnyky everything is different. It looks very close to family. The boys do have freedom here, they can go to the village any time, there are also many visitors who come here, they still have a formation and they also work a lot, ” continued Václav Keprt. Boys take care of the farm, grow potatoes, produce cider, have beekeeping, raise pets. They help to cook at the kitchen and are doing a sweep-up together with the mentors. Home benefits from its own work and gifts. Currently there is a building with kitchen, dining room, accommodation and a chapel. The former house is converted into a school with a place for volunteers. The buildings are surrounded by a large garden. According to Vaclav Keprt, it is important that boys can take care of themselves. “They study, work, or both. They also have girlfriends, one of them will be getting married. They are successful in life and this is very important, ” he stressed.

With the boys in Bortnyky

The next stop was Ternopil Charity. ACHO has helped and supported it too. The citizens of Ternopil provide home care to the infirm; they distribute food to them from their social canteen, which they supply from their fields. They also provide palliative care. Furthermore, they operate social taxis, where a specially adapted car transports people in a wheelchair or less mobile. “Since this service has proved to be very necessary, we are just preparing a fundraising for the social taxi to continue it’s work” said Andrij Marchuk, director of the Ternopil Charity. In Ternopil, they also have physiotherapy, a laundry for the infirm, and supply the socially weak with food and clothing. They help young people and children from poverty-stricken families who can learn to cook, work with computers, go to the gym, etc. The citizens of Ternopil also support clients with mental illness or various disabilities by therapy and workshops. For example, Olichka creates hats for small snowmen. Serhiy writes poetry, which is an image of his soul. At the age of 23 he has already published three compilations of poems.

Dnes neztrácej naději, vzleť.

Života si cení ten,

kdo každý den

nezapomíná žít.

Když žiješ, netrať ani minuty.

Den nekoupíš za peníze,

a pak noc, do které srdce letí

(Serhiy Penov)

Many years ago, ACHO also helped Caritas Kolomyja to create a background for helping others. Their management and staff are so clever that you can find the Best Nonprofit of the Year diploma in their meeting room. And they continue. The walls of the room are covered with large signs with plans and visions for the future. First, a new school will be built. “On the ground floor there will be a school for pupils up to the 4th form and, on the first floor, a kindergarten. Everything should be finished by the end of August, ”said Serhiy Tryfjak,  Kolomyja Charity Director.

The Kolomyja provides home care, care for people with disabilities, children and young people from poverty-stricken families, and internally displaced people who fled the armed conflict in the east of the country.

Field and Goats – a shard of home for Darina and her mother

In 2014, Darina and her mother left their home in the east of Ukraine. They cannot come back yet. But they still have hope. They farm a field near Kolomyja and keep goats as they did at home. Darina also goes to the theater club and music school. Hope still lives…

Caritas Kolomyja now is located in a renovated two-story building near the city center. It used to be in an old house on the outskirts. The old building has also been renovated and currently there is a dormitory for more than 20 homeless people. They can not only sleep here, but they also have a shower and wash their clothes. “On the first floor of the building, we are planning to provide some space for women who suddenly find themselves in crisis, for example, when they had to flee domestic violence or something like that,” Serhiy Tryfjak said.

Archdiocesan Caritas Olomouc is trying to support Ukrainian partners that way, so they can help themselves. And they are doing well. For example, the Kolomyja Caritas has found allies in the city councilors who are now contributing to it. “In the past, we invited our partners and politicians from Ukraine to the Czech Republic. The directors of Caritas, mayors, head nurses of home care, etc. met here. They have established a relationship, inspired each other, and that all led to better cooperation and support of social and health services, ”said Václav Keprt, Director of the Archdiocesan Caritas Olomouc.

Karolína Opatřilová, Archdiocesan Charity Olomouc
Photo: K. Opatřilová, K. Novodvorska

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