Zhytomyr (Agenzia Fides) - "Despite the ongoing war and all the difficulties, they continue to accompany and work for and with the population". This is what Father Michal Wocial, Salesian missionary of the Poland-Krakow Province (PLS), resident in Zhytomyr, located about 150 kilometers from the capital Kiev, said in an interview with Fides.
"Although everyday life here appears normal compared to other cities - notes Fr. Michal - in the country the situation continues to be difficult. We are trying to create safe spaces for those who have taken refuge in our Salesian structures and setting up shelters in case of bombing". "Our confreres in Odessa, Przemyślanya, Bóbrka and Korosteszów are among those whose lives are at risk, but all have told me they are ready to stay there. Our goal - he says - is to welcome as many people as possible in accessible Salesian houses".
In Ukraine the bombings and the advance of the Russian army continue. Hundreds of thousands of people have been trying to flee the country for days. "We want to bring all those in need of protection to safety - underlines the Salesian - and subsequently transfer them to safer places across the border. Immediate help is needed to ensure food, mattresses, blankets and disinfectants. We are working - he continues - together with the other confreres of the Salesian Mission Office in Krakow to stand alongside the Ukrainian population, but we need support because the situation is critical: even a small gesture is fundamental". Also in terms of education, he reports, the Salesians remain active: "For a few weeks, informs Fr. Michal - our Salesian school 'Vsesvit' in Zhytomyr also carries out online teaching, with a participation rate of 90% of the student population, which was ordinarily around 200 students. Certainly - he specifies - the war has profoundly marked the condition of this institute: 50% of the pupils and 20% of the school staff are abroad and the oratory, which still works regularly, sees few young people present".
At the same time, the missionary continues, in Zhytomyr there is a sign of solidarity: "There is so much humanitarian aid that can now be shared with Kiev. Many organizations help with the evacuation of civilians, mainly with the diocesan Caritas for the distribution of aid to the needy". Solidarity aid is also coming from the entire Salesian Family around the world: from ESwatini, in Southern Africa, from Europe, Belgium, Holland, France, Switzerland. Also from the United States. "The support we feel from everyone is strong - concludes Fr. Michal - and we are grateful for such solidarity. Even when someone tells me: "today we have prayed and fasted for you", is a sign of comfort and profound spiritual closeness". (ES-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 7/4/2022)