Churches Continue to Aid Ukrainian Refugees One Year After Invasion

Churches Continue to Aid Ukrainian Refugees One Year After Invasion

A Lutheran congregation in Wrocław, which has helped over 150 refugees, express their gratitude for the support.
On February 24, 2022 Russian forces invaded Ukraine, hoping to topple the democratically elected government and overrun the country. Within hours, thousands of refugees - women, children, the elderly – crossed over the Polish-Ukrainian border, seeking safety and shelter from the atrocities. Within a month, over 6 million Ukrainian refugees had fled the country with over half of them finding their way to Poland.
In the following three months 39 Southern New England Conference UCC congregations (plus one in Texas) collected $155,000 which were sent to Reformed, Lutheran, and Methodist churches in Poland to aid their efforts in helping refugees in that country. This “anniversary” update will give you more detail on how the work is being handled every day and how your help is put to good use.
The Lutheran Diakonia Kościoła Ewangelicko-Augsburskiego has received the bulk of the collection. It assists those congregations that still house refugees on their premises, funds programs for the refugees with a special focus on the youth, and continues to organize humanitarian aid to Ukraine, especially in the volatile eastern Ukraine regions particularly devastated by the war and the ongoing fighting.
The Lutheran 50-member congregation in Węgrów has hosted over 64 refugees since the war had begun. Even as we speak, 24 Ukrainian nationals are housed and fed on the congregation’s premises. The church continues to offer children’s programs, job trainings and language courses to them.
Żychlin, a 35-member Reformed congregation, has hosted 34 different refugees since the war began and a family is living on its premises right now too. From single folks to three generational families, the small Żychlin parish has been a haven for many. Their spirit is radiating: Recently the refugees staying with them organized a collection to buy power banks, gloves and warm clothes for those in Ukraine.
In Ełk, a small Methodist congregation has housed three Ukrainian families since the war began. We made it clear that our aid should be available to refugees regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation, and so now they are housing a refugee family originally from Turkmenistan, in Central Asia. The Ukrainian families that were helped continue to stay in touch.
In Giżycko, the Lutheran congregation with almost no infrastructure or means has been able to house three families since the war began. Thanks to your generosity, part of a 19th century parish house was renovated and adapted so that they could have privacy. The pastor, Rev. Krystian Borkowski, said that when the father who is fighting in the war to defend his country saw that his family had their own room, kitchen, and warmth – he wept with gratitude. Since one of the young daughters is artistically talented, the congregation has paid not just for language lessons to help her learn Polish but also drawing lessons.
The German-speaking Lutheran congregation in Wrocław has helped over 150 refugees – with 50 housed on the premises (right now “only” 13 are living on the premises). The congregation offers language classes and psychological help.
The Zielony Domek Foundation in Poznań has focused on providing a drop-in day center for youth. Between 10 and 15 young people drop in weekly, every week since it began its work on March 22, 2022, with psychological help, games, help with homework and life situations that youth encounter everywhere.
These are just some examples of the work that has been done and continues to go on in Poland. Back in March the combined Lutheran, Reformed and Methodist congregations have housed over 800 refugees on their premises. While some have returned home, some stayed, and new ones have come. The stories I asked for are sometimes difficult to imagine. A family of 11 people who fled in a minivan driving for 30 hours to get to safety; a woman who asked what she misses most, said “my house. It was hit by a rocket. Nothing remained except what I brought in my suitcase [a carry-on size].” A former doctor and lawyer who are working as hospital janitors until their diplomas are recognized; a teenager whose 18th birthday was celebrated by his mum and people he just met hours before.
Your, dear UCC congregations, has been fundamental in keeping these programs going. We have thus joined the German Church in Lippe, the Italian Waldensian Church, as well as individual congregations in the Church of Scotland, The Protestant Church in the Netherlands, Reformed Church in America, Evangelical (Protestant) Church in Germany (EKD), the Lutheran World Federation and other organizations who continue to aid Ukrainian refugees in Poland. Together with the national UCC settings that works in Hungary, Greece, Moldova – we are doing our bit and giving Christian witness to the God in Jesus Christ “who helps the widow and the orphans, loves the stranger in your midst.” (Deut. 10:18)
While some might feel overwhelmed, and tired of the war, let us remember that it is far from over. Houses, hospitals, schools, are being bombed; civilians are being killed; refugees continue to arrive. Sadly, the words of the Scripture ring true once again: “The poor we will always have with us” but in faith and gratitude for God’s grace we respond to God’s instruction “therefore, I command you, you shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land” (Deut. 15:11).
First Church in Marlborough (Congregational) UCC continues to raise money for the Ukrainian refugees in Poland. If you’d like to support our outreach, please send a check with “Ukraine Relief” in the memo line.
For all that you have done - we give to God in Christ Jesus, and to God and God alone, be honor and glory.



Kaz J. Bem

The Rev. Kazimierz Bem is the Pastor of the First Church in Marlborough (Congregational). 

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