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Archdiocese underlines commitment to Ukraine
The Archdiocese of Liverpool has redoubled its efforts to provide support for Ukraine with the delivery of four more consignments of aid.
By Simon Hart
Mike Starkey is describing an encounter he will never forget. It came on Tuesday 29 March when he reached the Polish/Ukrainian border driving one of the two lorries carrying the initial aid consignments gathered through the Archdiocese of Liverpool’s ‘#liverpool4ukraine’ appeal.
There the 53-year-old company director from Wigan met Bishop Hryhoriy (Gregory) Komar, and students from the Holy Spirit Seminary in the Ukrainian diocese of Sambir-Drohobych. Andrew Quinlan, an Australian lecturer at the seminary, was there too. The seminarians had driven to the border in their cars to help ferry back the contents of the two large seven and a half tonne wagons which had journeyed the 1,400 miles from Liverpool.
Recalling that moment, Mike says, ‘The bishop was there and a couple of priests were with them and some students and they were hugging us and tearful. To be honest, we were quite tearful. You hear about this on the news and it touches you and to actually make a difference and take these well-needed supplies out there and speak to people over there made us feel the Archdiocese had achieved something.’
That experience strengthened his conviction to make a return journey with more of the donations that had been coming into the Archdiocese of Liverpool’s Margaret Clitherow Centre on Croxteth Drive. ‘Being there gave you the feeling, ‘Let’s support them again,’ he affirms. He was not alone in that view. Hence at 6.30am on Sunday 24 April two more lorries departed for the Ukrainian border followed, at 6.30am the next morning, by another two.
Along with Mike and Chris Joynt, who both took part in the first trip, four members of staff from the Archdiocese were part of the team of drivers for this second 2,800-mile round trip through France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Poland: Jill Boggan, Nicky Hegarty, John McMahon and Aaron Kiely.
Speaking ahead of their departure, Jill Boggan, Director of Finance for the Archdiocese, said: ‘I’ve volunteered to go on this trip because I want to do something direct and useful to help people in Ukraine who urgently need the supplies we’re taking to them. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to go on this journey and hopeful that taking the generous donations from across the Archdiocese to Bishop Gregory will provide both practical support and comfort that they are not alone.’
The staggered departure of the four-vehicle convoy was planned to allow the seminarians time to unload the contents of the first two vehicles, and ferry them back to the seminary, before then returning the next day to repeat the task.
‘No-one is safe from the bombing’
A reminder of the Ukrainian people’s desperate situation, amid the ongoing war with Russia’s invading forces, came a week earlier in a message to the Archdiocese from Bishop Gregory sent on Monday 18 April.
He wrote: ‘I am in Lviv to conduct a spiritual retreat for 180 seminarians. Russian troops have launched another missile strike here – six dead and eight injured. A tyre shop was destroyed, including 40 cars. A nearby hotel was also damaged where refugees had lived.’
There was also a fresh message from Andrew Quinlan, who offered a sad Easter reflection. ‘During the Covid crisis, many Christians were forbidden to go to Church,’ he began. ‘In most places in Europe, restrictions have been lightened or even completely lifted. During the time of bans on gatherings, I thought that it could not get any worse. I remember our bishop wept when he celebrated Good Friday in an empty church. It has got worse.
‘Every night a black pall falls over Drohobych – the streetlights are put out and no one is allowed to leave their homes. We have a strict curfew from 10pm to 6am. This means for us that this year we will not be able to celebrate the all-night Easter Vigil. Not even the bells will ring at midnight. No-one is safe from the bombing anywhere. The cloud of evil that has been covering us now for months has seeped into our churches. But the darkness cannot overcome the light.’
Amid the darkness, the ‘#liverpool4ukraine’ appeal is focused as best possible on meeting the specific needs outlined by our friends in Ukraine. As Mike Sharkey explains, this means ‘medical aid, generators, food, sanitary products, baby food, toiletries, camp beds’. Chillingly, he adds, another item requested for the second aid convoy was ‘50 body bags’.
Medical aid from the first consignments was transferred to hospitals in Drohobych and Boryslav and some taken further east to the capital Kyiv.
He goes on: ‘They’ve been ferrying across the small amount of aid they’ve got and taken it directly into the war zone. The seminary is a place of rest and shelter, with people coming in who’ve lost everything – people with nothing but the clothes they’re wearing, be they young, middle-aged or elderly.’
The total raised for the appeal is currently £101,000. This includes a sum of £12,000 raised by charities and organisations in the Wigan area of the archdiocese, including Wigan and Leigh College, Wigan Council and the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust.
Mike explains that through the local NHS trust it has been possible to access ‘£5,000 worth of medical aid direct from the procurement department’. Meanwhile, a local van hire business, PSD Vehicle Rental, has donated the vehicles for the journeys. And, he concludes, the second April convoy may well not be the last. ‘We are looking at more supplies coming in so don’t rule out a third trip … … but don’t tell my wife!”
‘Thank you for your love, care and charity’
Andrew J Quinlan, lecturer at the Holy Spirit Seminary in Lviv, responds to the support showed by the Archdiocese of Liverpool.
I am writing this from the Eparchy of Sambir–Drohobych here in Western Ukraine. On 29 March we received from Liverpool two van-loads of donations. More are due to arrive soon. The vans were unloaded in a sort of ‘no man’s land’ between the Polish and Ukrainian border and then transported to our seminary named after the Priest-monk-martyrs Severyn, Yakym and Vitaliy in Drohobych.
At the seminary, the gifts were again unloaded and sorted into shipments to respond to the daily requests that the Eparchy receives through its network of contacts all over Ukraine. Our people cannot express how grateful they are for the love, care and practical charity that the Archdiocese of Liverpool has shown them. Our Bishops Yaroslav Pryriz and Hryhoriy [Gregory] Komar wish to give their thanks to the Most Reverend Malcolm McMahon, your Archbishop, and to his auxiliaries, to all the clergy and laity of the Archdiocese who worked so hard to make this delivery possible and to all those who remember us in their prayers.
The whole world has now seen the unbelievable tragedy of Ukraine unfold before their eyes. People everywhere have expressed their admiration for the courage of the Ukrainian people in the face of an unjust invasion and an implacable enemy. The survival of the nation for such a long time under this relentless aggression is literally miraculous. Here in Western Ukraine we have had missile attacks and the day and night are punctuated by air-raid sirens. The sirens are still something that I cannot take in – I always thought that that sound belonged to old black-and-white films about World War Two – and now they are a constant part of my life.
Thank God, this part of Ukraine is not under direct fire or worse occupation – but in the back of everyone’s mind are the questions ‘Will it come to us?’ and ‘What will we do when it does?’. The invasion of evil started in the early days of Lent. This time has been an uninterrupted ‘Way of the Cross’ for Ukraine. Sadly, rather tragically as I write this, the struggle is about to intensify to a level of fighting not seen in Europe since the days of the Second World War. The Russian invaders are massing to crush the Eastern part of the nation. Everyone has seen what carnage they leave behind.
We know that God is merciful and therefore we know that his enemy is not. Nothing can stop this monstrous wave of evil except prayer. The Archdiocese continues to give us its material aid. It is now more important than ever that they continue to give us their spiritual aid as well.
A seminarian’s view
My name is Dmytro Holyk, and I am a seminarian of the Ukrainian-Greek Catholic Church at the Drohobych Seminary of the Priest-Martyrs Severin, Yoakim and Vitaly.
The night of 24 February interrupted the flow of seminary life and changed everyone forever. We were all subconsciously aware that a war could start at any moment, but no-one could really believe it. When I went out on the balcony that morning, I heard a noise and saw a military fighter plane. Then I had the real feeling that war had come. This meant that we seminarians could no longer be together and study and pray as a community, because the seminary is a crowded place and it would be a dangerous location.
At home, I felt separated from common prayer life. Thank God that in Drohobych, where I live, there is a monastery of the Basilian Fathers, where I could pray Vespers and the Divine Liturgy together with the monks. However, this required a testimony of my faith, as I often heard air-raid sirens when I was walking to the monastery or while we were praying together. Our academic life continued with online lessons, and after lectures we often helped in the seminary with humanitarian aid.
During this time, I often remembered the words of Saint Cyprian of Carthage, that we must not despair but rather ‘rejoice and embrace the gift of the occasion … while we are firmly expressing our faith, and having endured sufferings, are advancing to Christ by the narrow way of Christ’ (De mortalitate, 14).
In the light of Divine Providence, it is possible to single out a positive moment from all of this, because through our presence at home we seminarians were able to support our relatives and friends. Everyone experienced different feelings about the war. Some succumbed to fear but others were full of self-confidence saying that we would win and destroy our enemies. We tried to keep a balance and instil in others faith in God's Providence, which can turn any evil into good because it is only with Him that there will be victory.
In this difficult time, all the seminarians help with their good deeds: they direct humanitarian aid to the victims of the war, they help to settle refugees, and support people spiritually in the occupied territories.
Already, before the war began, twice in the year – for Christmas and Easter – we went on a mission to the eastern part of Ukraine. We met with people from Kharkiv and Tokmak, and prayed with them and did our best to support them in their Church life. I am still in contact with the people we met there. In these ways, our seminary has become a source of help for the needy, both materially and spiritually. It is only through these sorts of activity that we will be able to defeat this personification of evil that has invaded our territory and which encroaches on our national integrity and the freedom of our people.
We all pray that Almighty God, through the prayers and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, will lead our people and give victory over this evil and help us to join the celebration of Lord's Resurrection at Easter, with the resurrection of Ukraine and its victory.