Sister Maria Cristiana Demianczuk belongs to the Congregation of the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin Mary of Matara, which is a monastic order serving in our Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The sisters are dedicated to the Incarnate Word of God. In response to the present crisis in Ukraine, they are helping the refugees, who were forced to flee from war-torn Ukraine, particularly, the children. The interview is about the needs of these refugees, the work of the sisters, volunteer aid and prayer.
Dear Sister, kindly tell us more in detail about your congregation and how those Ukrainian refugees forced to flee can contact you?
We belong to the Congregation of the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin Mary of Matara, a monastic order (family) dedicated to the Incarnate Word. Our monastic family was founded in Argentina; initially in 1984, a group of priests and in 1988 , the sisters. The congregation was founded in the Roman rite. In the General House of our Congregation is located in Rome. In 1999, our Congregation founded a mission in Ukraine. That is how the Eastern–rite branch was founded. Three sisters established the mission in Ukraine; two of which are of Ukrainian origin were baptized in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
We currently have 14 communities in Ukraine. Before this war, our monasteries were located: in the Ivano-Frankivsk region (1 contemplative monastery and 7 mission homes): a provincial house, novitiate, aspirants, a House of Mercy for orphans and abandoned children (without parental guardianship), a House of Mercy for single mothers with children, a School Community, a Catechetical and Spiritual Center, where retreats are given;
in Ternopil – a Home for elderly women, in Stryi – a community that helps take care of a parish in the Transcarpathian region – 1 missionary monastery and 1 contemplative one, in Odessa – a House of Mercy and 1 community of sisters in Kramatorsk.
I belong to a community that runs a school and a small boarding school for girls. You can contact us at:
0969542819 – s. Maria of Unity, is Viber, telegram
0977531416 – с. Mary’s Blessing, is Viber, telegram
How did the idea to help the refugees come about?
Unfortunately, we do not have a refugee assistance center per se. Since the beginning of the war each community of sisters tried to do what was being asked of them, in real time, aware of the urgent needs of the people.
Our community, which cared for a school and a small boarding house for girls who were students but came from the more remote cities of Ukraine. The housing was very close to the military airfield. On the day the war broke out, we sisters in the monastery woke up earlier.
Reading the news, we immediately rushed to care for the girls. As soon as we woke them, we heard an explosion. Before we could understand what happened, we heard the second explosion. Our house shook and we realized that we must flee. The girls put on jackets over their pajamas and ran out onto the street. There was a lot of smoke. We immediately organized and left to go to our sisters in Transcarpathia.
Realizing that the news was getting more disturbing every day, several families asked us if we knew anyone abroad who could provide them a safe place. Our friends from Spain agreed to help these people, finding them housing and aid. In just two days, those in need were about 100 people – 29 of them mothers and the rest were children.
We ourselves do not have a center to help refugees, but we have helped these people who came seeking aid. In the future, if God’s providence guides us in such manner, we shall try to help other persons in need, who seek asylum abroad, but our aid depends on the assistance of those who are currently outside of Ukraine.
You asked who had thought of this idea: I think it came from God’s providence which sent us people in need. We were ready to help them.
What categories of refugees do you work with?
We, as a monastery, are not a center for helping refugees and we cannot do such large-scale task in this area. But we will try our best to help those people whom God’s providence sends our way.
What kind of help do you provide? And what help do these people need the most?
We helped the people who approached us to get to the border, to cross over and find housing in one of the European countries and to get them there safely. To implement this we need money for travel and food for them until they get to the designated place, where they will be provided with all that is necessary. Also, medicine will be needed.
What is the main and ultimate goal of your volunteer work?
Our goal is to help everyone in need, and especially the children, to find them a safe place to live in this difficult time and to protect them from stress and excessive tragic experiences. We hope that these children as soon as possible will be able to return to a peaceful and free Ukraine. We pray for this and ask for your prayers.
Can Ukrainian youth, students, somehow join and help you. For example, maybe you need volunteers?
Here, where we are now, we unfortunately are not able to give volunteers an accommodation, because we accept many refugees. But we shall be grateful if some family, living abroad would be ready to accept those in need and to provide them all that is necessary, or to help financially in their travels abroad.
Interview with Lydia Batig