«Before the war began, there were a lot of conversations, including from my daughter’s acquaintances. My daughter’s groupmate is in America, she received a medical license there. She was very nervous and took there almost all her relatives from Ukraine just before the invasion. You know, we somehow thought that these were Internet fakes because fakes had become very typical before, they had replaced any ideology, and in politics they are common. Why did I think it was fake? All this that has happened literally does not fit into any logic, in any human concepts. I did not believe sincerely, and when my friend, finishing a telephone conversation with me and discussing plans for a joint trip to the sea (to Berdiansk or somewhere else, to Odesa) said: “…if the war did not begin,” I was outraged. I began to reproach her for the “fakes” (that those were fakes, I thought)…. I was 100% sure that there would be no war. I usually have some kind of intuition. But intuition gives hints within the frames of common sense. And war does not fit into the frames of common sense. It’s nonsense to me. And even when we had a state of emergency in the last days before the invasion, I thought it was some kind of political game, I didn’t realize that the invasion was so close. I just didn’t feel it, just because I thought it was beyond human comprehension. Because knowing what kind of weapons we now have, how it massively destroys people, that it is not at all predictable – how can someone start a war? On February 24, my daughter woke me up at half past five and said that we were bombarded. I got up, she told me to pack up and grab whatever I could. Of course, I took the documents and the laptop. I couldn’t really believe it wasn’t a nightmare. But when I went into the bathroom and my glass shook from another blow, I already realized that this wasn’t a bad dream. And since we lived near the airport, I thought that it would be attacked. That we’d all be affected as a result of the attack. My daughter and son-in-law planned to bring their children and me to a safer place and then come back to Kharkiv on their own. So, we moved towards Poltava. Thanks to the fact that we knew the roundabout ways, we were able to get out of the city as quickly as possible. So, we were on the way to the Poltava region, to my daughter’s acquaintances, from 7 am to 10 pm. It took us 15 hours to cover a 170 km distance! It was impossible to pass, there were traffic jams. We couldn’t just sneak in. In addition to traffic jams, the traffic was also slowed down because of roadblocks.»
«Upon arrival [to Nowy Sącz], we were told that there would be a meeting with representatives of the employment department. I went there with my daughter Nataliia although I understood that I was of retirement age and that I was unlikely to find a job. But I went there anyway. There I saw Ms. Natalia Moskalets, who was an interpreter and provided communication between staff and refugees. [Now, Natalia Moskalets is a Polish teacher at JRS]… Then, we learned from Ms. Natalia Moskalets that she teaches Polish at language courses. She has a very good method. First of all, Ms. Natalia makes you talk and talk, speak out. I also like that she teaches the combination of letters, how they are pronounced, and in what cases it is pronounced in a particular way. It is priceless. And now I understand what people say in Polish, I almost don’t miss the classes. It’s awesome, and I have a lot to compare it to. I learned a lot of English at school and university and tried various techniques.”
“You know when I think of my country and my city, I feel uncertainty. This feeling holds me in Poland. You see, I already know the situation here, I know people, and I know whom to turn to. And if it gets even more serious, and my children from Kharkiv will have to leave, I will be able to help them here thanks to friends whom I have acquired here. And so, when my children are in Kharkiv, and I am here, I do not consider it normal. From the point of view of my age, from every point of view… they are there in the hot point, and I am here. I have lived a life, in general, I have experienced a lot – both joys and sorrows. Their lives are more valuable to me. That’s what keeps me here. I see a lot of support here. I see what kind of psychological help “JRS” provides, I see that all the time they offer something. You are dragging out my compatriots of the chasm they have fallen into.”
“…And I just read your chat in Telegram [a messager popular with Ukrainians where JRS Nowy Sącz communicates with them] and see that all the time you offer something, ask about our desires. You see, we don’t usually find time to do the activities you offer by ourselves, especially now. Maybe it’s weird that people come and draw here, but you know, it’s soothing, and I see that there are also specialists who teach special techniques. I look and wonder where so many ideas come from, and I see what the feedback is like. I read all this and think, God, what a good idea! After all, women came with children, they have so many problems, and children, and their education, maintenance. They have a lot of problems but mothers come out of here so happy. You have replaced a lot of psychologists, your community has replaced a lot of psychologists. … After drawing in the Zentangle technique, I saw a photo of how diligently they draw. I zoomed in on the photo of the young woman sitting down, and she looked so passionate while drawing! Here is what psychological help looks like. And you don’t stop. You do well. You talk to people all the time. It’s unparalleled. And now you have moved into such a building, such an office… Every person coming here feels like a person, not a miserable refugee. When you enter the building, you become feeling worthy. Recently I’ve been invited to see the film here. God, I came, and here is such an atmosphere – everyone is watching the film, calm elderly people are sitting, besides, our age group was specially invited to the film. And then they invited us to treat ourselves at the table. My God, there were so many emotions thanks to this tea party, it’s just impossible to convey, there was so much warmth [crying]. You might say that watching a film and having a cup of tea is nothing, but it’s so much more. One can’t overestimate and underestimate it, it touched everyone. It was the first time I met some of the people, and I wanted to get acquainted with them. It was a pity this evening was over. It was a shame to leave, I enjoyed it so much. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!”
Nadiia, from Charkiv
JRS is working together with the Xavier Network, Concordia Moldova, the Society of Jesus in Europe, local civil society, and NGOs in a coordinated Jesuit response. Together we help thousands of people like Veronika. You can read more about The One Proposal: the coordinated Jesuit response to support the Ukraine Crisis here.