Tom Smolich, international director of JRS, and Alberto Ares, regional director of JRS Europe, visited JRS Romania’s office to talk to the team and see first-hand their work in response to the crisis in Ukraine. Through a variety of programmes, activities, and services, JRS Romania has accompanied and served more than 12,000 refugees from Ukraine in the months since the start of the international armed conflict in February. However, their biggest achievement is the unity and community formed by Romanians, Ukrainians, and all people of goodwill aiming to best accompany serve and advocate for all who were forcibly displaced.
After seeing the work of JRS Romania, Alberto Ares expressed “I feel very impressed by the spirit of family that I felt all these days here within the team, but also within the Ukrainian community trying to provide care, shelter and all the services. While we are coordinating the common response to the crisis in Ukraine at the European level, I feel really impressed by our teams and the response they are having here. I am really thankful for the work of JRS Romania providing accommodation, and shelter accompanying the refugees from Ukraine here in Romania.”
The visit coincided with a Charity concert prepared by JRS Romania in which the Romanian and Ukrainian communities got together to celebrate the coming of Christmas. The line-up included a singer from Kherson, a young girl poet from Odessa, a Romanian ensemble, a 9-year-old Romanian pianist and a family of 5 from Odessa. This is just the latest example of the ways in which the Ukrainian community have come together with JRS Romania in this response.
Touched by the event, Tom Smolich highlighted: “It’s been a very moving time for me to see our team here in Romania working with Ukrainian refugees to serve others who have fled the crisis there. I was struck not only by what happened last night but the feeling of community, unity and working together. And that doesn’t just happen. With JRS Is not just what we do, but the way we do it. It’s been a very powerful time and I’m very thankful to everyone who is part of JRS Romania”.
While in Bucharest, Alberto Ares and Tom Smolich visited two schools in which JRS Romania runs some of the 20 educational programmes to allow Ukrainians to continue their studies and, if they wish to, learn Romanian. They also saw the multiple activities that are carried out at the JRS centre and explored the renovations of the Arrupe Centre, which will soon be able to host refugees and other forcibly displaced people.
However, the main objective of the visit was to talk with the local team and explore ways in which both the international and regional office could better support their work. In that line, Marius Talos, president of JRS Romania, emphasized, “It is hard for me to find the words to express our gratitude after the visit of Tom and Alberto. It was meaningful for all of us in terms of building bridges at a threefold level. A bridge between Romanians and Ukrainians networked with all the people of goodwill in Europe. A bridge among Jesuits and laypeople committed to JRS work. And, most of all a synergy of reconciliation, bringing different people together for the same goal: to welcome peace in place of hatred and war”.
The work of JRS Romania portrays how JRS aims to fulfil its mission, walking alongside, accompanying and serving, together. That is why it is not only what JRS Romania does to respond to the crisis, but the way they do it, that really matters.
Other pictures of the visit