“Today was a very important day for us. 15 years ago, in Lviv, JRS Ukraine began its activities. Despite our organization in Ukraine being quite young, we have achieved a lot and are proud to have been surrounded by many people seeking refuge and help” were the words of Inga Dul, director of JRS Ukraine, to begin the 15th anniversary of the institution.
The celebration of the anniversary, under the title “Unity in activity: Common goal, common success”, comes in an unusual and complex context. In the midst of pain and meaningless of the conflict, JRS Ukraine found it important to celebrate and keep hope alive in their mission, sharing trust and care for the millions looking for a better future for their loved ones.
Michael Schöpf, SJ, JRS International director, and Alberto Ares, SJ, JRS Europe Regional Director were present at the celebrations in Lviv to thank the people and institutions who have committed their efforts to accompany, serve and advocate for the displaced people during the last 15 years, and specially in the almost two years since the war began.
Coordinated by JRS Europe and the Xavier Network, in collaboration with JRS country offices, NGOs and local partners, the Society of Jesus through One Proposal project has accompanied more than 80.000 people in the first 20 months since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.
During the celebration, Alberto Ares expressed: “Michael’s presence and mine show the support from everyone at JRS in Europe and around the world to the refugees, Ukrainian displaced people, and our team here. All teams from the 23 country offices of the JRS in Europe are present here today as a single family that cares for, welcomes, and protects. We look after each other with affection, rinse our tears and, like today, celebrate and share our joy. This is what makes us a family”.
The celebration of the 15th anniversary of JRS Ukraine was prepared by the local JRS team, together with the Ukrainian Jesuits, with great care and professionalism. The team expressed their sincere gratitude to everyone who shared this important day and special thanks to the speakers: Maksym Kozytskyi, Halyna Bordun, Volodymyr Golovatiy, Alberto Ares, and Andriy Zelinskyy.
A young Ukrainian mother, a photographer, displaced by war, who is supported by JRS in Lviv, presented a beautiful photo exhibition of portraits of Ukrainian children living in the shelters. In their faces one can see the innocence, the joy and the deep pain they have experienced since the beginning of the war. The photographer also shared her testimony as a photographer in a time of war and the challenge of raising a son, in the midst of all the displacement and violence.
The National Theatre Orchestra named after M. Zankovetska, also said present at the celebration, playing a whole programme of pieces, which included several Ukrainian songs.
In an informal moment of sharing, a group of families staying in JRS reception centres in Lviv shared with Alberto: “We are very grateful for your presence, as it means a lot to us and our children. We are also happy to see Inga and the rest of the JRS Ukraine staff smile, because in their smile we perceive confidence and a feeling of protection when you are close to us. At your side we feel safe, protected, and supported. Today we are very happy for your closeness and support.”
Inga concluded the event with a prayer and good wish: “We are strong in our mission when we stand together as one family. We are invincible when together we accompany, serve and advocate for the rights of refugees and displaced people, when we keep the needs of others at the centre of our lives.”
The Society of Jesus, through the One Proposal project and JRS’ work more generally, continues to support the response in Ukraine and in those countries where millions of Ukrainians have been welcomed.