“When they started shelling, my first thought was my son.”, Svitlana’s story

14 April 2024|JRS Europe

Svitlana Pavlovska lived in a small town close to the border with Poland before the war started. She stayed at home with her son Bogdan. “When they started shelling, my first thought was my son. Bogdan cannot walk or move without our help. He has several diagnoses, including cerebral palsy and epileptic seizures. For him, all that shooting, and bombing was extremely traumatic.”, she describes. Svitlana and her children left the country as soon as she got the chance to. They went to Medjugorje, where they feel safe, all together, even though her only wish is to return home. At the moment it is impossible. Their building is still standing, there is no electricity, because there is no infrastructure. When Svitlana visited her home, nothing was the same, only ruins and destroyed houses.

“Here in Medjugorje, the people are good, we have everything we need, and every day I go to church gives me the strength to accept God’s will.”, she says. Sometimes it’s difficult because she can’t find original medicines for Bogdan, only substitutes, which are too strong for him, but people try to help them in different ways. Before this war, Svitlana and her family visited Medjugorje, as pilgrims, because they were looking for spiritual help, and when the war started, they accepted the invitation of the local community and arrived here. She feels that in all that mess it was God’s will to help them stay alive and safe.

When she got in contact with JRS, her first thought was that they were sent by Holy Ghost. JRS provided medicine for Bogdan, but also the spiritual guidance that Svitlana needed in these difficult times. “The human being does not need just food for the body, but also for the soul. We have witnessed so much cruelty during the first days of the war in Ukraine, and help from you from JRS returns our hope in human kindness. You give us not just a food, you give as more, because you are here with as, as a friend.”, Svitlana says. She is hoping and praying for peace, just for peace.

She decided to stay in Medjugorje, because it gives her and also to her husband and daughter security that they will have everything that they need, and more. They have someone close, somebody familiar from this country, so that they are not alone in the new environment they live in, someone on whom they can rely on, in case they need something. JRS’ help means all this, and more, for Svitlana and many other forcibly displaced people.

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.