Marian’s assistants had no choice. They had to learn very quickly. And the director of the Marian Helpers Association, Fr. Śukasz Wiśniewski, MIC, is in constant contact with the brothers from Ukraine, trying to meet the needs of those affected by the war with his team.
– The war taught us something. You will not be able to plan anything except the next evening. In fact, the information that you need something on the front today can mean nothing tomorrow. We hope that with the development of military operations and their end, the needs will change. Then we will try to respond to what is most needed right now. It is difficult to plan something in such a situation, he said in an interview with Stefan Chernichki.
The Marians have five enterprises in Ukraine. They began to help on the first day of the war. At present, they primarily stay in Kharkov, helping people who remain in the city.
– They often live in subway stations and basements. They often need food and hygiene measures. Also those that can be used without water, sometimes without access to Kharkov.
You can join the help provided by the Marian Help Center at www.spm.org.pl.
– You can support us by contacting us directly. By building such a network, it will be easier for us to get certain things we need in Ukraine. And then communicate effectively with them. Each such contact is important to us – says the priest,
Below are the notes of the whole conversation:
Stefan Cernicki: Do you remember the moment when the war started? What were you doing then?
Fr. Śukasz Wiśniewski: Yes, I remember exactly. It was February 24, and early in the morning, before dawn prayers, I saw on the site the news that the war had just begun. Yes, I have been waiting for this for several days, but I quietly hoped that it would be so. In the morning, I learned that our daily lives and our commitment to unity would change. As Marians, we have brothers in Ukraine. There were concerns about the survival of all our brothers in Ukraine. As Marian Helpers, we had to help our brothers in Ukraine and all those in need. It is true that we did not know exactly what this help would look like and what we should do, but in the following days we showed very quickly and precisely what was most needed.
There was no doubt? Worry, will we achieve this? Will you be able to carry out such a complex logistics operation to help Ukraine?
No, there was no doubt about it. As Marian Fathers, we have five centers in Ukraine: Kharkiv, Khmelnitsky, Chernivtsi, Grodek and Mohylov Podolsky. That same day, when the war broke out, we started collecting money. Our Marian churches and houses of worship also began collecting gifts and funds. This was the fastest and most effective way. It is not difficult to send a large truck to Ukraine and not worry about where it will end up. The trick is to be able to meet special needs. And have the tools to implement them. In Khmelnitsky, for example, at the beginning of the war, they needed sleeping bags and mattresses to receive refugees from eastern Ukraine. They also needed food and washing powder. Thanks to discussions with our brothers, we were able to meet these needs directly. Over time, our assistance has grown. I do not hide that now we are focusing on Kharkov, where our brothers are in the most difficult situation. The parishioners who remained in the city with them. They often live in subway stations and basements. They often need food and hygiene measures. Also those that can be used without water, sometimes without access to Kharkov.
Do I understand correctly that the priest is the spiritual act of the whole project?
Without exaggeration. I do not do it alone. We wanted a team here at the Marianski Help Center. From the first days of the Russian occupation, everyone at our Center was extremely committed to this assistance. They also come to the aid of a well-meaning person. There are many examples. For example, parishioners from Nadarzin carried out a spontaneous collection of items overnight and brought them to us. New acquaintances, for example, quickly appear with paramedics who help Lviv. We also met with people from the Union of Afghan War Veterans in Ukraine who are helping people in need, including soldiers fighting on the front lines. Thus, an amazing network was established. Solidarity network.
The purchase of certain highly specialized equipment (for example, special dressings for wounded soldiers) requires certain knowledge. You need to know where to look and what to look for. How do you deal with this problem?
By working together. For example, the medical staff supports us. Thanks to our contacts with nurses and contacts with our doctor friends, we are able to get some medical equipment. This is how it works.
And what was the response of the loyalists to organized fundraising?
Very big. In addition, many people began to bring the things we needed. Clothes, blankets, sleeping bags, chemicals, food. We separated it and sent it to Ukraine. When it comes to self-sacrifice, the answer is certainly great. I am also impressed. Everyone helps him because his strength and opportunities allow him.
Who carries the products collected by the Marians here in Stegna, Warsaw, to the border??
Very different. Sometimes only parishioners come from our Marian churches in Ukraine. We work with the Order of the Knights of John Paul II and volunteers at the border. This newly created shipping network works really well. It is also a sign of God that all this help is God’s work.
Because you celebrate God’s work … There’s something you’ve taught me in the last six weeksday?
First of all, I saw with my own eyes what great opportunities lie ahead of us. In each. It is born very spontaneously. You have to buy something somewhere, you meet someone there, and this one puts you in contact with another person … This is what happened to the rescuers we just mentioned. It is amazing how many opportunities we have to help our neighbor. Until now, I tried not to answer numbers that I usually did not know. Now, during the war, I only receive such calls. People who get my number from somewhere else call for help. We can do more together. This is what I learned in the last six weeks of the war. In addition, I learned many simple things that I did not know before. For example, what types of diapers are there? As a priest, I did not have to learn this in advance.
You have direct contact with Ukrainians and missionaries in need in Ukraine. How do they react to the help of the Poles?
They are very grateful. Sometimes they are ashamed to ask because of the amount of help they have received so far. They emphasize that they cannot imagine how they can live today without the help of Poles. They are amazed at how quickly we can respond to their needs. As soon as one of our brothers sends him a message, he always writes me a word – “thank you”. He can write this for every message sent to him. Then he explained to me that he could only write so much, because the words would not express his gratitude anyway.
What are the Marian Assistants Association’s plans for immediate assistance?
The war has taught us one thing: you will not be able to plan anything but the next evening. In fact, the information that you need something on the front today may not matter tomorrow. We hope that with the development of military operations and their end, the needs will change. Then we will try to respond to what is most needed right now. It is difficult to plan something in such a situation.
How can I help you?
It is very simple. You can support us financially by paying to the Marian Helpers Center at www.spm.org.pl. You can support us by contacting us directly. By building such a network, it will be easier for us to get certain things we need in Ukraine. And then communicate effectively with them. Each such contact is important for us.