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Project stories 29. The war refugees found a shelter in old Reformati monastery

10 / 06 / 2022
Category: Project News


When the war broke out in Ukraine, the lives of millions of Ukrainians changed dramatically. Poland was the first country to lend a helping hand. At the same time, we are witnessing great examples of solidarity and cooperation between these two neighboring countries. It’s true that hard times bring out the best in people. Thanks to the strong ties established during the implementation of joint projects, Ukrainian and Polish institutions are now able to provide assistance to those who need it most. The infrastructure and equipment obtained through the projects are now being used in ways that could not have been foreseen before, but the purpose of serving the people’s needs remains unchanged. We want to share with you the stories of Ukrainian-Polish friendship and cooperation during the war.

Rava-Ruska in the Lviv region is the first settlement you find yourself in after crossing the Polish-Ukrainian border. This is an ancient town with a rich history and a special cross-border atmosphere.

In the first days of the war, Rava-Ruska witnessed a spectacle never seen before – the endless queue of people waiting for the crossing of Ukrainian-Polish border. At one point the queue reached as much as 45 kilometers long. People were trying to escape from the war, first of all, to save their children, the sick, and elderly relatives. The number of people crossing the border these days was on the level of several hundred thousand. One of the local landmarks here - Reformati order monastery – reacted immediately.

In those days, there was an urgent need to help these people. So in the monastery, they set up a place where you could warm up and eat. - recalls Markiyan Stefanyshyn, the project coordinator - The nuns cooked hot food for people. We would drive along this huge queue and hand out snacks to people. 

Another immediate necessity was housing for displaced persons, as the Lviv region received over 200 000 refugees from other regions of Ukraine in a very short period of time. All suitable housing in Lviv and the oblast was adapted for the temporary residence of people fleeing from the war-stricken cities.

As of the beginning of the war, renovation works on our monastery facility had been completed; we were furnishing the rooms. We decided that these rooms will be used by refugees… We had to make some preparations, though. In total, the premises can accommodate 44 people, there are kitchens and bathrooms. They are designed to accommodate large families - describes Markiyan.

The first two families from Mariupol (13 children) and Sumy oblast (8 children) who fled the horrors of war, found a temporary home here.  They stayed here for some time and went further to Europe. Now, a big family from Zhytomyr is staying here (8 people). Not only foster families are accommodated in these premises - there are several women with children, mostly from Kyiv oblast and other areas. About 30 people are staying here at the time at a regular basis. Also, a group of 30 children stayed here for some time before going to Spain. Polish doctors who came to Ukraine to provide medical care also were accommodated in the monastery building.

Local people and organizations from abroad constantly help with food products and other items, but guests do their own cooking. Those who have been staying longer help the new-comers, and organize necessary logistics. The old monastery, which has been silent for many years, is now a bustling place. The door is open for anyone who needs refuge.

Our premises are mostly used as a temporary shelter. Some people stop here for a while before moving on to Europe, some have been staying for a couple of weeks but with a thought to come back to their homes when the war is over.  But we do not mind if families with foster children who come from another region of Ukraine will settle here forever. It’s a great place to live – says Markiyan.

The Monastery project partners from Węgrów in Poland have been helping with food and basic necessities from the very first days.

The monastery complex of the Reformati order lately has undergone restoration under the TwinMonasteries project implemented within PBU Programme. The monastery premises in Rava-Ruska was to serve a noble purpose by housing “family-type orphanages” (the term used for big foster families which are expected to replace traditional orphanages in Ukraine). The works within the TwinMonasteries project were also carried out on the other side of the border - in Węgrów, Poland, in the building, which is a “twin brother” of Rava-Ruska monastery. These baroque buildings of the XVIII century were to house the Centers for the Dialogue of Cultures and become points of the new tourist route.

Now both partners have changed completely the approach to their joint project and decided, most of all, to come to help to necessitous Ukrainian people hurting and escaping from war. The Programme strongly supports its beneficiaries in these activities.
It’s true that hard times bring out the best in people, what can be worth more?

You can find out more about the project here.


Project stories 29. TwinMonasteries

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