Impressions of Kremenchuk 

I will never forget the morning of February 24, 2022. At 04:53 a.m. I was awakened by the sound of phone calls from acquaintances, family and friends. Everyone was asking me if I was alive! This was how I learned about Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine. I opened the window and heard, for the first time, a siren announcing the threat of aerial bombardment.

At five o’clock in the morning we conducted a Friary Chapter on the fly. We decided to send one of our friars to a friary in the western part of the country. At the same time, the rest of us converted our friary into a refugee center. We covered the basement windows with cement slabs and from that point on, the basement became a shelter. Then I went into town with the Guardian. I had never seen such panic. There were long lines of people standing in front of pharmacies, banks and stores. Supplies of bread and water had run out everywhere. People bought up what they could and ran home with it.
When we got back to the friary, we moved our necessities into the basement and lived down there permanently. The power went out and the friary no longer had electricity.
The next day, some of the homeless people we have been serving for the last fifteen years came to us for the hot meal we distribute twice a week. With fear in their eyes, they said: “Father, there is no bread, not even in the garbage can.” After a few days, we managed to buy ten loaves of bread and thus had something to share with them. The following week, one of our parishioners, Andrzej MARENYCZ, pledged to give us twenty loaves of bread from his bakery every week. Since then, we have been able to operate our soup kitchen for the homeless. There are now more than fifty people in need who come to us for lunch every Tuesday and Thursday.
During this difficult time, we have expanded our activities to provide food, medicine and financial assistance to the poor in the city. This was made possible through the financial support of our benefactors around the world who sent contributions to the account set up by the Provincial Custody of the Holy Cross in Ukraine. With these donations we also covered the costs of treating the wounded during the invasion. Among them was Natalia, a volunteer working at our friary, who suffered a damaged skull and broken arms and legs from the beatings she received. The help we have received from the benefactors of the Custody, which includes friars from around the world, has enabled us to renovate our boiler room, install solar panels and heat pumps, and purchase a generator. This makes our friary a beacon of hope: a place where people can get warm, recharge their mobile phones and have a cup of hot tea, even when the city itself is without electricity.
After a few days, our city received about 100,000 refugees from Kharkiv, Izjum, Enerhodar and other places affected by the hostilities. Since the municipal administration is unable to support everyone, our parish, together with the Caritas-Spes charitable organization of the Diocese of Kharkiv-Zaporizhia, Ukraine, and some volunteers, has helped these people improve their situation in life, namely, through the distribution of foodstuffs and cleaning products.

Friar Maryan MELNYCHUK