Fr. Andrzej Oleinik is a young Moldavian Dehonian priest and Siergiej Babic is a Ukrainian medical student interested in Dehonian religious life. They shared first of all their joy for the opportunity to speak with the Congregation "because we are a family".
Fr. Andrzej Oleinik is a young Moldavian Dehonian priest and Siergiej Babic is a Ukrainian medical student interested in Dehonian religious life. The Russian bombings forced them to abandon Irpin, along with many other people. In this interview they tell us about their commitment in wartime, what they are learning, how to live as Dehonians. They shared first of all their joy for the opportunity to speak with the Congregation “because we are a family”.
First of all, how are you and how are you living this moment?
Siergiej: Thank you, we are quite well because we are in Pierszotrawieńsk a small town (200 km from Kiev). We escaped two weeks ago from Irpin because the situation there is dramatic and there is a humanitarian collapse.
Fr. Andrezj, what was it like for you to leave the parish?
At the beginning of the war I could not imagine that it could be so close. Irpin was a serene and beautiful town. We had decided to stay because the people needed us. But when the troops began to bomb everywhere, even civilian places, and we were left without water, electricity, heating, we were forced to flee with our faithful because the situation was unbearable. Only Fr. Tadeusz Wołos SCJ remained.
How is the humanitarian situation now?
Fr. Andrezj: We try to give all our time to find and give humanitarian aid, giving out food, clothing, and medicine. We have received help especially from Poland where we go to the Polish border ourselves. I went with a car to get things and bring them here and then we distribute them to the people in the parish.
Here in Ukraine all men from 18 to 60 years old have to stay for military service and they cannot leave Ukraine. As a Moldovan citizen I can move more freely and go to the border to get necessities.
Siergiej you are a young student with a medical background and you are also interested in the Dehonian life. Has this dramatic experience taught you anything as a man and as a believer?
This dramatic experience has taught me a lot. Above all that people need love, need closeness. I have found the charism of the congregation now: in being close to people, a closeness of heart, of help, of love. Today I gave a medical exam to a sick woman. The dialogue and presence with this sick woman and me, changed the situation. This person was sad, but then, after this dialogue, I saw hope and happiness.
And for you Fr. Andrezj?
I saw the miracle that God showed me: the people. I saw in them their metamorphosis of faith: people I used to see occasionally now have a stronger faith. The Lord teaches us how we should love and how much love these people need. I want to give a personal testimony: during the two weeks under the bombing (in Irpin), I was afraid, but I was not in a panic, because the Lord gave me strength to be strong and available.
In February in Rome we celebrated the IX General Conference on the theme of the social commitment of SCJs. You are a living witness to social commitment today. What does it mean to be Dehonians in a context of war, hatred, and death?
Fr. Andrezj: First of all: We are here! Through our presence we help people not to be alone. As much as we can, we offer all the material and spiritual help we can: food, clothing, education. In my opinion, after the war we will have so many possibilities to help, to rebuild our work, starting from humanitarian aid. We will not be able help people to buy apartments, but we will be able to give them the basic things they need to live.
Siergiej: A very good question, because before the war I did not understand what it means to be a Dehonian. These days with the confreres I learned the word “availability”. Availability is the best choice: availability to listen, to give a helping hand. It moves me and gives me strength, it makes me understand what it means to be part of a large family. Fr. Dehon often said that we must help to build things, houses, places, where we can welcome people.
Can you give a message to the congregation and the Dehonian family?
Fr. Andrezj: We are asking for help. The situation is terrible: send us humanitarian aid here in the parish. We need food. In a month there will be a problem: clothes for the summer. We can collect and distribute food and clothes here.
Siergiej: My message: look into the heart of Jesus Christ and you can find us there too.