Ukraine: a year of war, a year of hope

By Camilo Coral, Programs Officer

What Pope Francis has called an “absurd and cruel war” has displaced 5.4 million people within Ukraine, turned 8 million into refugees within Europe and left 17.7 million Ukrainians in need of aid, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Yet, the spirit of the Ukrainian people and the will of our partners to help them have kept hope alive. (All photos: Caritas-Spes Ukraine)

“That night, we were ready to go to bed. My little daughter had just fallen asleep in my arms and the two other kids were complaining to their father about bedtime. I stood up from the rocking chair when an explosion pushed me against the wall; I was deafened, horrified and stuck against the wall, tightening my daughter against my body. From there, I saw my children crawling towards my husband’s body, which lay on the floor, covered in glass from the broken window.”

This survivor’s account was one of thousands of harrowing testimonies that we at Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada have heard since the war in Ukraine started on February 24, a year ago. They are painfully similar to accounts we have heard during wars and armed conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and too many other countries.

Through all those moments, we have been there with our partners because our drive is to respond with love, care and resolve to the horrors of war.

Wars are always unjust because they are deeply rooted in self-serving political views that put the interests of some above the safety and wellbeing of most of the population. During the Angelus prayer on March 27, 2022, Pope Francis characterized the situation in Ukraine as “this cruel and senseless war, that, like every war, represents a defeat for everyone….” War not only brings suffering and destruction, but also unleashes waves of hate that become a tsunami that pushes once-peaceful populations to blindly annihilate each other.

“Thou shalt not kill.” How easy it should be to obey this commandment! And it is, if one sees the “other” through the eyes of empathy, equality and love. Every life is irreplaceable, and all efforts must made to preserve the integrity, dignity and safety of our sisters and brothers around the globe.

In that spirit a year ago, we reached out to you, asking for your support to help us to bring humanitarian relief to those in need in Ukraine and those fleeing the country. Our call was heard by ordinary Canadians and by agencies such like Quebec’s ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie. Those responses allowed us to collect over $2 million that, together with donations raised by the Caritas Internationalis network, are being used to support our Caritas partners in Ukraine, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. That aid has helped to provide:

  • Food to 1,906,176 people
  • Health-related services to 104,454 people
  • Housing to 144,658 people through the Caritas collective’s network of shelters
  • Repairs to damaged houses and heating for 4,285 people
  • Clothes and other everyday items to 40,821 people

Beyond these numbers, there are the uncountable quantities of hope and love that people like you have been created and spread among victims of the war by stubbornly refusing apathy and choosing instead to mobilize to build and to sustain peace.

Please keep up your solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

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