Updated: Apr 19
One year ago, Russia launched its brutal invasion of Ukraine. The war has affected everyone in Ukraine. The Home of Hope, the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate’s ministry for vulnerable young women in Lviv, is no exception.
As we shared with you last year, the Home of Hope responded immediately to the attacks by providing a different kind of refuge: opening its doors to dozens of distraught mothers, children and elderly women with disabilities escaping to safety from across Ukraine.
“It is impossible to prepare for this,” says Sister Eronima Vovchak, SSMI, the Home’s director. “It’s the 21st century and bombs are flying to your city, killing innocent people, destroying homes…”
“War destroys not only houses, bridges and roads, it also destroys hope, peace, confidence and a sense of security. But I’m proud of us at the Home of Hope and of all Ukrainians, that we quickly recovered, mobilized and started implementing plans.”
While some girls living at the Home left to relatives in villages or abroad during this time, others stayed to help in whatever way they could, preparing food, taking great care of the children – anything to help create a friendly and safe atmosphere amid the trauma.
You helped make this possible, through your support.
“People came around the clock, scared, hungry and distraught. We served them as best we could, providing and arranging shelter, food, hygiene items, medicines and ‘anxiety suitcases’. We were tired and confused, but this time also made our community even more courageous, loving and enduring.”
The women of the Home of Hope also found themselves facing unexpected cultural challenges: Many people had fled from parts of the country under heavy Russian influence and its consistent policy of de-Ukrainianization.
“They came with ‘warped’ ideas about Ukrainian identity. Since our house became their first experience of Ukrainian national, mental, linguistic and socio-cultural contexts, our task was to make that experience as positive as possible. It is also important for us to declare our faith in God, Christian values, and active love for our neighbour and Motherland.”
Thanks to benefactors like you, the Home organized visits to historical and religious places of significance, prayers and services for Ukraine, art therapy and psychological supports.
The Home also continued their support of the military, preparing goods for bake sales and markets to help provide funds needed on the frontlines. Several refugees also asked Sister Eronima for catechetical ministry; she prepared them to receive the sacraments of Confession and Holy Eucharist.
Since the fall, the Home of Hope has returned to its primary ministry: providing a safe and loving home to girls who have no place to go.
Sister Eronima comforts a sleeping refugee
Art therapy helped the girls and refugees at the Home cope
But that doesn’t mean life at the Home is “normal” for the 20 young women living there full-time.
“We try to follow our previous routine as much as possible, but of course we have to adapt and accept the situation as it is. We live in a state of war, and therefore in constant danger and uncertainty.”
In a typical year, it would cost about $25,000 CAD to operate the Home of Hope. This is not a typical year.
“When the power is off, we have no light, heat and warm water. We may spend half a day in the basement for shelter. But thank God our winter is warm this year. There are, of course, certain inconveniences, but the whole of Ukraine suffers from them…”
The Sisters were able to secure a grant for a generator that they have connected to the boilers so the heating system doesn’t freeze. They have also begun replacing the entire heating system with an energy-efficient solution.
But the need is great to cover increased costs due to the war, driven even higher by inflation – 26.6% in 2022 – as well as unanticipated costs like those to provide consistent power. A new electrical system will cost $21,000 CAD – above and beyond operating expenses – to install.
Utility and food costs have sky-rocketed. As an example, Sister Eronima tells us that kasha used to cost 30 hryvnias, but is now 100 hryvnias. To help ensure there is enough food, her own family has donated significant amounts from their farm – vegetables, flour, sugar, buckwheat, rice, meat, dairy products and honey.
It’s also important to ensure there is a bit of money set aside for “extras.” These extras are for things many of us would take for granted, like purchasing birthday gifts for the girls, or taking them on an outing, or making sure St. Nicholas visits. Things that help create a sense of normalcy – under circumstances that are anything but – for girls who already have so little, especially during a time of war.
At this time of year, the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League, in collaboration with Lubov SSMI Foundation, would be inviting you to join us for our annual breakfast event to raise necessary operating dollars for Home of Hope. We heard that many in our communities were not yet ready to gather together in person. It’s not a typical year here in Canada either.
But Sister Eronima and the girls still need your help.
You can ensure there is a place of safety, love, hope and the chance of a better life with your generous gift today.
Please use the donation card and mail back or visit www.lubovfoundation.ca to make a monthly gift or a one-time gift. Charitable tax receipts will be issued for all gifts of $25 or more.
Every gift makes a difference. Thank you for caring.
Katherine (Washchyshyn) Fox Joanne Lewandosky CEO, Lubov SSMI Foundation Chair, Charities and Social Development Archeparchial UCWLC
The basement has become a shelter, for hours at a time
The girls preserved vegetables for winter