The power of community remains unbreakable by bombs and war
Olesia Larikova, the community leader of L’Arche-Kovcheh in Ukraine, describes how many of her community’s members respond when air raid warning sirens sound.
“When the alarm sounds, they take stools and go to the common corridor, where they are safest from attack,” Larikova said. “And there they pray on a rosary with the neighbors.”
Even as war attempts to sever connections, the strength of L’Arche’s community relationships in Ukraine and nearby countries remain strong.
Since the beginning of the war, L’Arche communities in Poland and Lithuania have provided connection and support to those fleeing the war’s violence, as well as to the two L’Arche communities in Ukraine – whose members have remained even as they have helped others to escape.
The L’Arche Emergency Fund sustains deliveries of critical supplies from Poland to L’Arche Lviv and Ternopil, using one community’s van for transport.
“Our action was very simple,” L’Arche Poznan community leader Michal Talar said. “We used our resources, the help of volunteers, and an available car. Our longtime driver drove the needed items to the other side of the border where we transferred them to another vehicle from Lviv that took them to the community in Ukraine.
“The decision was not difficult,” Talar said. “With support from the L’Arche Emergency Fund, the biggest task was to coordinate the work of the volunteers, and to communicate with the community in Ukraine.”
The operation has been able to deliver critical medicines, supplies and food to Ukraine’s L’Arche communities, which have maintained community connection even as they endure attacks.
The community connection has not been limited to those who are part of L’Arche. Doors in L’Arche communities in Ukraine, Lithuania and Poland have opened, including those who have welcomed refugees into private residences as friends of L’Arche.
Assistance has been provided to many, with and without disabilities, who are simply in need of help in a time of crisis.
In Vilnius, 7-year-old Oleg has brought unexpected vitality to L’Arche Betzata. Paper airplanes fly over the dinner table. “The childish ability to wonder and openness warms the core-members and assistants of our community,” L’Arche Betzata Community Leader Ruta Domarkaitė – Černiauskė said.
Comfort and support are freely offered. Vasily Kravets, a L’Arche community member living with disabilities in Lviv, was on his way to mass with Larikova Friday evening when they saw a woman kneeling, and crying on the street.
“Vasily approached her and hugged her, she responded to his embrace and leaned close to him,” Larikova said.
Faith & Light communities inside Ukraine, joined by many members of both Faith & Light and L’Arche communities from across the world, continue to lead an online prayer time daily. The time of connection and community have been meaningful, and a common place of peace for many.
So, too are the regular shipments of supplies from L’Arche communities in Poland. The Poznan community van shuttles materials to a rendezvous point just inside the Ukrainian border, where Lviv volunteers ensure they are delivered to those in need.
“It is a valuable experience for us, which continues because of the L’Arche Emergency Fund,” Talar said. “The compassion with which the community took on this project is in strong contrast to the brutality and senselessness of war.”