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Ukraine: lights out in Lviv

An Aid to the Church in Need delegation (ACS), coordinated by its director Alessandro Monteduro, arrived yesterday in Lviv, Ukraine. The solidarity visit aimed at establishing first-hand the needs of Ukrainian dioceses, Eparchies and Exarchates. The Pontifical Foundation had allocated €1.3 million right after Russia's aggression. A second assistance package amounting to approximately EUR 700,000 is underway. Other projects are being finalised

Korczova, frontiera tra Polonia e Ucraina (Foto Sir)

“Please remain in the shelters” – urged Andriy Sadovyi, the mayor of Lviv, in a tweet which instantly appeared on the mobile phone screens of those queuing at the Korczova border crossing, between Poland and Ukraine. A missile attack hit Lviv, some 70 km away. It struck power plants, leaving parts of the city facing blackouts. Official Apps such as ‘Krainainfo’ and ‘Molnia’ provide real-time updates on Air Raid Alerts and attacks, showing a map of Ukraine highlighted in red, indicating that the Air Raid Alert now involves the entire country.

The long lines of cars heading into Ukraine continue to grow. The border into Ukraine is closed. However, there is hope that it will be reopened as soon as the air raid alert is over. In the past few weeks many Ukrainians have been travelling to and from Ukraine and Poland to purchase vehicles. The Polish government, says Fr Jaroslav, vice rector of the Vorzomel seminary, sadly known for having been destroyed and looted by the Russians, has enacted a law allowing Ukrainians to purchase their vehicles in Poland VAT-free. But many flock to Poland to fill up on fuel and diesel in particular, which is starting to be in short supply. Over an hour has passed and the line of cars is starting to move, but the process is slow on the Polish side of the border, especially at passport control. Father Jaroslav, who is accompanying a delegation from Aid to the Church in Need, led by its director, Alessandro Monteduro, on a solidarity visit to Ukraine, opens the car boot and explains the purpose of the delegation’s visit to the border police, in order to receive the go-ahead.

Crossing the Ukrainian border is a mere formality: passports, visas and we can head for Lviv. Just the time to witness a familiar sight in this part of the world: a man entrusts his family to a relative, perhaps a friend, who has purposely arrived from Poland. He gives them all a caress and a hug before heading back to Lviv. The men must stay and fight. Lights on the road leading to Korczova are a thing of the past. Now there is nothing but pitch black. The street is lit only by the headlights of trucks, buses and cars queuing up to get out of Ukraine – an over-10-kilometre-long queue. According to Father Jaroslav, it will take at least eight to ten hours for all these vehicles to evacuate.  A curfew has been in force since 11 p.m. and many cars have been stopped for further checks. Including Fr Jaroslav’s car. Lviv is now just a few kilometres away, but there are no city lights to be seen. Only darkness. It is imposed by the curfew. The only light is offered by the late-night news on Ukrainian President Zelenskiy’s official Telegram channel, which announces “the first result of our evacuation operation from Azovstal in Mariupol, which we have been organizing for a very long time. It took a lot of effort, long negotiations and various mediations. Today 156 people arrived in Zaporizhzhia. Women and children. They have been in shelters for more than two months. Among them a six-month-old child. Finally, these people are completely safe.”

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