“It’s hard to express in words so much love, so many phone calls, so much sympathy we are receiving, and all that I have received personally and all Ukraine is receiving from Poland. It is difficult to express it in words. We are aware of the historical problems between Ukraine and Poland, but at this moment Poland is simply someone close to me, who sympathizes and helps,” says Fr. Andrzej Lalik, vicar of the parish of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist in Mościska, near Lviv. He spoke with Aleteia’s Polish edition:
Paweł Kęska: People seeking safety migrate to the Polish border. Many of them pass through Mościska.
Father Andrzej Lalik: Yes, it’s true. Mościska is the last big Ukrainian town before the border. The main route to the border crossing at Medyka passes through here. My town has changed completely since Thursday. All the streets have been blocked with cars, there are huge lines, thousands of people are moving on foot with their bags, with small children, to the border.
Poland has removed all obstacles and made border crossing easier. There are not only Ukrainians here, but also many Africans, Asians, people who speak different languages, who want to go to Poland.
What is their situation?
Very tragic. They took their things, they took their children with them and they’re going on foot. The border crossing is 15 km [almost 10 miles] from Mościska. And they cover those kilometers on foot, day and night. They leave their bags on the way because they cannot walk. They’re mainly women and young children, because the Ukrainian government forbids men between 18 and 60 to leave Ukraine.
We hand out sandwiches and hot tea. In the evening, a mother with small children walked alongside us, carrying bags. One of the children was sick and coughing a lot. And there are so many kilometers to go. We offered her accommodation, but she wanted to go further to Poland.
Is the number of immigrants increasing?
Yes, there are thousands, thousands of people. Many come in cars. Women with children travel together and the cars are crowded. They wait in line for at least a day and a half, and even two and a half days, to cross the border. The line of cars stretches from 25 km to 40 km (15 to 25 miles).
What is the temperature at night there?
The temperature can be below freezing. Here the city ends and the forest begins. There’s no bathroom, everything is dark, tragic. I’m very sorry for all those people who are leaving Ukraine.
How is the parish community experiencing this time?
Unfortunately, some of our parishioners also left for Poland. Everyone has family members or children there. Here, the parish helps. When there’s poverty, people come together. Even those who weren’t getting along well together come to the presbytery to cook something, take it out to the street and offer it to the people.
There was a problem with bedding or mattresses, so people started to bring their own pillows, quilts and mattresses. They share with the refugees who are sleeping in the school. The parish is also up to the task. We help however we can. No one regrets offering their money, material resources, car, fuel, or food to share.
What is this experience like for you as a priest?
I regret that Russia has invaded Ukraine and that there’s a war, but I’m not going to run away, I’m not going to hide. I stand at my post, ready to hear confessions, to celebrate Mass.
We pray a lot. In the parish we organize adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Rosaries, and Stations of the Cross. We celebrated Mass as before the war. None of us priests has fled. Everyone in the diocese is in place and ready to be with the parishioners until the end.
The parish of Mościska is near the border with Poland. How do you perceive the reactions of the Poles to what is happening in Ukraine?
It’s hard to express in words so much love, so many phone calls, so much sympathy we are receiving, and all that I have received personally and all Ukraine is receiving from Poland. It is difficult to express it in words.
We’re aware of the historical problems between Ukraine and Poland, but at this moment Poland is simply someone close to me, who sympathizes and helps
What is Ukraine for you?
My first homeland. I was born in Ukraine, but I come from a Polish family and I have Polish citizenship. I love both Ukraine and Poland. And my heart aches for my country, because I know that war does not lead to anything good, but to destruction and death. Why should mothers and children cry? Why should men die in war?