Welcoming refugees to their homes, driving them to their next destination, providing for their immediate needs, raising funds to support them... Faced with the magnitude of the task and with more than 2 million Ukrainians crossing the border to join Poland, Kirsten and Wojtek Kukulski are mobilizing with their church, Nowe Przymierze, to bring them help.
Due to their geographical as well as cultural and historical proximity, Poland immediately organized itself to deal with the massive influx of refugees. Wojtek and Kirsten Kukulski's church is a fine example of the solidarity that has developed in the country.
It has been 17 years since the couple moved to Poland in Krakow where they planted a church, Nowe Przymierze (New alliance in French Ed).
It is an international church that is part of the NCMI (New Covenant Ministries International) network and welcomes Christians from all over the world, including many Ukrainians.
From the first hours of the conflict, the church of Kirsten and Wojtek sought how it could participate in the solidarity effort that gripped the country.
Not being the owners of a building, they could not transform their place of worship into a reception center as is the case with other churches in Poland. So they decided to raise funds to support those who help on the ground.
“The responses have been incredible, we have been very touched by the generosity of people,” says Kirsten. She mentions in particular the other churches of the NCMI network, established throughout the world, which were quick to send donations.
Thanks to this money, they were able to support three transit centers created by pastors inside Ukraine. These churches organized themselves to pick up displaced Ukrainians in minibuses and shelter them in their centres. Once there, the refugees receive food and essential supplies before being driven to the border.
"We are not there but we can at least help them financially," said Wojtek, who said he had already been able to send them thousands of dollars.
These funds are also used to meet the needs of refugees arriving in Krakow. Their church has set up a team that goes several times a week to the station, an important reception point that offers Ukrainians care, medicine, etc. The purpose of this team is to identify their needs, which then enables the church to purchase the necessary products.
open their homes
Members of the church who speak Russian or Ukrainian also offer their services in the places of reception. And everyone who has enough space to do so has opened their homes and are welcoming refugees into their homes. Sometimes it is about short stays, people in transit who need a roof and often money, before reaching another destination. Other times it is longer stays.
For almost three weeks, Kirsten and Wojtek have been hosting a young woman, Marina, and her 5-year-old son, Mark, from Kharkiv. Her husband and 19-year-old eldest son remained in Ukraine, where they fought against the Russian army.
The couple talk about the overwhelming resilience of refugees, especially Marina's. After four days of travel and despite the fear and fatigue, the first question the young woman asked them when they arrived home was how she could do to find work.
“We don't just want to offer them immediate help, but also in the long term,” explains Wojtek.
To make this possible the church works together with other organisations. For example, they have funded school supplies for Ukrainian children and are planning a summer camp for them. They hope that they will thus be able to find their place in this new life.
They also financed the salaries of three Ukrainian teachers who teach refugee children in a Christian school in the city.
"There is a balance to be found in meeting both their immediate needs and trying to offer long-term solutions," continues the pastor.
He himself recently drove a family of four to Germany who could not otherwise travel due to health issues.
At the heart of this difficult and destructive period, however, Kirsten and Wojtek see hope emerging. They remind us in particular that there is a majority of Christians in Ukraine.
As Ukrainian refugees flood into Europe and elsewhere, this means that there are many believers among them. The couple believe they can be a real blessing to the countries that welcome them.
Camille Westphal Perrier
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