Knights of Columbus Charity Convoys bring care packages and essential supplies to Ukrainians displaced by war
Thousands of boxes of food and essential supplies were sent to Ukraine in May and June, an effort of solidarity both with the Ukrainian people and within the Knights of Columbus. Knights in Canada largely funded the parcels; Knights in Poland assembled them; and Knights in Ukraine delivered them to displaced families throughout the war-torn country.
Ten thousand care packages were similarly funded by U.S. Knights and assembled by Polish councils in April and delivered to Ukraine during Holy Week to help displaced families celebrate Easter. Following the success of that program, a special appeal to members in Canada helped to fund additional care packages, supplementing the Order’s ongoing humanitarian efforts through the Ukraine Solidarity Fund.
Councils in various cities in Poland, including Radom, Częstochowa and Kraków, each prepared 3,000 boxes for warshipment — 2,000 boxes of food, such as pasta and canned meat, for families; 500 boxes of food and snacks for children; and 500 boxes of hygiene and household products.
“We have a large demand for these products,” explained Ukraine State Deputy Yuriy Maletskiy, meeting the first shipment at the Poland-Ukraine border May 16. “People from Kharkiv, from the Kherson region and Mykolaiv regions, from Kyiv — they ask us for help. There are not many shops or other places to buy food — those places have been destroyed or looted. We distribute these supplies through our councils in Poltava, Kharkiv, Odessa.”
Pallets of the boxes labeled with the emblem of the Order and the words “Solidarity with Ukraine” in Ukrainian were shipped via Knights of Columbus “Charity Convoys” to Lviv, in western Ukraine. Knights then directed them to various cities where they could be distributed by local councils. The Charity Convoy initiative began within weeks of the Russian invasion, as the Order started working with Ukrainian trucking companies to regularly send large shipments of aid from warehouses in Poland across the border. While millions of refugees have fled to Poland and other neighboring countries, the majority of those displaced by the war remain in Ukraine.
At the beginning of the war, in a March 7 message to grand knights, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly noted that Knights in Poland and Ukraine, supported by the Ukraine Solidarity Fund, were already helping to meet short-term needs. He then added, “We have also committed to remain for the long haul, to help as Knights always do.”
Andrey Varunok, a member of John Paul II Council 15801 in Lviv, who was present for the May 16 shipment of care packages, echoed the supreme knight’s sentiment. “Everything that has a beginning has an end. The war will end, but there will still be many people who will need help,” he said. “This is probably a lifelong mission.”
On May 22, Myroslav Mazur, a member of Andrey Sheptytsky Council 15804 in Ivano-Frankivsk who serves as a district deputy, helped to unload some of the parcels in Ivano-Frankivsk, a city about 130 km (80 miles) south of Lviv. The boxes were delivered to a Ukrainian Greek Catholic school that is housing scores of displaced people.
“In everyday life, we live in certain comfortable conditions,” Mazur said. “Imagine that you lost everything — food, clothes, belongings — you are immediately left without it all. It is our duty to the people, and to the Lord God, of course, to bring help.”
Many of those staying at the school, like Lesiia from Irpin and Lyudmila from Kyiv, have been displaced since the beginning of the war. They expressed their gratitude for the various “delicacies” in the K of C care packages and the treats for children. “It gives us a little bit of happiness in our difficult times,” Lyudmila said.
For the Knights working to deliver the aid, the feeling is mutual. Volodymyr Shayhen, past grand knight of Mykolay Charnetsky Council 16848 in Zolochiv, a town about 40 miles (67 km) east of Lviv, helped to oversee a May 26 distribution to families of children with special needs.
“I feel a certain joy because I give that joy to someone else,” Shayhen said. “My heart rejoices when I see the smiles of those children.”
To support the Order’s humanitarian relief efforts, visit kofc.org/ukraine.