Joanna Skowrońska (Federal Vice-President), Marie-Amélie Von Loë (Europa Scouten vü Letzembuerg) and Renaud Lannoy (Assistant to the Federal Commissioner) brought material collected in Belgium, Luxembourg and Austria to the Ukrainian borders: to Košice (Slovakia), Przemyśl and Krakow (Poland). What they saw was incredible!
The people of the neighbouring countries of Ukraine are heroes! Bravo to Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland!
Since the beginning of the war, the border regions have seen a massive influx of refugees fleeing the atrocities of the fighting. These victims have been continuously welcomed for a month now.
Nothing was planned to receive all these refugees, but we have seen, with our eyes and our hearts, how many people give all their energy, day and night, to receive them, to feed them, to house them, to comfort them with a kindness, a patience and a generosity that surpasses all of us, by giving their time before or after a day's work, by taking time off work to make themselves available, by welcoming them into their homes, by sharing a small flat, by devoting their savings to feed and care for them...
Besides their generosity, the humanitarian organisations, parishes and congregations, social and civil services show great ingenuity and skill in serving the most needy. We were particularly touched by the solidarity that exists between everyone, whatever their Church, movement or social class: in Košice, the Eastern Rite Patriarchate is at the side of the Roman Catholics, even to pray, while in Poland, the Scouts of Europe collaborate with the other associations.
Yes, they are heroes of a great struggle: coming to the aid of a population that was pushed onto the roads having lost everything. Most of the refugees are women, often mothers, grandmothers, and children, just with a little luggage. Some children have their dear companions: a cat, a small dog, even a hamster.
In addition to welcoming, they also have to protect these people from predatory human traffickers, or deliberately disruptive and violent agents who infiltrate the refugee flows to destabilise and provoke. Yes, they are true heroes and their dedication and skills impress us!
The first 2 weeks have been exhausting. Our brother and sister leaders in Košice, Slovakia, shared with us how they finally broke down in tears, exhausted from working and sharing so much pain.
These days, the flow of arrivals has calmed down, the services have become more structured, but more refugees continue to arrive.
Can we imagine the situation of all these families, without resources, far from their husbands and fathers? Torn from their culture, they often arrive in a country where they do not understand the language or customs... Their main destination is Poland, where they often have acquaintances. Poland has already welcomed nearly 2.5 million people (a sharp increase of nearly 7%)!
Can we push them to leave their Slavic countries without cutting them off from everything they have left: their habits and culture? All of them dream of returning as soon as possible to rebuild, they expect to be able to return as soon as the fighting is over.
After having faced the shock of the reception, the challenge now is to accompany these families to live. This new phase still requires a lot of energy and consistency in the long term: this is the challenge to be taken up once the generosity provoked by the emotion has passed.
Semper-Parati = Am I ready?
As for us Scouts who live in a part of the world where we enjoy peace and everything we need to live, what can we do to help our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and neighbouring countries?
The language barrier makes us very helpless and limits our actions.
- The Scouts of Europe are not a humanitarian organisation, but we firmly believe in the supernatural and we commit ourselves to pray insistently: am I ready to devote my "leisure" time to take it with God for the intentions of my brothers and sisters?
- Are we ready to take time off work to help our brothers and sisters by lightening their reception service, or by taking care of their children?
We are still collecting proposals from rovers and wayfarers who want to go and help. The need for help changes according to events. For the moment, we are registering all offers of availability, and services are defined as they come along with the FSE associations on site.
Already, a Spanish wayfarer and a French rover have responded "Semper Parati" and will soon leave for Warsaw to work alongside the Polish leaders in welcoming refugees. Similarly, a French pilot clan has responded to serve this summer on their road to Romania.
- Can we, the elders (RS and others), dare to step out of our comfort zone and welcome refugees into our homes for what may be a long time? Are we ready to commit ourselves in our neighbourhood, our parish, our surroundings to accompany one or more families in the medium and long term so that they can live their stay in our city as peacefully as possible while waiting to return to their country, their village, and to be reunited with their loved ones?
- We know how demanding the service of a group leader or commissioner already is. Are we ready to give even more of our time to coordinate help at the local level, with the parishes and authorities? How can we involve our members, from the little wolves to the rovers/wayfarers, in this service with their units or at home? Doesn't the duty of a Scout start there?
Text: Renaud Lannoy, Assistant Federal Commissioner for “Semper Parati”.