A tent camp set up at the start of the war in Ukraine along the Ukrainian-Moldovan border in Palanca, southeastern Moldova A tent camp set up at the start of the war in Ukraine along the Ukrainian-Moldovan border in Palanca, southeastern Moldova 

Caritas’ commitment to Ukrainian refugees in Moldova

Fr. Petru Ciobanu, director of Caritas Moldova highlights the work of Caritas among Ukrainian refugees in Moldova amid recent fears of the spread of the war in Ukraine to Transnistria.

By Vatican News staff writer

As the war in Ukraine drags on, a series of unexplained explosions in parts of Transnistria, a Russian-backed breakaway region in Moldova bordering Ukraine, have sparked fears that the fighting could be spreading.

Transnistrian officials said that in the past two days, explosions have targeted their state security Headquarters in Tiraspol, old soviet-era radio masts and a military unit in Parcani, a village outside Tiraspol.

Though no casualties were reported in the explosions, heightened security measures are now in force in the territory that broke away from Moldova some 30 years ago after a brief war.

Rising concerns

German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock on Wednesday described the situation in Moldova as “extremely critical” even though it is unclear who is behind the attacks in Transdnistria.

Nicu Popescu, Moldovan Foreign Minister, said the events were a “dangerous deterioration of the security situation.”

Reacting to the reports in an interview with the SIR news agency, Bishop Anton Cosa of Chişinău noted that because the country is small, quite weak and divided, his fears are not about a war that may come from outside, but rather that the “crisis could generate situations of confrontation between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian” groups.

He expressed his desire that the country may remain faithful to its vocation as a Christian country and it may continue to work to build peace.

Ukrainian refugees in Moldova

Meanwhile, for the over 11 million people who have been displaced since the start of the war in Ukraine in February, Moldova has been a welcoming stop during their arduous journeys.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), an estimated 421,130 refugees fled to Moldova since between 24 February when the war began, and 15 April. Of that number, 101,331 have made the decision to stay in the country.

Also, an additional 8,000 refugees have also chosen to stay in the separatist Transnistria territory. 

Amid the large refugee crisis caused by the war, Moldova, a country of 2.59 million people, has had the largest influx of refugees in terms of all the countries receiving refugees.

Caritas at the service of people in need

Since the start of the fighting, the Church has been actively present in humanitarian efforts to respond to the needs of the Ukrainian refugees fleeing for their lives from their country.

In an interview with Vatican News, Fr. Petru Ciobanu, director of Caritas Chişinău highlights the work of the charity organization in the country amid the refugee crisis.

"All of our charitable organizations," the priest says, "still offer shelter, hot food, psychological and spiritual assistance. We have also helped them find safe transportation."

He explains that the growing concerns in Moldova due to the war in Ukraine has caused “fear and insecurity among the people of the country.” A fear that is understandable, he adds, in light of what has happened in Odessa with the bombing of civilians, and in Tiraspol.

Notwithstanding these events, Fr. Ciobanu hopes that things will change and that the war will not suck in the population of Transnistria, putting them at risk.

“As a priest,” he says, “I can say that we are praying for life to return to normal soon.”

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28 April 2022, 13:37