People shelter at Kyiv metro station as Russian shelling hit the Ukrainian capital People shelter at Kyiv metro station as Russian shelling hit the Ukrainian capital 

Ukraine: Caritas continues to offer aid, despite constant risks

Mila Leonova, communications officer of Caritas Donetsk, urges people to pray for an end to the war in Ukraine, as Russia bombs several western Ukrainian cities, and says Caritas has not stopped helping people even as other aid agencies have halted operations.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov & Svitlana Dukhovych

As the war in Ukraine grinds on, the Church's local humanitarian outfit refuses to cease operations to help Ukraine's suffering people.

Mila Leonova, communications officer for Caritas Donetsk, which is currently working out of the city of Dnipro, confirmed Caritas' commitment to providing humanitarian aid, despite the ongoing Russian aggression.

Large numbers of Russian rockets struck several cities across Ukraine on Monday morning, even striking the center of the capital, Kyiv, for the first time in weeks.

Attacks in Kyiv

Speaking to Vatican News' Svitlana Dukhovych after the bombings, Ms. Leonova said she was temporarily in Kyiv for business when the rockets hit.

"I was in Kiev for a business trip, and actually, it was a peaceful morning, but then," she said, "when I was in the subway, I heard the explosion."

She pointed out that the explosion she heard was around half a kilometer away, in the center of Kyiv.

People dying

Ms. Leonova saw the news about the explosion and air attack from news reports on her smartphone, as she waited for an hour in the subway.

“People died right there, or right in the street. It was terrible, because the metro stopped working and it just served as a bomb shelter for people.”

"It was really terrible because we had so much news from different cities - from Dnipro, where I live, to Kharkiv and Odessa," she said. "There were all these air attacks at the same time, so many rockets, so many explosions."

She pointed out that the experience was of course terrifying, but added that the people of Ukraine refuse to be afraid, since they are free and will not be browbeaten.

She did say, however, how many aid organizations have suspended their humanitarian work for safety reasons. Yet, said Ms. Leonova, Caritas' volunteers and staff members have not ceased operations, despite the constant danger they face.

"People can come to us, and we need to think about people," she said, while inviting everyone to pray for peace and an end to Russia's invasion.

“We need to pray and work, because we really want to be free from this aggression.”

Listen to the full interview

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10 October 2022, 14:34