Pope meets with wife and son of Ukrainian prisoner of war

At the conclusion of Wednesday's General Audience, Pope Francis greets a Ukrainian woman whose husband is a prisoner of war and their son, who came bearing gifts for the Pope, including a calendar showing the devastation of the Azovstal steelworks plant.

By Vatican News staff writer

The 2023 calendar Larissa and Sergheij gave Pope Francis on Wednesday morning contains terrifying images of the ravages of war in Ukraine.

The mother and son, who spent some time with the Pope in the Paul VI Hall after the General Audience, are respectively the wife and son of a Ukrainian prisoner of war.

The Pope took time to look at those terrible images, leafing through the calendar's pictures, one by one. They are images of destruction and sorrow, bearing stark witness to the tragedy of the population of Mariupol, the martyred city in the southeast of the country, for months besieged by the Russian army.

Emblazoned with the word “Azovstal” in memory of the Ukrainian resistance inside the steelworks factory, the calendar also represents a token of hope that 2023 might be a year of peace for Ukraine.

Larissa also handed the Pope a list of the names of Ukrainian prisoners, in the hope it may facilitate their release, or at least an improvement of their conditions in detention. 

Symbolic gifts

The exact number of Ukrainian prisoners of war is not known, but among them is Larissa's husband, Sergheii's father. As well as the calendar, a Marian icon a diary with the map of Europe and the father's boxing gloves, they also symbolically gave Pope Francis a traditionally embroidered cloth, a symbol of wanting to take care of others.

Accompanying Larissa and Sergheii was the wife of the Ukrainian ambassador to the Holy See, Diana Yurash, who offered the Pontiff a typical Christmas decoration made from wheat stalks. 

"They are the last stalks gathered in the fields where there are now bombs and landmines," explained Irina Skab, an assistant at the Embassy.

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21 December 2022, 12:32