Pope Francis receiving the traditional Ukrainian blanket Pope Francis receiving the traditional Ukrainian blanket 

Ukrainian women meet Pope, ask for liberation of prisoners-of-war

A group of mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and aunts of Ukrainian prisoners-of-war hand Pope Francis a traditional embroidered blanket, advocating for the protection and return of their loved ones.

By Edoardo Giribaldi

“We are going to try all that we can to save soldiers who are now hostages.” Victoria is one of the members of the delegation of mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, and aunts of Ukrainian prisoners-of-war who met with Pope Francis at the end of the Wednesday General Audience, handing him a traditional Ukrainian blanket and asking for the liberation of their relatives.

“My husband has been kept hostage for eight months,” Victoria recounted in an interview with Vatican News. “From Mariupol,” where she lived before the outbreak of the conflict, “we moved to Kyiv,” where she has worked constantly for her husband’s liberation.

Symbolic gift

The delegation first met with the Ukrainian Ambassador to the Holy See, intending to have the embroidered blanket, which symbolizes care "for the birth of a child, baptism, wedding, for a long journey and for the last journey,” sent to Pope Francis.


On Wednesday, the women were able to personally hand the blanket to the Pope. “Both in joy and in grief, this embroidered cloth accompanies us everywhere as a talisman, as something that has great power and strong meaning,” Victoria affirmed, recalling the official statement provided by the group of women. 

“We embroidered it as a prayer with heavy thoughts about our relatives.”

Unity and hope

Victoria spoke about the frustration of not knowing where her husband, and other hostages, are being held. “That is why we chose an unbleached, gray, home-made cloth for our blanket, because we have the same mood and outlook - not clear, obscured.”

“We chose an ornament from an ancient Podil cloth, where women stand together, holding hands tightly, as a symbol of our unity in common trouble, struggle, prayer and common appeal, and the decoration with stars - as a symbol of hope.”

The Pope at the end of Wednesday General Audience
The Pope at the end of Wednesday General Audience

Peace as a core value

The group of women asked the Pope “to help protect and return our loved ones, to act as a neutral third party to establish contact between prisoners and their relatives. To give prisoners warm things, medicine and everything necessary.”

“The question arises: is there a place for mercy in the world in the 21st century?”

Victoria concluded by expressing her gratitude toward Pope Francis for his continuous appeals for peace, speaking “against all forms of violence and against war, reminding believers and non-believers alike that peace is the core value of all peoples.”

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29 December 2022, 12:25