Flowers and toys are placed in a makeshift memorial in front of a residential building in Dnipro Flowers and toys are placed in a makeshift memorial in front of a residential building in Dnipro  (AFP or licensors)

Ukraine: Caritas providing assistance in wake of missile attack on Dnipro

Caritas Donetsk is providing support to victims of a Russian missile attack that struck an apartment building in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro on Saturday.

By Christopher Wells

The destruction of a large apartment building in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro is “a great tragedy,” according to Mila Leonova, the communications officer for Caritas Donetsk (Ukraine).

More than forty people were killed and scores more were wounded when a Russian missile struck the complex on Saturday – part of a larger attack that also targeted the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odesa. Some twenty people are still missing and presumed dead.

A risky operation

Caritas volunteers are taking part in a “risky operation” to provide assistance consisting of both physical aid, such as hot meals, clothing, and housing, as well as psychological support for victims and aid workers.

“We need to understand how we can help these people,” said Ms. Leonova, who noted that volunteers are working day and night to provide relief.

She added that many residents of Dnipro know people who lived in the building, which also housed refugees who had evacuated from more dangerous parts of the country. “They died in our city,” Ms. Leonova said. “It’s a really great sadness.”

Focused on helping

Asked about how people are responding to the tragedy, Ms. Leonova said residents and volunteers do not have time for thoughts of anger or revenge, but instead are focused on helping.

“We need to give love [to] these people who were damaged after this tragedy, and this is our main thing.”

“Our main goal is, ‘How can we help you?’…" she said. "We don’t have time or energy to think destructive thoughts or have destructive feelings because we need to give love and support for these people who were destroyed.”

Dnipro shows its ‘heart’

In an interview with Vatican News' Svitlana Dukhovych, Ms. Leonova said, “Certainly, the whole city Dnipro showed a very big heart, because immediately after the attack almost every resident was there.” She explained, “The building that was hit is very big; it is in a residential complex, with which many personal stories are connected, because almost every person in Dnipro had relatives there, or friends, acquaintances."

“And that's why, when we see all these photos, hear the stories of the people who died, they touch our hearts, because these are familiar faces, people we know. And among the victims are many displaced people who fled the war from the Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions.”

In the face of such devastation, Ms. Leonova said, “we have no strength left for emotion, the heart simply cannot absorb so much pain and cannot even accept it, that this is a reality, that such a thing is possible in our time. People still cannot accept it. We can only do something to help overcome the consequences of this tragedy, to support these people who are now simply in shock.”

Need for housing

On its Facebook page, Caritas Donetsk noted that in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, mobile aid centres were deployed, allowing victims to keep warm, to eat, and to receive a variety of help. Volunteers offered warm meals and drinking water, and provided psychological support for victims.

In the long term, Caritas reported that local authorities have stated the greatest need is restoration and repairs in order to provide housing for victims of the attack. According to data provided by Dnipro authorities, some 236 apartments are beyond repair.

Listen to the full interview

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18 January 2023, 12:04