Easter Sunday is also a day of mercy and unconditional love for our neighbor, an opportunity to help people in difficulty. Not everyone can get the family together at the festive table, bake delicious Easter bread or visit the festive worship service. And that is where the benefactors come to the assistance. Every spring, Caritas announces its permanent Easter fundraising initiative to aid people in need, help them feel the support of their neighbour, and also facilitate the revival in traditions of charity and mercy.
Mrs. Oktiabryna, a ward of Caritas Kharkiv, was dreaming of a festive Easter basket. With her eyes full of sorrow she was telling the staff who takes care of her how she used to prepare for the Easter in Donechchyna, was choosing the best and most delicious treats. This spring, she could have been left without such a basket as there was not enough money to buy necessary things and poor health did not allow the woman to make purchases. These are effects of a stroke she suffered in 2014 due to emotional stress from a forced displacement. But, there are some magicians in Kharkiv…
Caritas Kharkiv staff worked miracles for hundreds of their wards by bringing them festive baskets. And this is the work not only of devoted company’s staff, but of a big number of volunteers. Students of Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University, H.S. Skovoroda Kharkiv National Pedagogical University, the Ukrainian Leadership Academy joined the “Easter basket” initiative. They worked at Auchan hypermarket, where products were collected. Volunteers not solely accepted donations, but also familiarized the visitors with Caritas activities in the region, told about different ways of joining charities and also distributed leaflets. Seminarians from Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk Spiritual Seminaries of UGCC helped in assembling Easter baskets. They came to Kharkiv on the mission and happily joined volunteering. Citizens of Kharkiv started running such initiatives not long ago and are proud that they become traditional and widespread in the city.
Kyiv traditionally becomes a center of Easter celebrations and activities. This year, His Beatitude Sviatoslav blessed more than one hundred Easter baskets for IDPs from temporary occupied territories at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ. Caritas Kyiv wards were also among them – disabled people, large families, old and lonely mothers. Having blessed contents of Easter baskets, His Beatitude Sviatoslav addressed to the present with words of support and emphasized that the God comes to every person to be there for them in difficult times. ‘Please remember that the God is always with you during the hardest times. Easter Sunday exactly proves that there are no situations which the God cannot turn into good. Peace be with you and let happy smiles shine on your faces, because Jesus has risen.’
Caritas Kyiv staff did not limit Easter clemency to celebrations at the Patriarchal Cathedral. ‘This year we delivered more than seven hundred Easter baskets to people of different categories. I would like to sincerely thank all those kind people who joined and helped to implement this kind Easter initiative and I urge to joint good deeds in the future’, says Father Roman Syrotych, Director of Caritas Kyiv. It is important that families of Ukrainian warriors killed in the ATO zone were not forgotten on these festive days. On the eve of the holiday, Easter baskets for fallen heroes were blessed at the UGCC parish of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin in Irpin. The initiative was organized by the Department of Military Chaplaincy of the PC of the UGCC and Caritas Kyiv. Yosyf Milyan, the auxiliary bishop of Kyiv Archeparchy of the UGCC, blessed Easter baskets and gave them to the families of fallen warriors. ‘I would like to sincerely thank the Department of Military Chaplaincy and charitable foundation Caritas Kyiv for Easter baskets, I personally thank Bishop Yosyf for his warm words of support. Christ has risen!’, Nataliia Dubchak expressed the gratitude on behalf of parents and families of fallen heroes. Money for Easter baskets for wards of Home care project was raised by the Ukrainian charity exchange. UAH 15 000 were collected together to fill homes of 60 solitary elderly people with sparkles of love and kindness and make them feel less injured by the fate and not so lonely in this world.
Perhaps, there is not such Caritas in Ukraine, whose staff would not assemble festive baskets for their wards, starting from large regional centers to small Caritas parishes. All of them were unified by the spirit of clemency and help, as well as a desire to bring Eastern miracles to families that rarely have celebrations.
Before Easter Sunday, Caritas Khmelnytskyi staff also ran a charitable initiative. This time, eighty families received food boxes with Easter bread, eggs, butter, preserves, cereals, sausages and sweets. What is the most important is that these boxes and heavy festive baskets were blessed by the Archbishop and Metropolitan Vasyl (Semeniuk), an administrator of Kamyanets-Podilskyi Eparchy, and taken home together with congratulations on the most glorious Christian holiday, blessings from the Archbishop and the feeling that they are not alone or forgotten, and there are people always ready to assist. And this is a kind of support necessary for people going through difficult times.
The “Easter basket” initiative has been conducted in Caritas Ternopil since its foundation and annually encompasses all persons under center’s guardianship. These are wards of the “Soup kitchen”, young people from “Social environment for youth with disabilities” project, lonely people from “Home care” project, kids of “Mobile work with youth” project, families in difficulties, disabled people, poor and large families. More than three hundred food boxes were distributed this year. Easter blessings and sincere congratulations of Father Andriy Marchuk pleased everybody. Preparations for the initiative unified everybody: staff, who organized and held the initiative, benefactors, who respond and help to fill Easter baskets with festive products every year, volunteers without whose support assembling and delivery of food kits would have been impossible. It is amazing that the list of benefactors increases annually, including private individuals and regional companies.
In Boryslav of Lviv region, all people willing to prepare the Easter table for those in need had a chance to leave their gifts in special boxes at St. Anna’s Church. These gifts were distributed after the festive worship service by Father Petro Pidlubnyi, Director of Local Caritas, together with volunteers to pupils of boarding schools, IDPs, children from poor and crisis families, solitary elderly people – all those who extremely need to feel support of their neighbor.
Caritas Volyn also carried out a charitable initiative. Food for poor families and families in crisis was collected in Novovolynsk trading centers (“Native Land”, “Vopak”, “All for you”). Vital support was provided by volunteers, students of Novovolynsk electromechanical college provided. More than thirty families received festive food boxes, which means that the bright holiday of clemency also visited thirty homes.
The “Easter basket” initiative is getting more and more popular in the east, where Caritas has only started its activities after the beginning of military operations. On Easter Sunday, a lot of people visited the Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in Dnipro. Father Vasyl Panteliuk, Director of Caritas Donetsk and the priest of the Church, invited everyone to the festive table to celebrate the joy of the Resurrection of Christ after the Divine Liturgy and blessing of Easter bread. With active participation of Caritas staff and volunteers, more than two hundred families received blessed Easter bread and food kits. The holiday for people in need was organized with donations of private individuals and significant contributions of fund’s partners such as “SoftServe” and “METRO Dnipro”.
Moreover, holidays are a perfect occasion to familiarize eastern citizens with Easter traditions, engage them to creativity and make festive decorations. For example, the Family support center at Caritas Kharkiv held a master class on making felt Easter baskets. Yuliia Kukhtina, an artist, showed how to make an original Easter basket to be used for blessing Easter gifts, might serve as a nice family present or just be used for home needs. Caritas also delivered regular classes on Easter egg decorating, where all interested were able to learn ancient art of decorating, find more about symbolism of decorative patterns and colours. Wards of Caritas Zaporizhzhia took part in “Christ has risen, people rejoice!” celebration where spring carols, Easter traditions and celebrations, folk songs and games were performed for families of IDPs, ATO veterans and local communities.
Caritas Mariupol prepared a lot of interesting things for this year celebration. There was a photo zone, master classes for children, where kids draw postcards with wishes from an angel, decorated the Easter egg and made a beautiful rag doll “Spring bird”. A festive fair of handmade things was organized with the efforts of children from the buffer zone. The celebration was rather traditional, but fascinating and joyful.