Unitarians in Romania helping Ukrainian refugees and displaced people in Ukraine

By Beth O’Connell, UU Paris member and IWC Vice President

From the onset of the war in Ukraine, the Hungarian Unitarian Church and Providence (Gondviselés), its charity organization, have responded to the needs of Ukrainian refugees fleeing across the border to Romania as well as internally displaced people in Ukraine.

The International Convocation of Unitarian Universalist Women (IWC) raised more than $50,000 in the first round of its Faithify campaign to support this humanitarian response. IWC has now launched a second round campaign where you can donate on Faithify using this link.

Support Those Fleeing War in Ukraine

Providence is conducting a multi-faceted effort to help the Ukrainians and their efforts are impressive and the money faithfully spent. Here’s a look at what they’ve done so far:

Two shipments of non-perishable food and equipment for shelters have been sent across the border to Transcarpathia in southern Ukraine to help internally displaced people in the war-torn country. The leaders of the Transcarpathian Reformed (Calvinist) Church are on the receiving end, making sure that the donations get distributed to the shelters.

Several refugee families from Odessa have found shelter in the Unitarian church buildings in Kolozsvár/Cluj, Romania, and have become helpers in organizing aid efforts in southern Ukraine. The Odessan families have managed to deliver two shipments, consisting mostly of medicines and medical supplies, to Odessa and Lubashivska.

Since the end of February, the Hungarian Unitarians have hosted several Ukrainian refugee families in Kolozsvar. In addition to accommodation, they also provide meals, in-kind donations, medical examinations and medicines, assistance in job search, counseling, and other administrative support. Many refugees have become organizing partners; thanks to them, the Unitarians are able to engage with the growing number of Ukrainian refugees (currently around 1,000 families) and their communities in their home country directly and effectively.  The Unitarians have also prepared additional shelters in 12 municipalities across Transylvania, where refugees can be welcomed as needed.

“According to our Ukrainian guests, the two main priorities of the Ukrainian refugee groups in Cluj are jobs and educational activities for children and youth,” Providence has told IWC.

So they have launched a kindergarten for Ukrainian children at the Unitarian Nursery School in Kolozsvar. Two refugee mothers have played a prominent role in recruiting qualified kindergarten teachers from Ukraine and then in running the class. This initiative benefits both the children and their parents who can take up part-time jobs or run errands.

It is a great opportunity for Ukrainian children and their parents to get to know the local Hungarian and Romanian communities – and for the little ones to have a meaningful time while their parents are otherwise engaged.

Providence is also providing financial support for afternoon activities organized for Ukrainian children at a Reformed (Calvinist) congregation in Cluj. These activities are organized every afternoon and include arts and crafts, puppet shows, sports, etc.

For Ukrainian teenagers Providence has just started a Ukrainian Youth Club with weekly meetings and sports/educational activities, and it already has 35 members.