Dawn in Gwozdawa. I was quick in getting up to go with them for the time of prayer. We began with Morning Prayer. Mass followed at 7.20. The church was filled with lovely people. There were some children in the front row, elderly women and some middle-aged, the group of men was scarcer. Jozef celebrated and left the preaching to me. At the beginning of the Mass, Clementina addressed a few words to me, welcoming me with a simplicity and joy that moved me.
In her words she expresses the joy of this small village for my presence in a time of war, and the joy of having Fathers Maksymilian, Piotr and Jozef among them, the joy of having daily Mass. They gave me a porcelain Easter egg and some chocolates.
At the end of Mass we embraced each other as a lifelong family. I bless everyone individually with the laying on of hands. I gave them the rosaries that I had brought from Spain and that were made by Father James, a good and simple friar, who lives in Madrid (90 years old). They appreciated the detail very much. When I blessed them, they held my hands and kissed both my palms, as if it were my first Mass. They opened out the priesthood to me with such affection. I took some photos with them. Afterwards, I showed some of these pictures to friends and told them that I have fallen in love with these people. I am the one blessed.
We had breakfast in an atmosphere of celebration and joy. I visited the house and surroundings with the friars. A country place, tranquil and quiet. There is just one community, that of Berdichev, which attends to this place of silence and retreat, taking care of the piety and trust of this small village, so full of faith and so tested since the time of communism.
When Jozef and I completed an interview with Anastasia (honorable sister) for the Church newspaper in Ukraine, we bid farewell with mutual gratitude. Rafal from Berdichev had come in the morning for the farewell. An embrace and blessing for the friars.
The road to the border takes 7 hours, with two stops. As we move away from the centre of the country, life feels more normal, although there are controls from time to time. More cars and entire gas stations and nothing broken. It becomes strange, after the surroundings of Kiev, to see cities with the buildings almost all standing and without signs of war.
The journey with Vitaly and Olek, who arrived with the kind offer to take me, was lively and full of friendly vitality. I really appreciated their company.
We arrived at the border and it was sad to say goodbye to the country, to the friars, to Vitaly, but I promised to return.
At the border, a queue of about 200 people. Families and children. It starts to get quite cold. We waited an hour and a half or so because of the very slow flow of the queue. Meanwhile, volunteers and the Red Cross offer us water and blankets, dolls to the children and chocolate and tea… They pass by the line of people again and again asking what we needed. I am moved by this humanity protecting this exodus of Ukrainians in the face of the heartbreak and barbarism that I contemplated yesterday.
I finally managed to pass the two Ukrainian and Polish police checkpoints, after so long on my feet. On the other side, NGOs welcomed people and offered everything. I accepted chocolate from the Spaniards and greeted other volunteers.
Andrezj picked me up and we started on our way to Częstochowa, without stopping in Przemyśl. I am going to visit the Carmelites of Kharkiv who are there, staying in an independent place prepared for them, in the Sisters of St. Joseph. I could not wait to give them a hug.
We arrived after midnight. Ana María, the prioress, and two other sisters received me. We greeted each other with the long-awaited hug. They had dinner prepared. We chatted without haste despite the time, almost to 1a.m. There was so much to share, so much consolation in this deep and true fraternity that overcame every border and achieved communion in the common language of feeling UNITED. What warmth in the midst of so much cold in our world! If all human beings could enjoy this brotherly and sisterly affection that was given to me. If only this warmth of Resurrection and the warmth of the best of being human could be felt within by girls who had been violated or people shot, families bombed or people devoid of homes. But that dream still has not been achieved on this wounded earth. And we do not stage non-existent reconciliations, because Russia and Putin continue in their determination to massacre Ukraine, which they call “fascist” – a cruel irony!─, but we pray with peaceful violence for truth and justice. And yes, may there be forgiveness, that heals and frees broken victims and cruel executioners, and grace that heals the deep pain of the Cross of our day and fills the empty tomb with an announcement of invincible New Life. But it is still war and there is still no whisp of conscience on the part of those who feed it and those who consent to it. Bombs are still whistling in the air and falling on Lviv as we pass through its surroundings at dusk on Easter Monday. And we still have so much to pray for and so much to wake up and so many to embrace and comfort, without giving up.
Let us not deceive ourselves. The forgiveness of Jesus on the Cross is also on our lips and in our hearts: “Forgive them because they do not know what they are doing.” And he said it from the Cross. But the roots of evil and horror are hidden and alive in this earth we tread, and its boots ready to continue trampling on helpless human beings. We have a moral duty to arm ourselves for this war. I invite you to bring to light this violence to the peaceful, by standing up to so much political hypocrisy, so many ideological lies and so much cowardly silence, to make a common front of the courageous Gospel with a prayer and a life without backing down.
Pardon this letting off steam. I am so annoyed by the politics of our day. I respect politicians who serve the people, who do not tell lies, who fight without being slaves to party ideologies, politicians who do not seek power and who are not narcissistic. Those who build for everyone. I can’t stand our continuing to argue whether we are in favor of Russia or the United States, whether we are to the right or left, whether we are for Pope Francis or Benedict XVI… falling into a stupid trap that does not let us see the reality of the evil that stalks us. And the insanity of unscrupulous leaders.
I end the day exhausted and happy to be with my sisters.