Winter in Eastern Europe can kill even in normal times: temperatures reach -25/30°C. Today in Ukraine, however, the situation is much worse than it usually is as many houses have broken windows or partially demolished walls, and the inhabitants do not have adequate means to insulate their homes, nor do they have enough warm clothes or blankets. For this reason, Salesians and lay people co-responsible in the Don Bosco mission have initiated a winterization program to help the Ukrainian population cope with the winter.
The project is funded by donations that various Salesian organizations have received and continue to receive from the Salesian Family and their donors around the world. The work is coordinated by the Warsaw Coordination Team for the Ukrainian Emergency, under the leadership of the Salesian Congregation's Emergency Response Coordinator, Fr. George Menamparampil, and Don Bosco Network Coordinator, Angel Gudiña.
What has been done and is still being done? Coordination leaders answered thus:
- “We collected information from Salesian offices throughout Ukraine about the needs of people in their area. The basic needs are food, warm clothes, insulation, electricity generators, and fuel.
- We rented a warehouse in Lviv to store food and non-food items brought in bulk from Poland. Local Salesian communities collect and distribute them throughout the country.
- To date, three trucks have brought food, hygiene items, and thermos bottles.
- We provide the Salesians in Ukraine with financial support for building maintenance, heating, and electricity, thus becoming safe and warm places for anyone in the area, especially for displaced people. For example: in Bóbrka, the roof was insulated, the chimney was sealed and a water heater was purchased; in Przemyślany, the attic was thermally insulated and coal and firewood were purchased; in Zhytomyr, winter jackets, boots, and food were distributed; windows and doors were replaced to insulate them and a water reserve tank was installed.
- Four trucks and containers of thermal blankets provided by Salesian Missions, the Salesian Mission Office of New Rochelle, USA, arrived at the Warsaw warehouse. Some have already reached Zhytomyr. They will protect field kitchens and secure doors and windows.
- In early February, two more containers, again organized by 'Salesian Missions-USA,' will arrive in Poland with rice and soybean meals ready to be transferred to Ukraine.”
The organizations currently active in supporting the winterization project are: "Misiones Salesianas," the Salesian Mission Office in Madrid, Spain; "Don Bosco Mondo," the Salesian Mission Office in Bonn, Germany; the NGO "Volontariato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo" (VIS), Italy; "Jugendhilfe Weltweit," Switzerland; "Don Bosco Mission Austria"; "Bosco Aid" - Ireland; "Don Bosco Mission Office," Canada; the Province of Great Britain; the Salesian Cooperators; "Salesian Missions" Australia; "Don Bosco Global," Spain; and the Polish Provinces of Krakow (PLS) and Warsaw (PLE).
The Warsaw Coordination team for the Ukraine Emergency add, finally, “We do what we can. We would like to do more. A LOT more needs to be done. Our repairs and maintenance cannot keep up with the pace of fresh destruction day after day. Though lagging further behind each day, we are resolved to plod on, no matter what!”