Kiev, Sant'Egidio's humanitarian work with refugees, the elderly, the homeless: a sign of hope amid the dark days of war

More than 4,000 food parcels have been distributed each month in Kiev to displaced families from the eastern and southern regions of the country at the two centres opened by Sant'Egidio during these months of war.
It is an important part of the humanitarian work the Community is engaged in: all over Ukraine, 15,000 food support kits have been delivered every month, as well as other aid, such as medicines for health centres and hospitals, clothing and hygiene products.
The war in fact results in a serious humanitarian crisis which unfortunately, as Andrea Riccardi recently pointed out, is very much 'neglected', yet it has become a global priority commitment for the Community(Read the interview in Avvenire - IT)
Concrete help, listening, grief sharing, human support, respect for each person's dignity, a relaxed atmosphere favoured by an efficient organisation system: all these are at the heart of the centres opened in two neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital: Troeshina and Darnitsa.
The colourful premises of the latter centre, recently visited by Andrea Riccardi, welcome women, young people and children from ravaged cities such as Mariupol, Bakhmut, Kherson and Kharkiv whose stories are full of pain.
There is also a play area for children, who can also participate in the School of Peace during the week, while on certain days each month the centre is open especially for older refugees.
Members of Sant'Egidio welcome the displaced people who come to the centre according to a regular schedule that avoids crowds, thanks to a social booking system. Many of them are Kievians, but many others are also displaced people, people who, once they have received help, have joined the solidarity effort and help other refugees in their turn.
It is an original and special feature of Sant'Egidio's humanitarian commitment in Ukraine: the aid from Italy and other European countries supports a wide mobilisation of human energies of the Ukrainians themselves, who - starting with the members of Sant'Egidio, but with the growing participation of others - have become the protagonists of an intense and effective resistance to war based on solidarity.
Over the last 15 months of war, Sant'Egidio in Kiev has never forgotten the poor of the city, to whom it has been bound by a decades long friendship. First and foremost, the many homeless and elderly poor who crowd the street food distributions - never interrupted, not even in the weeks of intense battle to control the city.
The 'warm home', opened by the Community during the pandemic, where some formerly homeless men live together, has become a shelter in these months of war. The visit to the Darnitsa centre was also an opportunity for a meeting with three of the guests of this 'warm home', who told their difficult stories of life on the streets, but also expressed their gratitude for the 'warmth' they have received by the Community.
The war has added further suffering especially to the elderly living in institutions, already so proven by the pandemic. Andrea Riccardi visited one of these, in the Lesnoj district. Here the Community has been visiting the elderly for twenty-five years. In recent months, the people already living there for some time have been joined by many others evacuated from war zones. The Community has provided all of them with regular visits and humanitarian aid.

The joy of this meeting, in an experience filled with sorrow, aroused words and feelings of hope. "Ask God: why do I live? Your path is love, women and men, life with them'. The words of this poem, composed and recited by an elderly woman, seemed like a prayer, were echoed by the dream of another guest of the institute: the coming of peace with a great celebration and people gathering in Majda, the central square of Kiev.