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‘How long, Lord?’ Archbishop implores at the service of the Ukrainians of Poland

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By Mari Saito

PRZEMYSL, Poland (Reuters) – At Sunday mass in the Polish border town of Przemysl, Ukrainian-speaking Greek Catholics heard their archbishop put the questions on the lips of many since Russia invaded Ukraine more than two weeks ago.

“How long, Lord?” Archbishop Eugeniusz Popowicz said during his sermon at the Greek Catholic Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.

Przemysl, which before Russia-Ukraine was home to 60,000 people, is the first stop for many of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have crossed the border from Ukraine into Poland in recent days.

“Why do we suffer such a fate? Why is everyone else watching and not closing the sky to stop the deadly rockets,” he told the congregation of about 100 people, many from the Polish-Ukrainian community who had been living there before.

Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine on February 24, sending millions fleeing to other cities or abroad while trapping others in defeated cities.

While Western nations have tried to isolate Putin by imposing harsh sanctions, the United States and its allies are concerned about keeping NATO from being drawn into the conflict, a reason cited against imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a special military operation to demilitarize and “denazify” its neighbor.

At a Przemysl school that has been turned into a shelter, Ludmyla, a 38-year-old refugee who did not give her last name, rested after fleeing with her parents and children from the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, which has been under intense fire. . She said that she waited seven hours to get to Poland.

“I was surprised when I got here that there were no lines to buy bread,” he said. In Kharkiv there were lines that lasted for hours, he said.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR reported on Sunday that nearly 2.7 million people had fled Ukraine as of Saturday, of whom nearly 1.7 million headed for Poland.

Poland reported 79,800 arrivals on Saturday alone, Romania has 16,676, Slovakia 10,307 and Hungary 10,630, authorities in the individual countries said on Sunday. The numbers were similar to or slightly higher than the day before, but below previously seen spikes.

A Russian missile attack on a large Ukrainian military facility near the border with NATO member Poland on Sunday killed 35 people and wounded 134, a Ukrainian official said.

CRISIS FATIGUE

Ukrainian refugees have been welcomed with open arms in neighboring Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, with thousands of volunteers, non-governmental organizations as well as government agencies and local communities providing food, shelter, clothing, transportation and mobile phone cards.

Thousands of people have welcomed the refugees into their homes. Ukrainian children have started attending school and governments have moved to allow refugees to bypass standard procedures to allow them to work.

But as time and the ability to absorb this influx of people pass, there have been multiple warnings from the region that early support could sour.

Lajos Gyori-Dani, vice president of the Order of Malta’s Hungarian Charity Service, which manages the reception of refugees at the Beregsurany border crossing, said in an interview with the 24.hu news site on Sunday that public support would wane. .

“We are aware that soon the main task will not be the reception of refugees, but to help them integrate, to help them in their daily lives. We also know that the size of donations will decrease, so we must prepare for the long-term task knowing that the current support from society will have a maximum duration of 3 months,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Krisztina Than in Budapest, Robert Muller in Prague, Anna Koper in Warsaw, Luiza Ilie in Bucharest, writing by Jan Lopatka, editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)


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