While Poles and Ukrainians have a longstanding history of cultural tensions, Polish churches across the border of the besieged Eastern European nation are opening their doors — and hearts — to their newly homeless neighbors as Russia continues its assault on Ukraine.
Some churches weren’t even sure how they’d manage to provide for those of the roughly million displaced Ukrainians that might seek refuge in their country, but they stepped out in faith to do what they could to provide physical and spiritual refuge.
“It was a step by faith,” Pastor Henryk Skrzypkowski recently told Faithwire.
As soon as he and the other leaders at Chelm Baptist Church heard about the invasion, they scrambled to prepare beds, blankets, and other supplies for the refugees and now they’re housing as many as 200 people a day.
Churches like Skrzypkowski’s have been tasked with aiding the path of fleeing Ukrainians, which are largely women and children, continue on to other European countries to find more permanent placement.
Their functional purpose is clear, but Skrzypkowski believes there is a deeper spiritual purpose they are fulfilling as well.
He notes that the message he’s seen from believers across the region “loud and clear” is that amid the chaos they’ve watched “so many people suffering, wanting to help, wanting to share the love of Christ with them and meet their needs.”
There have been tensions between Poles and Ukrainians since the end of WWII despite the now-friendly relations between the two countries’ governments, much of which stems from massacres committed against Poles by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).
The new crisis faced by Ukrainians, however, has given many a chance to make peace with the past and find unity before the Lord.
“I think this moment is a historical and spiritual moment,” Skrzypkowski says. “These historical problems — it was in hearts, in souls of people for many, many years. People have a problem to forgive one another. But this moment is the moment when God created a new situation between our nations. It’s a new future. Now we have unity — spiritual unity.”
One displaced father, Andre, told Faithwire that the Ukrainian people, both those fleeing and those huddling in bomb shelters in their country, are in dire need of our support and prayers.
“Pray for Ukrainians who are in need during this time. Please help the Ukrainians,” he said, urging believers to obey Matthew 25: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (NIV).
“So please, in this time of need, help the least of these,” he said.
“So we pray for Ukrainians,” Skrzypkowski echoed, also noting that his church is praying for leaders around the world. “We pray for unity. In war, we have to help Ukraine.”
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