April 26, 2022


Three chaplains with the Canadian Armed Forces who have been deployed to Poland, are also finding time to reach out to the millions of Ukrainian refugees that have been given shelter by Poland since the beginning of Russia's war on Ukraine. As it happens, the three of them are of Ukrainian ancestry and thus have an additional appreciation for the dire situation in the host countries bordering on war-torn Ukraine. They are also able to reach out, perhaps, on a more familiar level.



A CBC reporter writing about the chaplaincy now exercised in Poland, spoke with Lieutenant-Colonel Terry Cherwick who, although now stationed in Edmonton, originally is from Winnipeg. [article HERE] Lt-Col. Cherwick, A Ukrainian Catholic priest who has served with the Canadian military some 29 years now, is now deployed together with other chaplains and a small number of about 100 Canadian troops now serving in Poland, one of Canada's NATO allies. A big part of the Canadian mission at this time is simply lending a much-appreciated hand with the estimated 2.8 million Ukrainian refugees who have escaped into Poland.


Deacon Anton Sloboda, also a chaplain serving with Canada's Armed Forces, was also deployed to Poland just over a week ago. One can imagine that being sent with the military to a foreign land, leaving family behind and not knowing what will develop in the next weeks, can be somewhat unsettling. However, the Canadian military, in what has been named "Operation Reassurance", has found a great deal of satisfaction and purpose in offering help and, well, reassurance, to the steady stream of Ukrainian refugees now in Poland - as well as to the people of Poland who have welcomed the refugees into their homes. Chaplain Anton says that the positive position of the Polish government and the people as a whole toward the refugees is amazing. Most are invited into the homes of the local citizens and there are no camps as such, but "reception centres" where those fleeing from Ukraine can stay as long as they need until they decide what they need to do. Sloboda says that the government stresses that they are "not refugees, but our guests in need..." The hospitality is extraordinary. His is an observation also made by Cherwick, who says that, he's seen no sign of Polish citizens growing impatient with the refugee burden. "The Polish defence forces ... they don't see them as refugees," he said. "They see them as guests here in their country, and I think that that very much kind of sets the tone when they get here. [The Ukrainians are] appreciative of the help that they're receiving."



Another Canadian Forces Chaplain, is Lieutenant Glib Pistruga, who, before joining the Canadian Armed Forces, completed his seminary training at the Ukrainian Catholic seminary in Ottawa.



Our prayers are with the People of Ukraine, the millions of refugees and the members of our Canadian Armed Forces that strive to offer relief in many ways.


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