Hope From the Ashes
Knights rally to support Caritas-Spes after Russian drones destroy the Catholic charity’s supply warehouse
By Peter Gedicks
“It was Sept. 19. I saw drones flying very low in the sky,” recalled Bishop Eduard Kava, describing the night a Russian drone struck a warehouse in Lviv, Ukraine, where the Catholic charity Caritas-Spes stored humanitarian aid.
Bishop Kava, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Lviv and head of the archdiocese’s Anti-Crisis Committee, saw the explosion from his third-floor window and immediately drove to the warehouse.
“There was only one thing in my head: a prayer that no one would be injured,” the bishop said.
His prayer was answered, but the warehouse was consumed by a fire that took 40 hours to extinguish. Six hundred thousand pounds of supplies — food, water, cots, clothes, hygiene kits, strollers, batteries and generators, all intended for people in eastern Ukraine — were destroyed.
Bishop Kava views the drone strike as a direct attack on civilians, aimed at intimidating and discouraging humanitarian relief work. However, as the smoke cleared, solidarity and hope rose from the ashes.
Ukraine State Deputy Youriy Maletskiy called Bishop Kava the next day to offer the Knights’ support.
“The destruction of this aid was a large blow that would directly impact civilians,” he said. “We knew an immediate response was required.”
Not long before the drone strike, Caritas-Spes has received urgent requests for generators. The Knights were able to replace the generators that had been destroyed and get them where they were needed most. Ukrainian Knights also rallied to assemble care packages of supplies for Caritas-Spes to deliver to eastern Ukraine.
“As a result, Caritas was able to continue helping those in need,” said Maletskiy.
Humanitarian organizations in Ukraine face significant, and growing, risks. Fourteen humanitarian workers were killed in Ukraine in the first 10 months of 2023, according to the United Nations, compared to four in 2022. However, these dangers have not deterred the Ukrainian Knights’ commitment to living out the mission of Blessed Michael McGivney.
“Before the war, the Knights of Columbus embodied the values of unity, fraternity and charity in the work of councils of both rites. However, since the beginning of the war, they have only intensified their efforts, and their values are now especially evident,” said Bishop Kava, who was inspired to join the Order in 2022 after working with Knights to help victims of the war. “They do not assist passively, by the wayside, but are critically involved. This is especially visible in Lviv, where the Knights laid the groundwork which our ministry of helping others builds upon.”
PETER GEDICKS writes from Kraków, Poland.