14 Mar


"We share their anxiety for family"

14 Mar, 2022

As conflict rages in the Ukraine, devastating lives and livelihoods, homes and cities, Sailors' Society's CEO Sara Baade voices her pride and concerns for our Ukrainian team as they continue to support others and brave daily life in a war zone.

Charity workers across the world today will recognise that feeling in the pit of your stomach knowing some of your own are in the midst of the chaos in Ukraine.

As a maritime welfare organisation, we are there for all seafarers affected by the crisis, just as we have been for past conflicts and crises.

Working at sea can be tough at the best of times. For Ukrainian seafarers the job has become tougher; they may be thousands of miles away from families and are anxious, powerless to help and turning to us for support.

This time though, we share their anxiety for family.

Family trapped in cities devastated by shelling or travelling in fear towards the borders and the hope of sanctuary and safety.

That's because we too have family in Ukraine - our chaplains and port visitors and their nearest and dearest.

They are not doing the jobs they were three weeks ago of course. Where they used to visit ships, they shelter families. Talking to crews about loved ones back home has been replaced with praying for survival, for peace.

But they are doing what they always do – helping others in desperate need.

Life's been turned upside down for our Ukrainian team. But they're still devoted to helping others, taking people to safety and ferrying families to the border, like the family above.

One of our chaplains has been sheltering 100 people, including many children, in his church. Food and water are sparse, but together they survived. Some brought flour to make bread to share around; another brought their only cow for meat. But as the shelling intensified, he managed to load a number of children and their families onto minibuses and flee the city. He has travelled for days desperate to save the young lives with him and reach the border.

He is 81 years old.

Another chaplain has been providing food and hot tea to desperate families – and in recent days has been transporting disabled people to the border in his car.

He writes: "Never worked as a taxi driver. But for the last 10 days we regularly take people to the border. We go there with men, women and children, and come back with men alone. Women have their eyes wet from tears. Men are usually empty and confused. An incredible number of personal tragedies.

"No one has ever refused to pray. So, we pray and hope."

And he added: "Lord give me the strength to endure!"

Another of our colleagues travelled for more than two days with very little food or sleep to reach a border with his wife, daughter and granddaughter.

He was not allowed to cross as he doesn’t turn 60 until October. He now ferries families to the border in the minibus that just three weeks ago took seafarers into town to see some of Ukraine and stock up on essentials.

Contact is sporadic and there are times we hear nothing at all. We can only pray they are all safe.

Worry and pride are strange bedfellows.

And in the Sailors’ Society camp, they both increase every day.

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