The Gospel on the first Monday in Lent is about the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). Catalin Constantin was our Farm Manager for about 8 years until 5 years ago and looked after our sheep.
See below for:
- Update on Wednesday, 9th March
- ‘Thank you’ message from Catalin
- A mention on BBC Radio 4
Catalin and his family are Romanian. He, his wife and his young family, are now at the epicentre of one of the Ukrainian refugee routes just over the border in eastern Romania. They need money to help with the costs to feed, board and support the increasing number of Ukrainians who are crossing into Romania at the ferry border point of Isaccea). This is about 10 miles from Catalin’s family business—a small summer resort of 6 self catering villas (Casa Varvara) in the Danube Delta – the last great natural wilderness in Europe.
What started as a trickle of refugees 3-4 weeks ago, has now, of course, escalated. He reports that 3000 refugees made the crossing at this remote border point on Sunday. The numbers of refugees coming through Isaccea is only going to increase and probably dramatically; the strategic Ukrainian port of Odessa (only 300kms away with a direct road) is under increasingly heavy attack from the Russians.
The weather is currently very bad with freezing temperatures, and refugees often travel with nothing but the clothes on their back, a very small amount of depreciating money, and typically without passports or other travel documents. Many are young families where the father may have stayed behind to fight. The people are frightened, disorientated, exhausted, hungry and cold.
Here is how Catalin expresses it in one email to Father Patrick at the end of last week:
Some stay for a night or two, and then move on, to Germany, Bulgaria, Poland, and even Dubai. Some will stay with us for a while as they don’t have documents to be able to move and find their relatives.
One young woman, just recently passed her driving licence, and she was forced to drive all the way from her home near Odessa, to us. Now she wants to drive to Satu Mare, in Romania, some 500 miles away, to meet her husband, but she’s too scared to do it. We helped find a driver for her, and she will hopefully get there safely.
Another family, from Odessa, wants to get to Poland, but they don’t speak Romanian or English. A friend of ours will meet them in Bucharest on Sunday, take them to Gara de Nord, and help them purchase the tickets.
One family is from Kiliya, they speak some Romanian. Their son, Roman, turned 14 today. He didn’t expect presents and a birthday cake today! He was so happy! He has another sister with two children, the youngest one, only 3 months old. The problem is, they want to get to America eventually but, not all of them have passports. So, on Monday, we need to somehow take eight of them to the Ukrainian embassy in Bucharest, and bring them back at the end of the day.
They all have different needs, but they also have some things in common: they are tired, cold, disoriented and worried about their future.
We hope that, we will find people to help us with anything they can, so that we will offer them free, warm and safe accommodation, and a glimmer of hope for the future.
We need help, because we need to house and feed in excess of 25 people every day.
One of our Worth School Governors spoke with Catalin directly last night and reports: Catalin is, like many country folk, matter of fact and straight forward. The Constantin family are welcoming these poor people and try to make them feel genuinely at home. They don’t make any fuss about it but are just doing, in a very modest and unassuming way, what they consider to be the right thing: normal human beings helping other human beings in need. They impose no time limit on how long the people stay although most, as is clear from Catalin’s words above want to keep travelling further west as fast as possible. Casa Varvara can accommodate about 25. It is always now full. Word of mouth spreads fast that they are kind and welcoming. Beyond food and accommodation, Catalin or another member of the family or parish help with onward travel. Already, 8 more people have asked to come tomorrow and that number will only increase. So they use their local network of other kind people to find the refugees places to sleep.
“I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me” (Matthew 25:35)
Catalin needs financial help. His accommodation is built for summer clients. His heating is all electric – getting ever more costly. The refugees always need more than just food and bedding. Overall, its costing him about 200-250 Euros a day to look after these people. The Constantin family have funded it so far but simply cannot afford to continue to do so. They have no income until the summer season. With more money, Catalin will find ways to help even more refugees. He can find and fit out other shelters, if he has the cash to buy mattresses etc. They can buy tickets for buses and trains to disperse people and help them on the next phase of their journey.
With help from the Worth Society, we have now set Catalin up with a JustGiving crowd funding link. Please give what support you can.
Update on Wednesday, 9th March
Thanks to your great generosity, the initial £15,000 target on the JustGiving website, was exceeded in the first two days! So we have raised the target to £50,000 to enable Catalin and friends to meet more of the needs of these bewildered refugees coming through Isaccea from the awful situation in Ukraine.
Here is his news:
Yesterday (Tuesday 8th March) 10 people left for Bucharest. We organized two vans for transport, accommodation and food in Bucharest. This is the group without documents. They will stay in Bucharest, and go to the Ukrainian embassy to sort out their papers.
I went to the border again last night, to help with moving refugees to accommodation centres in Luncavita, Cataloi and Isaccea.
We brought to Casa Varvara 10 more refugees, at around 2 am.
Oksana is 29, she came with her mum, and her two children, Alisa(3) and Daniel (1). They didn’t have a car. One of her children has lactose intolerance and we need to find the lactose-free milk for them.
Yuliia is 33, she came with her mother (57), grandmother (87), and her three children, Olha (3), and twins Ksenia and Makar (9 months)! She is still breastfeeding, and she was also the driver, all the way from Odessa. They also have two cats! They travelled in a tiny Mitsubishi Colt, and had lots of belongings also packed in that car!
This particular family was so tired and stressed, they didn’t know what to make of all this. They followed me with their car last night, but when we got closer she wanted to turn the car around! I had to go and tried to convince her that we want to help them. When we finally arrived, the grandmother didn’t want to come out of the car. She kept saying she wants back home!😔
This morning, everyone is better. We gave them breakfast, nappies, and sim cards for internet. For the moment, they don’t have any clear plans, the same as everyone else here.
They all hope the conflict will be over soon ,so they can return to their homes.
With your help, we can meet all their needs, and help many more.
I know some areas of Ukraine are running short on supplies, so we are considering sending food, clothes, medicines and other goods to them.
God bless you!