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Orthodox monks welcome Ukrainian refugees to the medieval monastery

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When Svetlana and her family from the town of Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine reached the snow-capped Putna Monastery in the rolling hills of north-eastern Romania, they had traveled four days.

The monks who live in the remote 15th-century Romanian Orthodox monastery, a place of pilgrimage nestled in a thickly forest-covered valley, have opened its doors to people like Svetlana, who have left the country by the millions since the Russian invasion began Ukraine fled to neighboring countries February 24.

Svetlana left her hometown with her daughter Anna, six-year-old grandson Maksim and two other female relatives. Anna’s husband and her two siblings stayed behind and helped with humanitarian aid.

“We would go home immediately, our souls are so heavy,” said Svetlana. “We are sorry that we had to separate from our family. Right now we feel fear and confusion, we don’t know what to do next.”

While she was crying, Father Gherasim Soca softly hugged her and comforted her. Later that day, villagers braved a snowstorm to attend a service where monks prayed for the people of Ukraine in the large stone church with shimmering icons.

Father Gherasim Soca comforts Svetlana as she cries

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Locals pray during mass in the church of Putna Monastery

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A couple who fled Ukraine with their daughter in the monastery

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“The majority of people want to reach their final destination as soon as possible, usually somewhere in the west, and when they can, they choose to spend the night near the border towns,” Father Gherasim said.

“Putna is a bit more remote, but if you’re not in a hurry, it’s not overcrowded here, every family has its own room. I see her going to church and praying, finding comfort. It helps a lot.”

More than 412,000 Ukrainians have fled to Romania, where thousands of volunteers, churches, NGOs and government agencies are providing food, shelter, clothing and transport.

Father Gherasim Soca thoughtfully closes his eyes

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Locals leave after a Romanian Orthodox mass

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Firefighters have lunch at the monastery where they stay while working on the Siret border

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Father Caliopie makes lists of the names of the dead and writes down prayer times allotted to them before the service begins in the church of Putna Monastery

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In north-eastern Romania, the Orthodox Archdiocese of Suceava and Radauti has offered hundreds of beds in monasteries and vicarages. They are also constantly present at the Siret border and adjacent train station, including priests and monks who speak Ukrainian or Russian and offer food and assistance.

“A large proportion of Ukrainians go to relatives who work abroad,” said Father Alexandru Flavian Sava, spokesman for the archdiocese. “For them, moving on is more comforting than standing so close to the border and the violence behind it.”

Father Gherasim said about 100 people, mostly women and children, have taken refuge in Putna so far.

Svetlana, Raisa and Maksim with his mother Anna in their room in the monastery after fleeing Ukraine

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Father Mikhail offers food to Ukrainian refugees in their hospitality tent in Siret

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In the waiting room of Suceava train station, people sit next to food left for Ukrainian refugees

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Father Calinic and Father Modest are working on repairing a generator next to their hospitality tents in Siret

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Among them was a couple who had come from Ivano-Frankivsk with their baby. The father used his Romanian double passport to leave the country, which is not allowed for Ukrainian men of military age.

“We have a little girl. We left because we are afraid for us and for them,” said the father, who wished to remain anonymous. He said they came to stay in Putna before traveling further west because they had visited her before.

“We’re scared because we don’t know how it’s going to end.”

photography by Clodagh Kilcoyne, Reuters

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/orthodox-monks-ukrainian-refugees-monastery-b2042200.html Orthodox monks welcome Ukrainian refugees to the medieval monastery

JOE HERNANDEZ

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