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While bomb alerts blare and bombs explode in Ukraine, Polish priests keep calm and carry on with their educational mission.
Church Militant's Martina Moyski tells us more about the efforts of the Salesians of Don Bosco to keep Catholic education alive — even as the war in Ukraine rages on.
While Putin revs up the war, Salesians from Poland are determined to keep the Faith alive in neighboring war-torn Ukraine.
One of these priests, Fr. Michał Wocial, cares for about 200 kindergarten through Grade 11 students in Zhytomyr, a transportation hub in the heart of Ukraine.
"We must prevent the war from destroying their childhood," Wocial says.
His school is named Vsesvit meaning "universal" in Ukrainian, signifying the universality of God's love.
In this time of unrest and upheaval, the priest negotiates both in-person and distance learning for the children.
Many students are forced to leave their homes and must log in each day from asylum countries, including Poland, Germany, Portugal and Sweden to continue their studies.
Those children who remain in their native Ukraine often study from the school basement, revamped into a bomb shelter.
Fr. Michał Wocial, S.D.B: "We should transform the basement into a bomb shelter ... to continue the work, the lessons, because sometimes the bomb alert can be two, three or four hours."
But Fr. Wocial and the other teachers lead all the students in prayer at the start of each day.
Fr. Wocial: "The teachers help the children ... to transfer peace to the children and not hate and panic."
And religion classes are taught daily, along with reading, writing, arithmetic, art and drama — all integrated with teachings and lessons of the Bible.
The priest and teachers make sure there is time for the children to laugh and play.
Father Wocial also makes time to pray with the remaining citizens of Zhytomyr in front of the still-standing city hall.
Fr. Wocial: "I'm afraid today, but I decided to pray in spite of the blaring sirens. Lord, we ask you in these hard times, that You teach us to fight the fear. Fear of the Lord is the most important. He who puts fear of the Lord first can control the fear of death, suffering and loss."
Come what may, the Salesian priest is putting the children's physical and spiritual well-being first and says of his mission, "God wants for us to be with them in this moment."
Fr. Michał Wocial and his school children need heat for this winter, computers and food.
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