Church of Jesus Christ Meetinghouse Serving as a Refugee Facility
Delivering relief supplies into eastern Ukraine repeated over the past several months, Kym Reichart and Raphaela Hasse of Schwabmüchen, Germany, have traveled the 14-hour distance from southern Germany, through the Czech Republic and Poland and into Lviv, where a meetinghouse there is not only a collection point for supplies but has transformed into a critical waystation for refugees leaving Ukraine. Latter-day Saint Meetinghouse in Ukraine Used as Refugee Station
That meetinghouse — located an hour’s drive further for Reichart and Hasse once they’ve reached Lviv — serves as a gathering place where refugees “can draw strength before they continue to the border, as most refugees only stay two or three nights,” Reichart told the United Kingdom’s news site on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Refugees arriving daily in Lviv are exhausted emotionally and physically from their traumatic journeys, with many malnourished and needing a place of safety and rest before continuing to new destinations.
“Each room of the Church building has been transformed, including the chapel area, to house the refugees,” said Reichart, a Relief Society leader in her home ward. Even the baptismal font in the Lviv meetinghouse has been converted into a shower area, with schedules for its use.
Local Latter-day Saints in Lviv come every day to clean their building and help with guests. One women living in Lviv — a survivor of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster — cleans daily for arriving refugees, despite her disabilities.
Reichart answered the call when hearing from a local businessperson about the need for drivers to transport supplies to Ukraine — her father assisted with the post-World War II Berlin airlift.
The two have been driving private transport to deliver the supplies — fortuitous since rented vans are not allowed to cross the border in Ukraine, Reichart said.
She and Hasse have worked with President Aleksander Cheban of the Ukraine Kyiv/Moldova Mission, who has identified refugee needs. At first it was sleeping bags, mattress, blankets and drying racks for clothes; now it is canned food and medical supplies.
A bus from Poland offers free transportation for refugees into that county, with the bus company telling refugees that if they can make it to Lviv, they can be fed and sheltered in the Church meetinghouse before traveling on to Poland.
Reichart said she wants Latter-day Saints worldwide to know of the circumstances and the needs. “When we live in safety,” she said, “I hope we do not get comfortable with our security. The need is still there and does not go away in the first term. It is a long haul for so many.”
Stakes in Germany, Switzerland and Austria have partnered with branches to meet the specific needs of refugees traveling out of Ukraine. Branch members communicate with partner stake about what is needed where, and members respond appropriately and promptly.
With refugees typically taking a northern, central or southern route out of Ukraine, gathering hubs have been made available near or at the border points. Humanitarian supplies are stored in a warehouse in Germany and transported as needed.
The central Europe stakes are providing transportation, supplies and short-term housing for member volunteers, with some Latter-day Saint meetinghouses becoming places for Church members and friends to rest from their flight out of Ukraine and begin social integration into the new communities.
“It is humbling to be a part of the Lord’s storehouse here in Europe, which enables the practical arm of the Church to meet some of the needs of members and friends throughout the world,” Reichart said. “The Lord’s storehouse is people who willingly devote their time, talents, skills or material means to help others. They are people who serve with compassion and Christlike charity regardless of race, religion or situation.”