Saturday, 25 June 2022

Report about Ukrainian Refugees in Herrnhut

Report about Ukrainian Refugees in Herrnhut

Three hundred years ago religious exiles from Moravia arrived in Herrnhut seeking a safe place to live their lives in peace. In this anniversary year, Herrnhut is once again providing shelter and community, this time to over 100 women and children from Ukraine. As refugees began arriving in Herrnhut at the beginning of March, many citizens from Herrnhut and its surrounding villages banded together to offer hospitality and shelter to our guests. Divisions that had arisen during the COVID pandemic were quickly erased as people from different churches as well as the town gathered in meetings to share information and opportunities so that the Ukrainians would have a safe and healing place to live. Particular attention is being paid to physical needs like housing, clothing, communication, health care, and the help to master necessary bureaucratic hurdles, educational needs for the children as well as language help for adults, and social needs such as recreation, chances to meet together and the establishing of friendships and building of relationships.

There are many different ways that we in our Herrnhut Moravian congregation are engaging with our guests. Our music directors offer a weekly musical program for children, and our youth choir includes Ukrainian youth. It was moving to hear our youth choir singing in church some songs in Ukrainian! In the Zinzendorf School (our Moravian high school), about 20 kids are taking part in classes such as art, music, English and Physical Education. One of our members, a teacher who is fluent in Russian, provides critical communication with the young students.

Because the Ukrainians (many of them coming from a big city) are spread around in the surrounding villages, we felt it was important to offer an opportunity for our guests to spend time together and to have the chance to meet people from Herrnhut. To that end we created CafŽ Odessa. Every Wednesday afternoon we invite people for coffee, cake and soft drinks. Board games have proven to be a wonderful way to bridge a language barrier and bring people into contact with one another. For the Ukrainian youth, our youth room is open one afternoon a week with a similar offering. There are also German classes for those who are interested.

At this point we do not know how long our guests will be with us. As summer approaches we will need to think about programs for the children as well as other ways of supporting families. While all of the guests who were initially staying at the Moravian Guest House are now being housed either with families or in their own apartments, there are still many others who are in provisional quarters who will need more permanent housing. Also, as the seasons change, these families will need appropriate clothing as they all left their homes with very little. As the fighting in Ukraine continues, we could expect more refugees to arrive in Herrnhut.

The response to this crisis has been heartwarming and overwhelming. Differences that once divided people have been overcome as we come together to care for our Ukrainian neighbours. Just as the first families that came to Herrnhut 300 years ago found a place of refuge, safety and freedom, so we hope to share that legacy today.

Rev Jill E Vogt
Pastor, Herrnhut Moravian Church

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Church House is the Headquarters of the Moravian Church in the British Province and is located in London at:
Moravian Church House, 

5 Muswell Hill, 
N10 3TJ


020 8883 3409

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