Kyiv’s Resilient St. Nicholas Parish Helps the Neediest Amidst War

Parishioners of St. Nicholas Church in Kyiv, Ukraine, continue to feed the hungry and nourish hope even as the war grinds on.

More than 30 parishioners recently joined with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate to serve food to their neighbors. “We organized a charity lunch and a concert with the ‘Inspirantum’ choir to mark the seventh World Day of the Poor,” said Fr. Pavlo Vyshkovskyi, OMI, pastor of St. Nicholas in the Ukrainian capital. “This year the slogan was: ‘Don’t turn your back on the most needy’.”

Slovenia’s ambassador to Ukraine, Mateja Prevolšek, with her husband, Croatia’s ambassador Anica Djamić, were among those serving. “Even the guests of the diplomatic corps wore aprons and served the poorest,” Fr. Pavlo said. “On these days, one rediscovers a sense of human dignity, one learns from misery the pleasure of simplicity, of sharing with the less fortunate.”

St. Nicholas has become a meeting point for at least 250 of the poor and homeless since the Missionary Oblates reclaimed the building after its owner fled from the Russian invasion in February 2022. The church building had been converted to a concert hall when Ukraine was under Communist rule. Oblates were allowed back into Ukraine after Soviet Communism fell, but the concert hall owner had allowed the Oblates only limited use of St. Nicholas.

“We stayed, we didn’t run away, we try to serve the best we can. With the blessing of the bishop of Kyiv-Zytomyr diocese, Vitaly Kryvitsky, SDB, our church became a humanitarian aid center for Kyiv and Chernihiv regions. We distribute and deliver humanitarian aid to those most in need, even when Kyiv and Chernihiv regions are under fire,” Fr. Pavlo said. 

The event was coordinated by Bro. Sebastian, the director of Kitchen for the Homeless, as a ministry to people living on the streets of Kyiv.

Supporting poor and homeless fellow citizens “is fundamental because it contributes to social justice and to equality,” Fr. Pavlo said. “By participating, we help to create a fairer society where everyone has the opportunity to prosper and live with dignity.”

Fr. Pavlo has spoken in previous interviews of the exhaustion brought on by sirens summoning everyone to shelters in the middle of the night because of drone and missile barrages and by the accompanying damage, injuries and deaths. Yet the people persevere.

“The church is open, active and alive, always full of people in need of help and those who, despite being tired, can help,” said Fr. Pavlo.