Now we will light candles on Ukrainian tables

I can hear on the radio and in the church that the Ukrainian parishes are in need of generators to at least somewhat heat up the basements in which people find shelter from air raids. And there are more and more of them! Will we collect the money to light up the darkness of the Kyivan night with Advent light?

Christmas trees lie down massively and immediately afterwards they grow up in cities and trade centers while Carrols sail the streets though it’s not their time yet. Paper angels swing among lampions and lights paper angels; the smell of hot wine makes the atmosphere fabulous, there are heaps of gifts on Christmas stalls. As every year, the Advent has arrived.

And perhaps again – as every year – some of us will complain that all this trade and much premature Christmas atmosphere is not Advent at all, but pure marketing and trade, in an unblemished form, like from workshop classes. That the real Advent is Rorate Coeli and candles in the morning, wonderful songs dating back to the oldest times of the Polish faith, precisely selected daily texts of the Church forming A CERTAIN whole, in many houses a wreath and four candles to be lit on each Sunday of this Advent, the smell of gingerbread - the same as at fairs (!) – and dried fruit. That this is why we have Advent, to remind ourselves that Jesus Christ was born, to remember in peace and thoughtfulness, to reflect on it, to have time and space for it. To slow down in chaos, busyness, nerves and anxieties – because Advent is coming.

SIGN UP TO OUR PAGE This is how it is every year and it will certainly be this time too – including a thousand tips on how to make good use of this time – for the soul and body, what to listen to and what to fry, cook, bake. And how not to succumb to all these market tricks, insidious, but not devoid of charm and those fabulous scents either.

Kharkiv, Izium, Bezruki… The Russians leave only the corpses of victims and ruins

Most likely, there will be no heating in that area during the winter because the Russians destroyed the boiler room.

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But it’s not like every year. It’s completely different. Behind the eastern border – at our neighbors’, often acquaintances’, sometimes friends’, sometimes relatives’ – there is no electricity, so there are no colorful Christmas trees and kilometers of glowing lanterns. In fact, there is no way to hang them – after all, the streets in many Ukrainian cities are in ruins, houses are demolished, black ruins are sticking out. There is no place to bake gingerbread or cakes – each culture has its delicacies and never mind the name, because the essence is elsewhere. There is no bakery, no pastry shop, and there is not even an ordinary kitchen in an ordinary house, because the house is no longer there either.

Daily newscasts bring more and more terrifying news and photos – because winter is coming, and we don’t live in a Mediterranean climate and we know what winter means on the street. And there, in addition, on an empty, dark, full of holes, dangerous street. This is where Advent begins. They will be waiting for Christmas there too. And it will be different this year too.

Nine months after the Russian aggression in Ukraine, on November 24, the European Parliament recognized Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. The resolution was adopted with 494 votes for, 58 against and 44 abstentions. I am curious who these 58 deputies are and those 44 too – what they know about Ukraine and its inhabitants, what they think about its freedom and ours. And about our right to it.

The resolution demands a cessation of military actions by the Russian side and the withdrawal of all Russian armed forces and military equipment from the Ukrainian territory. It calls to put an end to the deportations of the Ukrainian population, especially Ukrainian children. And these 102 MEPs (58 +44) are what? Probably some of them are already thinking about Christmas, maybe even about Advent. Is there any chance they’ll see through – and perceive that it’s different this year?

A few weeks ago I wrote here about numerous nuns, mostly from Poland but also from many other countries who, despite the war, stayed with their friends or charges in Ukrainian towns and cities to serve them with their presence, help, and a message of hope. They also already know that this year it will be different – but they will certainly intend to organize at least some Christmas for those children who come to them for hot soup and a kind word. Who can they count on? Whose support?

The priest couldn’t sustain t any longer and left. The sisters have stayed

Nobody wished to go to Ukraine with her so she went alone.

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I can hear on the radio and in the church that the Ukrainian parishes are in need of generators to at least somewhat heat up the basements in which people find shelter from air raids. And there are more and more of them! Will we collect the money to light up the darkness of the Kyivan night with Advent light?

It is different this year – and even the frenzy of Christmas shopping fits into it. Because ladies Oksana, Olena and Natalia also buy – and send these purchases to their relatives so that they also have something for Christmas. They buy ordinary items because they simply don’t have them there. “Our” Mr. Sławek from Kharkov, an already friendly acquaintance, although suffering from a difficult disease, with a nine-year-old daughter and a weak wife, wants to go home: his old parents are there, the company is waiting for his IT skills, his heart is steaming to get there. They will go by train, although it’s into the cold and uncertainty, they will take a little bit of everything, because everything is missing there and they don’t really know what they will find out there. We’re not letting him go empty-handed. This year is different.

One Advent week, forty-one years ago, in the whistling wind and blizzard of Martial Law, in a deserted square in the center of the capital, a man in a big truck with Dutch number plate came up to my husband and threw a small, wrapped carton into his car, then shook his hand and left. It was a package from strangers from the Netherlands, in the basic set – so beautiful and touching at the time: coffee, tea, cocoa, cookies, dry sausage, tinned food, lentils, dried fruit and almonds with raisins – there were also Christmas greetings and cards in “santa clauses”. To this day we remember that extraordinary moment – when with every item unrolled from colored paper, we discovered signs of bonds with us and hope for us. It was also different then, but the package – a message from the world that had not forgotten about us – made this “difference” take on an unexpected dimension. Our Advent candle – which of course we had no head for at the time - suddenly burned with a warm glow.

Now it is us who will light such “candles” on Ukrainian tables: there is even no need to call for it, it’s been happening for 9 months. Well, we have even more to do, because it is completely different this year. – Oh, my Lord – do we say – reintroduce order at last because we already cannot manage! That’s why Christmas has to come.

And that’s why we need Advent so bad. All the more so because it will be different this year.

Barbara Sułek-Kowalska
Translated by Dominik Szczęsny-Kostanecki

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

Main photo: Holy mass starting at 6.30 am during Advent in the church of p.w. Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Sejny. photo. Andrzej Sidor / Forum
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