The Catholic fraternal order, the Knights of Columbus, has raised upwards of $4.5 million dollars in relief efforts for Ukrainian refugees, organizers said Tuesday.
Szymon Czyszek, Director of the organization’s International Growth in Europe, spoke on a press call with reporters Tuesday from Krakow, Poland, where he shared stories of Knights of Columbus factions working on the ground in Poland and Ukraine.
“Within days, from the beginning of the war, we were able to send a truck full of supplies, medical supplies, food, clothing and other necessities that thousands of refugees needed as they fled to eastern and central Ukraine towards western Ukraine,” he explained.
“We started Ukraine’s Solidarity Fund,” he continued, referring to the Knights of Columbus donation fund.
“We encourage every person who sees what’s happening over there, who’s watching news to to join our movement, our cause to support Ukraine,” he told reporters. “We have no overheads, 100% of the donations that we receive go to the relief effort. So I encourage anybody who is asking himself, What can I do? Join us and we can do many things in Ukraine, for Ukraine.”
Since the organization’s leader, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly, announced the organization’s humanitarian efforts on Feb.25, the organization says that it has since raised over $4.5 million to provide shelter, food, medical supplies, clothing and other relief for those who are fleeing the violence in Ukraine.
Czyszek described how the knights establish “Mercy Huts” by the border in Poland, about 100 feet away from the crossing, imitating the example of the order’s “Everybody Welcome, Everything Free” campaign in Europe during World War I.
“When the people cross the border, they can stop by and they can get some warmth,” he told The Daily Wire. “They can get some food, some some water.”
Members of the Knights of Columbus are working at the huts “all the time,” he said, working in collaboration with other organizations and knights from Poland as well as other countries who “are willing to come and assist.”
“These huts will be critical points of information or support that refugees need after waiting for hours, days in line, in freezing temperatures,” Czyszek said.
He also told The Daily Wire that they plan to establish a tent on the other side of the border as refugees wait to cross where the knights can help warm, feed, and shelter the waiting Ukranians.
“These are the sites where the knights serve refugees,” he explained. “They provide a place so they can get warm … get some food and water and also some instructions, what to do next when they enter this new reality when they had to flee their country at a moment’s notice, very little belongings that they could take with them.”
“I will tell you that every day I receive messages, from my brother knights who I have worked with for years, and they are asking me if I can take care of their wives and children, if they could come to the border,” Czyszek told reporters. “And we do. These are real people with real stories who are facing dramatic choices. And we, the Knights of Columbus, are there to help provide needed help.”
Czyszek told reporters that he wakes up in the morning to receive text messages begging him to help get their families out of Ukraine. Men cannot leave the country, and women are often afraid to go on their own, he said.
“We know that now the Kiev is being surrounded, there is a path that can go south and then west, but this is, you know, a very risky undertaking to leave Kiev right now.”
The organization’s supreme knight, Kelly, told followers in a video message that “some of the proudest moments in the Order’s history have come amid the adversity of war.”
“We are called ‘Knights’ for a reason,” he added. “There is a reason we count Patriotism among our guiding principles. The hour is upon us.”
The knights are working in collaboration with both the Latin and Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine, according to a Knights of Columbus press release, and Polish knights have established donation collection sites in Kraków, Radom and Tomaszów Lubelski, where they gather medical supplies, warm clothing, and necessities.
The Archdiocese of Lviv has appointed local leaders within the Knights of Columbus in Ukraine as part of an “Anti-Crisis Committee” to coordinate and distribute humanitarian aid, the press release said.