During the distribution before Easter, the elderly had relieved smiles on their faces and waved continuously outside as they left, a source of great encouragement for the volunteers. | Photo courtesy of Serhii Yerzov | Lublin, Poland

With no signs of peace yet in sight, a second winter in a foreign land felt especially long for Ukrainians displaced in Poland. Far from home and in a vulnerable situation, Spring seemed like a distant dream.

On February 1, amid this somber atmosphere, Tzu Chi volunteers in Lublin decided to bring joy to the shopping voucher distribution day for the elderly. They organized special performances to lift spirits, offering warmth and comfort. Even in tough times, Tzu Chi is there to support them through their challenges.

A Fairy Tale Comedy Brings Joy to All

Volunteers invited the "Kurtynka" theater group, made up of refugee children and a few adults to perform. Supported by Caritas Lublin's drama project, the group performed delightful fairy tale comedies, bringing laughter and a ray of sunshine to the elderly.

"Kurtynka" means "little theater curtain" in Polish, indicating that this theater group focuses on children, unlike large theater productions. The performances play a crucial role in helping Ukrainian youth integrate into Polish society. Tzu Chi volunteer Olga Rulova is also an enthusiastic participant in the group.

Drama has a powerful impact on inspiring people and uplifting their spirits, especially during long periods of displacement. The unique tension and beauty of theater help people temporarily escape their daily worries and find comfort in the art. For the elderly, it is a perfect opportunity for social interaction and spending quality time together, greatly reducing the loneliness of being away from home.

After the performance, the teenagers from the Kurtynka theater group donned volunteer vests and continued to bring smiles and warmth to the elderly. Their youthful energy and boundless creativity illuminated the Caritas distribution venue, uplifting everyone's spirits. | Photo courtesy of Serhii Yerzov | Lublin, Poland | 2024/02/01

The volunteers praised these young performers, who, despite being refugees and facing their own challenges, wholeheartedly dedicated themselves to bringing joy to others through drama. Their dedication and talent turned a dreary winter into an unforgettable and joyous time, filled with the essence of spring.

After the performance, the children donned volunteer vests and, along with the adults, distributed shopping vouchers to the elderly, continuing to spread smiles and warmth. Their youthful energy and boundless creativity illuminated the Caritas distribution venue, lifting everyone's spirits.

On February 7, volunteers went to Helm to aid women who fled to the area with their disabled children. Due to the Russia-Ukraine war, they were forced to separate from their husbands who remained in Ukraine, struggling to make a living in a foreign land with their children. | Photo courtesy of Serhii Yerzov | Helm, Poland | 2024/02/07

Support for Resilient Mothers

In addition to the elderly, there is another group that needs care: women with disabled children. Separated from their husbands who remain in Ukraine due to the war, these women struggle to make a living in a foreign land. They work hard to find jobs in Poland while diligently caring for their children. To honor these incredible women for their hard work and resilience, volunteers arranged a visit to Helm on February 7 to offer support and assistance.

When the mothers and their children received the shopping vouchers, their eyes lit up with happiness, warming the hearts of the volunteers. In their barely manageable living conditions, this unexpected gift from Tzu Chi allowed the mothers to purchase additional nutritional supplements and snacks for their special needs children, bringing them great joy.

This initiative provided practical help and recognition of the unwavering spirit and dedication of these mothers to their families. Seeing the gratitude and joy of the mothers, the volunteers felt a sense of fulfillment and expressed, "Being able to offer help in such circumstances is truly a blessing."

Volunteers distributed shopping vouchers to Ukrainian elders in hardship in the Helm area. They eagerly awaited the Tzu Chi volunteers, asked about Tzu Chi's activities with great interest, and listened attentively to stories about Master Cheng Yen and the founding of Tzu Chi. | Photo courtesy of Serhii Yerzov | Helm, Poland | 2024/02/07

Bringing Hope and Joy with Tzu Chi

Among the beneficiaries forced to stay in the Helm area are elderly Ukrainians who eagerly await visits from Tzu Chi volunteers. They are keen to learn about Tzu Chi's activities and listen to stories about Master Cheng Yen and the founding of Tzu Chi. The local volunteers are deeply grateful for Master Cheng Yen's care for their compatriots. They said, "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to bring help and joy to the hearts and souls of the beneficiaries."

Easter, a significant holiday for Christians and Catholics celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, symbolizes hope and new beginnings. Death is viewed not as an end but a beginning.

On March 13, just before Easter, volunteers distributed another round of shopping vouchers to impoverished elderly individuals from various parts of Ukraine. They and the volunteers, brought together by the war, have formed friendships in adversity. Despite the challenges, they have not lost hope but remain united, striving to face each day with optimism and anticipation of a new beginning.

The elderly told the volunteers: "Each distribution is not just an opportunity to receive aid and express our gratitude for Tzu Chi and the masters' care and support. It's also a chance to share our experiences of pain, fear, and sometimes joy and happy events with others." The smiles on their relieved faces and their waves as they left deeply encouraged the volunteers.

In February, volunteer Anastasiia Kulyk, who had visited Taiwan, shared her touching experience of returning to the spiritual home of Tzu Chi—the Jing Si Abode in Hualien—and personally meeting Master Cheng Yen. | Photo courtesy of Serhii Yerzov | Lublin, Poland | 2024/03/13

Anastasiia Kulyk, a volunteer who visited Taiwan in February, shared her heartfelt experiences of returning to Tzu Chi's spiritual home at the Jing Si Abode in Hualien and meeting Master Cheng Yen. "Master Cheng Yen's warmth and sincerity draw you in, and her humor makes you laugh. Additionally, you can gain valuable insights from Tzu Chi volunteers." Her account of the intellectually and spiritually enriching journey left a lasting impression.

Each distribution event is a precious experience for the participants, who share their accumulated feelings since the last distribution. Sometimes there are quiet tears, and other times there are bright smiles, filling the venue with a warm atmosphere.

However, not all the elderly are well. Many are sick, suffering from illnesses, and spend most of their time in hospitals, unable to venture around the city or meet old friends. Yet, almost everyone braves the elements to gather at the monthly Tzu Chi distribution events, unwilling to miss the opportunity to reunite with friends and share good times. They say, "Being with the dedicated Tzu Chi volunteers makes us especially happy."

STORY BY Anastasiia Kulyk, Hsiu-lien Zhu, Shu-wei Chen | Europe