Stella Maris chaplains in Great Britain and around Europe are working tirelessly to support the immediate needs of the seafarers and their families, providing support such as SIM cards, food, transport, and temporary accommodation.
For many Ukrainian and indeed Russian seafarers arriving at ports in Great Britain, apart from the practical assistance given to them by our chaplains and ship visitors, it’s often the small gestures – the friendly smile, the arm around the shoulder and the listening ear – that the seafarers take comfort in.
Below are just some of the many examples where Stella Maris has brought compassion and kindness where they may be anxiety, anger, confusion and chaos.
Our Scotland senior area port chaplain Deacon Joe O’Donnell, who also looks after Northern Ireland, met Ukrainian seafarer Roman on a container ship in Belfast port. Roman is from Odesa and Joe informed him about what Stella Maris is doing to support Ukrainian seafarers. Joe explained to him about what our colleagues are doing in Odesa. Roman was delighted to hear this and says a big “Thank You”.
In Aberdeen our ship visitor John Murray provided six Ukrainians on a cargo vessel with free £20 phone top-ups before the ship headed on to the Netherlands.
Hugh Ward, our Tees ship visitor was in touch with a Ukrainian seafarer, Viktor, who he and his wife, Mary, has developed a friendship with over the last few years. Viktor had not been able to contact his family for a few weeks. When he did manage to contact them they told him they had escaped the war and got into Poland. The vessel Viktor works on has a regular port call into Wismar, Germany, and when they docked there recently, the seafarer’s wife and two daughters, were there to meet him, having driven continuously for 24 hours from Poland. The ship’s captain allowed them to stay in Viktor’s cabin for two nights and the family spent the two days sight seeing and enjoying time together in the city.
Our ship visitors in Poole, Linda and Alf visited the ship Celtic Commander which had an exclusive Russian crew. It was clear that the seafarers were up set by the war. One AB in particular explained how his father was Russian and mother Ukrainian. His wife is Latvian and is Catholic. He was very emotional and in disbelief at what was happening in the conflict. He accepted a prayer book and rosary beads and our prayers. Alf also had some fine rosary beads which he gave for the seafarer’s wife. Alf and Linda left a bag of goodies including a tin of chocolates for the crew.
The crew on board this Condor ferry, which included 30 Ukrainians, were visited by our Falmouth & Fowey regional chaplain John Pinhay. John says, “The shipping company sent groups of the Ukrainian crew to a local hotel with some spending money to try and give them some light relief. They were all concerned about what was happening back in their homeland, as contact was very limited. The chance to go ashore and our gift of 40 Easter Eggs brought kindness and compassion, and by the smiles that came back to me, my visit was very welcome.”
Our Tilbury chaplain Wojciech Holub met a Ukrainian seafarer and asked him how his family was coping back home. The question brought tears to the seafarer’s eyes. The seafarer asked Wojciech to include him and his family in prayer. Wojciech also helped three other Ukrainian seafarers on board the same vessel to sign off. One will go through France staying for short with family, on to Gdynia, and the other two will travel to their next port in Italy. Wojciech provided the whole crew with phone sim cards, and helped them with shopping as they are not allowed to go ashore.
Our East Anglia regional chaplain Julian Wong met this Ukrainian bosun whose family is from Mariupol. He is still in touch with his wife, but she keeps the contact very brief for safety reasons. Julian gave him a free 13Gb 12mths sim card to help him maintain contact with his family.