The Order of Malta’s Grand Hospitaller Fra’ Alessandro de Franciscis’s journey started in Warsaw, Poland, where he met institutional representatives and visited some of the most significant Order of Malta initiatives to assist refugees and those displaced by the war in Ukraine.
In the Polish capital, de Franciscis had talks with the Apostolic Nuncio, Monsignor Salvatore Pennacchio, and visited some refugee programmes, including those promoting integration with Polish language courses for Ukrainians. It is estimated there are 1.9 million Ukrainian refugees in Poland, guests of religious structures, humanitarian associations and NGOs.
The Grand Hospitaller then met Polish volunteers of the Order of Malta with prominent roles in the humanitarian emergency that broke out on 24 February last year. Later in the day there was a meeting with Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz, Archbishop of Warsaw.
In recent years there have been numerous institutional exchanges between the Order of Malta and the Polish Republic, including the visit of an Order’s delegation to Poland in 2022 – the day after the outbreak of war – and the Polish Minister of Health’s visit to the Magistral Palace in Rome in 2018. There have also been several cooperation agreements signed, the latest being that in the healthcare sector in 2018.
The following day, the Order of Malta’s delegation crossed the Polish border into Ukraine, where it visited the Likhachev cemetery in Lviv, one of the oldest in Europe. Since 24 February 2022 this site in the southeast of the city has become an ever-expanding military cemetery. The delegation, led by the Grand Hospitaller, gathered in silence to honour the war victims with a prayer.
Meetings were then held with Lviv local and religious authorities with whom the Order of Malta has carried out numerous initiatives regarding health and social care services. Fra’ Alessandro de Franciscis visited some of these projects, including a shelter for displaced people and a warehouse for humanitarian aid from which supplies are sent to some 60 locations nationwide.
The delegation, also including the Order’s Ambassador to Poland, Niels Lorijn, the President of the Ordre de Malte France, Cédric Chalret du Rieu – which supports numerous projects in Ukraine – and the Polish Hospitaller, Marcin Świerad, returned to Krakow in the evening where it met refugees housed by the Albertine Sisters and visited the Order of Malta’s centre for disabled children.