By Maria Laura Conte, communications director, AVSI Foundation
Lviv, March 12. Time in Lviv runs differently. It doesn’t stop, it rushes by. But at the same time it jerks foward and then seems to stop when, from time to time, the sirens start blaring. Time is halted by the constant search for news, coming from different sources which often contradict each other: was there another bombing? Where did the bombs fall, only on the military airport, or elsewhere? And where are the tanks?
Mostly, time passes rapidly, accelerated by the things to do, with urgently needs coming from all sides: a truck full of aid packages is stuck at the border and needs to be retrieved, 30 orphans are coming from Kiev and need shelter, two buses of women and children from Irvin have to be assisted. You can feel pure adrenaline in the places where humanitarian aid is set up, chaos reigns due to the endless requests.
Time in Lviv is filled up with human stories that encompass the whole spectrum of emotions, felt at the deepest level: pain, loss, uncertainty, solidarity, hope, delusion, anger, pride. Conflicting, yet self-sustaining.
In Sister Maria, you can sense a strange lightness: she is leaning on something that gives her confidence, to the point that it pushed her to walk her path in reverse. On February 16, a few days before the bombing began, she came back to Ukraine. This young, blue-eyed, petite Benedectine nun was in Rome to study theology when she realized the risk her community was running being close to Kiev. So, she returned to her homeland. She spent a week hiding in shelters, taking cover from the bombs that were looming overhead, until she and her sisters decided it was time to flee West. Buildings near their monastery had been hit, some of them were in flames, so they abandoned it. They reached another monastery in Solonka, twenty kilometers from Lviv, where, together with other sisters, they have set up a temporary reception center for fleeing families. They arranged a space for meals, a laundry room, and a medical clinic. Maria smiles as she serves the meals, looking after these families whose faces are marked by the flight: