For more than twenty years, Sister Mary Bernarda Arkatin, OSBM, a member of the Order of the Sisters of Saint Basil the Great, Jesus Lover of Humanity Province, initiated summer journeys of goodwill to the needy, orphaned and handicapped of Ukraine. Bearing gifts (material, financial, etc.) and treats as well as compassion and love, Sister became a frequent and welcomed visitor as she traveled from site to site, from institution to hospital, to orphanages and to campsites.
Basilian Volunteer Program
After Sister Bernarda retired at 90 years of age, the Sisters decided to continue the humanitarian work and handed the baton to Sister Ann Laszok and Sister Joann Sosler to continue the tradi- tion of humanitarian aid to Ukraine. The program is called the Basilian Volunteer Program. In 2012, Sister Ann with three young women volunteers joined Sister Bernarda on her humani- tarian mission. During their two week mission, the group visited “Emmaus Oselia," a homeless shelter that has a community of about 30 people; the Village of Zalochin where Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate have a foster home for 9 children and Brother Ivan’s foster home for mentally challenged persons. The group then met with the six children living at a foster home in Sambir, which is run by the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate. They also visited Sambir's psychiatric institute for children, which currently housed 76 children. The next stop was Cunovudnomu where the Sisters of the Order of Saint Basil the Great operate a foster home; the group drove to Ivano-Frankivsk to visit a government run infant orphanage, run by a local doctor, with 30 in- fants. At St. Nicholas Village of Mercy, a model orphanage run by the Incarnate Word Sisters the group played with 50 children up to age 12. From there the group went to Zalucha Children's In- stitute, a psychiatric institution for children, which has improved a hundredfold in recent years and houses about 70 children that range from totally disabled to mildly afflicted with Downs syndrome. They also visited Pohon, a psychiatric institute for adults which houses about 70 peo- ple. Then it was on to Yaremche, a town in the Carpathian mountains, which boasts two summer camps predominantly for orphans founded by Father Swischuk from the Chicago Eparchy. The final destination was a school in Ivano-Frankivsk that is run by the Sisters of the Order of Saint Basil the Great. For more information see: http://www.stbasils.com/Events/Orphanage2012.html
In 2013, along with four young women volunteers, Sisters Ann and Joann visited St. Nicholas Village, run by the Sisters of the Incarnate Word; Synovidne, a foster home administered by the Basilian Sisters; an adult psychiatric center in Pohoniv; Bukovo near Starei Sambir, with 70 resi- dents of the Children’s Psychiatric Institute. The “missionaries” then traveled to Zaporizhia in Eastern Ukraine. Here they were greeted and guided by Nazar Kraivskyi, Director of The Rays of Light Social Center which offers educational and developmental, consultative, professional and vocational training to orphaned or abandoned children and young adults. Nazar guided us to several orphanages where we spent time with the children doing crafts and gifting them with toys and clothing. For more information see: http://www.stbasils.com/Events/UkMission2014.html
In 2014, the unrest in the eastern sector of Ukraine forced the Sisters to cancel their plans to travel to Ukraine but a donation was sent to the Sisters of Holy Trinity Province to hold a sum- mer camp.
In 2015, because many people feared that the war in eastern Ukraine was not safe to travel, only two male volunteers joined Sisters Ann and Joann on their mission trip to Ukraine. The previous year the Sisters had decided to organize a one week English camp for orphans and local children. In collaboration with seven Sisters and seminarians of Ukraine, the four Americans held a week long Berlitz-style English camp for 48 children with classes in reading, grammar, phonics and writing. Following the English camp, the team then went on their usual visits to seven orphan- ages, halfway houses, adult and children’s psychiatric institutions, homeless shelters, etc. engag- ing with about 200 children and adults. For more information see: http://www.stbasils.com/Events/UKmission2015.html
In 2016, due to the popularity of the English camp in 2015, Sister Ann was asked to organize four English camps in four different regions of Ukraine: Lviv, Mukachevo,Ivano-Frankivs’k and Zhytomyr. Accompanying Sisters Ann and Joann for three weeks were fifteen volunteers from three different Eparchies and five different States: seven were from St. Josaphat Eparchy; seven from the Archeparchy of Philadelphia, and one person from the St. Nicholas Eparchy of Chicago. Many in Ukraine added to the success of the mission. These were drivers who transported the group, those who coordinated and organized the on-site councilors, the Sisters of Holy Trinity Province who provided the room and board. Over 200 children attended the four camps with par- ticipation of six orphans from Eastern Ukraine who traveled to the Rudno camp with their coun- cilor. Over 300 persons visited by a team of seven who accompanied Sister Ann to orphanages, halfway houses, adult and children’s psychiatric institutions and homeless shelters. Videos pro- duced by Michael Haritan, one of our volunteers who is a professional photographer can be viewed on http://www.stbasils.com/Events/UkMission2016.html
Volunteer Application Process
Volunteers are asked to apply. If accepted, volunteers provide their own airfare to Lviv where they are met by the Sisters. The Sisters provide room, board and transportation within Ukraine during the three weeks of ministry.
For an application and additional information for Come and Serve with the Sisters in Ukraine contact Sister Ann Laszok OSBM email@example.com or 412-260-1607. Anyone wishing to help the Sisters financially can donate by sending a check payable to: Sisters of St. Basil the Great at Sister Dorothy Ann Busowski, OSBM at 710 Fox Chase Rd. Jenkintown, PA 19046