Many of the 30-some sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great are in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. Some are retired, some in active ministry, all Ukrainian or of Ukrainian heritage. Most have family in the country and the majority speak the language, often learned at home as first- or second-generation immigrants.
Some worked teaching at nearby St. Basil Academy, which closed last year amid shrinking enrollment and funding. Others taught at schools in Chicago, Detroit, and New York.
“At times the situation in Ukraine can feel beyond hope,” said Sister Joann Sosler, the provincial superior.
But it’s not hopeless, she insisted, the proof apparent in the generosity of scores of people who give to help Ukraine endure. Some volunteers brought their own boxes and tape to help pack. The prayers ship free.
“I’ve shared with the sisters there [in Ukraine],” Sister Sosler said, “‘Know that the people here are with you.’”
The goods are going to Basilian sisters in places such as Poland, Romania, and Hungary — the Order of St. Basil is international — and then into Ukraine. The plan is for about a third to go to sisters in Lviv, and another third to those in Ivano-Frankivsk, and all distributed from there to people in western Ukraine.
The final third, mostly medical supplies and clothing, will go to the Ukraine military.
“People have really opened their hearts,” said Sister Teodora Kopyn, who was born and raised in western Ukraine, and whose sisters, brother, nieces, and nephews remain in the country. “Our people, they try to do the best for their lives, for their nation, for their family. Now everyone has to leave their home.”
She left for Ukraine on Wednesday night, not nervous, she said, but eager to help.
Drivers who speed past the broad, green fields along Fox Chase Road may not know they’re passing through a Ukrainian enclave. It stretches from St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church, to Manor College, to the convent just southeast of the campus.