General News

One Common Mission

Posted on January 04, 2024 in: General News

One Common Mission

Knights help Albertine Brothers and Sisters in Lviv care for the poor and victims of war

By Peter Gedicks


At 2 p.m. every day, a line forms outside the home of the Albertine Brothers in Lviv, Ukraine — hundreds of people hoping to receive a hot meal, warm clothes and a few moments of loving kindness.

The mission of the Albertine Brothers and Albertine Sisters, founded by St. Brother Albert Chmielowski in Poland in the late 19th century, is to care for the destitute and homeless. And the number of people in Lviv needing their care has swelled since February 2022, as refugees of the war with Russia pour into the city from eastern Ukraine.

This influx of internally displaced persons has strained humanitarian agencies and charities, including the Albertines. They turned to the Knights of Columbus for help and found a ready partner with a common mission.

“Due to the war, care for the poorest segments of the population has decreased greatly. In fact, homeless people are often forgotten, with most attention being focused on refugees,” explained Ukraine State Deputy Youriy Maletskiy. “When the Albertine Brothers asked us not only to help them care for the many IDPs who arrive at their door, but also to sustain their efforts to feed and support the poorest of the poor in their community, we responded immediately.”

The Albertine Brothers now serve about 300 people a day at their Lviv home. Some need food or hygiene items or first aid; some need a place to sleep, shower or wash their clothes. With financial assistance from the Ukraine Solidarity Fund and supplies delivered by Knights in Poland and Ukraine, the Albertines are able to provide for many of these basic material needs. But most importantly, the brothers spend time with people, getting to know them and offering spiritual support.

“Sometimes, when people arrive here from eastern Ukraine, they are in despair, ready to pass on,” said Brother Bernard, a supervisor at the home. “But after receiving warmth, clothes, food, and a welcoming spiritual community, they begin to recover. We have observed miracles!”

He recalled one recent guest, a woman who arrived in Lviv not long ago from Kharkiv, a city in northeastern Ukraine.

“Before the war, she had a family and a successful business. When the Russians invaded, her business was destroyed, her entire family was killed. She was the only one who escaped. She lost so much of her life. She was incredibly sad,” Brother Bernard said. “Now, however, she is doing much better and constantly expresses her gratitude for the help she receives here.”

The brothers also assist the homeless in acquiring legal documentation and employment. Brother Bernard explained, “Our goal is to help those in need get back on their feet. We are overjoyed when we encounter someone who left us months ago now all fresh and clean. We know they are succeeding!”

In another part of Lviv, the Albertine Sisters are nearing completion on a new shelter for women and children with support from the Knights of Columbus.

The Albertine Sisters Mercy House of Shelter for Women and Children will serve IDPs, including some widows and orphans of the 2014 Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, as well as homeless families. The original plan for the home was to house 40 people, but it was expanded in response to the urgent need since February 2022. When it opens, the home will accommodate 70 people comfortably.

“Many women we help lost their husbands in the war, and many are raising their children alone because their husbands are fighting. This home will provide them with necessities: food, shelter, basic health care and a spiritual community,” said Albertine Sister Hieronima Dorota Kondracka, a project supervisor.

The beautiful new building sits on what used to be an old dumping ground. “This area used to be overgrown and full of garbage, and the homeless used to gather here to pick through the garbage for food to live on,” Sister Hieronima explained. “In the future, when the homeless come, instead of picking through garbage, they will receive a meal cooked in our kitchen. Instead of squatting, they will be given a bed.”

It will be the Albertine Sisters’ first home designated for helping women and children since the order returned to Lviv after being exiled by the Soviet regime.

“This home will be the heart of our order here, and we are deeply grateful to the Knights and the other organizations who helped us create it,” Sister Hieronima said. “It is a miracle we’ve been given this home!”


Peter Gedicks writes from Poland.