With the Russian invasion of Ukraine escalating in intensity, the Mission to Seafarers has announced increased relief efforts for crew members in highly difficult situations. At the same time, Rev. Canon Andrew Wright, Secretary General of the Mission, stated that his chaplains in many ports have observed “tremendous anxiety and stress” among Russian and Ukrainian seafarers who have sometimes found themselves working alongside each other as shipmates.
“The Mission to Seafarers is immediately enhancing its Samaritan’s Fund to enable additional payments in support of communication provision at a local level, including through SIM cards and MiFi units,” the Mission said. “Our emergency fund can also be accessed to help with stranded seafarers if that becomes necessary.”
As a high priority, the Mission added it was looking at ways in which to provide enhanced Ukrainian/Russian “own language” mental health support, building on that which is already in place through its WeCare programmes.
Reverend Wright give a summary of some of the moving eyewitness stories that came in from chaplains on Mission teams during the early days of the conflict.
From Panama: “An emotionally challenging visit to this lovely, warm, and welcoming crew after many months. Chief Officer is from Mariupol, Ukraine. He has been on the telephone regularly with his wife is who frightened and deeply distressed by the invasion. Mariupol is currently surrounded and there is no way for her or the family to leave. He is due to sign off on 3 March and has no way of returning home. Chief Officer has decided to fly to Germany so that he may stay with relatives living there in the hope that the negotiations between the Ukraine and Russia will be successful and enable him to return home. He is clearly upset and worried about the escalation of the violence and not being able to do anything concrete to help or support his family…”
From New Zealand: “Wi-fi given upon arrival. Sad. Seven Ukrainians and six Russians onboard. No fighting but very sad. They cannot go home. They cannot have crew changes. Some onboard for 9.5 months. Last time I visited they were so cheerful, just awful with what they are going through. Have told them to ring me day or night if they want to talk. They are coming back one more time so I can check up and see how they’re doing then.”
From the USA: “Visited to deliver one last package. Fifteen new crew members on board this morning. We got to speak with a new officer from Ukraine about the situation back home. He is concerned for his family, who are currently fleeing to Spain following the recent bombings. They will be in our prayers.”