Posted on December 15, 2022
Fr Alexander Smerechynskyy, national director of maritime charity Stella Maris Ukraine, and port chaplain in Odessa, explains how the war with Russia has affected seafarers.
As the war and suffering in Ukraine continues, there are ships and seafarers stuck in Odessa, Illychyvsk, Yuzhny, and other ports on the Black Sea coast. This is a very difficult situation not just for the seafarers, who come from all over the world, but also for their families.
I have been on board ships and spoken to seafarers from China, India, Indonesia, and many other countries. I met several Russian seafarers who told me they were afraid to be evacuated because of the fighting.
Stella Maris Ukraine has been trying to provide whatever help it can to seafarers and their families since the start of the war.
Ukrainian seafarers can’t leave Ukraine to join ships elsewhere because of martial law, which is imposed on men between 18 and 60. Some have been without work for a year. The situation is really hard for them. They can’t earn money and support their families.
So far, Stella Maris has provided €150,000 to 300 families of seafarers. We would like to provide more financial help, but our resources are limited.
We helped implement a mother and child social program and arranged for a large group of seafarers’ families to go to Romania for a summer vacation.
Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea has highlighted the vital role seafarers play a vital role in the global supply chain. In Odessa everyone knows someone who is involved in some way with seafaring.
When we were first attacked by missiles and bombs, we were all afraid. But now it has become part of everyday life, unfortunately. I would estimate that about 90% of people have mental health problems. The war has damaged many people psychologically.
This is why, with the help of Stella Maris in the UK, we have launched the Stella Maris Seafarers Support Service, which will provide medium to long term support from professional psychologists in Ukraine. There is an urgent need for this. We hope that counselling will help them to rebuild their lives.
Odessa is still being attacked by missiles and bombs. We don’t know when the war might end. We live one day at a time. But Stella Maris Ukraine will continue to provide whatever help we can to seafarers and their families. And we will continue to pray for an end to this terrible violence that has destroyed so many lives.
For more information about Stella Maris and its efforts supporting seafarers and families impacted by the war in Ukraine, please visit the organization online. www.stellamaris.org.uk/ukraine-response/