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Molong’s Ukrainian refugees Return the Favour

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Bishop Michael McKenna of Bathurst, Parish Priest Fr Greg Bellamy and a volunteer survey supplies. Photo; Supplied
Bishop Michael McKenna of Bathurst, Parish Priest Fr Greg Bellamy and a volunteer survey supplies. Photo; Supplied

Little did the volunteers preparing a home for Ukrainian refugees in the State’s central west know that just weeks later they would find themselves homeless and also in need of charity – from those they had welcomed.

And among the first on the front line helping with the clean-up following the devastating floods were Molong’s newest residents. Shoulder to shoulder, the refugees shovelled mud, swept water, carried rubbish and cooked for those who had given to them and now lost so much.

With language still a barrier, both residents and refugees alike described the town as being like a “war zone”.

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Such devastation in an already weary town, who only a few years ago asked for prayers for an end to drought which gripped the region.

The deluge carried at least two shipping containers down the main street, lifted parked cars and wiped out several small businesses.

“Taking Mary Mackillop’s motto to heart, ‘never see a need without trying to do something about it,’ the refugees joined in and rolled up their sleeves to give back a little of what they had received.”

Completely cut off by floodwaters, the town of 2500 saw its streets turn into raging rivers.

The same businesses that proudly displayed the colourful blue and yellow flags of Ukraine only weeks before were now covered in brown mud, windows smashed and furnishings destroyed.

Volunteers who had just started to relax after spending months restoring an old disused Josephite convent for the refugees, once again swung into action.

Taking Mary Mackillop’s motto to heart, “never see a need without trying to do something about it,” the refugees joined in and rolled up their sleeves to give back a little of what they had received.

“We really wanted to help with the clean-up, we wanted to help the beautiful people of Molong, who have done so much for us,” Yuliia Shulika said.

Residents of Molong remove debris from the central business district after flooding in the Central West region town. Photo: AAP, Murray McCloskey
Residents of Molong remove debris from the central business district after flooding in the Central West region town. Photo: AAP, Murray McCloskey

“Molong is full of beautiful, beautiful people, so many people want to help us and look after us.

“It is a small town but a beautiful place to live and now it’s our home.

“None of us have ever seen a flood before, it’s so sad.

“We cleaned mud, swept water, took rubbish out of shops and businesses, there is still so much to do.”

The parish of St Joseph’s in Orange opened its doors and its hearts recently by answering the Ukrainian’s prayers and providing them with somewhere to call home.

“Parish priest Fr Greg Bellamy said the new families wanted to give back to those who had given so much but little did anyone know they would get the opportunity quite so soon.”

Hundreds of volunteers and thousands of dollars was donated giving those fleeing the hysteria of missile attacks and bomb blasts, a safe haven amongst the peaceful rolling hills.

Parish priest Fr Greg Bellamy said the new families wanted to give back to those who had given so much but little did anyone know they would get the opportunity quite so soon.

He said that during their work to prepare a home for the refugees, many commented that one day they could find themselves in the same situation.

“We could not have imaged that just one week later those words would be proven true,” he said.

“Some of us now find ourselves in that very situation.

Bathurst Bishop Michael McKenna, Fr Greg Bellamy and Ukrainian refugee Vika Volodin and her son share a cup of tea after having surveyed flood damage to Molong. Photo: Supplied
Bathurst Bishop Michael McKenna, Fr Greg Bellamy and Ukrainian refugee Vika Volodin and her son share a cup of tea after having surveyed flood damage to Molong. Photo: Supplied

“Several of the volunteers who worked hard on the Old Molong Convent as a home for Ukrainian refugees are now without homes themselves and their businesses have been devastated.

“Rebuilding our local community is going to take years of hard work but that challenge, whilst intimidating, can bring a community together, as we saw recently in welcoming Ukrainian refugees to our parish

“They have fled a difficult situation and again find themselves in a difficult situation but they have responded calmly through practical action.

“There may be a language barrier, but actions speak louder than words.

“I ask the readers of The Catholic Weekly to please pray for our local communities and especially for those families and businesses that have lost everything.”

“The St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School community has been involved as well with the children and staff helping with the clean-up and in other areas of need.”

The Principal of St Joseph’s Primary School in Molong, Matthew French said the Ukrainians’ assistance was nothing short of “amazing. They have fled war torn Ukraine and have travelled for months before finally being able to settle in Molong,” he said.

“After only being here for a couple of weeks, these wonderful people have immersed themselves into the community.

“They have put aside their own hardship to help the community in its recovery from the floods.

“The St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School community has been involved as well with the children and staff helping with the clean-up and in other areas of need.

“This town is well known for its community spirit and in times of crisis that is well and truly on show.”

Students of St Joseph’s Primary in Molong visit the Recovery Centre to lend a hand. Photo: Supplied
Students of St Joseph’s Primary in Molong visit the Recovery Centre to lend a hand. Photo: Supplied

Diocese of Bathurst Bishop Michael McKenna has launched an appeal to provide immediate and long-term support for these communities of Eugowra and Molong.

He said the Bishop’s Flood Appeal was aimed to ensure assistance is provided directly to those in need.

“Our support is for the long haul as the communities will take some time to rebuild lives and buildings,” he said.

“People turning up with goods is not really helpful as those who have lost their homes have nowhere to put them.

“I have spoken to a number of the locals and what I do know is that they are very courageous and resilient.”

“Depending what part of the Ukraine they’ve come from, I’m sure they would never have seen a flood like this before, I know I haven’t.

“We’ve had flooding before where the river rises and you slowly get the water coming in but what happened in Molong and Eugowra was a big rush of water which washed everything in its path away.

“I have spoken to a number of the locals and what I do know is that they are very courageous and resilient.

“We would urge people who can offer financial support by making donations through Centacare Bathurst, the Diocese’s social services arm, which has already begun working with the leaders in those communities.”

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