News Release

As Conflict in Europe Enters a Fourth Month, the Saints Continue to Serve Refugees

“There’s such a feeling of love and acceptance [in Poland]. … I hope that spreads to the whole world.”

When Latter-day Saints RaeAnn Jarvis and her husband, Sterling, decided to host refugees in their home in Warsaw, Poland, they didn’t know what to expect.

One day, soon after conflict exploded in Europe, a Ukrainian family arrived at their door at 1 a.m. after a journey of nearly 500 miles (780 kilometers). Kyiv natives Maryna Bovt, her husband, Serhii, and their three children needed somewhere to stay.

In a flash, the Jarvises went from a family of eight to a family of 13.


“At first, it was just a matter of making sure you guys were fed and sheltered and helping out as much as we could,” RaeAnn said while sitting next to the Bovts in her home. “But over time it’s turned into something more — a genuine love and concern for you guys.”

The Bovts are but five of what the United Nations estimates to be 14 million people who have left their homes in Ukraine. Of those, some 6 million have moved to neighboring countries — including more than 3 million, like the Bovts, who followed a path to Poland.

“When you share love, it grows,” Maryna said of the Jarvises’ example of service. “It makes us closer to each other and to the Lord.”

Because of Sterling’s expiring work contract, the Jarvises will return home to the United States in a few months. With no end visible to the difficulties in Ukraine, the Bovts will need to find another home in Poland.

Fortunately, Poland is graced with many people willing to serve. A few of those are temporary transplants from America, such as Elder Brian Baxter and his wife, Sister Kristy Baxter, of Utah. They help refugees with transportation, food and shelter.

Elder Baxter said he and his wife have seen many miracles. These include “miracles of finding housing for these folks when there was no housing,” as well as procuring the exact items needed while shopping for refugees.

“[This experience has] helped me personally understand that the enabling power of the Atonement [of Jesus Christ] is real,” Elder Baxter said. “It’s real for us here. It’s real for the refugees. It’s real for these members. We are all given strength beyond our abilities. We are given wisdom beyond our experience. We’re given energy where we thought we were out of energy.”

Elder Lot Smith and his wife, Sister Helen Smith, of Idaho, are doing similar work. Part of their assignment is to buy food that is then taken by van to the hungry in Ukraine. When the drivers return, they show the Smiths photos of the recipients with the food.

For nearly 12 weeks, Agnieszka Mazurowska of Warsaw, Poland, has joined others in her congregation to help Ukrainian refugees with food and hygiene kits. They are also helping them learn Polish and find work.2022 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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“When we see those pictures of a little boy with a package of cold cereal or this grandmother on her bicycle with a can of peaches, we can look and say, ‘We know that can of peaches — we bought that can of peaches,’” Elder Smith said. “You can see from their conditions, from the background in these pictures, that their homes have been destroyed. That’s why we do what we do — to help those in need. And these people that this food is going to are definitely those people in need.”

“We’ve come to love both the Ukrainian and Polish Saints deeply,” Sister Smith said. “We’re grateful as we see their faith and their courage to do hard things.”

One of those Saints in Warsaw, Poland, is Agnieszka Mazurowska. For nearly 12 weeks, she and others in her congregation have given Ukrainian refugees food and hygiene kits. They are also helping them learn Polish and find work.

In her own home, Mazurowska has provided meals and a place to sleep with several Ukrainian families. She has given rides to the airport, secured COVID-19 tests and extended the simple comfort of a hug and a hopeful word. And all this goes on while she and her husband live their everyday lives, going to work and taking their daughter to school.

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Even during a trying time, Mazurowska said she sees daily miracles. One of them is the opportunity to learn from Ukrainian women at church.

“They share their stories, and we can learn more,” Mazurowska said. “And this has shown me that the gospel is the same in every country. And this is what is connecting us. We have become more like family. We know each other better.”

Sylwia Selewska, another Latter-day Saint in Warsaw, is sheltering Yana and Maksym Hrinko of Ukraine while they await a visa to Canada. Selewska said any Latter-day Saint would do what she is doing because of the example of Jesus Christ.

Since late February 2022, Latter-day Saints in Poland have helped refugees with transportation, food and shelter.2022 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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“This is natural,” Selewska said. “When you see people who need help, you help. And you have very good experiences and feelings about this — and new friends. I’m very grateful I can help people from Ukraine because they need this. They are our brothers and sisters. Heavenly Father cares about every people in the world. It doesn’t matter whether you are a member of the Church or not. He loves all people, and this is wonderful.”

Latter-day Saints in Ukraine are also helping refugees. Andriy Didushok, a Church leader in Rivne (about four hours west of Kyiv), drives refugees to western Ukraine and Poland with a van that American friends helped him purchase for this very purpose. He said thousands of refugees on their way to Europe have been refreshed at the Church’s chapels in western Ukraine.

Didushok is one of the drivers who, on his way back into Ukraine, delivers the food collected by the Baxters and the Smiths.

“[God] knows we can help these people — not only for food and body but especially the soul,” Didushok said. “We cannot organize this [on our own]. We are not professionals. We are not a logistics company. But God can do this. I’ve seen the strong and soft hand of God in the life of each person [we’ve] helped.”

Ukrainians who live in Poland are also reaching out. Denis and Kateryna Peresada moved to Warsaw from Kyiv seven years ago. Kateryna was herself once a refugee. She fled with her family from war in Georgia in the early 1990s. In 2014, when conflict erupted in the Donbas (Denis’s home region of Ukraine and the place they were married), the couple helped people from eastern Ukraine settle in Kyiv.

Now the Peresada family is helping their Ukrainian friends find kindness, clothing, blankets, food and shelter.

“People always need to know that our Heavenly Father will never leave them alone,” Denis said. “He will always help them. It doesn’t matter what situation they are in. It doesn’t matter where they are. He will always help them. That is our testimony. We have seen it happening.”

As the conflict enters its fourth month and the casualty count mounts, Bovt and Jarvis witnessed a bright hope when they first met — the natural love of their nine combined children.

“They played together from the first minute,” Bovt said. “They don’t care about languages. They don’t care about differences. … It’s wonderful. I’m so happy to see how they play together, smiling. They’re happy.”

“Sometimes they play and get in trouble together,” Jarvis added with a laugh. “They’re just like siblings.”

Jarvis said the example of their children, as well as the collective generosity of the Polish people, is a model for the world.

“There’s such a feeling of love and acceptance [in Poland],” she said. “If the whole world were to act like the Polish people are acting, I think the whole world would turn around. … There’s such goodness here. I hope that spreads to the whole world.”

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