Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

ISKCON Relief for Ukraine
By ISKCON Relief   |  May 10, 2022
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Week 10, May 10, 2022

Devotees from Europe, as well as other parts of the world, have tirelessly continued their sincere endeavour to help devotees from Ukraine to find shelter, care, and support. The following figures are for week 10 of this devotee care/relief effort.

ISKCON Relief – Reports

Important General Message

The following centres have now reached full capacity and cannot receive any more refugee devotees until further notice:

1. ISKCON Germany
2. ISKCON Spain
3. ISKCON Hungary

VFS Global Services Sends Letter of Appreciation to ISKCON Relief Team

Last week our ISKCON Relief Team got the following appreciative letter from Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) Global for their outstanding relief work for Ukraine, including help given to their own employees in Ukraine. VFS Global has also sent a generous donation to help ISKCON with its important work.

Hare Krishna
On behalf of the VFS Global Leadership team and all our staff in Ukraine, I would like to thank you for your relentless support and help provided to our staff in Ukraine. We cannot express in words the respect and gratitude felt towards the ISKCON leadership team, all devotees, coordinators, and ground staff giving their all through the trying times of war. It’s not an easy task, but that’s even more reason for you to be appreciated and acknowledged for everything you do.

The war has come at a huge cost with thousands of innocent lives lost, millions displaced from their homes, and has destroyed so many cities. The socio-economic impact will be felt for many years to come. Your dedication and human kindness are making a huge difference in the world. You are amazing superhumans that deserve to go down as the true heroes of this dark time in our history. We pray to Lord Krishna to abundantly bless all of you who are working through these challenging times. Thank you once again for giving your strength to so many, and for your commitment to caring for the community.

Regards
Sumanta Rudra (VFS Global)

 

Poland
Last week more than 30 devotees came through, some stayed and some traveled on. Also, a big group came from Mariupol. There were a few men among them so they had to travel via Russia, Estonia, and other places, trying to find somewhere safe to cross into Poland.

When devotees approached one checkpoint in Russia, one of the soldiers unlocked his huge machine gun ready to shoot. The devotees started to pray and miraculously, by the Lord’s mercy, they got through. Having been saved from that danger, they are now resting in Warsaw, with full faith in Lord Krsna’s protection and shelter.

 

Slovakia
The historical Bojnice castle in Slovakia built in the 12th century has become the shelter and home for 12 refugee devotees. The castle, castle park, and “Garden house” are administered by the Slovak National Museum, SNM-Museum, Bojnice, whose Director is Sarvasukha das, a devotee of the ISKCON Slovak yatra. As the government of the Slovak republic decided to help Ukrainian refugees with accommodation, Sarvasukha decided to utilize the castle to help Ukrainian devotees. The employees at the castle have worked hard for two weeks to prepare the accommodation for the refugees. Today 12 devotees are staying at the castle and all their food is kindly sponsored by the government. The devotees arrived in three groups, two families with children from Charkov, and one young couple from Mariupol.

 

Ireland
The devotees in Ireland have some accommodation in the temple for Ukrainian devotees. Please get in contact with them for more information. The temple is though part of the UK, even though it’s located in Ireland and thus visas are unfortunately required.

 

Scotland
Local authorities have been very helpful and the Scottish people, in general, are delighted to welcome Ukrainian refugees. The Scottish government is offering a super sponsor scheme where people can become sponsors and help find suitable accommodation for those arriving from Ukraine. At present, the devotees in Scotland are exploring possibilities with the local MP to host more Ukrainian devotees.
Last week one Vaishnavi arrived at Karuna Bhavan (the ISKCON eco-farm in Scotland) after transiting through Hungary. During the coming week another refugee, Veronika, transiting through Czech Republic, is expected at Karuna Bhavan too.

 

UK
Last week ISKCON UK welcomed their first refugee to the UK!
These refugee devotees contacted ISKCON UK’s Ukrainian Crisis program then matched them with a UK host (a devotee family who has a spare room). This enables the refugees to receive visas to the UK. In turn, a visa grants them a 3-year residency with rights to work and claim benefits.
7 refugees have arrived so far, including one family with a 7-year-old son. One Vaishnavi is looking for options to relocate to the south of England.
A Russian-speaking Sunday program was held with Dhirasanta dasa Goswami in Holborn with kirtan, lecture, and delicious prasadam with some of the newly arrived refugees in attendance.

The following video gives important information for devotee refugees who want to come to the UK. It gives information about the government humanitarian program, as well as the help offered by ISKCON in the UK.

 

ISKCON Relief Website

Please visit our newly created website at:
http://iskconrelief.org/

 

MEET THE TEAM – Members of the ISKCON Relief Team

With the second part of our ‘Meet The Team’ series we would like to introduce you to the Refugee Aid Coordinator for Poland – Rasikendra das

Rasikendra das – Refugee Aid Coordinator for Poland

Rasikendra das met the devotees in 1991 and dedicated the next few years to book distribution.
In 1998 he joined the Polish festival preaching tour. Soon his organisational skills and exemplary service attitude as well as his ‘doing the needful mood’ were quickly recognized and thus he was invited to become part of their managing team.
At the Pol and Rock (former Woodstock) festival, he serves as the main cook and as the coordinator for prasadam distribution. At that festival each year, for over 25 years now, devotees in ‘Krsna’s Village of Peace’ have been distributing 150,000 plates of prasadam annually.

Furthermore, Rasikendra das help coordinate the devotees who are engaged on the Polish festival tour. There he also runs the onsite restaurant that is visited by hundreds of guests during each event. A lot of devotees serving on the tour used to come from Russia and Ukraine. With this experience, Rasikendra das was the best person to help with the present Ukraine crisis. He is also fluent in Russian, which is certainly a great asset when communicating with Ukrainian refugees.

 

Pictures

 

Week 9, May 2, 2022

Devotees from Europe, as well as other parts of the world, have tirelessly continued their sincere endeavour to help devotees from Ukraine to find shelter, care, and support. The following figures are for week 9 of this devotee care/relief effort.

 

ISKCON Relief – Reports

Important General Message: 

The following centres have now reached full capacity and cannot receive any more refugee devotees until further notice:

  1. ISKCON Germany 
  2. ISKCON Spain 
  3. ISKCON Hungary – (only 5 more places left)

Poland: 

We had a lot of gratitude this week. Messages of various kinds from different places: locally, Denmark, Spain, Switzerland, and Germany.

Last week we experienced an amazing story of a lost daughter who was thankfully found again. Her family arrived in Warsaw after a traumatic journey and a few weeks of unbelievable stress. The family is; an elderly mum and dad, grandma, sister, teenage nephew, and little, very energetic niece. For weeks they were convinced their devotee daughter was dead. They went to look for her at her home only to see a hole made by bombs where their house once stood. They looked for her body or some sign of her but could find nothing at all. So then they went to the local ISKCON temple but only to find no sign of her there either, so at this stage, they had very little hope left. In the end, they decided to use a humanitarian corridor to Russia. By Krsna’s grace they managed to hide in a basement for a few days and then escaped to Estonia where they finally got their phone signal back and then, to their disbelief, they saw all the messages from their daughter whom they had given up all hope they would ever see again! The family called her right away and found that she was safe at the Copenhagen temple. She then advised them to call Rasikendra prabhu to help them with their journey.

Their daughter had also stayed with the devotees in Warsaw but then after some time relocated to Denmark. That whole time she was waiting for news from her family but they seemed to be lost, so she finally went to Copenhagen to join her devotee friends there. What a wonderful story of hope against hope! Just imagine the scenario, she thought the family was lost and the family thought she was lost  (indeed worse, they thought she had died)

Germany: 

The following message was sent from a refugee who received help from Rasikendra Das and the Polish team to transit into Germany:

“Once again, thank you so much for helping us and then getting us to Germany and for putting us in the presence of very wonderful devotees. They helped us with everything, both with work and with housing. So, from May 1, we are already officially going to work with a signed contract. We were also provided with housing and a good doctor was found for our pregnant sister and the children were placed in the best school. So, I can now write to you about this because I am very grateful to you for what you have done for us. The way you serve devotees who need help, Krishna and your spiritual master will never forget.”

That was the idea from the start; to help the devotees to settle and become independent. It is so rewarding to see that it’s actually happening

Ireland: The devotees in Ireland have some accommodation in the temple for Ukrainian devotees. Please get in contact with them for more information. The temple is though part of the UK, even though it’s located in Ireland and thus visas are unfortunately required.

UK: The following video gives important information for devotee refugees who want to come to the UK. It gives information about the government humanitarian program as well as the help offered by ISKCON in the UK. 

 

ISKCON Relief Website

Please visit our newly created website at:

ISKCON Relief Website

 

ISKCON Relief Team

Members of the ISKCON Relief Core Committee 

From this report onwards, we would like to introduce the ISKCON Relief Team to you. Today we will start with our Project Coordinator. 

Sukanti Radha devi dasi – Project Coordinator

Sukanti Radha devi dasi was appointed as the ISKCON Relief Crisis Management coordinator by the Euro RGB 9 weeks ago. She has worked hard to set up the structure to effectively manage the Ukraine Crisis for ISKCON in Europe. This includes a good communication system between the Euro RGB, the national coordinators and the ISKCON Ukraine management. Sukanti Radha devi dasi also set up the evacuation and exit strategies for the devotee refugees ensuring them a safe exit from Ukraine. 

Being a nurse by profession, care for devotees is very close to her heart, and together with Rambhoru devi dasi she set up a system providing education on compassionate listening, grief support and post war traumatic care. 

Sukanti Radha devi dasi is a disciple of HH Jayapataka Swami Maharaja and serves with the Temple of Vedic Planetarium as head of fundraising for Europe.

By profession, Sukanti Radha devi dasi a.k.a Sonitra Sue Singh is a Registered Nurse, Registered Midwife, Nurse Educator and Registered Intensive Care Nurse with over 30 years of intensive care experience.

Furthermore, she is the author of the book “Conscious Wellbeing” and teaches well-being to nurses in the UK and internationally. She also enjoys energy medicine and went on to qualify as a Reiki Master. Her interest in alternative medicine led her to travel to Kerala and study Ayurveda where she obtained a qualification as a Panchakarma Ayurvedic Practitioner.

With her wide variety of knowledge and skills, Sukanti Radha devi dasi has nursed many members of Royal families from around the world including UK, Qatar, Saudi, and South Africa. Her clients also include several VIP’s and celebrities.

Recently Sukanti Radha devi dasi was appointed as the Head of the Nursing division for the newly launched BMA – Bhaktivedanta Medical Association. We are so delighted to have such devotee nurses with such qualifications offering such amazing devotee care services voluntarily. FYI the 12th of May is International Nurses day!

 

ISKCON Relief – Photos

The following photos show how the Polish Team has helped many devotees and families to find shelter in different countries.

 



Week 8 Report April, 25th, 2022

ISKCON Relief – Figures

Devotees from Europe and also other parts of the world have tirelessly continued their sincere endeavours to help devotees and refugees from Ukraine to find shelter, care, and support. The following figures are for week 8 of this devotee care/relief effort.

ISKCON Relief – 

Food Distribution, Week 8

Quantity
Czech Republic 25,500
Germany 10,000
Hungary 3,050 plates + bread, sweets, and fruits
Poland  2,800

 

Country  Refugees being Hosted
Bulgaria 42 (incl. 20 children)
the Czech Republic 76 (incl. 35 children)
Denmark 31 (incl. 12 children)
Germany  180
Hungary 45 (incl. 16 children)
Ireland 7 (incl. 4 children)
Italy 17
Poland 46 (incl. 16 children) 

Over 1,300 transited in total from week 1 to week 8

Slovakia 18 (incl. 8 children)
Spain 53
Sweden 32

 



ISKCON Relief – Reports

Important General Message: 

The following centres have now reached full capacity and cannot receive any more refugee devotees until further notice:

  1. ISKCON Germany 
  2. ISKCON Spain 
  3. ISKCON Hungary – (only 5 more places left)

Poland:The Poland Team has started working with one foundation that deals with the relocation of refugees, mostly mothers with children. They organize free transport and find places for them in countries such as Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Last week groups of refugee devotees from Ukraine arrived who were engaged in Food for Life in Ukraine, looking after others in both temples and surrounding communities. They really did not want to leave Ukraine but considering the safety and the future of their children they decided to pack up and despite their aching hearts, they left. The next day the mothers got up, cleaned up the temporary house, and made pierogi (kind of samosas) for everyone. 

There was one day when there were so many new arrivals with literally no space anymore when Rasikendra das got a call from a devotee refugee to pick up her and her parents who are in their 80s at the station. The request was to accommodate them for one night before leaving for Paris and somehow Rasikendra das found a room for them. It turned out that both father and mother were amongst the top leading scientists in the Soviet Union, and they had traveled a lot and met a lot of interesting people.

When they arrived at the train station the mother took out an old pile of black and white photos and showed them to Rasikendra and then she started pointing at different photos and giving a commentary. “Look, this is me and Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space and a really good engineer, we did some work together. And that’s me and my husband with Fidel Castro, have you heard of him? He was from Cuba. We were sent and had to do some work for him.” The family was very grateful for the help of the devotees in Poland and wrote many messages to Rasikendra with words of gratitude.

This story shows how many different people pass through our hands and how diverse ISKCON in Ukraine is. (See picture of the family below)

Croatia: In Croatia, the government is covering the costs of accommodation for refugees. As a result of that funding, the devotees got 4 individual flats for refugee families through the city council who also know the devotees. This allows the refugees in these flats to be independent and take care of themselves. ISKCON Croatia has provided them with some initial financial assistance with 200 Euros per family and 100 Euros for individuals. The government’s social security service also paid approximately 500 euros per family and approximately 270 euros for individuals. Three refugee devotees in Croatia have now also found employment. 

Ireland: The devotees in Ireland have accommodation in the temple for Ukrainian devotees. Please get in contact with them for more information. The temple is though part of the UK, even though it’s located in Ireland and thus visas are unfortunately required.



ISKCON Relief – Report: April 19, 2022

Week 7 – Figures

Devotees from Europe and even other parts of the world have tirelessly continued their sincere endeavours to help devotees and refugees from Ukraine to find shelter, care, and support. The following figures are for week 7.  

Food For Life – Prasadam

Distribution for Week 7

Quantity
Czech Republic 2,500 plates
Hungary 2,500 plates + bread and sweets
Poland  2,100 plates
France  100 plates

 

Country  New Refugees received

last week

Total Refugees Remaining
Bulgaria 2 42
Czech Republic 0 76 (incl. 35 children)
Croatia 0 14
Denmark 2 30 (incl. 11 children)
Hungary 0 43 (incl. 15 children)
Italy 0 17
Poland 37 Warsaw: 70 

Wrocław: 25

Wałbrzych: 30

Portugal 4 are on the way 4
Romania 2 transiting  0
Slovakia 0 16 (incl. 8 children)
Slovenia 0 5
Spain 4 35
Sweden 5 31 (incl. 20 at Almvik Farm)

 



ISKCON Relief – Reports

Devotee communities all over Europe and even in other parts of the world are sincerely trying their utmost to support and help devotees refugees from Ukraine. Not only are they supplying accommodation, food, clothes, and other facilities, but they are also helping refugees to deal with registration issues, school placements for children, as well as finding jobs for the refugees to help them to rebuild their lives.

Poland: Last week some refugee devotees traveled to Austria and even Japan. Additionally, a lot of paperwork and documents were filled in. Also, quite a few nice jobs came along from the Rasikendra’s contacts. A couple of our teenagers were admitted to the hospital with heart palpitations and difficulties with breathing, all signs of severe stress. 

The wonderful refugee team focused this week on organizing several fun-filled activities for the refugee children which made them very happy. The Wroclaw team headed by Nama Rasana and Jahnavi took all the refugee children and their parents for a day out to the Zoo. It was an unforgettable experience for them. In Walbrzych Krsna Sambandha and his glorious family celebrated his birthday by cooking a huge feast for their refugee team and then took them out on a hike in the beautiful nearby area. In Warsaw Rasikendra and Mathuranath took all the children to a fancy playground for the day. 

Czech Republic: Food distribution in Prague has increased significantly and last week 2,500 plates of warm meals were distributed to refugees. 

Slovakia: Devotees are considering renting or purchasing an affordable place in Slovakia to accommodate more refugees. This would be important considering the fact that many refugees want to go back to Ukraine after the war and would therefore like to stay close to the border. So far there is not much interest for devotee refugees to go to the US or Canada.

Sweden: The Danish devotees helped one mother with her two daughters travel to the Almvik Farm in Sweden. Additionally, two more devotees from Ukraine arrived at the Almvik farm last week. Now 20 refugees are at the Almvik farm and 11 at other ISKCON communities in Sweden. Devotees are organizing Swedish language lessons and the Ukrainian children have started to go to school. People from the nearby town Järna donated several bicycles for the refugee children and two shops are donating surplus food on pretty much a daily basis.

Denmark: In order to give space to ten mothers and their children, plus four male devotee refugees who arrived during the past two weeks from Ukraine, all but one of the brahmacaris have vacated the temple and are now staying with their families. “We are all serving them [the refugees] to the best of our ability, providing them with a variety of tasty prasadam, giving them new beds, blankets, bedsheets, and whatever clothes they need, including ordering many new saris, dhotis, anarkalis, gopiskrits, and chaddars, etc. from Vrindavan. We are also trying to find appropriate apartments for them to live in close to the temple.” (Kesava Priya dd)

Ireland: The devotees in Ireland have accommodation in the temple for Ukrainian devotees. Please get in contact with them for more information. The temple is though part of the UK, even though it’s located in Ireland and thus visas are unfortunately required.

Italy: 17 devotee refugees are staying at different temples in Italy. One Ukrainian devotee in Villa Vrindavana met with the leaders of a bridge association between the government and refugees. He received a lot of information regarding refugees staying in Italy. They will also provide the possibility of small paid jobs, Italian courses, and access to clothes and materials for daily use. The number of devotees and other refugees in Italy remains relatively low (around 80,000 total) because the government has yet to make its economic aid operational.

 



ISKCON Relief – Report: April 11, 2022

Poland: This week in Warsaw we had a huge ‘wave’ arriving from the east of Ukraine – Donetsk, Krematorsk, and other areas. They have been wisely advised by Niranjana Maharaja to leave as the army forces were coming their way. Maharaja has been so closely involved in helping his yatra so wonderfully.

The majority of elderly devotees want to stay in Poland, hoping the war will end soon so they can go back home, with some going back to Ukraine already! Despite all the uncertainty they just miss home too much; being a stranger in a strange land is not easy and even in trying circumstances your own home is easier to deal with.

Both the temple and the rented temporary house are now full of several families with children. “I have one more pickup at 2 am so I won’t be sleeping again.” (Rasikendra Das)

Poland Prasadam: The Sathya Sai Group in Harrow in the UK have expressed deep gratitude to ISKCON for their highly organized operation. They want to start to work with ISKCON as they feel we are a very organized group. On the 9th of April, they delivered one truckload of fresh vegetables and other foods to Wrocław to support the Food For Life team at the train station, which was originally set up by Parasuram das. (See photos below).

Chech Republic: On the 9th of April devotees in Prague started Food For Life prasadam distribution in the centre of the city. The main organizer is Loka Saranga das, who just spent two weeks distributing food at the Ukrainian border with Parasuram das from the UK. After that Loka Saranga das and his team started to organize everything from zero. What a wonderful example for other temples!

Turkey: So far four devotees used Istanbul as a passageway to travel to other destinations in Europe. The devotees from Turkey are in contact with more Ukrainian devotees who want to travel from Russia to Turkey to go to Europe or Canada.

Croatia: 14 devotees from Ukraine are now accommodated in Croatia, including one newly arrived devotee who came via Russia and Istanbul. His wife and child will join him soon via Poland.

Sweden: One more devotee from Mariupol arrived at the Almvik Community last week. Now there are 17 Ukrainian devotees at the Almvik farm. There is also one in the Stockholm temple, two at the Korsnäs Gård temple, and two at the Gothenburg temple. As well as a few more who have found other accommodation.

France: New Mayapur does not have any Ukrainian devotees yet but is preparing to receive many families soon.

Portugal: ISKCON has offered support and helped non-devotee family members and friends fleeing from Ukraine. “2 young boys (one of them is the cousin of one of our devotees) that arrived last week were professional football players in Ukraine and great fans of CR7, so we were able to enroll them in a well-known football academy near Porto.” See the news article below.

Ireland: The devotees in Ireland have accommodation in the temple for Ukrainian devotees. Please get in contact with them for more information. The temple is part of the UK even though it’s located in Ireland.



ISKCON Relief – Resources

Relocation Services
The ISKCON Relocation Services is run by Loka Pavani Devi Dasi and three of her Vaishnavi colleagues. They work tirelessly to put together useful and updated information about available help which can be accessed in different European countries. Such information includes government benefits, government accommodations, relocation in temples and devotees’ homes, or a list of ISKCON centres specially equipped in helping women and children to get safe facilities. Refugees can find different options, and make informed decisions on where to go. You can find all this information at the ‘Country Specific Fact Sheets for Ukrainian Devotees’ at
http://eurorgb.org/ukraine-crisis-resources/

Crisis Management Support
Compassionate Listening Circles with Rambhoru Devi Dasi.
Every Sunday 8:00 – 9:30 pm CET on Zoom.
Contact and registration: rambhoru@gmail.com

Crisis Management Team
The Crisis Management Team has appointed local coordinators for several countries. These local coordinators offer help to refugees and assist devotees. Don’t hesitate to contact them.
A list of the national coordinators for several countries can be found at:
http://eurorgb.org/ukraine-crisis-structure/

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