A Ukrainian family of 10 is participating in the World Meeting of Families this week.
Wolodymyr and Tatiana Korczyński arrived in Rome on June 21 with a Ukrainian flag and a desire to pray at St. John Paul II’s tomb for peace in their home country.
As Catholics from 120 countries are gathered at the Vatican to discuss the joys and challenges of family life, the Ukrainian family, currently based in Poland, has shared how war can weigh heavily on children.
“I see that the current situation in Ukraine requires more responsibility from children. They grow up faster,” Tatiana told CNA on June 22.
The mother of eight has seen this especially in her 13-year-old son Franciszek, who often accompanies his father on trips across the Polish border to provide aid and support for the Ukrainian cause.
“Franciszek often goes to Ukraine, but he also stays at home as an older man to support and help me a lot. This is because more responsibilities fall on his shoulders,” she said.
While the war has forced her kids to grow up faster, Tatiana has also observed that her children have also grown in compassion, knowing that many of their peers have lost parents in the war.
“I have more than once sensed that my children would want to adopt those children who stay in Ukraine, who have lost their families,” she said.
A pilgrimage of prayer
Amid the upheaval and uncertainty that their home country has faced, the Korczyński family sees their participation in the World Meeting of Families as an opportunity to pray for Ukraine.
“We feel very honored to represent Ukraine at this congress and to participate. For us, it is a great gift and at the same time a task to be done,” Tatiana said.
“All our prayers and the prayers of the people in Ukraine, who are now praying for peace, we can bring to God here in Rome and implore in an extraordinary way for a miracle, for God's lavishing his grace on our nation.”
Wolodymyr pointed out that the timing of the World Meeting of Families coincides with the anniversary of John Paul II’s apostolic journey to Ukraine in June 2001.
“It is no coincidence to be here now, to ask John Paul II for his mediation, for peace in Ukraine. I think God runs all this,” he said.
Faith passes through the family
“I can honestly say that Wolodymyr and I grew up at a time when the Catholic faith was being persecuted in Ukraine,” Tatiana recalled.
“Our grandmothers taught us the catechism … I think family is the bedrock and the very beginning of the Church,” she said.
Tatiana sees the World Meeting of Families as a celebration of how “we come to know God through love for our neighbor, first of all in the family.”
The Korczyńskis’ daughters, 12-year-old Teresa and 9-year-old Magdalena, added that they like being a part of a big family because of all the time spent together.
The girls dressed up in matching blue dresses, white hats, and pigtail braids for their Vatican visit, alongside their elder brother, Franciszek. The Korczyńskis’ four youngest kids stayed in Poland in the care of their oldest daughter.
The Korczyński family are Latin rite Catholics originally from the city of Kamianets-Podilskyi in western Ukraine. The family relocated to Poland five years ago in an effort to keep the family together after their eldest daughter was accepted to a school in Szymanów.
“We decided to move and stay together because we think that the greatest gifts of a family are unity, collective prayer and being together in everyday life,” Tatiana said.
Tatiana remembered how the family all prayed the rosary together for peace in the days leading up to Pope Francis’ consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
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“We took part in the consecration. We prepared ourselves by confession, participated in the service, and prayed together at home,” Tatiana said.
“At this moment, when Ukraine is suffering, when a lot of people are experiencing great suffering, more people are asking and turning to God. I think it was very timely at that moment to talk about reparation, prayer, repentance, and forgiveness,” she said.
Justyna Galant provided the translation for this interview from Polish to English.
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.
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