December in the Jesuit Refugee Service, as befits the last month of the year, was full of events and good deeds

16 April 2024

A special event for JRS was the already traditional Christmas Dinner with Refugees, a project under the auspices of the UNHCR that has been taking place for the eighth year in a row. We started the fellowship with a mass in the parish of St. Joseph in the Trešnjevka neighborhood of Zagreb, where, in addition to the parishioners, refugees from 13 countries participated: from Europe (Ukraine and Turkey), the Middle East (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Jordan), Africa (Libya, Eritrea and DR Congo), Asia (Philippines and India) and from South America (Peru). Those gathered around the Eucharistic table had the opportunity to listen to readings in Arabic, Persian, Ukrainian, English and Croatian. After the Eucharistic celebration, there was a gathering at the common holiday table, which was rich in traditional dishes from Eritrea, Syria, Ukraine, Iraq, Iran and Croatia. Users, collaborators, volunteers and fellow citizens became richer for a wonderful memory and new friendships made.

In December, we continued with the Didukh project. Our youngest users have prepared two children’s plays on the occasion of the feast of St. Nicholas, for all the children who are building their new home in our homeland. Through their creative expression, they remembered the customs of their homeland. They also shared part of their cultural heritage by performing with traditional songs from Ukraine at the Choir Show in the parish of St. Nicholas bishop in Gajnice. The great children’s writer H.C.Anderson said: “Where words fail, music speaks.” Their small voices reached the hearts of everyone present and elicited the biggest applause and smiles, but also a few tears.

In the parish of St. Nicholas Bishop in Gajnice, as well as in the Ukrainian Home organized by the JRS, a play for children “The Beauty of Our Diversity” was held. Actors Ena and Marin staged the story of two little friends and their journey from Africa to Europe. From Egypt and Syria, through Turkey and the Mediterranean Sea to Croatia, two little friends get to know different cultures heritage, languages, and dances and bring us a story about tolerance, acceptance, friendship, helping and peace.

Throughout December, we continued with art workshops in cooperation with ULUPUH and ART therapy under the guidance of professional artists. Art makes it possible to say the unspeakable, but also to turn difficulty into beauty. A workshop about Animation, where children and adults drew together and learned about community and the beauty of joint creativity, aroused special interest. Art uses a palette of colors, and the best palette is the one that has love in it, as shown by Ukrainian families creating their new world. The children participated in a drawing competition and sent their works to Ukraine, in order to provide support to all those who remained in their homeland.

This year, we also continued the tradition of giving gifts to refugee children for Christmas all over Croatia. Worthy students of the Faculty of Teacher Education University of Zagreb and The Catholic University, with the support of volunteers, delighted 252 children in Sisak, Zagreb, Zadar, Karlovac and Rijeka with gifts.

A special Christmas present for our volunteers was prepared by a group of refugees who successfully completed the Croatian language course at the B1 level, for them it is one step towards the request for a long-term stay in our homeland, and for our volunteers another confirmation that every effort pays off.