'It was a lovely ending' - Chaplain helps reunite Ukrainian family
- Credit: Stella Maris
A Ukrainian family separated by sea and conflict have been reunited with the help of an Ipswich port chaplain.
Julian Wong works for Stella Maris, an organisation that helps seafarers and fishers to communicate with home and offers pastoral and faith support.
Just before Christmas the regional port chaplain for East Anglia met a Ukrainian vessel captain and helped him get to London from Ipswich.
The 70-year-old chaplain met the captain again in March when his vessel came into Felixstowe port.
The Ukrainian shipmaster told Mr Wong that his wife and daughter fled Ukraine due to the war and were staying in Poland.
He asked the chaplain for help finding new accommodation for them.
Mr Wong said: “I knew Father Edward from Gdynia in Poland who opened a refugee centre for seafarers and their families. I gave the captain his contact details. A few days later the captain thanked me and said that his wife, daughter and cat were safe.
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“It was really lovely to hear that. When you hear stories from Ukrainian seafarers, you can see the despair on their faces and how sad they are.”
A month later, with the help of Stella Maris chaplains in the UK, Poland and Germany, the family from Ukraine was reunited in Hamburg after seven months.
The family spent a fantastic time together, before the captain departed the following day.
Mr Wong said: “It was a lovely ending among all these tragic war scenes. It is wonderful that Stella Maris can be involved in such humanitarian help.
“When I watch the news every day, hear about people fleeing Ukraine and then I go on board and hear many sad stories from seafarers. You can see the sadness on their faces. I always ask them if there’s any way I could help.”
Ian Stokes, head of corporate engagement and partnerships at Stella Maris, said: “Our mission at Stella Maris is to support any seafarer in need. We have thousands of people from our organisation visiting ships every day of the year to see how the seafarers are doing and help them out.
“Chaplains and volunteers often form very good bonds with seafarers. Chaplains, like Julian, see people regularly, help the crew and do what they can to support them.”