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Ukraine: Working together to heal invisible wounds


Orders of St. John care for traumatized children and adolescents in Ukraine. The Grand Hospitaller: “A sign of unity, which is needed now more than ever”.

The unimaginable day to day stress of life in a conflict zone, coupled with ongoing uncertainty about the future, is leaving countless people in Ukraine suffering from trauma. Children and young people are amongst the worst affected. The five modern branches of the medieval Hospitaller Order have joined forces again for the first time in centuries to help at least some of these youngsters to come to terms with their experiences.

Psychosocial care in Western Ukraine

Since mid-November 2022, three mobile teams have been working in and around Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Beregova in western Ukraine, providing psychosocial support to displaced children and young people. The project is run by Malteser International and Johanniter International Assistance – the international aid services of the Order of Malta and of the Johanniter Order in Germany. The teams are staffed by the Ukraine Relief Service of the Order of Malta. For their work, six vehicles were purchased and filled with materials for group games, creative activities, as well as therapeutic games and toys for young children to create the right environment for providing mental health support.

“This project is important because it will help heal the invisible wounds that this war has left on hundreds of thousands of children and young people,” said Fra’ Alessandro de Franciscis, Grand Hospitaller of the Sovereign Order of Malta. “I am very pleased to see all of us joining forces to fulfil our mission to help people in need. It is a sign of unity, which is needed now more than ever. When the world is divided by conflict and uncertainty, it is all the more important that we Christians stand firmly as one family behind the cross, and shoulder to shoulder with those who need our support.”

One family behind the cross

The six vehicles are on the road with the emblems of the five organizations, all bearing the white eight-pointed cross. “This symbol is widely known as a sign of hope and safety for people in need. It stands for a vision of human dignity, especially in times and places of suffering,” said Christian Meyer-Landrut, a member of the Federal Board of Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe e.V. The project, which will run until mid-2023, is funded by the German Association of the Sovereign Order of Malta, as well as the Order of Malta Austrian Relief Service; the Johanniter Orders in Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden, as well as the Swiss Johanniter Relief Service; and the Commonwealth Order of St. John.
Together, these orders represent all legitimate successors to the original Hospitaller Order dedicated to St. John, founded to serve the poor and sick in Jerusalem before the First Crusade. The relief services of the orders are active throughout the world, where they help millions of people in need each year, regardless of their origin, religion, politics, or nationality.

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