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Fr Łukasz Gron is serving refugees as a translator in the Polish city of ChełmMike Hogan/LifeSiteNews

CHEŁM, Poland (LifeSiteNews) — A young priest who fled Ukraine for the Polish border feared being killed as he waited to cross.

“A lineup of over 10 km [6.2 miles], every car with its lights on, was an ideal target for Russian planes,” Fr. Łukasz Gron told LifeSiteNews last Wednesday. “I was afraid that we would be shot at. Many other people must have been scared, too.”

Gron, a native of Chełm, was ordained a Catholic priest in 2016 and was until very recently a pastor in southern Ukraine. When he was interviewed by a English-Polish translator for LifeSiteNews, Gron was himself a volunteer translator, helping Ukrainian refugees.

“I came from Ukraine two days ago,” he said. “I fled with parishioners from my parish and the neighboring parish: one lady from Yuzhnoukrainsk, Mrs. Bojko, and Mrs. Jula from Pervomaisk with her 11-year-old daughter.”

It took the priest over 24 hours to drive to the Polish border area, where he waited another two days.

“We went by back roads to avoid the main cities … and to get as quickly as possible to the border,” he recalled. “Some [cities] were already blocked or threatened by missiles, and there were also lineups, enormous traffic jams.”

“Later, we were standing at the same border crossing for two days in an enormous lineup, 10 km long, to Dolhobyczow-Uhryvin. But it was a small lineup compared with the Medyka[-Shehyni] crossing where there is one 40 km long. The day before yesterday I reached the Polish-Ukrainian border.”

By then the women and child had left the priest to take a bus across the border. Exhausted, the young priest invited refugees from other cars to travel with him so that he didn’t fall asleep at the wheel.

“A man can only take so much,” he remarked. “I had been without sleep for three days and had been behind the wheel for two.”

During his trip, Gron noticed two cars abandoned by the side of the road. He told LifeSiteNews that he had heard that on the way to some border crossings, where there have been enormous lineups, people simply left their cars so as to make it to the Polish border more quickly by foot.

“I do not know what the situation is there now,” he remarked, “but it was generally peaceful [at Dolhobyczow-Uhryvin]. People did not leave their cars behind.”

Gron noticed Ukrainian men bringing women and children to the border, leaving them there to cross into Poland by themselves, and then driving back into Ukraine. He explained that Ukrainian men of military age are allowed to leave the country only to care for children.

“Officially there is an order for Ukrainian men aged 18-60 to stay behind and defend the country,” Gron said. “As we were passing through the countryside, I saw some men who were part of the Territorial Defense Forces guarding their areas with hunting rifles, and they had established checkpoints on roads along with soldiers or police and they were checking passports of those traveling.”

As soon as the priest got home, he celebrated a Mass in thanksgiving for his safe arrival.

“The first thing after arriving in Poland, I went to church say Mass and to thank God for my successful return, for having saved my life, that I managed to return and bring these people with me and help others on the way too,” Gron said. “I perceived it clearly as God’s help, as Our Lady’s protection, and I know that there were many people here in Poland who were praying for me.”

The next day, Fr. Gron went to help at the Chełm railway station as a Polish-Ukrainian translator. His linguistic services were certainly needed: That day, a train arrived with 1,200 passengers.

“The volunteers and interpreters provide their help; they explain and translate,” the priest told LifeSiteNews. “Those volunteering here are from different social groups, both Ukrainians and Poles, interpreters, soldiers, police, municipal police, paratroopers, etc. Everybody want to serve these people here because this is what we can do here in Poland.”

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We must pray for peace at this time where war has broken out between Russia and Ukraine.

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Like the Krakow-based organization Polonia Christiana, which is calling for Polish civilians to be armed, Gron is afraid that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s territorial ambitions do not end at the border between Poland and Ukraine.

“Unfortunately, the next step for Putin, if he manages to conquer Ukraine, will be Poland, and even other parts of Europe,” he said. “Putin once said that wherever the foot of a Russian or Soviet soldier once stood, there is Russian land. And Russians went even as far as Paris when hunting Napoleon, in 1815, after Waterloo.”

The young priest called for prayers to halt such a catastrophe and the violence already destroying Ukraine.

“Let us pray together, especially as it is Ash Wednesday today, we are starting Lent, and the danger is great,” Gron said. “Let us pray for peace in the world, for conversion, for everything that the Polish and Ukrainian bishops ask for. Our prayer is important that Our Lady may protect us, both Ukraine and Poland, and the whole world against this crazy man Putin.”

LifeSiteNews’ Tim Jackson and Michael Hogan were in Poland and Ukraine last week to cover the humanitarian crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Their full video report, which includes interviews with both refugees and volunteers, can be seen here.