Home Features Indian nun becomes ‘beacon of light’ for stranded students, refugees in Ukraine

Indian nun becomes ‘beacon of light’ for stranded students, refugees in Ukraine

Sister Ligy Payyappilly has been instrumental in evacuating hundreds of Indian students from Ukraine to the borders of neighboring countries

An Indian Catholic nun in Ukraine has become a “beacon of light” to stranded students and refugees in the war-torn country.

Sister Ligy Payyappilly of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Saint-Marc congregation has been instrumental in evacuating hundreds of Indian students from Ukraine to the borders of neighboring countries.

“I have lived in Ukraine for the last 20 years and I know it like the back of my hand,” said the nun in an interview with LiCAS News.

“Being in the evangelization ministry, I have traveled the length and breadth of the country,” she said, adding that Indian students have been calling her for help in repatriation since the start of the war.

“That is how I began the rescue mission,” said the Indian nun, who serves as superior of the Mukachevo convent in Ukraine.

She said a lot of Indian students who are desperate to go out of the country lost their way.

“When I asked them of their whereabouts, they would not be able to tell the exact location. So I would then tell them to photograph the surroundings and send it to me,” said the nun.

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Based on the photographs, Sister Ligy would identify the place. “Sometimes we had to spend hours to locate them,” she said.

When found, the students are then brought to the convent and given food and a change of clothes before being driven to the border or the railway station.

With the help of another nun, Sister Christina, Sister Ligy would take the students on a nine-seater micro bus to the borders of Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania.

Some of the Indian students who were helped by the Catholic nuns leave Ukraine pose for a souvenir photo supplied by Sister Ligy.

“It is challenging, nevertheless the joy of helping, or more importantly, saving lives compensates for whatever struggles we had to undergo,” said Sister Ligy.

She said her phone never stopped ringing since the start of the war.

“I had to ask my family members not to call me so that I would not miss out any needy person’s call,” said the nun.

Sister Ligy had just returned from vacation in her home town in Kerala on February 20 when the war began four days later.

“I sleep for only an hour at night. I keep getting distress calls,” said the nun, the eighth of nine children of a farmer in southern Kerala’s Angamaly town.

“We are often told to take shelter in bunkers, but as we don’t have any, we remain indoors and submit ourselves to the providence of God,” she said.

“I am strong. I have no fear, I trust in God’s providence,” she said.

She recounted that in 2000, she suffered of with spinal tuberculosis “but was miraculously healed.”

“I have great devotion to Jesus Christ. I hold prayer and healing sessions in different places in Ukraine where 4,000 to 5,000 people congregate,” she said.

A displaced family is given shelter by Catholic nuns in a convent in Ukraine. (Photo provided by Sister Ligy Payyappilly)

Sister Ligy is currently serving 120 people, including 80 Ukranian refugees, mostly women and children.

She said that in the midst of the death and destruction, the “most painful scene” is the sight of Ukranian refugees who do not know where to go.

“They neither know the language nor have the money to go anywhere else,” she said.

Sister Ligy said the despite all the recognitions she received, her “greatest award” is “the smile on the faces of the harried, worried, petrified people especially youngsters.”

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