STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (WTRF)- Two empty wings at Franciscan University of Steubenville’s study-abroad campus in Gaming, Austria, have been opened to house refugee mothers and children fleeing war-torn Ukraine.

With more than three million refugees pouring into Poland and other European countries since Russia first attacked Ukraine, the need is acute, said Austrian Program Director Tom Wolter.

“The initial wave of refugees who left Ukraine had friends or family in Europe and simply needed assistance in their travels,” said Wolter. “However, as the conflict continues to increase in both intensity and in scope, further migration has occurred with refugees having no family, friends, or contacts outside of their home country.”

On March 27, a group of 41 refugee children—ranging from kindergarteners to teenagers—and women arrived at the Kartause Maria Thronus Iesu (Monastery of Our Lady, Throne of Jesus). Austrian Program staff are collaborating with Kleine Herzen, an Austrian organization currently assisting children impacted by the Ukrainian crisis.

The refugees came from different parts of Ukraine, many from areas directly affected by the war. Oksana Nazarchuk, one of the organizers associated with Kleine Herzen, met the refugees at the Ukrainian border and traveled with them to Gaming. Upon arriving at the Kartause, she said, “The refugees found not only shelter but also the support and love from Franciscan University. Most mothers were crying, seeing such support and readiness to help.”

Wolter said the campus can provide the children and women with food and shelter for the next two months. The Kartause also has a classroom available, so the children can continue their studies and experience some normalcy, and a Byzantine Catholic chapel.

The Kartause is a beautifully restored 14th-century Carthusian monastery in the foothills of the Austrian Alps that has served as Franciscan’s study abroad site since 1991. Typically, some 200 Franciscan University students live and study there each semester while making pilgrimages to Rome and Assisi and visiting historic sites and shrines throughout Europe. This semester, fewer students participated in the program due to ongoing uncertainties surrounding the pandemic, which made it possible for Franciscan University to accept refugees.

Since the war’s onset, Austrian Program staff have coordinated and delivered food and other supplies for Ukrainian refugees. On a recent trip home from the Poland-Ukraine border, Wolter and other staff members also transported refugee families who were placed in the homes of generous Viennese citizens.

To help cover the costs to house, feed, and purchase daily living items for the refugees at the Kartause, Franciscan University has established a Ukrainian Relief Fund. Donations can be made here.

Any funds raised beyond what is needed will be used to support Austrian organizations that are housing or collecting supplies for refugees. All donations are tax deductible.