At the beginning of April the Roman-Catholic Diocese of Iasi, in the eastern Romanian province of Moldavia, asked the Romanian Association of the Order of Malta, if it could help with providing FFP masks for the priests of the diocese, as they had to go to visit their parishioners in the hospitals and celebrate funerals. The Romanian Association addressed Malteser Hilfsdienst Germany and asked for help, not only for the diocese of Iasi, but for the twelve Catholic dioceses of Romania, 6 Greek Catholic and 6 Roman Catholic plus the Roman-Catholic Diocese of Chisinau in the Republic of Moldavia, in total over 2.000 catholic priests.
It was not only the Romanian Association, but also the Grand Priory of Austria, the Hungarian and the Croatian relief organisations of the Order of Malta who were in need for help. Malteser Germany had placed a large order for FFP2 masks in China, but the shipment was first delayed a couple of weeks and when it has arrived in Cologne, they found out that the masks were unsuitable, and they had to reject the shipment. Finally Malteser sent to Vienna from their own reserves almost 9,000 masks for Austria, Hungary and Romania.
On Wednesday, June 3rd, a team of two of Malteser Hospitaldienst Austria left in the morning with 600 masks for Hungary and almost 5,800 for Romania. Some hours later they handed over the package with the masks for Hungary, after which they continued their journey to the Hungarian-Romanian boarder of Nadlac. The Romanian border police told them, that they were not allowed to enter Romania, because if they entered, they had to stay 14 days in home isolation. But the border police was helpful and allowed the handover of the 10 boxes with FFP2 masks to the border barrier, where on the other side an Order of Malta’s volunteer of Serviciul de Ajutor Maltez in Romania , received and loaded them into his car.
“Malteser Hilfsdienst history has been connected to the people in Central and Eastern Europe almost from its foundation in 1953” – Douglas Graf von Saurma-Jeltsch, member of the Malteser Hilfsdienst e.V. Executive Board explains. “Our volunteers were called to assist Hungarian refugees on the Hungarian-Austrian border in 1956 at the fringes of the Hungarian Uprising, received requests from the Polish Catholic Church in 1981 to support those suffering from the state of war in their country, and being on the spot together with our Order of Malta partners from Hungary and Austria in the historical 1989 Budapest camp for the Eastern German refugees”.
“Today, not only are we proud to be the Order of Malta’s “godparents” to most of CEE countries, but at the same time happy and thankful to have found longstanding reliable and competent partners and friends to extend our international cooperation within the Order of Malta organizations in CEE. We are truly impressed – Saurma says – by the efforts these have made during the COVID-19 crisis so far, most of them under incredibly challenging conditions. We are glad to reach our hand to them whenever we can – not so much as their godparents anymore, but as friends on eye-level, joined by the same spirit and mission.”