To serve with the spirit of charity
Conversation with Erika Gecinger, the director of Caritas in Mukachevo
I was born in 1942 in Mukachevo, - says Erika. My mother was a seamstress, and my father was a car mechanic. I had one sister. After graduating from school I worked in a sewing shop, then I work at the railways. Later I studied at the railway technical school in Lviv at correspondence courses. After finishing I worked as a traffic controller at the railway station for more than 37 years. I got married and I have 3 sons. I also have 7 grandchildren.
How did you come into contact with Caritas?
- I have always planned to relax a lot when I will be retired. I thought I would have coffee with my friends and not do anything. But it didn’t happen so. When I got retired, Margit, one of my friends, asked me to go with her to visit the sick people. The creation of groups of believers who help the sick people all over Transcarpathia was helped by father Anton Gots who was responsible for Camillians in Nyiregyhaza.
Later father Ishtvan Pogany asked me to help to control the free kitchen in Franco street which is still functioning.
In 2003 father Ishtvan asked if I would agree to control the Caritas of Mukachevo as well. At first I didn’t want to accept it telling that I had never been in the position of a director. When I got to know that there weren’t other candidates for this job, I accepted it.
What activities did you do at Caritas?
- The building in Vatutyina street was used for humanitarian aid. Here we stored the clothes and foodstuff. We selected them and delivered to the families in Mukachevo who needed it.We also prepared food packages at Christmas and Easter for the people in need. We brought food and clothes to the refugee camp near Pavshyno too. Unfortunately at present we don’t receive humanitarian aid, because the vans with humanitarian supplies are not allowed into the country.
- How does the free kitchen function at the moment?
- In 2005 the building has been greatly renovated. It was sponsored by a German person. Today we maintain the institution mainly by means of grant applications. We cook lunch for 70 people every day, which the people in need eat partly here, and the rest is delivered to the sick and old people and into hospitals. Our employees don’t get salaries. 23 volunteers do the cooking here. Once a week a doctor comes and helps our visitors in need who have different health problems. We also have a seamstress whose service is also available for the people.
- What are your plans for the future?
- The people’s attitude has greatly changed. It was different earlier. It’s very hard to find volunteers for charitable work. At present, for example, most of the volunteers who cook at our free kitchen are elderly women. We would like to find such committed young people in the future who would consider work in Caritas as service.