Christian eco-camp for Ukrainian children in Selina (Croatia)

In every creature lives his life-giving Spirit that calls us to a relationship with Him. (Hymn to the Creator: FF 263). The discovery of this presence stimulates in us the development of “ecological virtues.”

                                                                                                Encyclical of Pope Francis ” Praised be, my Lord “, p. 65

From June 29 to July 8, a Christian eco-camp for children from Ukraine was held in Selina (Croatia). It is annually organized by Fr. Oleg Kobel with his colleagues – pastors of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. This experience is worth studying and adopting. Many different and interesting events take place during this camp: excursions to different places, hikes, themed evenings, etc. One of these evenings was an event on the topic “Eco-education through tales during a literary evening in a Christian camp”, during which Fr. Oleg presented a series of his ecological tales about a helper-hedgehog, and catechist and employee of the Institute of Ecological and Religious Studies Nataliya Humen-Bilanych presented the author’s ecological tale “Bats” and the eco-story “Under the owl’s wing”.

The nature of Croatia is beautiful and the population has ecological skills, for example, sorting solid domestic waste, so everything around is clean, beautiful, and, accordingly, useful for people and the natural environment. Excursions were accompanied by spiritual words of fathers Oleg and Yaroslav about God’s Creation – nature. Most often, excursions take place in the cities of Zadar and Brela. This time there was also an excursion to Bosnia and Herzegovina – to the city of Medjugorje, where young people and adults reached the top of Kryževac mountain, taking part in the Stations of the Cross together with other pilgrims from Ukraine. The young people and adults could observe the similarities and differences between living and non-living local nature, for example, some of the same types of trees grow here as in Ukraine: lindens (Tilia), maples (Acer campestre), sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), etc.) others There are common garden trees – cherries, peaches, apricots, but you can find seldom apple or plum trees.

  (Herb capers (Capparis spinosa) in Zadar

But fig trees (Ficus carica L.), olive trees, pomegranates, which are well-known plants described in the Bible, and albizia (Albizia julibrissin), which is a relative of mimosa, are very common here. In Ukraine, these species are considered exotic, some of them can be cultivated by skilled gardeners, and others grow only in pots or under indoor conditions. All these appeared in the form of what is called in science biodiversity and simply the richness of nature, which must be treated carefully.

  The fauna of Croatia isn’t as diverse as its flora. Brown bears (Ursus arctos), forest cats (Felis silvestris), several species of martens (Martes), wolves (Canis lupus L.), foxes (Vulpes fulva), hares (Lepus europaeus) are found in the mountainous areas of the country. Snakes and lizards live on the slopes of the Dinaric Highlands, devoid of forest cover, but turtles are often found in the coastal areas. Marine fauna in general impresses the eye of Ukrainians, because there are oysters (Ostreida), mussels (Mytilus edulis), and sea urchins (Euechinoidea), as well as crabs, squids, and interesting types of fish, in particular the famous fish dorado (Sparus aurata).

Not far from the location of the camp is the Paklenica National Park, which covers the Velebit mountain range, which merges with the Dinaric Alps on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The National Park, founded in 1949, is the most accessible area for hikers. There are wonderful karst landscapes, and travelers can explore deep cloves, gray mountains, and mysterious caves. The national park has three different climatic zones in a small area: coastal, continental and subalpine. The camp participants have the opportunity to visit this national park and learn more about the nature of the mountains of Dalmatia (a region in Croatia).

The camp cares about the health of the participants by conducting aerobics every morning and organizing various games in leisure time (board games, football with local youth), but the most important thing is the spiritual component: every day everyone has the opportunity to participate in the Divine Liturgy, as well as spiritual conversations with a priest, or confession. Fr. Oleg says about the camp: “All that unites all the visits, all the camps are the presence of God… through the joint Liturgy, through joint prayer… this is also the responsibility of God for the created world, and we raise this topic during every Liturgy and meeting.”. And children are satisfied with new impressions and knowledge, adventures and discoveries in a seemingly familiar nature, which turns out to be an interesting and magnificent Creation. Yes, the little participant of the camp, Yaryna (10 years old), during her vacation, in particular, said that she really likes to swim, catch crabs and show her talents by singing songs during themed evenings during the camping at the sea.

So, the Christian eco-camp fully realizes the purpose and goals of its existence – here the employees take care of both health and spirit, and love and responsibility for Creation are instilled here, and the organizers set themselves the task of constantly improving it.

Informational  Service of IERS

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