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Ukrainian woman gives Pope gifts and names of Ukrainian prisoners of war, including her husbands

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Pope Francis holds sheaves of wheat from Ukraine's harvest, a gift given to him by the wife of Ukraine's ambassador to the Holy See at the end of his general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 21, 2022. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — A Ukrainian woman with her young son presented Pope Francis with several gifts and the names of Ukrainian prisoners of war, including her husband’s.

Larysa and her son, Serhii, met the pope at the end of his general audience at the Vatican Dec. 21.

The names of the prisoners were given in the hope that the pope “may be able to facilitate their liberation or at least an improvement in their conditions of detention,” the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, reported. Pope Francis already has helped facilitate hundreds of prisoner exchanges with Ukraine and Russia.

It is not known the exact number of people on this new POW list, the newspaper reported.

Larysa also gave the pope a calendar titled, “Azovstal,” the name of the large steel plant in Mariupol that sheltered the city’s last group of organized defense against the Russian siege and eventual takeover of the city. The pope leafed through each of the full-color pages of the calendar.

Pope Francis looks through photos in a calendar presented by Larysa, the wife of a Ukrainian prisoner of war, and her son Serhii at the end of his general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 21, 2022. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

She also gave the pope a Marian icon and a traditional-styled Ukrainian shawl. Serhii gave the pope a pair of white boxing gloves that belonged to his father and a spiral bound notebook, which, according to the Vatican newspaper, had a map of Europe and Ukrainian soil affixed to the cover.

Diana Yurash, the wife of Andrii Yurash, Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See, gave the pope a didukh — a traditional Christmas decoration made from sheaves of wheat from the year’s harvest.

“They are the last sheaves harvested in fields where now there are bombs and mines,” Iryna Skab, embassy assistant, told the Vatican newspaper.