Ukrainians mark Orthodox Christmas in Europe with a prayer to return dwelling By Reuters


© Reuters. Polish and Ukrainian trustworthy attend the Christmas service on the Orthodox Cathedral of St. Mary Magdalene in Warsaw, Poland January 6, 2023. REUTERS/Kuba Stezycki


By Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska and Riham Alkousaa

WARSAW/BERLIN (Reuters) -Victoria, a Ukrainian refugee, is celebrating Orthodox Christmas in Poland with a easy prayer – that subsequent yr she shall be again at dwelling.

The 40-year-old is likely one of the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who’ve fled the Russian invasion of their homeland and are marking the vacation with blended feelings – aid that they’re secure, however unhappiness to be away from their households.

“The necessary factor is that it is nonetheless a household vacation… We hope to have fun subsequent Christmas with our household again dwelling,” Victoria stated.

At a candle-lit Christmas Eve Mass underneath the good domes of the Cathedral of St. Mary Magdalene in Warsaw, priest Doroteusz Sawicki welcomes the brand new arrivals who’ve come to have fun the delivery of Christ.

“Two or three years in the past we may surprise if anybody would knock on our door, now we all know that somebody is already there,” he informed Reuters.

“A lot of our brothers who’ve discovered themselves in Poland due to the battle can’t return to their homeland. They may have fun with us.”

Many Orthodox Christians have fun Christmas on Jan. 7, however the Russian Orthodox Church’s backing for Moscow’s battle in Ukraine has angered many Ukrainian Orthodox believers and splintered the worldwide Orthodox Church.

This yr, some Ukrainians selected to have fun Christmas with Catholics on Dec. 25 in protest at Russian aggression. However many have caught to the Orthodox custom.

For Victoria, who fled her dwelling metropolis of Irpin together with her son in March final yr, that is her first Christmas away from dwelling.

“We lived within the basement for nearly two weeks, then we left when the bombings began, and elements of town had been in ruins,” stated Victoria, who didn’t need to give her full identify.

In Poland she discovered shelter in a dormitory for refugees about two hours from Warsaw. Quickly after, she discovered a job as a waitress not removed from her new dwelling.

Though she is secure together with her son, Christmas just isn’t the identical. In her shared lodging she doesn’t have entry to a kitchen and can’t cook dinner conventional festive meals like she used to again in Ukraine.

“What’s necessary is the ambiance and temper. It could be good to have a kitchen, however that is secondary,” she stated.


On the Nathanael Orthodox church in southwest Berlin, the standard congregation was joined by dozens of refugees attending the ceremony, priest Oleg Polianko informed Reuters.

“We’re after all unhappy due to the battle but it surely’s Christmas and a cheerful event. God is our protector and helps us,” Polianko stated.

Marta Akopian, 25, from Donetsk, attended the Mass to mirror and pray. “I prayed for the energy and bravado for our military and naturally for myself and my household,” she stated.

For Helena, a 60 year-old grandmother from Lviv, spending Christmas within the German capital away from her household is troublesome, she stated. This time final yr, earlier than Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, she nonetheless hoped a battle could possibly be averted.

Again in Warsaw, Ukrainian Irina Dolganych, 34, stated this Christmas feels totally different and uneasy, though she has lived in Poland for 5 years.

“We attempt as a result of we’ve youngsters and we do not need them to really feel this (stress), you may’t clarify it to them, for them it’s a vacation. Similar to in my childhood, I seemed ahead to Christmas, I believe it ought to be like that for them,” stated Irina.

Irina deliberate to cook dinner conventional dishes, one thing her mom within the Cherkasy area of central Ukraine can’t take pleasure in.

“My mom just isn’t celebrating in any respect. I used to be speaking to her half an hour in the past. She does not actually have a Christmas tree this yr.”

Victoria additionally managed to talk to a few of her few relations with cell phone reception.

“We will solely pray for peace and that we lastly have the chance to return dwelling,” she stated.

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