Far from home and unsure when or even if they will ever return, Ukrainians displaced by war gathered in churches across Eastern Europe on Sunday for the Orthodox Easter holiday.
Hundreds of believers gathered at St. Michael’s Church in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, to participate in a liturgy delivered by a Ukrainian priest, a sermon that focused on the cohesion of the Ukrainian people and prayer for those left behind.
“While Ukraine celebrates this holiday, for us Ukrainian Christians, it is also a celebration that gives us hope that with the resurrection will also come victory in Ukraine, and that good will prevail over evil,” priest Damien Habory said after of the one-hour conference. Service.
The Easter holiday, observed by Orthodox followers according to the Julian calendar, comes as nearly 5.2 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee violence unleashed in their country by Russia’s invasion.
Most have entered countries on Ukraine’s western border: Nearly 2.9 million Ukrainians have fled to Poland, while another 775,000 have fled to Romania and 490,000 have crossed into Hungary since the war began two months ago.
In Bucharest, the Romanian capital, dozens of Ukrainian refugees and Romanian faithful flocked to the Brancusi parish church for the Easter liturgy and to hear a choir sing religious songs in Ukrainian. A priest sang “Christ is Risen!” to the faithful, to which they replied: “He certainly has risen!”
Following the service in Budapest, worshipers lined the street in front of the church with Easter baskets filled with offerings of hand-dyed eggs, candles and pasca, a traditional sweet Easter bread. Habory greeted parishioners and blessed their Easter baskets with holy water from a liturgical brush used for blessings.
Yaroslava Hortyanyi, president of the Hungarian-Ukrainian Cultural Association, said bringing Ukrainians together for the Easter holidays was an opportunity for them to pray for themselves and those they left behind.
“We are all happy for the resurrection of Christ, but we do not have happiness in our hearts because at the same moment Ukrainian children, Ukrainian soldiers and Ukrainian people are dying,” Hortyanyi said. “People who believe in God believe that this is a way for God to test them… They believe that their prayers will help their husbands and parents that they left at home.”
Kate Gladka, 31, who arrived in Hungary from the Ukrainian capital kyiv a month ago, said she had trouble holding back tears during the Easter service, which for her is usually a time of celebration.
“We have a new meaning this year because we can be the most alive nation in the world now, and we understand what it means to get up all the time,” he said.
Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war against Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.
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