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Ukrainian community cautiously optimistic

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People gathered for a memorial service for victims of violence in Ukraine at Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic Church on Sunday.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

People gathered for a memorial service for victims of violence in Ukraine at Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic Church on Sunday. Photo Store

Sorrow for the dozens who died in Independence Square, jubilation at the impeachment of President Viktor Yanukovych and cautious hope for the future.

Those were the feelings percolating among the standing-room-only crowd gathered Sunday at Holy Eucharist Parish Church for a candlelight memorial service honouring the 80-plus protesters, police and soldiers who have died in recent months during anti-government protests in Kyiv.

"The people of Ukraine have paid an extraordinarily high price to live in a democratic country," said Oksana Bondarchuk, president of the Manitoba chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and an organizer of Sunday’s service.

Bondarchuk cautioned the triumph many felt following the dramatic end of the Yanukovych government over the weekend could be short-lived, a worry echoed by the parish priest.

"It’s not over yet," Father Michael Kwiatkowski told the crowd. "This is a very critical moment."

Many senior members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church have been outspoken supporters of the opposition movement and Kwiatkowski said most in Winnipeg’s large Ukrainian community also favour the opposition’s calls for an end to corruption, human rights abuses and what they view as Yanukovych’s close ties with Russia.

What is top of mind now, said Kwiatkowski, is the debate over who should now lead the country and how unity and stability might be restored.

The Manitoba government announced Sunday it was donating $25,000 in humanitarian aid for Ukraine, to be earmarked for first aid and medical supplies.

History

Updated on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 8:46 PM CST: photo added

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