IT was a solemn ceremony of song and prayer, and the sadness was evident in the voices of all who attended a memorial service for the victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.
About 150 members of the Winnipeg Ukrainian Catholic community gathered Sunday evening at St. Joseph's Ukrainian Catholic Church on Jefferson Avenue to sing and pray for the victims of the crash.
The plane was shot down by a missile over eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 298 people on board. Most of the passengers were from the Netherlands, but there was also one Canadian on board.
Most of the ceremony was spent in song, as priests from many Ukrainian churches, including His Grace Most Reverend Lawrence Huculak, archbishop of the Winnipeg Archeparchy., offered up prayers in Ukrainian and English for those who had died in the crash.
The service was one of many held in Ukrainian churches across North America, said Rev. Msgr. Michael Buyachok, rector of the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Sts. Vladimir and Olga on McGregor Street.
"The aim is simply to pray for the deceased, to pray for their families, to give support, because it's not only loss of lives of these people, but the tragedy that the families are going to experience," Buyachok said.
The disaster was the latest in a difficult year for the Ukrainian community, Buyachok said. The annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia, as well as prolonged fighting and insurgency in the Donetsk region and other parts of eastern Ukraine, have all taken their toll on Ukrainians in Winnipeg. The crash, though it didn't kill any Ukrainians, has stoked the fire of a tense and uncertain political situation in the country.
"(The crash) having occurred in that part of the country is even more tragic because of the uncertainty and instability," Buyachok said.
Sister Emily Schietzsch of the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate, who were also at the service, said the crash brought the situation in Ukraine to the forefront again in a very noticeable way.
"It made it more real. One more thing in a chain of events. It was very quiet for a time, and I continued to pray every day for the situation in Ukraine... but there wasn't enough of a disaster for the world to react on a large scale," Schietzsch said.
Schietzsch said the crash effectively brought the problems in eastern Ukraine to the rest of the world.
"It unites the people as a global community. Whatever nationality you are, now it's not just a Ukrainian problem," she said.
Many of those attending did not mince words in their contempt for Russia in its role in eastern Ukraine. The area from which the missile was shot is controlled by pro-Russian separatists, and the Ukrainians at the service indicated their belief the Russian government was affiliated with those forces.
Buyachok said many people are angry, both at the loss of lives and at the continuing situation in Ukraine, but as Christians they need to go beyond anger.
"Anger is a common emotion, but we need to also, as Christians, extend forgiveness," he said.