A year of war, a weekend of prayer Ukrainian community raising voice in call for end to violence
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New Winnipegger Olesia Chychkevych plans to spend Friday the same way she’s spent much of the past year — praying for peace in her native Ukraine.
“The power of prayer when people get together is unbelievable, because we’re all asking for peace,” said the mother of three, who moved her family here from Lviv last August.
Feb. 24 marks one year since Russia invaded Ukraine, but hopefully it will be the last wartime anniversary, said Maryka Chabluk of Ukrainian Canadian Congress-Manitoba Provincial Council, which is planning events this weekend to mark the grim milestone.
“We must ensure this year’s anniversary is the only anniversary in this war,” she said.
“We very much look forward to the next gathering being a celebration in gratitude for Ukrainian victory.”
Winnipeggers are invited to a solidarity rally at 6 p.m. Friday at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, followed by the opening of the digital exhibit titled Ukrainian Artists United at 7 p.m.
Pleas for peace
Feb. 24 marks one year since Russia invaded Ukraine. Prayer services, a rally, and a walk for peace are taking place in Winnipeg to acknowledge the wartime anniversary.
• 4 a.m.-4 p.m. — 12-hour TV marathon by Ukrainian Catholics in conjunction with day of prayer, fasting and charitable giving
• 6 p.m. — Solidarity rally at Canadian Museum for Human Rights
• 7 p.m. — Opening of Ukrainian Artists United digital display at CMHR; free admission
• 11 a.m. — Prayer service, St. Mary the Protectress Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral (820 Burrows Ave.), followed by walk for peace
• Noon — Interfaith service for peace, Sts. Vladimir & Olga Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral (115 McGregor St.)
• Prayers for Ukraine at all Ukrainian churches
Local Ukrainian Catholics are planning to spend the anniversary in prayer, fasting and charitable activity along with church members around the world, supported by a 12-hour broadcast from Kyiv featuring prayer services and recorded messages from bishops, including Winnipeg’s Metropolitan Lawrence Huculak and Bishop Andriy Rabiy.
“We will be sending up our prayers for somebody who is wounded, who is in need, who doesn’t have anything,” said Rabiy.
“We have so many people in need. They need to know they are not forgotten, and not alone.”
On Saturday, Winnipeggers are invited to join the 11 a.m. prayer service at St. Mary the Protectress Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral, 820 Burrows Ave., followed by a walk for peace over to Sts. Vladimir & Olga Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral, 115 McGregor St., for an interfaith bilingual service presided by Huculak and featuring the Hoosli Ukrainian Male Chorus.
On Sunday, all Ukrainian churches — Catholic and Orthodox — will pray in unison in their parishes, reciting a prayer prepared and distributed by local church leaders.
“We know it won’t only be Ukrainians (attending) but also many people who care about Ukraine’s situation,” said Rabiy of Saturday’s public service, where provincial and city officials have also been invited to speak.
Along with the prayers for peace, the anniversary also commemorates the strength Ukrainians have shown in standing up for their country and their freedom for the past year, said Rev. Gene Maximiuk, rector of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral, which has seen a surge of newcomers attend weekend services.
“It’s important to mark this because it’s a year since the impossible happened and the Russians came in and thought they could have control,” said Maximiuk, who leads the 11 a.m. Saturday prayer service.
“Our people have always fought to be an independent people.”
Since the war started, about eight million Ukrainians have been displaced internally, and five million left their country to find safety elsewhere, said Chabluk, adding that Manitoba is now home to about 14,000 newcomers from Ukraine, with more arriving daily.
She said those people need assistance getting settled and finding jobs. Donations of clothing, household goods and money are still welcome at the Winnipeg offices of Ukrainian National Federation of Canada, 935 Main St.
The ongoing offers of food, clothing and friendship from strangers have touched Chychkevych, who came to Manitoba without any contacts but has found a new community for her family.
“You gave us a lot of love and I’m so happy to meet people here,” said Chychkevych, now employed as an educational assistant at R.F. Morrison School.
“We had no savings, no friends or relatives here, but Manitoba is great.”
She said she will be praying this weekend for the safety of her husband Oleksandr, for soldiers and their families, for Ukrainians who have left their country and even for Russian soldiers.
“In our church in Ukraine and here (in Winnipeg), we pray for our enemies,” she said.
“Because God is love. We pray for Russian soldiers because they’re somebody’s husband, somebody’s son.”
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Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.
The Free Press acknowledges the financial support it receives from members of the city’s faith community, which makes our coverage of religion possible.