Ukrainians Look for Hope on Orthodox Easter

'I'm crying a lot,' one woman says on Orthodox Easter
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 24, 2022 11:25 AM CDT
Some Ukrainians Find Less Joy on Holy Day
Olga Zhovtobrukh, 55, cries during an Easter religious service celebrated Sunday at a church in Bucha.   (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

The sun came out Sunday as Ukrainians marked Orthodox Easter in the capital, Kyiv, with prayers for those fighting on the front lines and others trapped beyond them in places like Mariupol. St. Volodymyr's Cathedral in Kyiv was ringed by hundreds of worshippers with baskets to be blessed, the AP reports. Inside, a woman clutched the arm of a soldier, turning briefly to kiss his elbow. Other soldiers prayed, holding handfuls of candles, then crossed themselves. An older woman slowly made her way through the crowd and stands of flickering candles. One young woman held daffodils. Outside, a soldier used his helmet as an Easter basket. "I hope I'll only have to use the helmet for this," he said.

At a service elsewhere in Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Ukrainians not to let anger at the war overwhelm them. "All of us believe our sunrise will come soon," he said. In Istanbul, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, called for the opening of humanitarian corridors in Ukraine, saying a "human tragedy" was unfolding. With the church split by tensions between Russia and Ukraine, some worshippers hoped the holy day could inspire gestures of peacemaking. "The church can help," said one man at a church in Kyiv under the Moscow Patriarchate. He and others brought baskets to be blessed by priests, with flicks of a brush sprinkling holy water over offerings of home-dyed eggs, lighted candles and even bottles of Jack Daniel's.

Residents of rural areas battered by the war approached the day with some defiance. "We'll celebrate Easter no matter what, no matter much horror," said Kateryna Lazarenko, 68, in the northern village of Ivanivka outside Chernihiv, where ruined Russian tanks litter the roads. "The Easter holiday doesn't bring any joy," said Olena Koptyl as she prepared her Easter bread. "I'm crying a lot. We cannot forget how we lived." She and 12 others spent a month sheltering from Russian soldiers in her basement before the soldiers withdrew. In eastern Ukraine, worshippers expressed unease along with hope for negotiations. "God will make them understand and they will reach an agreement, because this should be stopped," said Aleksandra Papravkina in Bakhmut. "Otherwise, Ukraine will not exist."

(More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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