It’s an important time of year for many Ukrainians, but Christmas — traditionally celebrated Jan. 7 according to the Julian calendar used by the Eastern Orthodox Church — brings a mix of joy and sadness once again, due to the ongoing conflict with Russia.
Anastasia Yereniuk, a volunteer with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, who has been busy resettling Ukrainian families in Manitoba, called it a “bittersweet” Christmas season.
“It’s so sweet because they’re safe, they’re in Manitoba, because it’s a holy day, because it’s an opportunity to really celebrate the importance of the nativity,” she said.
“But it’s very bitter in the sense that the war continues to rage. So many of their friends and relatives and acquaintances have lost their lives — we’ve lost archives, the arts have been put at an absolute minimum.
“It’s a very, very difficult, bitter time for sure.”
Yereniuk said the Manitoba community has gone above and beyond to support and provide for newcomers from Ukraine and welcome them to their new homes, but the mixed emotions during what should be a joyful season are clear.
“At least they’re here, and they can observe their tradition in a safe manner. … But they’re always, always cognizant of the fact that their loved ones are being left behind.”
Orthodox Christmas, and ongoing supports for Ukrainian refugees in Westman
Julia Krykavska, a volunteer in Brandon, says there are about 70 families who have arrived in the western Manitoba city from Ukraine, and there’s strong support from the community to help them settle and enjoy the holidays in the safety of their new homes.
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“Right at this moment, a lot of people are gathering to have a Christmas supper, mainly to pray that this disaster be over as soon as possible,” Krykavaska said.
“Christmas will not be the same as any other holiday this year for many Ukrainians across the world, as we’re all suffering from this invasion. Christmas is about family, it’s about sharing, giving … and sharing this joy of Christmas will not be the same this year because many families have lost their loved ones, have lost their homes … or have lost their lives as well.
“So Christmas will definitely be a sad holiday.”
Krykavaska said the community in Brandon is doing whatever it can to help find housing, employment and more, as well as raising funds through events, bake sales, markets, and any other initiatives that might help.
“It’s incredible — it’s such an important support right now.”
Ukrainian family embraces old, new traditions in first Christmas in Manitoba
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