‘Scary and terrible’: Calgarians welcome women fleeing war in Ukraine to Easter celebrations

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Hundreds of people attended Easter mass at a Catholic Ukrainian church in Calgary on Sunday. It’s a painful time for those with family left behind dealing with the war. Carolyn Kury de Castillo has the story of one woman who just arrived in Calgary from the besieged city of Kharkiv. – Apr 17, 2022

Baskets filled with artistically adorned paska, an eastern European Easter bread, were blessed on Sunday morning at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church.

Normally a joyous celebration of hope and renewal, this year’s Easter mass was tempered by war in Ukraine.

“It’s not a celebration that we used to have every year. Right now it’s quite sad with all the people in Ukraine being killed every day. We have to do the best we can and we will be thinking about all the people back home,” said Tania Lubinet outside the church.

Her mother and brother live just outside of Lviv.

Read more: “This church was built from women making perogies”: Calgarians serve up support for Ukraine

“As I spoke with him yesterday actually the siren was going, so it is very hard. They do the best they can. Their Easter is one week later. He said he’s not very happy. He’s very sad, but they will go to church and try to celebrate the best they can,” Lubinet said.

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Yuliia Levitchuk was also attending the mass. She arrived in Calgary on April 5 with her mom and toddler.

Her husband remains back in Kharkiv. The bombarded city near the Russian border has been under relentless attacks.

“It was scary and terrible in Kharkiv,” Levitchuk said through a translator. “Our journey was long and hard. From west Ukraine we traveled to Bucharest.  The train journey was very long and very slow to Budapest, where we filled out new documents,” Levitchuk said.

It took nearly a month to get to Calgary, travelling by train through Bucharest, Budapest and Vienna where they finally got their visas to come to Canada.

Levitchuk, along with her child, mom and small dog are staying with a volunteer family in northwest Calgary that they met through Facebook.

“We met through the internet, through a guy from Kharkiv who is also a volunteer trying to connect people with places to go,” Levitchuk said.

Read more: ‘I will gain more than I will give’: Calgary doctor welcomes three women fleeing war in Ukraine into her home

Amidst the misery of what she has seen back home and the heartbreaking decision to leave her husband to come to Calgary, Levitchuk is thankful for the the kindness of strangers.

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“She says that they feel that they are really supported and people are helping them out and they are not alone,” she said through a translator.

Calgary’s Catholic bishop reminded people as they celebrate Easter to continue to support those in Ukraine in way they are able.

“It’s a sign that brings hope from death, but at the same time we have to acknowledge that people are suffering and that we need to be in solidarity with them,” said Diocese of Calgary Bishop William McGrattan

“We know that this devastation needs to end.  We hope for a peaceful resolution and at the same time we have to care for those who are most affected by it.”

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