‘We have to love each other’: Winnipeg Ukrainian community holding onto hope through faith, fellowship

Click to play video: 'Ukrainians reflect, look ahead after one year of war'
Ukrainians reflect, look ahead after one year of war
When the war in Ukraine broke out one year ago, many in the Ukrainian community in Winnipeg turned to faith during those dark days. Marney Blunt has more on how some are looking back, while looking forward to a day when the war is over – Feb 23, 2023

It’s something still vivid in Iryna Mykhalyk’s mind: February 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine and the day her life changed forever.

“The 24th of February changed our lives, all Ukrainians,” Mykhalyk told Global News.

“We didn’t know what to do, we were in panic.”

The panic has since faded, but the pain is still raw. Mykhalyk moved to Winnipeg with her two children three months ago. Her husband is still in Ukraine.

“Missing (him) and want (him) to come as soon as possible. We are waiting for that time and it will be freedom,” she said.

“We don’t need to fight, we don’t need to die.”

She says she moved to keep her children safe, and they can’t wait until the day her husband is able to join them here in Manitoba.

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“I am happy that Canada gave us this choice to protect our children. Because I could stay there with my husband but my children, especially my son, they’re scared of the alarms that surround us everyday,” Mykhalyk said.

“And you don’t know what to do because something can happen at anytime. The rockets could come in your apartment and you will be destroyed or could even die.”

“(My son) always looked white, his ears and his face, and I had to do something, I had to take them (away),” she added.

“My son misses his father so much, he always tells me ‘I’m dreaming when my father comes through this door and I will see him’.”

Mykhalyk says she longs to see the day the war is over.

“I’m dreaming about the last day of this war, and I couldn’t imagine this could happen in the 21st century,” she said.

“We have to love each other. We don’t need to kill each other.”

Mykhalyk is now working at Sts. Vladimir & Olga Cathedral, the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral on McGregor Street in Winnipeg, a place that she says has supported new and numerous other Ukrainian newcomers.

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“Here we can feel like we are at home,” she said.

Pastor Ihor Shved says he never thought the war would drag on this long.

“Now, to be honest, we’re used to pain, but it’s still painful,” Shved said. “We’re still in fear and we don’t know where future will be, (but) we believe Ukraine will win.”

Pastor Ihor Shved says many newcomers say they feel like they’re back at home when they come to the church. Jordan Pearn / Global News

Shved says the church is a place where many turned to at the start of the war, and still do today. He says the church has almost welcomes hundreds of Ukrainian refugees, and sees about 200 new faces each Sunday. The church also has provided support for refugees by providing clothing, food, and kitchen and household items.

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But, he says, most importantly, the church provides a place where people can find a sense of community through fellowship and faith.

“(Religion) gives hope, it gives spiritual strength. And church is always a place of worship, the Christian church is a place where we worship Jesus and Jesus is our piece of hope and strength,” Shved said. “But church is also a place where people meet each other, where people support each other, and it’s a place where God helps people through other people.”

“A lot of people (who come here) will say, “I feel at home, I am moving to Canada, but once a week I am coming to your church, and I feel like I’m in Ukraine.”

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