LVV, Ukraine – Ahead of this year’s most important Christian holiday, Ukrainians have stuck to centuries-old Easter traditions in the shadow of a war that has brought disaster and tragedy to much of the country.
At the Greek Catholic Church of the Transfiguration in Livy’s historic city center, pilgrims lined up near the wicked baskets they had brought with them, covered with embroidered cloth and filled with sausages, smoked hams, Easter bread, butter and cheese. father.
It is a rite of passage throughout Ukraine, celebrated in Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Wright Catholic Churches, following the Julian calendar and this year Easter is celebrated on Sundays.
Food should be eaten at comprehensive Easter breakfasts after Mass on Sunday.
Other residents carried Easter baskets through the cemetery streets on their way to the churches of each denomination lined the Central Market District, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At the sound of airstrikes sirens, cafes closed their doors and a group of street musicians took a break from folk music played on traditional Ukrainian instruments.
At a nearby meeting, some residents placed bouquets at the foot of the statue of the Virgin Mary, next to piles of white sand bundles aimed at protecting the statue from bombings. Since the beginning of the war, churches have covered religious idols with protective coverings and stained glass windows.
Russia, which has a traditional Eastern majority, this week rejected calls from Ukraine and the United Nations for a ceasefire on Easter.
Although most Ukrainians and Russians are Orthodox Christians, long-standing tensions between church leaders in both countries have deepened in recent years. The church in Ukraine, which has been under Moscow since 1686, gained independence in 2019.
Russian airstrikes this week have killed at least seven people in Lviv, but the city has survived most of the fighting that has erupted in the east over the past two months. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have taken refuge here or are on their way to Poland and other countries.
At Lviv’s Central Station, volunteers distributed Easter chocolates to displaced children from other cities. A family who received treats walked five days with their four children from the devastated southern port of Mariupol on their way to the relative safety of western Ukraine.
Many Ukrainians said they were following their traditions in the face of widespread tragedy and fear of war.
“There is not so much joy in the faces and eyes of the people this year,” said Myroslava Zakharkiv, the college’s English instructor. “A lot of people are grieving, a lot of men have gone ahead.”
48-year-old Mrs. Zakharkiv said the traditional Easter cleaning of his house in a village near Lviv. She baked Easter bread and prepared meals to put in a basket to bless the church.
“We hope there will be no bombs and alarms, but no one knows what will happen, so we are a little scared,” he said.
For many of the displaced, the war has also meant the separation of their families.
Anna Mukoida, 22, said it was the first Easter she had left her family, staying in Pila Sergwa, 50 miles south of the capital Kiev, who had fled to the southwestern city of Chernivtsi.
Despite the danger and uncertainty, many Ukrainians were determined to adhere to the tradition.
“Easter during the war was like the sun on a rainy day,” Ms Muqaida said. “It’s very important now to have days like this to feel alive and remember that there was life before the war.”
Neonila Vodolska, 22, was also displaced. He lived in Kalush, a western town not far from his family in Kiev. She said she bought a white shirt with traditional dark red embroidery to wear on Easter Day to ease the pain of leaving her family.
“Now I fully understand the importance of preserving such traditions,” Ms. Vodolska said. “Doing something casual and celebrating something reminiscent of the good times of my childhood gives me hope.”
In most parts of the country, a curfew was imposed throughout Saturday night, with many Christians traditionally celebrating Midnight Mass on Holy Saturday in memory of those waiting at Christ’s tomb. Instead many planned to watch Mass on TV.
In a statement on Saturday morning, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said, “We need to understand that the general assembly will be aimed at missiles, aircraft and artillery.
At Lviv, authorities initially announced the lifting of the curfew, but re-enforced it after receiving intelligence that pro-Russian saboteurs might be planning attacks in the city.
Earlier in the week, the head of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, Metropolitan Epiphany, called on the clergy to abandon night-time Easter services in fear-stricken Russian bombings.
“It is not difficult to believe that this will actually happen, because the enemy is trying to destroy us completely,” he said in a televised speech.
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