Saturday, December 10, 2022

‘A great pity’: Ukrainian village faces a churchless Easter

Lukashivka, Ukraine ( Associated Press) – A metal cross remains inside a broken brick and black stone church. Russian soldiers used the house of worship for ammunition storage, residents said, and Ukrainian forces shelled the building to release the Russians.

There will be no Orthodox Easter service here on Sunday in this small village in northern Ukraine.

One of the golden domes of the church was blown up. Its gilded cross is adjacent to the outer wall.

“It’s a great pity,” said 70-year-old resident Valentina Ivanivna, standing with her bikes on Orthodox Good Friday as the men left Russian military vehicles nearby.

Residents said the church in Lukashivka, a village near the town of Chernihiv, survived the harshest years of World War II and the Soviet Union, a time when the authorities stripped it of its religious symbols.

This time, the locals feel that it will take years for the church to regain its former beauty.

Its bells fell on shaky ground littered with ammunition casings and cans of Russian canned meat. There’s a stand for candles, a serrated teapot, and a pasta stay with strainer.

Outside, the wing part of a rocket is stuck in the mud.

The villagers have vowed to rebuild, no matter what. They have already started work in their homes while they await the resumption of basic services.

There is no gas available to bake Easter bread. At a turn in a street, Volodymyr Vaishyevkin, a military pastor, and volunteers handed out food and verses.

Remember, Jesus was risen, the pastor told him. Ukraine will do the same. He called on villagers to pray for those who are on the front lines in places like Mariupol, a southern city that Russia is determined to take and continues to bombards on Friday.

The resistance never died during the local occupation of Lukashivka, said 64-year-old Valentina Golyak.

“I was telling the Russians, ‘You will live in this land as fertilizer. If you want to kill me, kill me.’ They seemed embarrassed, ”she said. “I guess they don’t believe in God.”

Golyak said he also told Russian soldiers that he had lived his entire life without war and expected to die that way. Instead, the soldiers damaged or destroyed almost every village house. And the church was beautiful, she said.

But she also celebrates new life. Their daughter gave birth in the basement of a village during the Russian occupation. The baby girl will turn 1 month on Saturday.

She was named Victoria.


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