On Sunday, an outdoor Orthodox Easter observance at St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Silver Spring, Maryland, brought together a community at times plagued by grief.
“This church was founded in 1949, which means right after the Second World War, when the first group of people fleeing the Soviet Union were coming,” Tamara Woroby, president of the parish council, said. “My parents were among that group. So they were trying to get away from Russian imperialism.”
Since moving to Silver Spring from Washington, D.C., the congregation has grown, and so have its ties to Ukraine, especially amid aggression from Russia. It injects a sense of sadness into Easter prayers.
“It’s especially hard this year to be celebrating a day that represents love and hope amid the brutality, the absolute inhumanity,” Woroby said.
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One woman has heard her relatives’ experiences passed on through stories. For instance, her grandmother survived Nazi aggression in WWII.
Now, she’ll have stories to pass on, too, of new aggression and old pain.
“Like today, the Russians doing to other people in Ukraine and I’m crying, and I’m stressful, and I try to find the peace,” she said.
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There was peace to be found in the innocence of the children with their holiday baskets, packed with tradition from the old country - Easter bread and eggs.
After the service, the baskets were blessed, and the faithful participated in new traditions to carry on - the church functions as a collection center for medical supplies, clothing and other goods for Ukraine.
One parishioner, 99-year-old Jeannie Fischer, remembers times of famine under Stalin, but the community’s support for Ukraine helps overcome the painful memories for today.
“It’s the happiest day of my life,” she said.