Ukrainian believers liven up life in Czech parish

Mass in the Church of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows in Pardubice

Easter will be a sad time for the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees who have fled to the Czech Republic to escape the war in their homeland. Municipalities are doing their best to involve them in community life, and parishes are striving to give them spiritual comfort.

Church of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows | Photo: Šárka Kuchtová,  Czech Radio

The Church of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, which serves the Greek Catholic parish and the Ukrainian community in the town of Pardubice, rarely welcomed more than a few dozen worshipers at its morning and evening mass. Now it is bursting at the seams and has become a focal point for the hundreds of Ukrainian refugees who have found their way to Pardubice. Ukrainian priest Marian Kurylo, who has served in the local parish for over 12 years, says the life of the parish has changed dramatically.

Photo: Šárka Kuchtová,  Czech Radio

“Life in the parish has changed a great deal and it has been a change for the better. Before the war, only a few dozen believers would come to Sunday mass, now there are over 200 people and the church is too small to take them all in, so some have to stand outside. I am touched to see the strength of their faith in the midst of this disaster. They need words of comfort, they need to speak with a priest and often they want to make a confession.”

Photo:  ČT24

Easter is a moveable feast that falls on different dates in the Gregorian or Julian calendars. In recent years, the Greek Catholic parish in Pardubice started celebrating it according to the Gregorian calendar, along with the Catholic Church, but in view of the large number of believers from Ukraine, who are used to celebrating Easter according to the Julian calendar, special  masses will be celebrated both this and next weekend. Priest Kurylo says it is important to give them a sense of stability at least in this – at a time when their lives have been turned upside down by the war.

Photo:  ČT24

“Jesus Christ rose from the dead even when the doors of the church were closed during the pandemic. And he will rise from the dead again in the midst of this terrible war. I want them to be able to say “Christos Voskres” with joy and to pray that the resurrection of Jesus will bring about an end to the war that is killing so many innocent people.”

Marian Kurylo | Photo:  ČT24

The parish in Pardubice is also preparing special events for Ukrainian children at Easter, both within church activates and outside them. Priest Kurylo says it is important to help take their minds away from what they experienced and bring some joy to their lives, far from their homes, family and friends.

“We have organized various activities so that these children can go to dance and aerobic classes with their mothers or play football every day. The families who are hosting them also plan events – only recently they organized a trip for over 100 kids to the zoo, so that helps a lot. The Ukrainian women are also very active, they do not wish to stay idle and many of them are helping to sort the material aid that is being collected for Ukraine and getting their children involved as well.”

Although most of the war refugees are hoping to return home and pick up their lives as soon as the situation allows, their presence in Pardubice has brought the parish together in an unprecedented way and created bonds that will hopefully outlive this crisis.

Photo: ČT24
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