Displaced Ukrainian mother of two Uliana Kaletska celebrated another Easter in Australia worried about family, including her husband Mykhailo, and friends still in Ukraine as the war drags on into its second year. With her sons Volodymyr, 15, and Mykhailo jnr, 4, she was among hundreds who gathered for Orthodox Easter liturgies at St Andrew’s Ukrainian Catholic church in Lidcombe last weekend.

Fr Simon Ckuj, protosynkellos (Vicar General) of the eparchy and parish priest of St Andrew’s, said that crowds were larger than usual, with displaced families from Ukraine adding to the large congregations from Palm Sunday through to Easter. In Easter messages and homilies he preached messages of hope and called for an end to the war.

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“At a time when so many of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine make great sacrifices, face suffering and await an uncertain future, we need to be convinced that that our own small sacrifices, the trials and challenges of this life, will never destroy our hope in the life guaranteed to us by Holy Pascha, the conquest of life over death, the triumph of good over evil, of light over darkness,” Fr Ckuj said.

This was the last Easter that the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Australia will celebrate according to the Julian calendar used by the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches, as well as Ukrainian Catholics. In September it will switch to the Gregorian calendar, sharing the feasts of Easter and Christmas with other Catholics according to a decree by Bishop Mykola Bychok published on 22 March.

The decision was a deliberate one to separate Ukrainians “even further from Russia and Moscow” the Ukrainian Council of NSW Vice-President Andrew Mencinsky told media at the time. Ms Kaletska told The Catholic Weekly that she arrived in Sydney with her mother and sons just over a year ago and found the Ukrainian Australian community to be “very kind.”

Uliana Kaletska, with sons Volodymyr and Mykhailo and family friend Dariia Filyk. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

“But it’s very hard for my husband and me as we don’t see each other and we aren’t caring for our children together,” she said. “You are always worried about your family and friends in Ukraine—and about your country,” she said. “I work a full day and study accounting and bookkeeping at TAFE in the evenings. And I study English. It is tiring.”

Most families brought wicker baskets covered with embroidered cloths and filled with dyed eggs, paska (a sweet bread for Easter time), meat, cheese, salt, horseradish and other treats to be blessed according to Ukrainian Easter tradition. Nem Kovacina’s family brought five baskets to the Great Saturday Vespers and liturgy including two fluffy pink ones filled with chocolate eggs for his young nieces.

“This is our first Easter without my father—their grandfather—but it’s good to see that our Ukrainian traditions and culture are being kept alive by younger generations in Australia,” he said. “It’s a tough time for Ukrainians around the world but Easter is a time of peace and reflection, and hopefully it has some effect on what’s happening.”