Thunder Bay Ukrainian churches hold memorial mass
A Panakhyda memorial service was held Sunday at Thunder Bay’s Holy Cross Ukrainian Catholic Church for the victims of protests in Ukraine.
Rev. Andrija Petresin said the service was a show of support “for our people back in our homeland.”
The priests from Thunder Bay’s Orthodox church, and Ukrainian-speaking and English-speaking church “came together as one just to prove the point of unity,” said Petresin.
“There is one thing that is positive in all that is happening in Ukraine, and that is in all this trouble and difficult times, the Ukrainian national awareness became so strong.
“People who perhaps never came to a Ukrainian church or realized that they had some background, brought out this Ukrainian pride.”
Petresin was a refugee of the Balkans war in the 1990s, who with his grandfather relocated from Ukraine to the Balkans.
“I just hope and pray that all that we went through in Bosnia . . . that doesn’t happen in Ukraine. For me it is hard to watch to see this injustice,” said Petresin.
Ollie Sawchuk, who attended the mass, said it was emotional.
“It is so difficult when you think about the young people who gave their lives for freedom, for dignity, for their future.
“So coming together here in Thunder Bay it just shows solidarity with Ukraine and our people there,” said Sawchuk.
“Our son Mark (Sawchuk) works for L’Oreal in Kyiv, Ukraine . . . lives very close to where all the protests took place,” she said.
Mark Sawchuk was in Thunder Bay for a brief visit on the weekend.
“We were in contact with him every day and he would tell us the kinds of things that were happening. It was a peaceful protest, of course, until the government decided to make it otherwise,” said Ollie Sawchuk.
“The majority of people in Ukraine do want to be together with Europe, the western world . . . and when (ousted president) Viktor Yanukovych did the opposite to what they wanted, they started to protest, but again very peacefully.”
She said Mark was sending photos he took from his apartment, “the smoke billowing, the tires that were burning . . . and of course it was a concern to us that he was so close.
“He said he wasn’t too worried because it was peaceful and then when Yanukovych fled, that helped to calm things down a bit, but the people are still out there.
“Mark was just telling us that it is very emotional when you walk through Independence Square and you see all the flowers, the candles, the pictures of the young people who died,” added Sawchuk.
A Help for Ukraine collection has been undertaken by Canadian parishes with $45,000 collected and transferred via the Ukrainian Canadian Congress to Ukraine.