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Orthodox Easter a ‘mixed kind of joy’ at Ukrainian church in Bucharest

‘We are celebrating the resurrection of Christ, but at the same time we are praying to God to end the war.’

Approximately 300 refugees and members of the Ukrainian community in Bucharest attend Orthodox Easter services on April 24, 2022, at St. Petru Movila Orthodox Church in the Romanian capital. RNS photo by Alexandra Radu

BUCHAREST, Romania (RNS) — The small wooden church of the Ukrainian community in Bucharest overflowed with more than 300 Ukrainian refugees and members of the diaspora living in the Romanian capital, who gathered for Orthodox Easter on Sunday morning (April 24).

The service at St. Petru Movila Church was conducted by the Rev. Volodimir Malcovici, who has served there as priest since the establishment of the parish in 2016. “Usually for Easter we have around 50 people coming from the Ukrainian community in Bucharest, but this year it felt like we had a little corner of Ukraine here,” said Malcovici, who described the service as “spiritually charged.”

“Hopefully they had a semblance of home for a short while — especially that the service was fully delivered in Ukrainian, our church being the only one in Bucharest who delivers the service in Ukrainian language,” he said.

“This year for Easter there is a mixed kind of joy,” said Natalia Pancec, a choir member and regular attendee at St. Petru Movila. “We are celebrating the resurrection of Christ, but at the same time we are praying to God to end the war and give wisdom to the evil ones who are attacking other countries, to make them understand that it’s not normal.

“This year was more painful than previous years,” she said. “But together with the Ukrainian community today we felt more joy, I saw how people were happy to hear the Ukrainian language being spoken in the church. I don’t think they expected to hear it in Bucharest.”

“Our parish is young and people are quite dispersed through Bucharest, so we are just a few at the Sunday service on a normal basis,” said Pancec. “Today there were so many people, most of them refugees. I met old friends of mine, Ukrainians who used to live in Bucharest, then moved to Ukraine and now they are back here because of the war. We were happy to see each other, but unfortunately it happened under these terrible auspices.”

The majority of people that participated in the Easter Mass were Ukrainian mothers with children who fled the war into Romania and found a temporary home in Bucharest. RNS photo by Alexandra Radu

The majority of people who attended Easter services were Ukrainian mothers with children who fled the war into Romania and found a temporary home in Bucharest. RNS photo by Alexandra Radu

More than 770,000 Ukrainian refugees have passed through Romania since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Of those, the majority have continued on toward other countries, but around 80,000 have remained in Romania. Most Ukrainians hope to return to their homes across the border once the situation becomes stable.

St. Petru Movila Church, the Ukrainian church in Bucharest, has been active in offering relief to refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine since the invasion began Feb. 24. “I think that we can bring our own contribution by helping those who left their homes and arrived in Romania, even if they don’t explicitly ask for our help. They are very humble people, but one can see they need help, and our mission as a church is to offer this help, both spiritually and materially,” added Malcovici.

People relax in the courtyard of the Ukrainian church in Bucharest, Romania, after the Easter Mass, Sunday, April 24, 2022. RNS photo by Alexandra Radu

People relax outside St. Petru Movila Ukrainian Church in Bucharest, Romania, after Easter services, April 24, 2022. RNS photo by Alexandra Radu