Alona Fartukhova, a 20-year-old refugee from war-torn Kyiv, has been coming to Berlin’s Ukrainian Orthodox Christian Community every day since her arrival. She has helped organize donations for her fellow refugees back home.
Fartukhova joined hundreds of Ukrainian worshippers in a red-brick stone church in Berlin. They sang, lit candles and received blessings from Father Oleh Polito, the head of the community. Later, they packed medical crutches and sleeping bags, large boxes of gummi bears, as well as countless jars full of pickles, into big cardboard boxes for shipment to Ukraine.
The university student fled with her family and now lives in Berlin. “
Ukrainians from all walks of Europe gathered on Sunday for church services to pray for peace. Long-standing members of Europe’s 1.5million-strong diaspora, including long-time residents of Ukraine, mingled at places of worship across Europe.
After Russia attacked Ukraine three weeks ago over 338 million people fled their homes.
Many have fled to Romania, Poland or Moldova. However, as the war rages, many are moving westward.
Germany has registered over 200,000 Ukrainian refugees, but the actual numbers are likely to be higher because Ukrainians do not need to have a visa to enter Germany. Federal police are limited to registering refugees who arrive in Germany by train or bus from Poland.
The German Ukrainian immigrant community (about 300,000) has been busy raising money and collecting donations. They have also driven goods across the border to Germany and taken with them refugees.
Many of the diaspora Ukrainians are leaders in refugee efforts and have become an anchor for people worried about their families back home.
Polianko, the head of the 500-member Orthodox Christian community Berlin, offered one-on-one prayers to those who were particularly distressed. “
The Berlin community was so overwhelmed by donations that they had to temporarily move from the Hermsdorf church to the Lutheran Philippus Nathanael church in Berlin-Friedenau. Andriy Ilin is the deputy head of this community.
The Lutherans currently hold their own services at a nearby community centre.
They offered the church initially for March. Now they have extended it to April. And they have graciously let us know that they will accept any additional requests. Ilin said.
Other European countries have also welcomed Ukrainians to their churches.
On Sunday, both locals and refugees gathered in Chisinau (the capital of Moldova) for an Orthodox prayer ceremony.
Angelica Gretsai was a Ukrainian refugee who lit candles in the small Sfintul Gheorghe Church just before the Russian religious service began.
Gretsai stated that she prayed for peace, for Ukraine, for the two countries (Russians, and Ukrainians) to come to an agreement, and for the war to cease.
She said that she is essentially alone in Moldova and that it was the first time she had ever visited. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Moldova has received more than 360,000 refugees.
At the Ukrainian border in Suceava, Romania, new arrivals from Ukraine were welcomed together by locals. Since the start of war, more than half a billion refugees have fled to Romania from Ukraine.
Ariadna Belciug was a local resident who attended the service and said that she was praying for “especially the children, since no one deserves to suffer these times.” “
Belciug said, “I pray that they will be all right, safe, and for better days to come.”