Ukrainian American parishioners in Montco celebrate Orthodox Easter

Many parishioners remembered family and friends in Ukraine who are caught in the crosshairs of a nearly two-month-long Russian invasion.

A row of Ukrainian American parishioners stand on the edge of a green field, with Easter baskets in front of them.

Hundreds attended Easter services at St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church in Jenkintown, Pa., on April 24, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Ukrainian American families in Montgomery County flocked to Saint Michael The Archangel Catholic Church in Jenkintown on Sunday, with baskets in tow, to celebrate Orthodox Easter.

Attendance was in the high hundreds, as most people stood outside listening to the service on overflow speakers set up on the church’s lawn.

They sang hymns, listened to liturgy, and blessed the baskets — which were filled with traditional Easter foods like psanky (hard-boiled eggs painted with folk designs), sweet bread, and more.

For Orthodox Christians, Easter is one of the holiest days of the year in which Eastern European families celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

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This year, many are remembering loved ones in Ukraine, as the country defends against the Russian invasion that has raged on for almost two months and has claimed the lives of more than 2,000 civilians, according to NPR.

Parishioner Roman Petyk said his parents came to the U.S. from Eastern Europe as World War II refugees. He said there has historically been some “dismissiveness” between people who speak Russian and Ukrainian, but he added that times are changing.

“The war has been a great unifier among people. The things that we thought divided us don’t seem to divide us anymore,” said Roman Petyk. “It’s sad that it takes the kind of destruction that’s going on to bring that out…in a way, it’s brought out the best in this community.”

Andriy Kulylan could be seen in the church’s parking lot directing traffic. He said religion is crucial to ensuring morale is strong in uncertain times.

“We have to keep our soul alive.” Kulylan said.

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The atmosphere in Jenkintown on Sunday was mostly cheerful and familial. Some people said they were happy to connect with friends they had not seen since last Easter.

Many wore colorful outfits, including some who wore blue and yellow clothing, paying tribute to Ukraine’s flag.

Orthodox Easter is usually celebrated after non-Orthodox Easter due to differences in calendar adoption amongst cultures.

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