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Calgary-based Ukrainians prepare for sombre Easter celebrations amid war

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Many Calgary-based Ukrainians are preparing for their Easter this Sunday, April 24, which also marks two months of war in Ukraine.

“I think it's going be quite emotional for everyone, including myself,” said Father Patrick Yamniuk of St. Vladimir's Ukrainian Orthodox Sobor.

While Sunday should be a joyous celebration, this year, it will likely be somber.

“I'm sure for the refugees, they will be thinking about their families at home that aren't going to be able to come to church,” said Yamniuk. “There'll be those that have lost loved ones in Ukraine (and) they'll be thinking about their recent loss, the sorrow and will be grieving at the same time.”

Yamniuk says his congregation has been welcoming those seeking asylum into the community.

“The church is becoming the adopted family for these people,” he said. “This is a place where they can come to feel comfort, (and where) there are other people that speak their language.”

When the war began, St. Vladimir's created a Ukrainian humanitarian aid committee to help home refugees, provide support and give out basic supplies to those coming to Calgary.

“I’m an immigrant, so I remember myself coming to Canada and thinking, ‘What would I need first as essentials?” said Olga Matsula, who is on the committee. “On top of not having necessities, we also have some ability to give people hope, to give them comfort that they’re wanted and welcome in Canada.”

St. Vladimir's is expecting more refugees requiring their services this month and are continuing to collect donations. They are also asking local businesses, if they have any employment opportunities that would be suitable for newcomers, to contact them.

HELPING PETS IN NEED

Calgarians have not only stepped up to help Ukrainians, but they are helping their animals as well.

“I just didn’t want to sit here and feel helpless,” said Sue Ghebari, the owner of 17th Ave Thrift Store. “We really want to help some of the animals, and the people who own animals or who have animals that they had to leave behind.”

Parachutes for Pets, and 17th Ave Thrift Store, teamed up to collect donations. Melissa David, the founder of the charity, says there is a high demand for veterinary care supplies and pet food.

David has been in contact with four animal welfare organizations in Ukraine that are helping abandoned and injured animals, along with pets with owners seeking safety.

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