‘We have faith that there can be miracles’: Ukrainians of different faiths in Rochester rally in prayer

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester area Ukrainians are turning up their prayers for peace and protection as Russia’s invasion of their native country intensifies.

On Friday night, they came together for a service at Saint Mary The Protectress Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Irondequoit in an appeal for help and protection, and a memorial.

"We are gathered together to pray,” explained Parish Council President Nick Sztanko, “for not only the people that are under fire right now but those who have also been killed.”

Members of the congregation report relatives back in Ukraine have been drafted, or have taken up weapons to defend their home… like both godparents of Yaroslav Stevankiv’s son.

"Husband and wife. And they give child to grandma and they go to war," he said.

“They have men who have sent their families abroad and have returned to pick up guns and fight,” Sztanko said. “This is going to be a street fight, hand to hand combat basically.”

“This is a bad time for Europe, for America, this is a bad time for all of us,” said St. Mary’s Pastor Rev. Igor Krekhovetsky, “Time for prayers."

The Saint Mary’s congregation has been holding these vigils for weeks but more local Ukrainians and faith communities are now lining up to add their voices too.

"We are in an orthodox church right here,” said Dennis Pavlyuk of Rochester, who came to drop off flyers for a Saturday rally in support of Ukraine. “And then there’s Catholics down the road, and there’s Protestants over in Greece. We’re just trying to get all these communities together."

Much of the congregation at the Friday service was older but members say younger Ukrainians are galvanized too, especially those back in Ukraine who have no memory of oppression under the Soviet Union, and no desire to see it return.

“We have faith,” declared Lydia Dzus of Irondequoit. “We have faith that there can be—miracles are going to happen and they’re going to withstand the barrage that they are seeing and make it.”

Local faith communities plan to hold another service Saturday evening at Saint Josephat’s Ukrainian Catholic Church.