21 February 2022

Canberra's Ukrainian community has one simple request; 'Come and pray with us'

| Max O'Driscoll
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The Ukrainian Church

The Ukrainian Church has a history in the Capital Region dating back to 1952 in Queanbeyan. Photo: Embassy of Ukraine in Australia.

As Minister for Defence Peter Dutton described Russia’s impending invasion of Ukraine as “inevitable” over the weekend, members of Canberra’s Ukrainian community gathered in Church.

Fifteen thousand kilometres away from their family and friends who fear for their lives, the Canberra community isn’t asking for much, only to remain in the thoughts and prayers of their fellow Australians, according to St Volodymyr’s Parish Priest Father Wolodymyr Kalinecki.

Fr Wolodymyr said Australia has felt like home since he moved here in 1959 and began reading about the Diggers and the history of Australia. His sense of belonging in Australia does not make the thought of his friends and relatives suffering in Ukraine any easier to deal with, though.

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“They’ve been aggressed, and people keep saying Russia is going to invade Ukraine, but Ukraine is already invaded. Parts of Ukraine are already occupied by Russians … people are being tortured and all sorts of things,” he said.

“The whole thing is just absolutely terrible. We just pray somehow that Putin will come to his senses and withdraw his army.”

Before the pandemic, the St Volodymyr’s Parish in Lyneham and St Michael’s in Queanbeyan would hold upwards of 30 regular visitors each. That figure has shrunk significantly since, but those in attendance have found the Church to be a source of support and camaraderie.

“At the moment, they [parishioners] come and just pray for their friends and relatives and get their spiritual strength from God as we get together,” Fr Wolodymyr said.

When asked what fellow Canberrans could do to help, Fr Wolodymyr said that there was only one thing he could think of at this time.

“If our Aussie brothers and sisters could come to pray with us on Sunday, the doors are open for everyone,” he said.

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The Federal Government has advised Australians in Ukraine to flee the country by commercial transport immediately. Those planning to drive out of Ukraine are instructed to follow the travel advice and use one of the suggested points of entry into Poland.

On Sunday, in a statement released by Peter Dutton and Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews, the government joined the United States and the United Kingdom in attributing the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate as the culprit of cyber attacks against the Ukrainian banking sector on 15 and 16 February, and reiterating its commitment to supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Most Sundays, Ukrainian Catholics meet at 9 am at St Michael’s in Queanbeyan and 11 am at St Volodymyr’s Parish in Lyneham.

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