The Ukrainian Catholic church in Whitney Pier, N.S., is inviting everyone to Old Christmas Eve services on Friday night in support of people back home who are unable to celebrate because of the war with Russia.
Father Roman Dusanowskyj said the first Christmas in years to fall during wartime reminds him of the Soviet era, when the Ukrainian Church was declared illegal and services had to be held secretly in people's homes.
"Now it's almost the same situation for different reasons," he told Information Morning Cape Breton. "The church is open, you're allowed to celebrate, but many of the churches are not in good condition. They've been destroyed or damaged.
"People are afraid, for fear of being shelled, so again I find myself with this sense of celebrating Christmas for those that cannot celebrate it for themselves."
Ukrainian Christmas — or Old Christmas — is on Jan. 7 under the Julian calendar.
Dusanowskyj said Christmas is supposed to be a happy time for the church, but the war in Ukraine is making this season very stressful.
"We live in hope, but the reality is that this'll be a long, drawn-out process and I'm afraid, personally, that the worst is yet to come," he said.
Dusanowskyj still has family living in western Ukraine. He said they were spared from Russian attacks until recently.
But lately, the war has approached their homes and they are now without electricity and water, like many other communities in Ukraine, he said.
Dusanowskyj used to be chaplain for a Ukrainian military unit that started out with 50 men, but they were called into action not long after the Russian invasion last year. There were only 11 survivors and the unit has since been disbanded, he said.
The Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Church in Whitney Pier is holding two Christmas Eve services tonight.
Dusanowskyj said everyone, regardless of faith, is welcome to attend the candlelight service at 8 p.m. and mass at 9 p.m. Friday.
The presence of others would be appreciated in the spirit of helping support the Ukrainian people, he said.
Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Church is at 49 West Street in Sydney's Whitney Pier neighbourhood.
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