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Scenes from a Vancouver Ukrainian church during the Russian invasion
by Leonardo DeGorter

During one cold day in March, a Ukrainian Orthodox community held a candlelight vigil outside their church in Mount Pleasant. My visual documentation of this parish started back then. Since then, I have photographed their ceremonies and involvement with displaced Ukrainians fleeing the war. Vancouver, 2022/2023.  
Father Roman Tsaplan reviews some of his notes before a candlelight prayer vigil in March. Over a hundred people gathered in the street with candles to pray during this event. An altar was set outside, at the cathedral's entrance, so it was visible to everyone. After the Russian invasion, the church board decided to collect donations for humanitarian relief. 
Ted Cholod, seen here at the centre, attended the event with one of his sons, Michael Cholod, and Elena Edwards, a church board member. When he was three years old, his family immigrated from Ukraine and settled in Saskatchewan. In August, his son travelled to Kyiv to work on a home, land, and property (HLP) restitution pilot project. He's still in Kyiv today.
Father Tsaplan conducts the Easter service for a packed church back in April. The war has increased the attendance of their Sunday services, and has brought all other parishes together.
Inga Lamaka and her three-year-old daughter Sonya during the Easter basket ceremony at Holy Trinity this past April (left). Lamaka was joined by her parents and brother, who also attended the service. They immigrated to Canada from Byelorussia when Lamaka was a teenager and have been attending Holy Trinity's services for almost 14 years. Every basket has a candle on an Easter loaf (above). After the ceremony is over and your food has been blessed, you can enjoy your Sunday meal at home. The candle will bless your house and your family. Father Tsaplan conducted the ceremony at the cathedral's auditorium (both images below).
The Ukraine Harmony Foundation has used Holy Trinity's auditorium for their fundraising events. The non-profit, created this year by Larysa Khvostova, has been running "clothing drives" every Sunday. Books, clothes, and other items are available for Ukrainian families (above and below). Children's clothes are separated by age group in different boxes (right). 
The auditorium of the Holy Trinity church is used for events and as a gathering space, where displaced Ukrainian families can socialize with parishioners. They can share their experiences with each other, eat, drink, and speak Ukrainian. Ihor, 7, and Stepan, 3, played on the floor during a clothing drive from the Ukraine Harmony Foundation. Stepan had just arrived with his parents in Vancouver. (above)
A sign advertising a dinner fundraiser organized by the Ukraine Harmony Foundation in November. You could enjoy a traditional Ukrainian meal inside the church or just have some takeout food. (above)
Lyudmyla Kovalevska and Oleksandr Kovalevskyy attended the Easter Sunday service at the parish. She brought with her a food basket covered with a cloth that she had embroidered herself many years ago, when she still lived in Lutsk, in northwestern Ukraine. On the cloth we can read "Christ is Risen" in Ukrainian. She wears a bracelet with the colours of her former country. A soldier gave it to her in 2014, during the first Russian invasion. She would still hear from him over the years, until he went missing in combat this past May. (right)
The Ukraine Harmony Foundation has used the parish for their fundraising dinners. The events are run with the help of many volunteers of Ukrainian origin. Some have arrived very recently in Canada. The big kitchen at Holy Trinity provides a good space for the team to prepare their meals. (above)
All photographs © Leonardo DeGorter
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