"LIGHTING THE WAY AHEAD"
A small Ukrainian community navigates its way through uncertain times
by Leonardo DeGorter
One month after the Russian invasion, a small Ukrainian Orthodox community held a candlelight prayer vigil outside their church. My documentation of this parish started back then. It is about their connection with Ukraine, their stories and traditions. I am still conducting interviews and taking photos. Ongoing project. Vancouver, 2022
Inside the cathedral’s chapel, Father Roman Tsaplan reviews some of his notes before starting the prayers. Outside, more than a hundred people of different ages gathered in the street with their candles. Last March, Vancouver's Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral held a candlelight vigil for Ukraine. The war was escalating, and there was a lot of uncertainty in the air.
Ted Cholod, seen here at the centre, attended the event with one of his sons, Michael Cholod, and Elena Edwards, a friend and member of the church board. His family immigrated from Ukraine in 1936, when he was three years old, and settled in Saskatchewan. His son travelled to Kyiv this summer with The Peace Coalition, a non-profit association of NGOs, academic institutions and experts in home, land, and property restitution. He's working on a pilot project to speed the property restitution process, which can take decades to be completed. (above)
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 Holy Trinity Parish is used for events and as a gathering space, where displaced families can socialize with parishioners. They can share their experiences with each other, eat, drink, and speak Ukrainian. During a clothing drive from the Ukraine Harmony Foundation, kids that arrived recently in Vancouver with their families played on the floor.
A sign advertising a dinner fundraiser organized by the Ukraine Harmony Foundation at the front of the Holy Trinity cathedral. You could enjoy a traditional Ukrainian meal inside 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 Lunsk, 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