Putin’s faith and contempt moves a Ukrainian church to Manchester.

Every Sunday, the 50 children and adults who make up this parish fill the pews to hear mass in Ukrainian. They sing, take communion, then have coffee and pastries, but since the beginning of the war, they have stayed longer to pray the Rosary for peace in their country.

On this Sunday, March 6, they gathered after the service, holding small Ukrainian flags and talking about the war. They wondered about the family members they still had there. Many are upset about the unprovoked invasion and blame Putin for the crisis.

Church members usually stay after mass to talk about the community.

Mariya Popovich and her husband Petro were born in western Ukraine. She says she cries every day and calls Putin a killer. She worries especially about the children who have to abandon their homes during the freezing nights.

Her husband Petro, who served in the Ukrainian army for 23 years, is visibly angry and emotional when he says Putin kills siblings, referring to Russians as his family.

Martha Majkut worries that her husband’s family doesn’t have a basement bunker to hide in. “They had to go out and find other places to hide to spend the night,” she said. Her parents had to flee during the Second World War, so she understands the hell of exodus.

“He [Putin] is crazy as far as I’m concerned. These people did nothing wrong and they were shelled in the middle of the night,” Majkut said. She believes the United States can do more to preserve Ukraine’s independence.

Parishioners are also praying for the well-being of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and for the more than 1.3 million Ukrainians who have fled their homes since the start of the war.

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Mariya Popovich talks every day with her family in Ukraine.

As the Russians advance and encircle the humanitarian corridors, first-generation Ukrainian Joroslaw Maksymowich fears that his family members will soon be evacuated. He says the church in Manchester has helped many people maintain their culture, but in times like this you can see how close they are.

“There are important ties between people here and Ukrainians. They are passionate about letting the world know who we are,” he said.

Yury Skliaryk was born in Belarus but has family in Ukraine. He anxiously watches the news. He feels appalled and shocked. He says Belarus is helping Putin attack from the north, which is a double pain. He is divided between his country and Ukraine.

At the end of the service, church organizers distributed information on where to donate and how to support people in Ukraine. They say they have heard of many scammers and do not want people to fall in love with them.

NPR released a list of organizations you can support.

Organizers say you can also support Ukraine by attending weekend mass.

Jerry B. Hatch