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How Ukrainians are doing Christmas differently this year

Myroslav Mardarevych, a combat medic, is sitting at a desk in the foyer to St Sophia Cathedral in central Kyiv.

Just recently, he has returned to the frontline and is busy writing names on small pieces. These are submissions of prayers to the church. Myroslav has completed three of these slips with names.

His list of deceased friends is longer than the one he has.

Image Combat doctor Myroslav Martarevych

He says, “I wrote to ensure the safety and well-being of my relatives, friends, and fighters of the Ukrainian army, and all Ukrainians.” “On this holy Christmas Day, God protect Ukraine and grant us strength and determination for victory.”


Ukrainians celebrate their first Christmas since February’s invasion by Russia .

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church gave the option to parishes in the country to observe 25 December together with the rest, breaking from the tradition of eastern Orthodox Christians who celebrate 7 January.

“For some, it’s the chance to celebrate with the entire world. Father Georgii Kovalenko, St Sophia’s priest says that for some it is the chance to celebrate outside of Russia.

Learn more about Ukraine

Today, Ukrainians understand Christmas to mean “Christmas in its literal sense.” They were homeless when the holy family couldn’t find somewhere to live. Like the Ukranians who lost their homes, so were the holy family and Christ.

Image: Father Georgii Kolenko
Image St Sophia’s Cathedral

Halfway through Father Georgii’s sermon, the sirens of air raid went off. Instead of Christmas bells, there was a loud horn and instructions for shelter.

Instead of running to shelters, they continued the service as more people arrived.

People gathered in prayer to remind their nation of war in the midst of their worship. Pope Francis in his 2022 Christmas address to all of humanity called it “senseless”.

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Zelenskyy’s Christmas message

Christmas dinner

President Zelensky wore his military green to give a sad speech on Christmas Eve.

He said, “Unfortunately this year all holidays are bitter for us and it is possible to feel the traditional spirit Christmas differently.”

“Dinner at the family dinner table might not be as tasty or warm. It may have empty chairs and the streets and homes around it may not be as bright.

“Wherever you are, we will be there together today. We will all look up at the night sky together and we will recall the morning of 24 Feb. We will all remember how far we have come.”

Image Lesia Vasalenko is a human rights defender and parliamentarian.

Millions of Ukrainians are still separated from their loved ones. However, some families have been able to unite.

Lesia Vasalenko, a parliamentarian and human rights defender, is back for Christmas with her children.

Because of her work, she was vulnerable to assassination. She sent her family to the UK in fear for their safety.

She was suffering from homesickness and has now brought her children home to celebrate with their family in Korostyshiv.

They see their grandparents for the first times since the beginning of the war.

“Everyone of them has a mother to help them in some way or another.” It leaves scars that will be evident in years to follow,” says Lesia.

Russia excels at this type of fatigue. We have no moral right, in Ukraine or elsewhere, to become tired of this.


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