Connecticut Ukrainians Celebrate Christmas With Protests in Their Thoughts
As Ukrainian Christmas celebrations get underway, the recent political protests in Kiev have been on the forefront of some people's minds this holiday season.
On-going rallies have been held at Independence Square in Kiev in opposition to President Viktor Yanukovych's stand with Russia. Protesters want their former Soviet-country to sign an economic deal with the European Union.
"We're tremendously inspired by what we've seen," said Alex Kuzma, the Chief Development Officer with the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation and a Glastonbury resident. He was speaking on WNPR's Where We Live.
Although the protests have been focused on politics and economics, spirituality has played a role too. The National Catholic Register reported on the December 11 raid on the protest encampment:
To alert the public, a graduate student at a nearby theology academy next to Mikhailovsky Cathedral began ringing the sacred bells, which could be heard for miles. Father Buryadnyk joined other priests, in cassocks armed with crosses, taking up positions between the riot police and the demonstrators.
“At 3 o’clock in the morning, I was a few feet from police special forces, with their huge metal shields. We recited the Our Father and Hail Mary. Not only were protesters praying hard, the kind of prayer when you wonder if you will survive, but we saw some of the police praying quietly with us,” the priest said.
Kuzma said the Ukrainian Christmas traditions are held onto tightly. This is due partially to religious suppression in the Soviet Union.
"Our churches - both Ukrainian Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic - were driven into the underground at the end of World War II and during that period, we were the largest underground organization in the former Soviet Union," said Kuzma.
According to the latest U.S. Census estimates, there are approximately 19,000 people with Ukrainian ancestry in Connecticut. Christmas is celebrated on January 7 in accordance with the Julian calendar. The Kyiv Post picked out five Christmas traditions that are unique to Ukraine.