Ukrainians celebrate Christmas amid ongoing onslaught of war
By Stefan J. Bos
Pope Francis prayed for peace as St. Michael’s Cathedral in Kyiv prepared for what believers hope will be a peaceful Christmas. It’s here where we meet Lesya and Valeriy.
They are two volunteers in Ukraine’s civil defense forces areas of these are who married in March at a military-style ceremony after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Video of their wedding was seen worldwide. Nine months later, Lesya has left the army, but Valeriy continues to serve. But Lesya is happy they are briefly reunited to celebrate Christmas. “We share this light like we share love and kindness and peace,” she said as the faithful gathered for a candlelight ceremony. “So the idea is to share these good feelings, which are especially important during the war. To remind them about the deep sense of Christmas.”
It provides a brief escape from the horrors of Europe’s most significant armed conflict since World War Two, which killed at least tens of thousands of people, with many more injured and millions forced to flee their homes.
And there were no signs of a Christmas truce ten months after Russia’s invasion began.
Ukrainian authorities said Russian troops attacked settlements near Bakhmut, a city in the east of Ukraine, with tanks, mortars, cannons, and rocket artillery in the last 24 hours.
The city in the Donetsk region is seen as a critical battleground for Ukrainian forces, trying to defend the area and gain ground in the east, and Russian troops.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky visited the frontline city this week. As clashes continue, Lesya, realizes her husband will soon leave again for the frontlines of this devastating conflict. “We can’t plan our future now,” she said. “We are wishing for peace. But not just peace; we want peace after our victory. So it’s only one desire which unites our nation.”
It’s a Christmas wish shared by millions, including Christians praying for peace.
Many face a bitterly cold winter in Ukraine, where much of this wartorn nation’s infrastructure was destroyed by relentless Russian attacks.