Refugees from Ukraine prepare traditional Easter eggs

Ukrainian Easter Far from Home

Easter, just like Spring, represents a time for rebirth, renewal and hope. But things just don’t feel the same this year as the deadly conflict in Ukraine continues. The world has watched in horror as thousands of people have been killed and 11 million more have been forced to run for their lives as their homes are reduced to rubble.

During a plea for peace, Pope Francis recently summarised the Ukraine war as: “Mothers who mourn the unjust death of husbands and sons. Refugees who flee from bombs with children in their arms. Young people deprived of a future. Soldiers sent to kill their brothers and sisters.”

Perhaps some hope can be found in the resilience of those who have been most affected by these tragic events. We spoke to a few of the Ukrainians who will be spending this Easter far away from friends and family who have taken refuge in shelters, schools and people’s homes across Ukraine and in neighbouring countries like Romania and Moldova.

Ukrainian Easter stories in their own words

Liz from Odessa talks about how they used to celebrate Easter in Ukraine before the war started

Liza, 22, from Odessa, Ukraine, now staying with a host family in Bucharest, Romania.

“Here in Romania they celebrate Easter just like we do. They make coloured eggs just like Ukrainians. The family hosting us will join us and we will make eggs and cakes. Usually in Ukraine we get up in the morning and go to church and then go to my grandparents to eat and play games and talk. At Easter, everyone should be together.”

Anton, 15-year-old refugee from Ukraine.

Anton, 15, from Odessa, Ukraine, now staying with a host family in Bucharest, Romania

“[During Easter] we should pay attention relatives and don’t forget about them. Usually when we have Easter, we have a lot of people, we have food, eggs and cake. It’s very good spending time with family when you’re in the kitchen and cooking so that then when you’re eating you understand that you did it with love with your family.”

Julia and her 10-year-old daughter fled their home and are currently staying in a school, converted to a shelter.
Julia and her 10-year-old daughter fled their home and are currently staying in a school, converted to a shelter. She is torn between keeping her daughter safe and being with the rest of her family and friends who remained despite fighting near their home. 
 
Mother and Daughter Julia and Sofia are staying in a school shelter in Chernivitsi, a town in western Ukraine

Julia: “[This Easter] I want to see my family. Never in my life have I wanted to see them as I do now. We are all different and when everyone gets together, we argue, often it’s loud. But, [next time] we will be silent. We’ll just be happy to be together and alive.”

Sofia: “Maybe I will help my mom make sweets and after that I will get to eat the glaze and sprinkles that go on top of the pasha (Easter cake). We’ll also eat eggs.”

Xenia, child refugee from Ukraine sits in a shelter with her other and sister and talks about how they traditionally celebrated Easter
Xenia (on the left in pink) and her sister, Olga, 9, visit a play space in the shelter where they are staying with roughly 300 other people who have fled their homes in Ukraine.  
 
Xenia, 12, escaped Kyiv and is staying in a school shelter with her mother and younger sister in Chernivitsi, a town in western Ukraine

“[For Easter], we buy kinder chocolates and hide them in the house and search for them with all the family. We also play with eggs. The egg game involves two people holding eggs and crashing them together. The winner is the one whose egg hasn't broken. We use paper to make rabbits.” (Ukrainian origami)

Tatiana and her daughter Anastasia. Tatiana left Odesa, fearing that she and her children would become collateral damage if fighting broke out at the airport, which is close to their house.
Tatiana and her daughter Anastasia. They left Odessa, fearing that she and her children would become collateral damage if fighting broke out at the airport, which is close to their house. They expected to be sleeping in their car but have been overwhelmed by the generosity of Romanian people who have welcomed them into their home.
 
Tatiana, from Odessa, Ukraine, now staying with a host family in Bucharest, Romania.

“Usually for Easter, in the morning we got to church as a family and then altogether we go to my parent’s house and talk. It’s such a pleasure to be all together. Maybe this year we can all be together again with my husband.”

Our teams  have been working in Ukraine and Romania since the first week of the crisis. We are quickly scaling up our work to support children and their families with basic essentials and other critical services, with the goal of reaching nearly 300,000 people in Romania, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia within by the end of May.  

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