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The Tablet – Tears, Prayers and Support Across the Diocese For War-Torn Ukraine, February 28, 2022 by Bill Miller

‘A Shared History of Oppression’

https://thetablet.org/tears-prayers-and-support-across-the-diocese-for-war-torn-ukraine/

On Sunday, Father Tyhovych celebrated regular Sunday Mass at his parish, Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Church in Williamsburg. He announced they would welcome some visitors later — Lithuanian Catholics from Mount Carmel-Annunciation Parish, just a few blocks away on North 5th Street.

Father Tyhovych said the Lithuanians were coming with a couple diplomats. They wanted to visit their Eastern Rite church, also on North 5th Street, to show solidarity with their Ukrainian neighbors.

Unbeknownst to the parishioners, the 140 “neighbors” from Mount Carmel-Annunciation decided on Thursday, when the invasion began, to show their support of Ukraine and its diaspora in Brooklyn and Queens.

An usher, Yaroslav — born in the U.S. to a Ukrainian family, preferred not to give his last name to protect family in his parents’ homeland — didn’t think much about the announcement, but when the neighbors finally arrived, he and fellow parishioners could only weep.

“People were coming in, and it was one person after another,” he said. “They were carrying our flags, and their flags, and it just overwhelmed you. After that, I was walking around with my phone, filming and taking pictures, and I kept crying. I’m still crying.”

Following the Ukrainian Mass, the Lithuanians presented Father Tyhovych with a wood-carved replica of a traditional wayside shrine from their homeland. At the top was an iconic “Compassionate Christ” figure.

“It has very deep meaning to Lithuanian Catholics and is found in churches and homes throughout Lithuania,” said Raimundas Šližys, a trustee at Mount Carmel-Annunciation parish. “It was especially revered during the years of Lithuania’s occupation by the Soviets.”

Šližys noted that last Sunday, Feb. 27 parishioners celebrated Lithuania’s independence. The parish has held a Mass in Lithuanian since 1914, he said.

“We normally celebrate Lithuanian Independence as a joyous event, but this year, our thoughts are focused on the tragic events in Ukraine,” Šližys said. “We have a shared history of oppression under Soviet rule, and we feel that Ukrainians are now fighting not only for their own freedom, but also for the freedom of Lithuania and all democratic nations threatened by Russia.”

‘Today, We Are All Ukrainian’

The Lithuanian delegation stepped off from their church on North 5th Street, with members brandishing or wearing flags of both nations. Others carried placards and posters with solidarity slogans like, “We Stand with Ukraine,” “Pray for Ukraine!” and “We #standwithukraine.”

Flag colors — blue and gold for Ukraine; gold, green, and red for Lithuania — appeared on face masks, neckties, and scarves. The marchers gained approval with honking horns from passing motorists. A few women and girls wore traditional Lithuanian attire.

Joining the procession were Rytis Paulauskas, Lithuania’s ambassador to the United Nations, and Ambassador Vaclovas Salkauskas, consul general of the Republic of Lithuania in New York.

“Today, we are all Ukrainian, without any doubt,” Paulauskas said. “It’s really difficult to speak, knowing that your courageous men and women are dying — dying in Kyiv, dying in multiple other places. Fighting for every inch of the territory. Fighting for the state, and also fighting for the choice to be free.

“Freedom was always important to Lithuania. It was always important to Ukraine. And we have been blessed through history to have stood with you, together, to fight for freedom.”

‘In the Same Boat as Us’

Yaroslav said that Lithuanians are, “in the same boat as we are.”

“They were under communism just like all the Baltic states and the Slavic states,” he added. “They know what It’s like, and they could be next.”

Father Tyhovych happily accepted the replica shrine and promised to display it prominently on the church’s side altar for the entire congregation to see.

The pastor, born in Ukraine, said that, “as a spiritual person and a priest,” he didn’t want to focus on politics. But he did comment on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“If you want to see the face of evil, you have to look at Putin,” he said, drawing applause from both congregations. “It’s very important for our (U.S.) politicians to understand that they are not just dealing with someone who is representing his people.

“He is terrorizing his own people. He hates his own people. He’s trying to deceive other people and countries. It’s critical for us to reprimand him. He needs to be expelled.”

At the end of the Ukrainian Mass, everyone from both parishes assembled for a group photo on the steps of Holy Ghost Church.
They chanted in Ukrainian, “Slava Ukrayini! Slava heroyam!” (Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!).

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