Orthodox Christians across Ukraine are marking Easter Sunday. But this year’s celebrations have been deeply marred by Russia’s ongoing and brutal invasion.
Today the sun shines brightly in the western city of Lviv — a welcome signal of spring after days of colder temperatures, grey skies and rain. It’s fitting on this most important of holidays, which emphasizes reflection and rebirth.
At a high school in the city center, teachers are putting on a special Easter brunch for displaced Ukrainians who fled here from war-torn parts of the country.
“It’s a great honor for us. I wanted all the people to get together and to have this lunch especially because this is the day when we really hope for our victory. And I do believe that we will win,” principal Svitlana Matys tells CNN.
She explains the school has been providing food and shelter to many in the weeks since the conflict erupted. Today, a priest has come to bless a bountiful buffet of paska (traditional Easter bread), sausages and salads prepared by the school’s staff.
Matys says eight of the teachers worked until 11 p.m. last night — delayed at one point by air raid sirens across the city — to put finishing touches on their offerings and ensure everything was perfect for their guests.
Shrugging it off, she says: “It was late but when we are at home preparing for this holiday, we do it all night – it’s a habit.”
It’s a welcomed gesture from those here today, who include 73-year-old Tetiana from Severodonetsk in Luhansk region.
“We feel joy and gratitude for sheltering us. We were provided with all the convenience here and now such a nice holiday was organized for us,” she says.
“Yesterday we went to the church and today we are here. Easter for me is first of all peace. We wish the war to be finished as soon as possible,” she continues as tears started to fall from her eyes.
After mingling among the diners, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi reflects on the significance of celebrating this year.
“For Ukrainians, Easter is one of the most important holidays of the year — it symbolizes resurrection,” he explains. “Always when there are hard times for Ukraine we say: ‘Christ was resurrected, and Ukraine will be resurrected.’ And it’s really a sign, because Ukrainians in their nature are optimistic and believe in kindness.”