Diplomats and MPs join Ukrainians in ‘undivided solidarity’ at moving service

Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski said the community wants to send the message: ‘Stand with Ukraine and stop the war.’

27 February 2022

Dozens of diplomats and MPs have joined Ukrainians in the UK for a service to show “undivided solidarity” with the country amid Russia’s invasion.

Ukrainian ambassador Vadym Prystaiko, MPs Nickie Aiken and Mark Pritchard, Estonian ambassador Viljar Lubi and Canadian high Commissioner Ralph Goodale all attended the service at the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Holy Family of London in Mayfair on Sunday morning.

Before the service, Kenneth Nowakowski, bishop for Ukrainian, Belarusian and Slovak Eastern Catholics in the UK, told the PA news agency that the community wants to send the message: “Stand with Ukraine and stop the war.”

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Ambassador of Ukraine to the UK Vadym Prystaiko takes part in a special service at the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Holy Family of London (Aaron Chown/PA)

He said: “Today is really going to be a day of prayer and reflection, and a day of solidarity for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.

“I think the message we want to say collectively is ‘Stand with Ukraine and stop the war’, and just be in solidarity and let people know that you support them and that you support the peace.”

On the general feeling within the UK’s Ukrainian community, Bishop Nowakowski said: “I think over the last 50 hours we’ve experienced everything.

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MPs Nickie Aiken (front left) and Mark Pritchard (front right) take part in the service (Aaron Chown/PA)

“We’ve experienced great heartbreak. We have experienced resolve that we are going to do whatever we can do.

“I know that many people have come to us for blessing and that they are returning to Ukraine either to be with their families or indeed to take up arms to defend Ukraine.”

He added that Catholic bishops in Ukraine are staying with the people and the churches are open, providing pastoral care and “hoping that faith will help people get through this challenging and difficult time”.

During the service members of the congregation, many of whom were tearful throughout, sang Ukrainian hymns like Bozhe Vekykyj Yedynyj – meaning “God is the One and Only”.

John Wilson, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Southwark, condemned the “evil” invasion of Ukraine as he made a powerful sermon during the service.

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Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski speaks to the media outside the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Holy Family of London (Aaron Chown/PA)

He said: “We stand with you in undivided solidarity but so must every person and every nation that believes in peace.”

The bishop went on to call the invasion “outrageous” and “an act of unjustifiable aggression” which has “brought war to our people and to Europe”.

“The news and images from Ukraine in recent days are truly devastating,” he said.

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The service at the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Holy Family of London (Aaron Chown/PA)

“We have watched in despair and disbelief as your country has been violated and it continues – the death toll is rising, each day loved ones are being killed, families are being parted and people are being displaced.

“The sick and elderly and babies and young children are forced underground as lives are torn apart and homes are destroyed.

He later added: “Everyone loses in war and the face of humanity is disfigured.”

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Members of the congregation pray at the service (Aaron Chown/PA)

“None of us can be indifferent to the evil taking place in Ukraine.”

Outside the church, volunteers Zhanna Gnydenko, 45, and Andriy Melnyk, 33, were collecting donations to buy medical supplies and equipment like bulletproof vests that would then be driven in a lorry to Ukraine.

Ms Gnydenko told the PA news agency: “We are volunteering to do anything to help.

“We came to the service to direct people to help, to give them advice and to collect money, and that way we can connect and organise this better.

She also thanked Boris Johnson for the support he has shown Ukraine in the last few days.

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