PRUDENTOPOLIS, Brazil (Reuters) – More than 12,000 kilometers (7,450 miles) away from the violence of the Russian invasion, some 200 Brazilians of Ukrainian descent gathered on Thursday to pray for peace in a country they still consider their homeland.
They sang and said Catholic mass in Ukrainian, holding flags of a country their ancestors left decades ago.
“God will hear us and Russia will retreat,” said Filomena Procek, a 67-year-old art teacher.
Her grandparents were born in southern Brazil near this town known as “Little Ukraine” because three-quarters of the population is of Ukrainian descent.
Ukrainians who settled in Brazil, some as far back as the late 19th century, mostly emigrated from western Ukraine and brought their culture and religion that they hang onto today.
“The invasion of Ukraine has moved people here very much. They are living in their hearts the suffering of Ukrainians today,” said Bishop Don Meron Mazur, a Ukrainian Brazilian.
“We are praying for peace in Ukraine, that Ukraine can be a sovereign nation free of invasions and above all free of bloodshed,” he told Reuters.
An image of Our Lady of Pochaev, a Byzantine icon of the Virgin Mary venerated by Eastern Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholics, hung from a gold chain over the bishop’s black robe.
Mazur said his community was surprised and saddened by the news of the invasion.
“We know how many priests, bishops, nuns and many lay people were deported, murdered or had to live in hiding under the Soviet regime,” he said.
(Reporting by Pilar Olivares; writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Leslie Adler)