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Ukrainian Easter traditions continue


When many Catholic Ukrainians fled their homeland after the Second World War and came to countries like Australia, they brought with them the rich traditions of their culture and faith.

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Here in Adelaide there are two Ukrainian Catholic communities – at Woodville and Wayville. Prior to the building of these churches, Ukrainian Mass was held at St Patrick’s Church in Grote Street.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church follows the Julian calendar which means that most years, including 2022, it celebrates Easter Sunday a week later than the Gregorian calendar date.

Maria Papa, who attends the Church of Sts Volodymyr and Olha at Woodville, said on Good Friday her community would gather for the Exposition of the Shroud which was painted on canvas by her uncle in the 1950s.

Maria Papa and grandson Christopher at the blessing of the baskets.

Four people carry the shroud from the altar and lead a procession which circles the outside of the church three times. The shroud is returned to the church and worshippers kiss the wounded hands, feet and forehead of Christ.

On Saturday evening, parishioners bring their Easter baskets and lay them on the ground next to candles for a blessing. The baskets include horse radish, either as a root or grated with beetroot as a relish to represent the “bitter sweet” death and resurrection of Christ, decorated eggs (pysanky), baked sweet bread (paska), ham, Polish sausage, salt, cream cheese and butter.

With a strict “vegan” diet adhered to on Good Friday, the blessed contents of the baskets are enjoyed after Easter Sunday Mass.

Maria said she took all day making the paska, and while she once helped her children use the batik technique to decorate the eggs, she now uses shrink wrap sleeves.

Maria’s mother came out to Australia with her first husband in the early 1950s and had a child. Her father came around the same time, fearing reprisal from the Russians if he returned to Ukraine after working in a German labour camp.

“Mum had one child already and it was difficult being a single mum,” she said.

After remarrying, Maria was born, followed by her brother. She became a member of the Ukrainian Youth Association when she was four years old and 60 years later she is still a member.

The youth association’s motto is ‘God and Ukraine’.

“That’s been my life from the word go, I went to church every Sunday with my Mum and Dad…every funeral, every holy day…that was my life and it still is,” she said.


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