Many Ukrainians who were in Ireland for Christmas celebrated it in their own way, but some felt unable to do so due to the ongoing war.
With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine beginning in 2022 and Ireland opening its borders to refugees soon after, many Ukrainians will be experiencing their second or first Christmas in the republic.
One of them is Viktoria Tymoshchuk, who fled Kherson, Ukraine, alone with her young daughter.
“My mother is still in Kherson because she does not want to leave the city and become ‘internationally homeless,'” Timoshchuk explained.
“I left my mother at home and was very worried, but I had to rescue my daughter and prioritize her future.”
I won’t be home for Christmas
This year, the government decided to allow Ukrainian refugees living in hotels and other state-provided accommodation into the country. travel freely Christmas period until December 22ndn.d. and January 8thth.
However, Timoshchuk was unable to return home as his town was destroyed by Russian shelling.
A recent bombing in Kherson killed five people and knocked out power to much of the city.
After arriving, Tymoshchuk became involved in the Ukrainian Network. As a facilitator of the movement, she organizes events for her fellow refugees.
This Christmas, the Kalina Choir, founded by Ms Timoshchuk with Svitlana Deikun, performed in a church in Cork on Christmas Day.
“People come together, especially if they live close to each other,” she said. “Ukrainians are very friendly and try to be together.”
But after watching a choir performance and watching a few Christmas movies with his daughter, Tymoszczuk realized he wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy Christmas in Ireland.
“For me personally, everything has changed since the war started,” she said. “I have no peace in my heart and soul, and every day I think about the suffering of my country and my people.
“As long as there is hell in our homeland, we can’t celebrate anything.”
christmas in ukraine
Tymoshchuk recalled a previous Christmas he had spent in Ukraine.
“I often took my daughter to see her godmother in Oreshki,” she said.
“Traditionally, children visit their godparents and bring them food. In return, the children receive presents and the whole family eats something delicious.
“Unfortunately, families cannot be united because people can live in different parts of the world.
“Today, the bridge that connected the two cities across the Dnieper River has been destroyed, and Oreshki is an occupied city under Russian control.”
Tymoshchuk knows of some refugees who have been able to return home, especially from northern Ukraine, but at this point she is unsure when she and her daughter will be able to return home.
“It’s difficult to give an appropriate answer about the desire to return home,” she says.
“My town has been destroyed, so if the Irish government offers me the opportunity to stay in Ireland, I will take it.”
Earlier this month, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed a law making Christmas in Ukraine fall on December 25th.thrather than the previous traditional January 7th.thRussia also follows suit.
Although Tymoshchuk himself has never celebrated Christmas in detail, he explained that some Ukrainians use these two dates to celebrate Christmas with old and new traditions.
“Every Ukrainian family has its own traditions for celebrating Christmas,” she says. “It depends on their background and where they come from.
“Ukrainians celebrate Christmas on both December 25th and January 6th.
“When Ukrainians celebrate with local Irish friends, they celebrate according to local traditions and taste local food.
“Also, locals ask Ukrainians to cook and taste their traditional dishes.
“People are integrating and embracing the traditions and customs of the countries they now live in.”
For example, in Ukraine, Ukrainians celebrate Christmas Eve with Sviata Vecheria (“Holy Supper”). A 12-course dinner including kutia, boiled wheat mixed with poppy seeds and honey.
Ukrainians also decorate their homes with diduks, bundles of wheat stalks that symbolize the spirits of their ancestors who visit them at Christmas. Some kutia are left on the table for deceased family members.
#I got the cork Today (July 27-29) we are honored to be hosting the 2023 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and to sing Danny Boy with the Cork Ukrainian Choir. For more information about Fab Festival, please visit https://t.co/YNSVRMa7M2 #warecork #CorkPride #citywelcome pic.twitter.com/G5MaKkBj8c
— Cork Mayor Sir Kieran McCarthy (@cllrkmac) July 3, 2023
Meanwhile, Tymoshchuk and a Ukrainian community group spent the holidays hosting a performance by the Kalina choir.
The group will host a fundraiser with Trocaire for Caritas, a Ukrainian humanitarian charity.
The event is open to all communities, she said.
“You can hear traditional Ukrainian Christmas carols, traditional and modern songs, and you can also see our traditional costumes,” she said.
“Our people love holidays, so many of them will celebrate a traditional Christmas, too.”
“Ukrainians support each other”
Tomyshchuk pointed out that Ukrainians have looked out for each other since they took refuge in Ireland. She said she would especially do so during the Christmas season.
“People are feeling upset, but we hope there will be peace in our land,” she said. “We support each other, pray for each other and hope for better times.”
Representatives of Ukraine said that changing the official date of Christmas was to bring the country into line with the “European family.”