September 21, 2014 was International Day of Peace. On that day, the St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Toronto organized a multi-faith service called “Pray for Ukraine and World Peace” at St. Volodymyr Cultural Centre in Oakville, Ontario. The event was also co-sponsored by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Toronto Branch and EuroMaidan Canada.
Vera Melnyk and Walter Rezytniak (co-chairs of the Organizing Committee) welcomed the religious and community leaders who were present with the traditional Ukrainian greeting of bread and salt before the service began.
The service was primarily in English and included the Most Reverend Andriy Peshko, Bishop of the Eastern Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, Mitred Archpriest Rt. Rev. Dr. Roman Pankiv, Dean and Pastor of the Holy Dormition of the Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Church and Imam Moahmoud Said from the Imam Council of Canada. The three religious figures prayed for peace not only in Ukraine but all over the world. Imam Said’s prayers were warmly greeted by the 100 plus crowd and his presence was greatly appreciated by all those who attended the service.
The musical accompaniment was represented by the Choir of St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral and soloist Daria Gimon and her piano accompanist Vera Brittan whose rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” brought many to tears.
Member of Parliament Ted Opitz represented the government of Canada and sent his greetings from Prime Minister Stephen Harper while Consul Luidmyla Davydovych represented the Ukrainian government. Her speech included a letter to the two Ukrainians imprisoned in Russia: Nadiya Savchenko and Oleh Sentsov. The letter of support was placed in the rotunda of the hall and signed by almost everyone present. Luidmyla Davydovych explained that after everyone signs, she will send the letter to Savchenko and Sentsov so they know that all Ukrainians across the globe are united with them in their fight against Russian injustice.
Greetings were also presented from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Toronto Branch President Taras Bahrij and the Polish Canadian Congress President Teresa Berezowski. Rustem Irsay, representing the Crimean Tatar Community of Toronto, also greeted the crowd, thanking them for their support and their continued prayer for a peaceful resolution to the Crimean annexation. He also explained to the crowd about the new terror that many Crimean Tatars are facing under Russian annexation and asked that we do all we can to help them during these difficult times.
One of the most sentimental greetings came from Lenna Koszarny, the Chair of the Advisory Committee of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in Kyiv. She began her speech with a short video clip that allowed everyone in the audience to feel the power of the last year in Ukraine: from the beginning of the protest, to the evolution of the Maidan Revolution and the terrible losses of the war. In her talk however, she did not want to dwell on the negative but rather explained all the positives that have come out of this past year.
Koszarny explained that there are many Ukrainian Canadians in Ukraine who have decided to stay and help the country move forward. Some of these people include Dr. Ulana Suprun, who has become the Ukrainian World Congress Director of Humanitarian Initiatives. She ended her speech by saying that the initiatives of the Diaspora have helped Ukraine in so many ways but their effect will only be known in the future.
The service and ceremony was ended by a special thank you from Peter Bayrachny, President of the St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral Board of Directors. It was followed by a blessing of the Most Reverend Andriy Peshko and the singing of “God Eternal” by the Choir of St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral.