Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter, their most important feast, on April 24. Our Lady of Kazan, a parish of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), devoted an Easter bazaar in the church hall on Sunday, April 3, to help refugees from Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine.
“This isn’t about politics, it’s about basic humanity; it’s about our faith as Christians,” said Nicholas Sluchevsky, a parishioner with historic family roots in Ukraine.
“This war is striking at our hearts,” said Igor Tchibirev, a parishioner originally from Zaporizhzhia, a city in southeastern Ukraine that is under assault by Russia’s military forces. “We are greatly pained and anxious about everyone who lives there. We really hope that this ends as quickly as possible and that it ends in the right way.”
Parishioners and bazaar attendees from Sea Cliff and beyond raised around $7,500 from the sale of traditional Orthodox Easter food and crafts. All proceeds are being donated to International Orthodox Charities (IOCC). IOCC is on the ground aiding refugees who are leaving through Poland, Moldova and Romania.
Our Lady of Kazan has a long tradition of responding to needs in the International Christian Orthodox community. Its contributions to the Russian Gift of Life (RGOL) program have provided life-saving heart surgery to hundreds of recipients in Russia and the former Soviet Union, including Ukraine, since 1989.
The Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, the longtime pastor of Our Lady of Kazan who passed away in 2021, was prominent in the OCA and in the worldwide ecumenical movement, serving as president of the National Council of Churches USA and member of the Executive and Central Committee of the World Council of Churches. Fr. Kishkovsky was frequently engaged in humanitarian and behind-the-scenes peacemaking efforts during his 50-year-long ministry. The Rev. John Bartholomew, a longtime assistant priest with Fr. Kishkovsky who was recently appointed rector of the church, said the parishioners felt strongly that they needed to help suffering Ukrainians, of whom the majority share the faith of Russian Orthodox Christians.
“The war in Ukraine is a terrible tragedy and just as we pray for peace at every service we are also doing what we can to help provide humanitarian relief for refugees,” said Fr. Bartholomew.
Russian Gift of Life, now known as RGOL USA, refocused on Ukraine in 2021 due to the current difficulties of working in Russia. As a result of contacts already made in Ukraine, RGOL was able to send a first shipment of medical supplies to Lviv in western Ukraine, which recently came under attack, and is raising money for more, said Sophie Pompea of Glen Head, the Executive Director of RGOL.
Receiving Our Lady of Kazan’s contribution, IOCC Executive Director Constantine Triantafilou said the funds would be used “…to provide essential food, water and hygiene items to refugees as they cross the border.”
The Sea Cliff church, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2016, was founded in 1942 by Russian emigré families, many of whom fled repression in the Soviet Union to seek refuge in the U.S.
Donations for Ukrainian relief can be made to International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) at www.iocc.org and to RGOL USA for medical supplies to Lviv at www.rgolusa.org.