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Prayers for victims of bloody protests

Reporter: Iram Ramzan
Date online: 24 February 2014

OLDHAM’S Ukrainian community gathered yesterday to show solidarity with the dead and injured in the protests in their home country.

Dozens of British-born and Ukrainian-born men, women and children came to the Sunday mass at the Ukrainian Catholic Church on Chadderton Way to remember the lives lost in the three months of demonstrations that have swept Ukrainian capital Kiev. Around 77 people are believed to have died in the bloodiest week since the protests erupted.

Father Bohdan-Benjamin Lysykanych, who led the Oldham mass, said: “Many people are watching in horror the surreal scenes of violence in Ukraine.”

Bob Sopel (64), whose company arranged direct flights from Manchester to Ukraine, has been trying to establish contact with loved ones caught up in the protests.

“It’s unbelievable to think this is happenning on Europe’s doorstep,” he said.

The country is said to be divided between the pro EU-leaning west, and the pro-Russian and Russian speaking, east - but many of Oldham’s Ukrainians believe that over-simplifies the argument.

Bob said: “This is not about coming into the EU. This is about freedom of speech, to get democracy back and free government.”

Many Ukrainians in Oldham are descended from the large numbers of who came to Britain after the end of the Second World War, who were mainly displaced persons from camps in Germany.

Once a thriving community, the population of Ukrainians in Oldham has gone down from 1,000 to fewer than 300.

Bob’s mother Olga, who died four years ago, came to Manchester after escaping from labour camps in Germany, where she was sent after being taken from her home aged 14.

His late father Ivan, who was from Lviv, also came to the UK to escape the Germans. .

Interpreter and translator Stefan Moroz’s father Bohdan came to Oldham in similar circumstances.

Stefan’s cousin is in Kiev, along with his wife and daughter, and other members of his family are in western Ukraine.

He said for families in Oldham, it is difficult to establish what is going on and keeping contact with relatives.

Stefan (57) said: “Ukraine has been a place of constant conflict. People just want to have an ordinary life.”


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