The Ukrainian Church in London is a Ukrainian World in the British Capital
London – Maybe it sounds unexpected, but the Ukrainian church can be considered a symbol of globalization. In fact, in every country of the world where there is at least a small Ukrainian community, one of the centers of Ukrainian life is the church. The United Kingdom is no exception. At Easter and on other major holidays Ukrainian churches gather many people, and not only those who are very religious or speak Ukrainian fluently.
On Easter the Ukrainian cathedral of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the British capital barely housed everyone who wanted to take part in the religious service. On major holidays, thousands of people gather here, and the building in the historic center of London becomes a piece of Ukraine.
The pastor of the cathedral, Bishop Hlib Lonchyna, is the eparch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Great Britain and apostolic visitor for Ukrainian Catholics in Ireland.
He was born and raised in the United States, and studied in Rome. The bishop says that the Ukrainian church in every country has its own particularity.
“Every country has its own ethos. In America, even the people of Ukrainian descent who have assimilated still come to the Ukrainian church. They see themselves as members of the Ukrainian community. London’s particularity is that about 90% of the parishioners here have come from Ukraine in the latest wave of immigration. They are looking for God, but also for a Ukrainian environment,” Hlib Lonchyna said when asked why Ukrainians choose this church out of London’s many churches.
Andriy Hunder is the head of the Ukrainian Institute in London, a representative of the generation that was born and raised in Britain.
“I first came here when I was a few months old. I was baptized here. Then mom and dad brought me here on Sundays and on holidays. These places are native to me. On holidays thousands of Ukrainians gather here,” said Andriy Hunder.
One of the older female parishioners told Radio Liberty that she has attended the Ukrainian church in London for 50 years. The Ukrainian community acquired the building of the present cathedral in 1967.
"Once everyone here was young… And then they grayed, and passed away. That crowd is no more, but we have many guests from Ukraine. I am very happy about this because without them we – the old – would not be able to support the cathedral. The church is a treasure for me,” says the grandmother.
For many Ukrainians who came to London to work, the church is an important place where they can feel closer to home.
“I come here whenever I can take time off from work,” says one woman. “I first came here in 2005, when I arrived just before Easter,” she notes. “I feel very comfortable here, but I miss home, my children.”
Ukrainian original text from Radio Liberty translated by Areta Kovalsky