Tampa Bay Ukrainians reach out to protesters

10:48 PM, Feb 23, 2014   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- Father John Stevensky addressed his St. Petersburg Ukrainian Catholic Church members on Sunday morning with an important message: pray for Ukraine's peace and democratic restoration.

"I would like to see what was designated back in 1991, when democracy was established, the laws were written and promulgated, then they were ruined, and we like to see that restored," said Father Stevensky. 

The church sang songs honoring those who were killed, both protesters and police, this week in Ukraine. The country appointed an interim president on Saturday while also dismissing President Viktor Yanukovych. President Yanukovych allowed anti-government protesters to be attacked by government forces on February 18th killing many people in Kiev. Since the fighting, reports state the area has been more controlled.

"Hopefully with these demonstrations because it shows the voice and the strength of the people and that shows they didn't give up," said Stevensky.

Members of his congregation wore blue and yellow ribbons representing those who died. 

"We can't do much but we are here and we are all praying together for our families living there," said Natalie Ivanoff. Her brother lives close to Kiev and she worries about him every day. 

"It is hard even some times to get him on the phone. He is afraid to talk for his safety," she said. 

Natalia Khakhoula's mother and father live in Western Ukraine, far from Kiev, but she still worries about their safety.

"It was terrifying last week when all that fighting was happening. I don't know what I would do if I couldn't reach them," said Khakhoula.

The church is collecting money for care packages to send to families in Ukraine and to protestors in Kiev who are living in tents there.

To donate to the church, contact 10 News reporter Danica Lawrence at dlawrence@wtsp.com  and she will direct you to the team organizing the care packages.   

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