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Ukrainian Orthodox church in Maryland prays for those in Ukraine

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

As the world watches and waits for the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, the anxiety in the U.S. is especially strong among those with ties to the country. NPR's Nina Kravinsky visited a Ukrainian Orthodox church in Silver Spring, Md., for Sunday services.

NINA KRAVINSKY, BYLINE: The pear-shaped gold steeples of St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral look out of place on this major thoroughfare through suburban Maryland. It looks a little like a piece of Eastern Europe was just dropped in.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELLS RINGING)

KRAVINSKY: Father Volodomyr Steliac, in long white vestments, swings a censer of incense as he walks down the church aisle. The sanctuary is ornate with sky blue walls.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Singing in Ukrainian).

KRAVINSKY: Sunday service is almost entirely in Ukrainian.

UNIDENTIFIED CHOIR: (Singing in Ukrainian).

KRAVINSKY: Maryna Kapovska is 25, and she sings in the choir.

MARYNA KAPOVSKA: My mom, my dad and my sister, we all love this church, and we love the sense of community that it gives to the people who live in this area.

KRAVINSKY: Her mom is in the Ukrainian diplomatic corps. About four months ago, both her parents, who were living here in the D.C. area, went back to Ukraine. Maryna stayed. Her parents don't have plans to leave Kyiv.

KAPOVSKA: They are very much preparing themselves mentally for whatever is going to happen. But there's a lot of very patriotic sentiments within the country.

KRAVINSKY: Sixty-four-year-old John Kazgov (ph) was at services yesterday, too. His parents immigrated to Chicago from Ukraine in the 1950s. Three and a half years ago, he met a Ukrainian woman online. She lives in the western part of the country. Last summer, they got married. Her visa to come to the U.S. is processing, and Kazgov is trying to get the process expedited. So far, no luck. So he's making regular trips to Ukraine to see her. In fact, he's planning to go this Thursday.

JOHN KAZGOV: I guess I've never run from a fight, you know, and that's my family there. When I married her, I made a commitment, and there were no contingencies within that commitment. I love my family here. My family here is safe. My family there is not safe.

KRAVINSKY: His adult children are asking him not to go this week, but Kazgov is steadfast.

KAZGOV: I do believe that everything is in the Lord's hands, and everyone has a time. And if that's my time, then that's my time.

KRAVINSKY: Twenty-six-year-old Khrystyna Pruetesa drives almost an hour across state lines to be here. She hasn't seen her parents in Ukraine in more than two years, but she talks to them on the phone every day.

KHRYSTYNA PRUETESA: I'm just trying to pray, to be honest. This is the only thing that can calm me down and I can find a peace, you know, like, in my head that everything will be all right.

UNIDENTIFIED CHOIR: (Singing in Ukrainian).

KRAVINSKY: Near the end of every service, the choir sings this song. It's called "Prayer For Ukraine" by Ukrainian composer Mykola Lysenko. Outside the church, a banner stretches next to the highway. In big yellow letters, it asks the same of drivers passing by - pray for Ukraine.

Nina Kravinsky, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nina Kravinsky
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