ST. PETE, Fla. — The Tampa Bay community is invited to pray for Ukraine during a vigil Wednesday night in St. Pete.
Keeping the faith in times of darkness has become the daily mission of Bohdan Barytskyy, the pastor of the Epiphany of Our Lord Ukrainian Catholic Church.
There, parishioners are still coping with a reality that almost seems unreal. Russia has invaded Ukraine, the “motherland” they still love dearly.
“I called my family, and I said, ‘I can’t believe it. This is not reality. I can’t believe that has happened,’” the pastor lamented. “And many people in Ukraine — they didn’t believe it could happen.”
Right now, Barytskyy is juggling a myriad of jobs. Aside from regular preaching and praying, his time is also split between watching the news from the frontlines; tending to his flock of Ukrainian parishioners, most of whom have family back home; and checking in as much as he can with the members of his family who are still in Ukraine too.
“My mother — she lives there. My sister, my brother, my cousins. I have property there, and I was in Ukraine last October,” he said.
In addition to those duties, Wednesday, he’ll take on another. He’ll lead the Tampa Bay community in a prayer vigil in support of Ukraine. The vigil, which will begin at 12 p.m. at his church at 434 90th Avenue N, will be a chance to pray for peace and a free, independent Ukraine.
“We have the spirit to fight — fight for our brothers, sisters, for mothers, for fathers, to fight for our land, for freedom,” he said proudly.
To Barytskyy, the show of support will serve as more than a symbolic gesture, because they’ll also collect donations to send to Ukrainian families on the frontlines or refugees in Poland who’ve fled the country.
Course of Action, the group coordinating the donation drive along with the church, said hygiene products and first aid supplies can be dropped off at the church all week between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Course of Action asks for donated items to be dropped off in Ziploc-style bags, if possible. Volunteers are also needed on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day to help the church prepare the items for shipping. Pallets, tape, and wrapping paper are also needed.