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Bury St Edmunds St Edmundsbury Cathedral hosts 'emotional' Ukraine Christmas service





A Suffolk cathedral hosted an ‘emotional’ festive service for the Ukrainian Christmas Eve.

Ukrainian refugees, host families and members of the public from across the county's community were in attendance at the packed out St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds.

The event, which was supported by the Suffolk Refugee Group, was organised by a Ukrainian community group in the town with the support of the cathedral as they celebrate Christmas Day on January 7.

St Edmundsbury Cathedral was packed on Friday night as people flocked to the Ukrainian service. Picture: Cameron Reid
St Edmundsbury Cathedral was packed on Friday night as people flocked to the Ukrainian service. Picture: Cameron Reid

Natalia Bartkiv, moved from Ukraine to Bury St Edmunds in May 2022 and was the project manager for the volunteering group that put on the service.

The 38-year-old said: “It was amazing tonight because it was so important for us to bring everybody together and we’re so grateful for the support from the cathedral, High Sheriff and the Suffolk Refugee Group.

“I am so excited though, there were definitely a lot of people and I feel really proud to be a Ukrainian to be honest.

Natalia Bartkiv led the Ukrainian volunteering group and helped translate Ukrainian into English and distribute tasks. Picture: Cameron Reid
Natalia Bartkiv led the Ukrainian volunteering group and helped translate Ukrainian into English and distribute tasks. Picture: Cameron Reid

“We had this Christmas spirit, it was very emotional and I was really honoured to be in my position and bring everyone together on that stage.”

According to the mum-of-four, who spoke several times during the service, it was their last Ukrainian Christmas on January 7 and will be returning to December 25 instead.

She said: “It was so special tonight as we’re obviously far away from Ukraine but also because we’re going back to the Georgian calendar. It’s also our first Christmas in Bury St Edmunds which is really lovely.

Five carols were sung during the service from both Ukrainian children and adults together. Picture: Natalia Bartkiv
Five carols were sung during the service from both Ukrainian children and adults together. Picture: Natalia Bartkiv

"We have to show the whole world we have to fight for our freedom as we do know it's hard at the moment. When the war started, I couldn't sleep and I had to realise what was going on was not a dream, it was the real world.

“Tonight is not really a celebration as it’s more about the praying and that's why we pray for everyone - Ukrainian, British and everyone else who is supporting Ukraine.”

The service, which started at 5pm on Friday, began with the Ukrainian liturgy and the blessing of the Bishops before it was followed with the nativity performance ”VERTEP”.

Next, were the Christmas carols including Nova Radist (New Joy), Dobryi Vechir Tobi (Good Evening), and Sleep Jesus Sleep which were all sung in Ukrainian.

A new ‘song for Ukraine’ called Prayer for peace, was also performed which was written by local composers Andy and Josh Rayner.

Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, High Sheriff of Suffolk, was also in attendance and said: “I’m lost for words and for people who know me that is quite a rare thing.

“I feel enormously privileged to be invited to join in your Ukrainian service. The national address was beautiful and the signing was stunning, emotional and beyond words. Thank you very much indeed for allowing me to be here.

“For us living in Suffolk, we are enormously grateful to those standing up for freedom and from the bottom of my heart, thank you for what you are doing for the world.”