Ukrainian Orthodox Church congregation prays for fallen - CBS46 News

Ukrainian Orthodox Church congregation prays for fallen; Russia advances in Crimea

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The crisis in Ukraine is hitting home with Ukrainians abroad, especially those living in the Metro Atlanta area.

Many stuck here, half a world away, can only sit and watch as first a political revolution swept through the government, ousting pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych; then as Russian troops took control of the peninsula of Crimea.

Alvina Leva left Ukraine at the end of World War II. She was a toddler fleeing the advancing Russian army.

Her family's exodus started with the disappearance of her uncle and his three brothers, taken one night never to be seen again.

"I used to say to my mother, ‘Where's that gold watch?' she'd say, ‘Russian Revolution took everything,'" said Leva.

For Leva, recent events in Ukraine have been difficult to watch. She's been speaking with an acquaintance who was part of the Maidan, watching closely as things escalated over the past two months.

"I haven't been sleeping, and I get on the internet and I'm just crying," said Leva.

For solace, Leva attends St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church where Sunday the Rev. Bohdan Maruszak held Liturgy.

"We have people who are quite moved and touched by the most recent events. I have spoken to some people in my community yesterday, and some of them broke into tears," said Maruszak.

One of his congregation, Vitaliy Pynzenyk, has been in the U.S. for more than a decade and is eager to raise awareness for what is happening in Ukraine.

"Being in Atlanta, it's hard to influence the world politics because we don't have government institutions here like they have in Washington, DC, or New York state," said Pynzenyk.

Still, even if they did and they could get the politicians to apply pressure, Pynzenyk isn't convinced diplomacy will work.

"You have to send a bold statement from western countries like United States and European Union, because [Russian leaders] don't understand the civilized society; how it works; how it functions," said Pynzenyk.

With little recourses left to them, Ukrainians in America have few options when it comes to fighting an invasion more than 5,000 miles away.

Still, the congregation of the St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church have one weapon that can never be taken from Christians, and they use it as often as they can.

"We have to pray and be strong," said Maruszak.

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