Ukraine war: Families with loved ones on frontline mark Orthodox Christmas – and use TikTok to stay in touch | World News

In the gloom of her kitchen, Halina Berezentska prepares Christmas dinner.

Russian attacks on the energy grid have left many people stranded here. Cafe Relying on intermittent generator power.

The celebratory dinner is low key and there is plenty to eat – but her husband and son are fighting on the front lines.

Halina Berezentska's husband and son are fighting on the front lines.
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Halina Berezentska’s husband and son are fighting on the front lines.

They see the videos their loved ones post on TikTok as a way to stay in touch, but the absence hurts this time of year.

“My world turned upside down when my son went to war,” Halina says.

“I was telling my husband to please stay at home because we will feel calmer. But he said: ‘My baby is there, I can’t stay at home’.”

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Her son Oleg’s fiancee, Natalya, manages to get on the phone, which she puts on the loudspeaker on the table.

Natalia spoke to her fiance Oleg on the phone during Orthodox Christmas.
Image:
Natalia spoke to her fiance Oleg on the phone during Orthodox Christmas.

The network is complicated but a few minutes are enough to connect and pick up the festive mood.

“All the holidays have been like this this year – it just doesn’t feel like a holiday,” she says.

“The exception was New Year’s because it was Oleg’s first holiday and it was a really great gift.”

Oleg is fighting on the front lines.
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Halina says her world ‘turned upside down’ when her son went to war.

Read more:
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How Ukrainians are celebrating Christmas differently this year.

The stress of the nearly year-long war is most keenly felt on Orthodox Christmas Day.

But even in churches, you can hear unity and disunity in people’s voices as they sing, and in the words of sermons.

In the Cathedral of the Caves Monastery in Kyiv, this service is performed for the first time Ukrainian Orthodox priest.

There is a schism among the Russian Orthodox Church congregation, reflecting another break with Moscow.

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The division, which began after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, has deepened since last year’s all-out invasion.

Centuries of tradition is another disadvantage of this war.

But as they watched on big screens outside, worshipers reflected on what they had lost in this year of violence.

“It’s really hard to celebrate the birth of Christ when so many people in Ukraine are dying, especially children, and also my friends and my classmates,” says Natalia, a worshiper.

It has been an incredibly shocking and difficult year for Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression has torn apart families and caused immense suffering.

Vladimir Putin attends an Orthodox Christmas service at the Kremlin in Moscow.
Image:
Vladimir Putin attends an Orthodox Christmas service in the Kremlin in Moscow.

In Moscow, the Russian leader looked uncomfortable as he posed for state television at a service inside the Kremlin.

Isolated and heavily sanctioned, the war he started shows no signs of ending and the festive ceasefire he ordered has been dismissed as propaganda.

But in Ukraine, there is hope, with people praying for a quick victory and the return of their occupied lands.



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