Photography

Photos of religious celebrations amid war in Ukraine

ODESSA, Ukraine — As the second month of the war in Ukraine came to a close, Ukrainians across the country were praying. Some were in Orthodox churches. Others were in synagogues or mosques. Many were forced to worship underground, in shelters away from Russian military bombardment.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

This year, on the same weekend in April, three major holidays of Christianity, Judaism and Islam coincided: Easter, Ramadan, the start of the Holy Week for the Orthodox Church and the beginning of Passover.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

And this year, there was more that united Ukrainians of various faiths than divided them. Amid war, religious communities became a lifeline — sometimes for emotional support and sometimes for humanitarian aid.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

ODESSA I APRIL 19:

Worshipers are seen gathered around the scrolls of the Torah as passages are read during morning prayer at the Chabad synagogue.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

BUCHA I APRIL 24:

The archpriest of the Church of St. Andrew, Andriy Galavin, delivers a speech to residents of Bucha gathered outside the church following Easter Sunday services.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

ODESSA I APRIL 17:

Worshipers pray during a Palm Sunday church service at the Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ, of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

Avraham Wolff, the chief rabbi of Odessa and southern Ukraine, said Passover is a “family holiday” where guests are meant to be at the table. And for that reason, Wolff said this has been the best Passover he and his wife have had since they got married. He listed off his children, scattered in different parts of the world, and their plans to share the holiday with Ukrainian refugees in those places.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

“It means we have thousands of guests at the table,” he said.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

Odessa, a strategic Black Sea port city of about 1 million people, has long been considered a target of the Russian military because of its economic importance to the country. But the city hadn’t faced a major assault until Saturday — a day when many Orthodox churches began their Easter festivities. At least eight people, including an infant, died in missile strikes on a residential neighborhood.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

ODESSA I APRIL 18:

Muslims are seen before prayer time, which will break the day of fasting, at a mosque during the holy month of Ramadan.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

IRPIN I APRIL 24:

Archpriest Volodymyr Molnar of the Svyato-Heorhiyivsʹka Church surveys the damage to the chapel basement, which was used to shelter women and children fleeing from the town of Irpin. The church chapel was destroyed in Russian shelling, as was the home of the priest next door, while the main building sustained damage.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

ODESSA I APRIL 19:

Worshipers are seen during the morning prayer at the Chabad synagogue.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

ODESSA I APRIL 18:

Muslims pray before the breaking of the fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

The attack is likely to inject new caution into a city that had steadily crept back to something resembling normal life. Sheikh Ilyas Umarov, the imam of Odessa, said mosques were fully carrying out all rituals, including prayers on Fridays.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

“Every evening we read a dua — this is an appeal to God to give peace to Ukraine and stop the war,” he said. “And also to give possibility for people who had to leave Ukraine to come back to their homes.”

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

Anna Besedina, 66, is one of those saying goodbye to Ukraine for now. Last week, she leaned her forehead against her bus seat window as her granddaughter, Alexandra, waved from outside. Besedina, who is Jewish, was being evacuated through a Jewish organization and moving to Israel.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

ODESSA I APRIL 18:

Hanna Zilbert and her three daughters are seen during Passover lunch at a hotel where those observing the full week of Passover are staying.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

ODESSA I APRIL 19:

A woman is seen pouring out oil while cleaning the Svyato-Oleksiivska (St. Alexis) Temple in preparation for Orthodox Easter.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

ODESSA I APRIL 17:

A man prays with a rosary during Easter Sunday service at the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

ODESSA I APRIL 18:

A family eats an iftar (fast-breaking) dinner at a mosque after fasting during the day for Ramadan.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

ODESSA I APRIL 18:

Muslims cook food for worshipers for iftar.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

The irony is not lost on Ukrainian Jews fleeing Russian forces who falsely claim to be liberating Ukrainians from their “neo-Nazi” government.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

In Bucha, a city about 30 minutes outside of Kyiv, Sunday’s Easter service was about returning — to homes people had to abandon and to a tradition that this year felt like an act of defiance. During their occupation of Bucha, Russian soldiers tortured and executed civilians. Bucha’s Church of St. Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints became the site of a mass grave, where dozens of civilians were buried.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

On Sunday morning, some people cried during a somber sermon in the below-ground room of the church. Outside, with the sun beating down on them, several parishioners managed to smile or even laugh as the archpriest sprayed both them and their colorful baskets of food with his holy water-soaked brush.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

BUCHA I APRIL 24:

Worshipers listen to the Archpriest Andriy Galavin during Easter Sunday service at the Church of St. Andrew.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

ODESSA I APRIL 18:

Muslims during prayer.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

BUCHA I APRIL 24:

Worshipers light candles following Easter Sunday service at the Church of St. Andrew.

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

Nicole Tung for The Washington Post

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Credits

Photo editing and production by Kenneth Dickerman