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Invasion of Ukraine Reverberates in Santa Clara

Russia’s unprovoked military attack and invasion of Ukraine launched on Feb. 24 brought dread to the hearts of members of St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Catholic Center in Santa Clara, a spiritual and cultural hub since 1963 for South Bay residents with ties to Ukraine.

“I was prepared for the attack mentally, but when it actually happened, it was quite shocking,” said Tania Mandzy, an American-born Ukrainian from San Jose, who is part of the Ukrainian-speaking church community. “I didn’t expect it to be so full scale.

“We couldn’t sleep when it happened—and still can’t sleep well,” continued Mandzy. “We are glued to news media. It’s frightening to think of the worst-case scenario—the human tragedy of it all. We are filled with pervasive, prolonged pain and heartache.”

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Many of its approximately 50 families filled St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Catholic Center on March 6 for the 8:15 a.m. mass presided over by Father Petro Dyachok in Ukrainian. San Jose resident Halene Marenin, a member since 1965, shared thoughts from his sermon.

“He said that we need to pray to God for Ukraine to maintain its independence,” said Marenin, who came from Ukraine to San Jose as a child with her parents after WWII. “We also have to have forgiveness in our souls.”

Marenin said that Dyachok told the congregation to petition congress members to support Ukrainian independence. He asked them to donate to humanitarian causes in Ukraine through established, nonprofit aid organizations. Nova Ukraine, the Red Cross and Catholic Relief Services are among such organizations.

“We’re a wonderful, closely-knit community,” said Marenin. “Our priest is wonderful. We love him. He was a soldier in the Ukrainian Army, and his parents and daughter are still in Ukraine.”

Called the breadbasket of Europe, Ukraine, with about 43 million people, is the second-largest country by area in Europe. (Russia is the largest.) Its flag—with an upper blue and lower yellow horizontal band—and its national flower, the sunflower, have been splashed across social media.

Ukrainian, now the country’s official language, and Russian are not mutually intelligible. And while most Ukrainians are familiar with or speak Russian, most Russians do not understand Ukrainian.

“Ukraine is a modern, democratic country invaded by a neighbor. The Russian invasion affects the entire world,” said Mandzy.

Mandzy is a member of the Ukrainian National Women’s League: UNWLA San Jose, Branch 107, which regularly updates its Facebook page. Also, follow the Consulate General of Ukraine in San Francisco for news.

St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Catholic Center is a mission outreach to the South Bay and Silicon Valley of the Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church in San Francisco, established in 1957. Just shy of 7,000 individuals of Ukrainian ancestry live in Santa Clara County, according to a 2019 government estimate.

Iryna Kulchytska, a Ukrainian who came to the Bay Area to work in high tech, has connections to the church community. She spoke outside San Jose City Hall on March 5 at a rally to implore tech firms to #CancelRussia.

“My family and friends are dying…four generations of Ukrainians are dying…Putin is also killing your people, your sons,” she said, appealing to Russian mothers to stand up to Putin’s regime. “You are the superpower. You can make all the difference.”

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