‘This season is difficult’: Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw mark Orthodox Easter away from home

The queue of families hoping to have their Easter food blessed wraps around the wall of the cathedral of St Mary Magdalen

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in Warsaw, a crowd of people pour out from the gates of the Eastern Orthodox Cathedral of St Mary Magdalen. The queue of families carrying wicker baskets covered in embroidered cloth stretches on to the street and wraps around the cathedral wall. While Holy Saturday is one of the busiest days for any Eastern Orthodox church, this was unusual for a parish which usually serves only 1,000 faithful.

“We have never seen anything like this. We never had to give blessings outside the church,” said the 86-year-old parish priest, Anatoli Szydłowski, who had been standing by the entrance to the cathedral, frantically trying to direct the ever-growing crowd since 11am. He expects he will have to stay there, directing people hoping to have their Easter food blessed, until the mass starts at 8pm. However, he is not joyous about the sudden expansion in his parish’s faithful. “We did not have to do that before because we did not have the war,” he said. “They are all here because of the war.”

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