CAPTION: Ukrainian children performed a nativity play at the service

Dartmoor Church Packed for Ukrainian Christmas Service

Posted: 9th January, 2023

The Church of St Michel de Rupe on Dartmoor was packed on January 7 for a Ukrainian Christmas Service.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas at Epiphany.

The event was organised by Ukrainian families living in or near Tavistock at the invitation of the church ministry team.

St Michael is the patron saint of Kyiv, which is why the picturesque church on top of Brentor has special significance for Ukrainian refugees living in Devon.

St Michael’s church was packed for the service

There were around 100 people in the church, including Ukrainian mothers and children and some of their British host families.

The service included readings and prayers in Ukrainian and English and a small choir singing songs, including the Ukrainian Carol of the Bells in Ukrainian.

The children performed a nativity play and some members of the congregation wore traditional Ukrainian national costumes.

The service was filmed so it could be shared with others, including family members still in Ukraine.

Tania Kovalchuk is a scientist from Ukraine, who has lived in Tavistock since before the Russian invasion and was one of the organisers.

She told BBC Radio Devon “It was so emotional and touching to have all the ‘family’ of Ukrainians living in West Devon there.

Traditional dishes were shared after the service

“We are not home and being able to gather there and feel connected to our country and be together was so nice and will be such a great memory.

After the service, traditional home made Ukrainian Christmas dishes were shared by the Ukrainian families and their English hosts. Tania said dishes like Kutya (a wheat pudding with berries and nuts) have a lot of Christian symbolism associated with every ingredient.

Rev’d Dr Hazel Buckland, who led the service, said “It was an amazing and incredibly significant event and the catalyst to help build a united Ukrainian community in West Devon.”

“The singing, including three Ukrainian songs, was wonderful.

“The walk up to the church, carrying all the food and equipment, was muddy and wet but at the end of the service I went outside and there was a rainbow.”

Tania said that as the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine approaches there is a sense of hope: “People feel hope now with the new year coming. People have hope it is going to end soon, they are holding on. I can feel the spirit [of people still in Ukraine] and it is strong.”

Click here to watch the service.