Ukrainians find ‘bit of peace’ at Catholic youth festival
At a global Catholic youth festival in Lisbon, Olena Shevchuk said she is getting a welcome break from the pain of the war in her native Ukraine.
“There is music everywhere here, cafes and restaurants are open, you can go wherever you want,” said the 24-year-old with a Ukrainian flag draped around her back.
That contrasts with the situation in her hometown in central Ukraine, Vinnytsia, where an 11:00 pm curfew is in place, she told AFP.
Shevchuk is part of a group of some 500 young Ukrainians who travelled to Portugal to join Pope Francis at the World Youth Day, which is actually a six-day international Catholic jamboree.
Like her, the rest of the delegation is trying to forget the war during this week of festive, cultural and spiritual events expected to draw one million people.
“We have come to find a bit of peace, to pray for peace,” said Roman Demush, a priest who is one of the leaders of the delegation which arrived in Lisbon by bus.
The youths on the trip are “living in a terrible reality with daily bombings,” he added, speaking in front of a church in Lisbon’s hilltop Graca neighbourhood that acts as the Ukrainian delegation’s headquarter at the event.
Shevchuk said during her first days outside Ukraine she was startled by the sight of planes in the sky because at home that would send her racing to a bomb shelter.
“It’s very hard for us to understand it’s normal life here, we can’t remember when it was normal in our country,” she said.
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