KYIV — People flocked to Saint Michael's Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Kyiv on Sunday, after the tumultuous events they witnessed during the past week. The church played an important role in the movement that appears to have overthrown the Ukrainian government and set the country on a path to greater democracy.
The church was crowded, and people appeared emotional on this particular Sunday. Many said they came to offer thanks, to mourn the dead, and to pray for the future.
A priest read the names of some of the almost 90 people the government says died in police assaults on protesters this week. He prayed for forgiveness and peace, and for the souls of the dead. The sermon was about repentance, redemption and final judgment.
The deaths are personal to these priests. They opened the cathedral to protesters fleeing police assaults, starting in November, and then barricaded the doors to keep security forces out.
And last Wednesday, when the police attacked the protest camp in Independence Square, the priests allowed one side of the church to be used as an emergency clinic.
Volunteers are still there, ready in case the current calm turns out to be temporary. Valentina Osyka has been doing what she can to help the protesters for nearly two months, but she remembers that first night in the church in particular. "The pain hit me and I started crying. A priest came and was surprised to see me crying. But maybe he was not so surprised because everyone was feeling this pain," she said.
Many in Sunday's congregation shared her feelings, and some brought their children and grandchildren, hoping they will remember what happened this week.
"With our souls and bodies we are for the Maidan movement, and for all those people who want freedom," said Vladmir, a railroad staff trainer.
"We are here for first time with the children. We are really sorry about what happened. Oh my God, the protesters are just so great," Yulia said.
Ukrainians appear to have changed their country's future this week. But for many, Sunday was a day to put politics aside. Worship is about faith and hope, and never more so than on this Sunday in Kyiv.