Several church groups in Prudentópolis, an enclave in southern Brazil's Parana state, have joined forces in welcoming Ukrainians seeking shelter from the Russian invaders.
World Is One reported that the churches in Prudentópolis, which is also called by locals as Little Ukraine, have been welcoming Ukrainian refugees with a lot of merry-making, music, and dance. The welcoming ceremony particularly included traditional dances performed by folk groups dressed in native Ukrainian costumes.
Beyond the joyous celebrations, the churches have also decided to pool their efforts in helping out the Ukrainian refugees' daily needs. Vitalii Arshulik, a missionary from a Baptist church in the said municipality, told the media outlet that the churches are receiving the Ukrainian refugees and will be taking care of them for a year.
Brazil's Welcoming Churches
"The churches are responsible for the people-paying for their rent, water, electricity, and everything that is necessary. So Baptist church and many other churches are receiving and taking care for a year all of those Ukrainian families," Arshulik said.
Arshulik detailed that some churches have received 10 families, while some have received one or two families. He said his church particularly received eight families.
The warm reception and all-out hospitality of Prudentópolis' residents for the refugees come from their historical ties to Ukraine. Prudentópolis is called Little Ukraine since three-quarters of its 53,000 residents are either Ukrainians or of Ukrainian descent. Thus, the second official language used by locals is Ukrainian.
Churches United By Ancestry
A local evangelical pastor, Rafa Borges, explained to The Wall Street Journal during an interview last month that many Ukrainians fled to Prudentópolis to seek shelter at the height of World War II. Now, the great-grandchildren of these first Ukrainian refugees in Prudentópolis are helping new ones fleeing Russian President Vladimir Putin's unprovoked invasion. Borges said the first group of 28 refugees arrived in April.
While Reuters said over 100 churches in Prudentopolis, which are mostly Byzantine, have started praying together as early as March for the war to end in Ukraine. Residents in Prudentopolis say that seeing the tanks and missiles and the devastation it brings was very impactful because they have remained close to relatives in Ukraine. One of them, Eugenia Michalovski, expressed how painful it is for her to see what is happening in Ukraine.
"It pains my heart to see them suffering. They're our people," the 54-year-old told The Wall Street Journal.
On the other hand, Nadia Rurak Techy told Reuters last March that Russia's invasion of Ukraine reminded her of her parents who came to Brazil traumatized by the Second World War. Techy raised fears that the Russian invasion might erase the Ukrainian culture. The 66-year-old shopkeeper pointed out that Ukraine does not deserve what is happening now. She stressed that her homeland must be set free to remain beautiful as it always was.
Techy's sentiments seem to prophetically come as numerous footages currently show the vast and ungodly damage caused by the Russian military in Ukraine, especially in Mariupol. Sky News reported that Putin resumed on Thursday very heaving shelling and aerial bombing that have literally obliterated whole areas of Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant. This took place as soon as the last evacuees of the ceasefire granted by Putin to the United Nations over the weekend left the steel plant.