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For Ukrainians in Poland, joy of the season is mixed with heartache.  Ukrainian congregants gather for recent Sunday afternoon services at Dormishin Mother of God, a Ukrainian Catholic parish near Warsaw's Old Town. The church has become a center of gathering for Ukrainian refugees now living in Warsaw, Poland. "They look to God for help," said Basilian Fr. Peter Kushka, a priest at the church. "They are afraid." (GSR photo/Chris Herlinger)

As days shorten and nights lengthen, as December cold descends over Central and Eastern Europe, the celebration of Advent and Christmas offers a welcome reprieve from winter's challenges.

But for Ukrainians living in Poland, the joy of the season is also mixed with heartache and loss, longing and grief. As exiles, they are thinking of Christmases past and worried about a country struggling with the consequences of war: illness and hunger, deprivation and death.

Sr. Nazaria Mykhayliuk

"Ukraine has no electricity. We are losing our best," she said of war's casualties, her hand touching her heart. "It is a cold and dark time. Yet perhaps,” she said, “this is a chance at least for the Ukrainian refugee  community in Poland to encounter something new and possibly deeper amid the current privations.”

"This year will be a real Advent," she said. "It's not a time for presents or lights."

"Jesus was born in a poor place. It's time for Jesus' life. The real meaning is Jesus Christ."

"We hope next Christmas will be better," she said. "I pray to God and do feel God is here with us."

"Nobody expected to have a wartime Christmas," she said. "It's sad. But Christ was born, and that's the main thing. That gives us hope."

The full story appears in the War in Ukraine feature series. View the full series.

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