PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Ukrainian community in Philadelphia banded together Sunday to mark one year since the Russian invasion of their home country began.
Parishioners began the day with a Divine Liturgy at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia's Northern Liberties neighborhood.
Their goal was to raise awareness about the war and also make a statement about freedom.
"I know we get tired but we have to remember our soldiers are also getting tired, but they are getting encouraged by the faith, by the help," said Father Roman Pitula.
Outside the church, there were flags on display asking for prayers for Ukraine. As parishioners entered, they shared thoughts about their families in their home country.
"Anxiously (waiting), always living afraid of what will come next. Will this be the last minute of our lives?" said Sonia Kunrad from Northeast Philadelphia.
"They're surviving. They're coping. We have to send money to them occasionally to get by. While things are difficult out there, the people are holding on. They're very strong. They're not going to give up," said Darren Lipski from Woodbury, New Jersey.
After mass, parishioners gathered at the bell tower for a short program where children wore traditional Ukrainian dress. They rang the church bells in remembrance of 6,000 children who were kidnapped and taken to Moscow.
"Can you imagine a mother losing a child? In the occupied Russian zones, they pulled the children and took them to Moscow," explained Ulana Mazurkevich, the president of the Ukrainian Human Rights Committee. "The intent of it is to erase Ukrainian identity so there won't be uprisings in the future."
After the service, the community marched to the Liberty Bell, making a statement about how Ukraine is still free.
"Through our blood flows the blood of the heroes, martyrs. For decades we've stood the onslaught of the Russian neighbor up north," said Mazurkevich.