Ukrainian Orthodox church's Youth Ministry brings homeland's Christmas songs to seniors

Published on Friday, 17 January 2020 20:42
Written by Erica Drzewiecki


NEW BRITAIN - Some things are so ingrained in people that they remember even when memory fails them.

For several elderly and ailing parishioners of St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, traditional Christmas carols brought them back to their roots Sunday.

For the 10th year, the church’s Youth Ministry delivered good cheer to a handful of members who were unable to make it to church over the holidays. Following the morning’s services and church school, a caravan of cars left the 54 Winter St. church to do God’s good work.

The young church members visited four addresses to sing the same Ukrainian Christmas songs that reverberated in their church in December.

“Our little angels are bringing joy to people who are deprived of joy,” the Rev. Andrii Pokotylo explained. “It puts something good in their hearts.”

Their first stop was The Gardens for Memory Care at Arbor Rose, now home to church member Lynn Gerent. Her younger sister, Gail Reynolds, who lives in Kensington, happened to be visiting for an event when the group arrived. Gerent sat quietly through the singing of several carols.

“It brings back memories for her,” Reynolds said of her sister, who suffers from dementia. “We went to church and heard all of these songs around the holidays.”

Pokotylo embraced the former church member before the group departed for its next stop. The ministry visits the home each winter.

“Some of these people, they don’t know who they are or who their relatives are, but they will sing the carols with us,” he said. “The songs are embedded in their souls.”

The experience was a special one for the kids who took part as well.

“This is my first year,” 11-year-old Natalia Szwez said. “I think it’s kind of cool.”

Fourteen-year-old Vlad Dyrbavka has participated in the caroling for the last three years.

“This group - we all know each other so it’s really fun,” Dyrbavka said.

Newington resident Rebecca Bailly was among the elder youth carolers, at 15.

“I like it,” Bailly said.

The group also visited church members in Kensington and West Hartford.

“It creates memories for these kids,” Pokotylo said. “It’s not just about us. It’s about Christ being everywhere.”

Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or

Posted in The Bristol Press, Arts, General News on Friday, 17 January 2020 20:42. Updated: Friday, 17 January 2020 20:45.