Wollongong Ukrainian church holds Sunday prayer for MH17 victims

Father Michael Szyjan leads the Sunday prayer.Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Father Michael Szyjan leads the Sunday prayer.Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

AS debate rages and fingers are pointed around the world, as candlelight vigils are staged and families grieve, and as investigators begin to sift for answers in the wreckage of MH17, a small clutch of Illawarra Ukrainians quietly assembled for Sunday Mass.

The Saint Volodymyr Ukrainian Catholic Church is small and modest, tucked towards the back of a narrow block in Wollongong.

About 20 residents of Ukrainian heritage filed into the brick chapel on Sunday morning for their weekly service, and to reflect on the tragedy in the Donetsk province of Ukraine.

Father Michael Szyjan, who travels from western Sydney to hold the weekly services, said the congregation would pray for the 298 people, including 36 Australians, who perished in the disaster.

"It seems pretty obvious the Russian government has tremendous influence on those who are covering up that atrocity.''

"We are grieving for the sufferers, the tremendous amount of innocent people who have lost their lives in this tragic situation," Fr Szyjan said.

"We are praying for the families, and governments around the world to have the courage to address this in a way to ensure it is not allowed to occur again."

Fr Szyjan supported a full investigation into the shooting down of the passenger plane, calling on the Russian government and rebels holding the region to ensure crash investigators could do their job and recover the bodies of passengers.

"It seems pretty obvious the Russian government has tremendous influence on those who are covering up that atrocity. To stand back and allow this injustice to be covered up would be the greater injustice," he said.

"It is only justice if this is a transparent, international investigation. Any interference in the process is unacceptable."

Though no Ukrainians had been reported among the dead, Fr Szyjan said the Ukrainian community, too, was grieving.

"Their tragedy has now become our tragedy," he said.

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