“We hoped that this year’s Easter we will already be at our homes in Mariupolibut unfortunately the war does not end and it keeps us stuck in Greece for another year”, says Nadia Tsapni, president of the Mariupol Center for Greek Culture “Meotida”, who has been in Thessaloniki for almost a year with others Ukrainian refugees.

With joy but also with sadness, the Greeks from Ukraine are preparing to celebrate Easter with their own centuries-old traditions. “All of them remember with nostalgia the peaceful Easter of previous years, while this year, like last year, they are trying to revive some of their customs in traditional pasta, such as “Psathiri“- the custom of the traditional Easter bread in the shape of a cross.

“Both the recipe and the custom were forgotten, and we brought it back years ago,” explains historian PhD Margarita Aradzhyoni, researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, who is in Thessaloniki as a refugee and presents the culture of the Greeks of Mariupol as a unique culture of the historical Greek Diaspora of the Black Sea region, through a series of lectures, which he organizes regularly.

“It is a ritual bread of the Easter cycle, which the Greeks baked on Maundy Thursday in the Greek villages of the Mariupoli region,” says Mrs. Aranzioni to APE-MPE.

Psafir is a special sweet pastry (tsoureki) with braiding reminiscent of Jesus Christ’s crown of thorns. There was also another bread we call Artou, (from bread), with five red eggs inside, baked with the dough, which are cut on the second day of Easter, commemorating the dead,” he says.

“We baked the Easter buns on Maundy Wednesday and Maundy Thursday, we dyed the eggs. Our grandmother kept the fast strictly and did not let us touch the buns and eggs until Easter Sunday”, remembers Nina Pascal, president of the Greek Association of Kyiv “Enotita”, located in Thessaloniki, since the beginning of war in Ukraine.

Greek sweet bread

“The Ukrainian Greeks bake Artou after Easter in memory of the dead and for the fertility of people, fields and animals,” explains Margarita Aranzioni and continues: “And the third bread we presented is mouse-shaped bread that the Greeks of We bake Azofiki twenty-five days after Easter for the “Pontikistria” festival, which is related to the agricultural tradition that existed in the culture of the Greeks of Mariupoli to protect the fields from mice and various insects that damaged the young sprouts”, he says. specifies:

“Only women and small children took part in the ceremony. They went to the fields, threw small pieces of “Mouse” bread and “fed” the real mice so they wouldn’t damage the fields,” said Ms. Arazzioni, talking about the traditions intertwined with religious rituals of the Greeks of Azov that have their roots in antiquity.

The master classes she presented are the result of field research in Greek villages, which she carried out from 1992 to 1995. Also, some photographic material, which she used in her lecture, was from the Museum of Local History of Mariupol. “The museum burned down last year during the bombings, luckily I managed to scan these photos, which belong to the Easter of the Greeks of Azov in 1927” .

In the master classes, a comparison was made with the Greek tradition of the Easter buns of today’s Greece. “I proved that although we have a lot in common, the Greeks of Azov or Mariupoli, as we say, we are a special special historical Greek diaspora, with particularities that distinguish us from the Greeks of Pontus and Thrace,” said Margarita Arajionis.