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“I feel proud to be an Aussie, and I will be flying the flag on Australia Day,” said Melbourne resident Stephan Romanic. “But at the same time, I am proud of my Ukrainian heritage. Our church plays a big role in maintaining our identity and, for many of us, our whole lives are tied up with the church.”

Until the passing of the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act, the government forbade foreign language broadcasts and failed to support cultural and educational programs. Australia’s immigrant families, buttressed by their religious communities, remained the primary custodians of their country’s modest cultural mosaic. They still do.

“In the house, we speak a mixture of Ukrainian and English,” said Jenny Skorobagaty, whose grandparents fled Ukraine after World War II.

Many Ukrainian-Australians, especially Greek Catholics, found refuge in Australia from Josef Stalin’s purges, which targeted suspected anti-Communist nationalists.

Once settled, Australia’s Ukrainian Greek Catholics sought a priest from the homeland, but the matter proved difficult. In 1946, Stalin forced priests of the church to sever their communion with the Church of Rome and seek integration with the Russian Orthodox Church. By 1949, Australia’s first Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest, Father Pavlo Smal, finally arrived to celebrate the sacraments according to the Byzantine rites of the Ukrainian immigrants’ ancestors.

As well as passing on language, Ukrainian Greek Catholic parents pass on to their children cultural activities. Traditional Ukrainian dancing is especially popular.

“It’s in my blood,” said dance instructor Melanie Marovski. “My mother was the artistic director of a Ukrainian-Australian dance company for 30 years.” Now, Ms. Marovski is preparing to lead her troupe on a tour in Ukraine.

Despite the relatively small numbers of Ukrainian Greek Catholics in the country, Bishop Peter said he was confident the church had a future in Australia.

“Last year we baptized 45 kids,” he said, “the first time in 20 years we had more baptisms than funerals.”

The bishop’s optimism is reflected in the basement of the cathedral, which is dedicated to Sts. Peter and Paul. “We have six graves in the crypt of our cathedral ready for future bishops and space for another six. That’s how confident we feel about the survival of our church in Australia.”

I left the world of peroghi and stuffed cabbage in the back of a black Hyundai Sonata — bearing the customized license plate, “COPT 1” — for the Melbourne suburb of Preston. There, I joined Amba (or Bishop) Suriel, Coptic Orthodox Bishop of Melbourne, Canberra, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and New Zealand, at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church to commemorate the miracle of the Wedding at Cana. After the Divine Liturgy, celebrated in Arabic and Coptic, we traveled further to celebrate the engagement of an Australian Coptic couple.

“We mix with the Anglo-Australian population, and I have Australian friends, though in many ways our lives are quite different from theirs,” said Nariman Eskander, 28, who at age 13 left her native Egypt, home to more than 8 million Coptic Orthodox Christians. Australia”s Copts tend to hang on to their traditional customs and culture, eschewing the drinking and frolicking found in mainstream Australian culture, she said.

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