PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Under the watchful eye of Taras Shevchenko, the bard of Ukraine, bubbling pots of cabbages are readied for parish ladies to nimbly wrap around a mix of ground meats for Halupki.

The kitchen at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church in McKees Rocks has been busy for months preparing for the annual heritage festival, starting tomorrow.

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“They’re all folded up and ready to go,” said one organizer.

Over the next four days, festival goers will feast on 3,000 stuffed cabbages.

There’ll be haluski, scallions are seen being roasted for lamb sandwiches.

Plus there will be 8,000 homemade pierogies and hot sausage, sauerkraut and kielbasa.

“The people here are salt of the Earth,” said Father Tim Tomson with St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church. “They’re just that old time traditional Easter European people. If they love you, or if they like you, they’ll do anything for you. And if they don’t like you, they’ll let you know.”

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Although there’ll be dancing in the streets there over the next few days, this parish, built monthly by immigrants, remains close to its roots, especially now.

“Everybody pray for peace in Ukraine,” said Maria Dziamko who has family and friends in Ukraine.

But continued fighting and the downing of a Malaysian passenger jet last week, taking 298 lives, will be much on the minds in McKees Rocks as they celebrate faith and community.

“The festival begins at 5, but at 4-o-clock, I’ll have a memorial for the victims of the Malaysian air disaster and the victims of the Maiden, the independence this past Spring,” said Tomson.

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