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A Ukrainian Freemason receives a warm welcome in Suffolk

From left to right: Geoff Spencer, Master of Doric Lodge, Bro. Ihor Chyshkala, W.Bro Ralph Robertson, APGM Suffolk, and W.Bro Dean Willingham, APGM Designate Suffolk


A Ukrainian Freemason building a new life in England has been welcomed into English Freemasonry in a corner of rural Suffolk. The Ukrainian city of Kharkiv has sadly become a regular name in headlines on our news channels. The site of fierce fighting since 2022, centuries of rich history are overshadowed by the violence visited on the city in recent years that has claimed lives, destroyed homes and made many aspects of normal life impossible. It’s a far cry from the sleepy market town of Woodbridge, over 1,500 miles away on the Deben River in Suffolk, but the two are now linked through Freemasonry.

That link was made official by a happy occasion on Wednesday 13th February, when Ihor Chyshkala, a member of Kharkiv’s Harmony and Order Lodge, No. 21 in the rolls of the Grand Lodge of Ukraine, became a joining member of Doric Lodge No. 81 in Woodbridge. Swearing to obey the precepts and constitutions of the United Grand Lodge of England, Ihor swapped his Ukrainian red apron for a Master Masons blue one, becoming a full member of the Lodge that he has been a welcome visitor at for some time. Ihor said:

“Coming to a new country from the far side of the continent, there’s a lot of differences to get used to" 

Said Ihor,

"But Freemasonry offered a familiar setting, and familiar friendship, even if some small details of the ceremonies and aprons were different. The common principles made me feel welcome right from the start, and it was wonderful to sit back down for the first time as a Member of Doric Lodge rather than just a visitor.”

Guiding Ihor through the ceremony was Geoff Spencer, a veteran Woodbridge Freemason who has taken the Chair of Doric Lodge for this, its bicentenary year. It’s not often a Worshipful Master is asked to help a Freemason from another jurisdiction step into English Freemasonry, and Geoff had been asked to present an English Constitution apron to Ihor in an evening to remember.

“Every ceremony in Freemasonry is special, but there are some things which you don’t encounter on a regular basis which are likely to stay in the memory for much longer,” 

Said Geoff, 

“And one such experience was swapping Ihor’s red Ukrainian apron for an English one. We’ve enjoyed Ihor’s company since last year, and are delighted to see him become a joining member. It’s living proof that the bonds of friendship in Freemasonry cross borders, and I hope he has many happy years ahead of him at Doric Lodge here in Suffolk.”

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