A beaten rector-priest from Gnezdychno village: People ask for protection

Cleric of the UOC, Protopriest Stephan Balan, wronged by activists of the new church structure

The rector of Transfiguration сhurch told about the beating of parishioners by the police and radicals. He stressed that the community was shocked by what had happened.

The parishioners of the Holy Transfiguration Church in the village of Gnezdychno, Ternopol Oblast, cannot understand how the police can illegally use force against their fellow citizens, beat and twist the priest’s arms and throw old women on the ground. This was told by the rector of the temple, Protopriest Stephan Balan.

After the beating, the priest was taken to the first municipal hospital of Ternopol.

“We decided to meet half-way the part of the community that chose to join the OCU. Just to approach it in a human way for the sake of agreement and peace. We thought – let them also have an opportunity to worship in the temple of God. We concluded an agreement at the village council in the presence of two communities, in the presence of the other community’s rector, "archbishop" Nestor, as well as the chief of the regional police, Mr. Bogomol, and the village head. A service schedule was drawn up,” said the rector of the Holy Transfiguration Church of the UOC about how the events unfolded on the eve of the conflict.

He noted that according to the schedule established in agreement with the "cleric" of the OCU Ivan Lesyk, they even had 2 services. But then the latter, despite signing the document, announced a divine service for the time when the UOC community was supposed to pray in the temple.

Knowing this, I turned to all possible bodies: I brought an appeal to the regional administration, addressed to Mr. Barna, spoke with Mr. Kulchitsky, responsible for religious affairs, and explained the whole situation. I also had an appointment with the police chief, General Bogomol. It seems everyone responded with understanding. We hoped that the authorities would take some decision to avoid the conflict. There was hope when we learnt there would be a session on Friday in the village council, and delivered an appeal also there. But no decision was taken at the session,” said Protopriest Stephan.

“The ‘cleric’ of the OCU began to provoke the present and shout out that there should not be two communities, but only one  and then the word was given to the head of the village council Mr. Boyko,” said the beaten priest of the canonical Church.

“He took out the earlier signed document, confirmed its validity, reminded the people that there is an agreement about alternate worship, saying there are signatures, there is a seal, and there is a concerted position. Then he reminded about the session, the document that was issued at that session. But those on the other side did not let him finish. There began insults, cries, mistrust; hands were raised in protest that they did not trust the village head. He was astonished by this behavior in his address, got anxious, threw the keys to the ground and left,” Father Stephan described in detail the growing conflict.

“Immediately after the head of the village council left, the head of the Zbarazh police took over the situation,” said the injured cleric of the UOC. According to him, the police chief initiated voting for some reason. The representative of the law enforcement agencies handed over the keys to the OCU community, and his subordinates began to push the parishioners of the canonical Church.

“So they began to push us, rudely twisted my arms, hit me on the head, on my back, and pushed me and the people down the stairs of the temple.  There arrived or was already waiting a special unit from Ternopol. These guys knew their job very well; they made a corridor, roughly beat me on the head, on my back, on my hands, and threw me on the ground. The parishioners were being shoved, they were screaming and quarreling. Muscular ATO veterans of Zbarazh began to push people aside, snuck up the stairs to me, grabbed me by the neck, beat me, and threw me out. An ambulance was called. The temple was sealed, but the keys remained with the other community,” expanded the priest on what happened at the Holy Transfiguration Church.

“Our community is outraged, shocked by such actions. People request and demand protection! We appeal to everyone who can influence this situation because this is a grave violation of both the law and human rights. And it even comes to beating.  We should be able to quietly and freely worship in our church. I thank everyone for the prayers and I ask you to pray in the future. May the Lord strengthen us in faith and help preserve our Ukrainian Orthodox Church. May the Lord save our souls,” he concluded.

On February 3, 2019, activists staged a provocation and disrupted the Divine Liturgy in the Holy Transfiguration Church in the village of Gnezdychno, Zbarazh district of Ternopol region. The police sided with the radicals.

The spokesman of the National Police of Ukraine, Yaroslav Trakalo, stated that the conflict in the village of Gnezdychno arose due to the inconsistency of the worship time and there was no use of force by the police. His statements were refuted in the Ternopol eparchy because it was possible to record on the video everything that was happening, where the actions of law enforcement officials and the moment of the beating of Protopriest Stephan Balan, the rector of the church, are clearly visible.


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