UOC believers in Kopytov: They hurried to seize our temple before elections
The raiders beat up and kicked the priest and parishioners outside the church gates; however, the police not only did not interfere but also assisted the raiders.
In the village of Kopytov, Rovno region, on April 13, 2019, activists from the OCU committed a raider seizure of the UOC temple of the Holy Apostle John the Theologian. Contrary to the agreements, reached with government officials and law enforcement officers, at around 13:00, the raiders seized the church. As a result, one parishioner was hospitalized and the ambulance was called for the priest. The attack on the temple was told in detail by Fr. Igor, the rector of the temple, as well as the believers of Kopytov village.
Archpriest Igor Vlasiuk, rector of the UOC temple of the Holy Apostle John the Theologian in Kopytov village:
- I am for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. I pray for our army, our power, for the soldiers who were killed at the war. With me are some guys from the ATO zone who support me.
According to the priest, the reason of the confrontation is that “a religious strife was incited between the people, since the wrong laws, adopted by the government, not only caused the war in the east but also invited wars to towns and villages.”
- We will be committed in our humble service to the end and sincerely pray for everything and everybody. At the moment we have such a situation at hand. I don’t want to expose you to danger, I don’t want your homes to be visited by them, I don’t want everything to repeat again. I have just had a talk with an elder of the newly formed community (OCU) and suggested that if they have got the temple, they should at least let us pray in the priest’s house. And then God will dispose… We love our Lord, we love each other, and we should not offend each other. We shouldn’t acquit evil with those who does evil to us. We shouldn’t! The church is just a building. The most important thing is that we have the Church and faith in our hearts. Bring your children along and have no fear! We have got through a certain stage. Now I’ve become a person who can confidently say, “Thank you, my Lord, thank you, the Most Holy Mother of God! Today is the Most Holy Theotokos holiday. Last year I was offering prayers at the ordination of Our Eminence on this day, this year we are offering such prayers. But the Lord was with us then and is with us now. And we hope we will be able to bear our cross till the end of life in order to reach the Eternal Kingdom and eternal glory.
Ruslana, a parishioner of the UOC temple of the Holy Apostle John the Theologian in Kopytov village:
- It’s very hard for me to talk about how we were treated. Yesterday we went to the District Administration, to the police. We were told we would be defended – both the priest and the temple. They promised us but did not fulfill their promise. Today when the schismatics arrived, they began to beat and throw us out. While the people were being beaten, the police were inactive. Maybe I’m repeating it… Our priest was grabbed and restrained, one woman was weighed down, and then the police rushed in and started to drive us out of the temple. One woman cried, “I have a heartache, I can hardly breathe, what are you doing, don’t be pushing me!” The police were just kicking us out. Then the three men grabbed the priest and dragged him out. May I say who they were? Alexander Silin, Nikolai Silin and Pavel Silin. Vasily Silin was beating up the priest with his feet, then they threw him out of the church premises, locked the gates and let nobody onto the territory.
Irina Balk, a parishioner of the UOC temple of the Holy Apostle John the Theologian in Kopytov village:
- I am the mother of the ATO soldier, Nikolai Seliuk. It’s so painful for me to witness all the splits made by those people. My son fought in the front line for two years in Maryinka, defended our land. And now they call me a separatist, moskal, tell me that I nurture Moscow priests. It’s extremely hard for me to watch what is going on, how they act toward our priest and curse him out. In my opinion, if people have God and faith in their hearts, can they do such things? Our temple is open to everyone. And we told them – come and pray. Our father has been praying and performing baptism, wedding, funeral ceremonies for 21 years and never refused anyone. He has always helped everybody who turned to him. Now he is facing a difficult time: he has three children, his middle son is ill and is now in hospital in Rovno. Those people know no God – they harass and don’t care about children or whatever. When the temple was being sealed, they were standing and shouting – seal it and evict the priest from his house. Where should he go? I feel sick in heart and find it difficult even to speak.
Lucia Litvinchuk, a parishioner of the UOC temple of the Holy Apostle John the Theologian in Kopytov village:
- I am a parishioner of the temple which has been seized today. It was seized in a cruel way. People who believe in God cannot act so. These are our fellow villagers with whom you seem to have lived all your life… But they turned out inadequate. They grabbed women, kicked them out, beat with their feet. It does not fit into any laws of morality! The police did not help the victims but helped to throw the believers out. I witnessed all this because I stood behind their backs. Those men who wanted to defend the Ukrainian Orthodox Church were not even let onto the church territory. The assaulters (by two) took them and dragged them outside the gate. I pointed the police to such actions but they replied the people were sorting it out among themselves.
Nina Perlovskaya, a parishioner of the UOC temple of the Holy Apostle John the Theologian in Kopytov village:
- Today I defended my temple. They hurried up to seize out temple before the elections. We were pushed aside, beaten, kicked out, dragged outside the gate as if we were a kind of trash. We were all thrown out. Absolutely. Hefty men came to the temple, dragged and kicked out everybody. Today they entered out temple and desecrated it. There is no law. Those three men, who came to defend our church, were grabbed and turned outside the gates. The gates were locked and nobody was let onto the church grounds. When one of our defenders managed to slip through and get to the threshold of the temple, they (OCU activists) caught him, dragged to the corner along the fence and restrained his hands. There was no response from the police; instead, they helped the invaders. Last time they assisted in pushing our parishioners from the church stairs, now they did the same thing. The police did not interfere to help us – they only pretended to do it. There is no truth in our country, in our state.
Recall, on April 10, 2019, the St. John the Theologian temple in Kopytov was attacked by church raiders, which was initiated by the police chief of the Korets District Department. During the attack, one of the activists of the OCU began to threaten the rector of the temple with cutting his face. On that day, the believers did not allow the locks to be cut off at their church, and after 6 hours of confrontation, the parties agreed to seal it up until the issue had been resolved in the legal field.
However, on April 11, activists, after unknown persons had set fire to the household building of the head of the newly formed OCU community, accused the believers of arson and violation of agreements and cut the locks on the temple. After that, the rector and his family were threatened with reprisals.
On April 12, the believers of the village of Kopytov and the clergy of the Korets deanery turned to the police and the Korets District Administration to protect the parishioners and the head from aggression by activists of the OCU. The officials promised to take all the necessary measures to prevent the exacerbation of the conflict in the village.
On April 13, all the agreements reached were violated: with the assistance of the police, the raiders seized the UOC temple in Kopytov.