Seizures of temples. How it was: Ugrinov

The Ugrinov church was seized in 2014

One of the most notorious seizures of UOC churches in the west of Ukraine was the attack of local authorities and business on the UOC community in Ugrinov, Volyn.

The Ugrinov case stands apart in the general list of seizures of temples of the canonical Church.

If many other "hot spots" have become a place of real battles and clashes between the communities of the UOC and the schismatic groups, the conflict in Ugrinov was not of ideological nature. Almost all those who comment on what happened in a small Volyn village say in unison: if a local businessman (the former collective farm chairman) hadn’t intervened in church affairs, nothing would have happened.

What has been happening in the village since August-September 2014?

Chronicle of events

In August 2014, the head of the local agrarian enterprise, which grew on the basis of a successful collective farm, the deputy of the Volyn Regional Council Andrei Turak who has changed not one political party during his parliamentary term, сalled to his office the rector of the Holy Cross Exaltation community of the UOC Protopriest Rostislav Sapozhnik and his wife – regent Natalia. At that time, the couple had lived in Ugrinov for more than 15 years, registered with two sons in a church house, which parishioners built for their rector.

As the old-timers recall, an influential and respected businessman in his line of business, who was sent to Ugrinov in the late 1980s to manage the collective farm, came to a quite successful production base. When the Soviet Union disintegrated, Turak retained the property acquired by the Ugrinov residents and created on its basis a successfully operating agricultural enterprise. A native of Galicia, a Greek Catholic believer, he dealt with issues of power and business and never interfered in the affairs of the local Orthodox community.

What happened to him in the summer of 2014 can only be guessed. However, the deputy entrepreneur, referring to the conflict in the East and the annexation of the Ukrainian Crimea by Russia, demanded that the rector of the canonical Church "transfer" to the Kiev Patriarchate. Being an experienced and competent leader, Andrei Turak definitely distinguished between the Church and state issues, but, as his fellow villagers say, he lost an adequate perception of the situation on this episode, making it his personal idea-fix.

Since the rector refused to fall into schism, as the priest in the village of Strelche in the same district did, and did not get out of the church house, as the clergyman of the UOC in the neighbouring village of Pechikhvosty was forced to do, the conflict between the church community and Turak began to escalate.

On September 10, 2014, having gathered a group of his subordinates near the old Ugrinov church, in the presence of local authorities and law enforcers, Turak personally led a fight for the temple and watched the church locks cut off. Everything that happened was video-recorded.

Huddled in a corner – divine services in Ugrinov have not stopped for 4 years!

The community of the UOC, having remained without a church, transferred the services to one of the rooms of the church house where the family of the priest lived. At the same time, a wave of church raiding, which passed through the Gorokhov district, stopped for a while; in Pechikhvosty and Strelche, the Kiev Patriarchate reigned; and Ugrinov was repeatedly reported on in the press and on camera in the next four years. What was planned as a victorious demarche has boiled down into dull judicial clarifications and the tragicomic days of a small-town conflict.

However, the rector did not leave. The community members who were frightened and afraid of losing their jobs, completely dependent on the entrepreneur, gradually recovered, and although it was not easy for people and the priest to survive, the representative of the canonical Church managed to stay in the village.

During this time, the hastily formed community of the UOC KP became a screen for frank raiding, which would never have been successful here, had it not been for the influence of business on the power. Obviously, it was the autonomy of the UOC community, which in no way depended on local authorities, ultimately led to the fact that they also wanted to "take it in hand." However, the authors of the attack underestimated the local residents. Although most of the Ugrinov residents depend on the will of the head of the agrarian enterprise – their own former collective farm – the priest was openly supported by those who have nothing to do with Turak's business, and behind the scenes – by almost all other villagers.

"Now everything here is ours"

Despite the fact that the authors of the raider scheme, knowing the people, perfectly understand the true value of what is happening, the victorious march of the Kiev Patriarchate was not limited to taking over the temple.

By the decision of the village council, the land under the church house was taken away from the UOC community and given to the newly-created KP community a few days before the session. Then the unit of the UOC KP privatized the house itself, handed an eviction order to the family of the UOC rector, living in it, and almost won the case: the court refused to evict only the children. Later, the schismatics grabbed a cemetery temple, which was also built at the expense of the parishioners of the UOC, having registered in January 2018 the second parish of the UOC KP in Ugrinov. The Ugrinov village council refused to allocate land to the robbed community of the canonical Church.


Operating in the seized temple, the raiders completely altered it, despite the fact that the building has the status of a monument of architecture. Unable to put up with the obvious violations, the rector summoned a department of culture to Ugrinov, but on that day he was not even allowed to enter the church and got his head injured.

The parishioners are still trying to attract the attention of law enforcers to all episodes in which the conflict over property turned into a clear crime. However, neither the questionable manipulation of real estate nor the attack on the priest has so far entailed consequences for those who organized it.

What will happen next

After it became clear that it was almost impossible to return the lost property, patrons of the Church helped to buy a new house in Ugrinov for the rector’s family. After the priest moves to the "fallen from the sky" house, worship services will be held in it for a while, as planned.

However, there are talks about a new temple, the third in the village, to be built in the parish suffered from the church raiders. While the community is doing the paperwork, people are gradually raising funds for the construction, which even the people who initially actively supported the "transition" from the "non-patriotic" confession to the "right" clandestinely donate money to.

Whoever settles in a house privatized by the Kiev Patriarchate is unknown. During the turbulent events, the inspirer and sponsor of the Ugrinov epic, as they say in the village, quarrelled with the priest of the UOC KP, who led the raider seizure of real estate in Ugrinov by the Kyiv Patriarchate, having signed all the necessary documents. In the village, another priest appeared, to whom the cemetery temple was given, and it is possible that after the family of the UOC rector leaves the ill-fated house, battles for it will pass to a different plane.

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