Seizures of temples. How it was: Butin and Kinakhovtsy

A view of the old temple in Kinakhovtsy

The neighbouring UOC parishes of Butin, Kinakhovtsy and Myshkovtsy have one thing in common – all of them at various times have been seized by the Kiev Patriarchate.

The neighbouring parishes of the UOC in the villages of Butin and Kinakhovtsy are located close to each other – within sight, a third temple rises in the same area in the village of Myshkovtsy, which also once belonged to the canonical Church. Kinakhovtsy is situated on a hillock, from the churchyard of the St. Peter and Paul Church you can clearly see the old St. Michael the Archangel Church of Butin.

Attempts to oust Orthodoxy in the district

The life of Orthodox parishes in the district is traditionally interrelated. The wooden centenary church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God in Myshkovtsy was taken over by schismatics in the early 90s. Then many parishioners refused to attend the grabbed temple and began to go to the Butin parish, which was also within reach. “When the Kiev Patriarchate began to serve in our church, I decided that I would not follow Filaret and started going to church in Butin. After Butin was recently seized, we began to worship in Kinakhovtsy, and if they also take over Kinakhovtsy, I will go to Pochaev,” Maria Kosetskaya, a resident of the village of Myshkovtsy, told a UOJ correspondent in 2017, before the final seizure of the parish by schismatics.

In the autumn of 2014, the village of Butin was one of the first targets of a raider attack by the UOC KP in Western Ukraine. Preparations for the seizure, however, had begun even earlier, from winter-spring 2014, when representatives of local authorities and “activists” approached priest Vitaly Gurev, who had served in the parish since 2000, with a proposal to serve for those killed during the clashes in Kiev, which surprised the rector – after all, on the Saturday of Remembrance of the Departed Parents, they always pray for all the deceased. But it went further: the “non-patriotic” priest was accused of “refusing to pray for heroes”.

Furthermore, a local couple got married for the second time. According to church rules, they could not be crowned in church. The relatives turned to the ruling bishop for the permission to have a church wedding, but “the law is the law”, and the second marriage in the family was not blessed in the parish. But the Butin “activists” apparently decided to make it happen. In February 2014, at the first “referendum” held in the village, they began to insist on “alternate worship services”. In the summer, trying to defend themselves against raiders, the UOC community did its own survey, honestly listing all church-goers. The opponents said that the “scammers” added the residents of other settlements to their list of supporters and respectively conducted their “census”, also, oddly enough, enlisting the residents of the neighbouring village, the parishioners of Butin.

According to the results of the last “referendum”, 440 people were surveyed.

232 signatures were “for” the so-called “transfer”;
11 - “against”;
16 - “abstained”;
60 people refused to take part in this.

A few weeks before the seizure of the Butin church, another rector was appointed to the parish, but “the process was launched”, all the usual actors in this region were involved in it. Traditionally, representatives of radical groups came to “help” supporters of the UOC KP. Simultaneously with the clashes at the church, on October 5, 2014, the regional authorities re-registered the UOC community to the entity of the Kiev Patriarchate. On October 12, a “bishop” of the Kiev Patriarchate visited the parish. Believers, trying to defend their rights, filed a claim against the re-registration of their statutory documents. Having received a refusal in several instances, in cassation, the party which had suffered from the raiding, nevertheless, proved their point, and the case was returned for reconsideration. However, by that time it had already been decided that the parishioners of the canonical Church in this district would build a new prayer room common to several villages. The land for this purpose was purchased in Butin.

Kinakhovtsy – the last Orthodox church in the district

The Sts Peter and Paul Church of the UOC in the village of Kinakhovtsy appeared, oddly enough, also as a result of a conflict situation. For many years, the villagers buried their dead in the Butin graveyard. Here, funeral services were also held. When the talks of the Butin parish actually accepting aliens started circulating, the village community decided to start building at least a chapel at its small, recently formed, cemetery. However, the funds were enough for the whole church and a separate parish, and even for the repair of one of the domes, which fell due to the error of the architects.

Later, when in Butin, like a bolt from the blue, a raider seizure of the church happened, the Butin parishioners of the canonical Church started going to the last temple of the canonical Church in the district. Groups of believers from neighbouring villages also came here.

During this time, a new united territorial community (UTC) was formed in this area. Since September 2015, in the village of Vishnevets, which used to be a regional centre, the Vishnevets UTC was formed, which included the village councils of Butin, Bodaki, Stary Vishnevets (the latter just included Kinakhovtsy, Myshkovtsy and two more settlements), as well as a number of farms.

The community was headed by Vladimir Kravets, a local politician, a leader of the Good Samaritan political force, who had received a number of awards from the Kiev Patriarchate in the course of his work. The “transfer” of the Kinakhovtsy community to the UOC KP received coverage in the edition under him. The result came out expected.

After all the confessional upheavals in the new, the renovated temple of Kinakhovtsy hosted groups of UOC parishioners from a significant number of settlements included in the Vishnevets UTO. As a result, up to a hundred people, not counting the children, gathered every Sunday in the last parish of the canonical Church. This picture did not suit those who conducted “mass transfers” of the residents of the Ternopol region to the Kiev Patriarchate, because it did not correspond to the “reality” they created. As a result, in the spring of 2017, this parish also became the target of a raider seizure. “They want to take us under the nail, they are not satisfied with the mentality that is different from their own, and they “got their claws” into us for not serving their way,” said the former choir regent Maria Sytnik.

On May 15, 2017, along with the re-registration of the statutes of the UOC community of the Kinakhovtsy village in favour of the UOC KP, the St. Peter and Paul Church was also taken over by followers of the Kiev Patriarchate supported by representatives of radical groups.

Since then, all Orthodox residents of the district have been praying in the private house of Stepan Tyvoniuk, the elder of the Kinakhovtsy community of the UOC. As its walls simply could not house all who came to Father Vitaly, people prayed in the courtyard in the summer. It was visited by the ruling bishop Metropolitan Sergius (Gensitsky) of Ternopol and Kremenets and a delegation of the Church of Cyprus.

New Life

Along with the claim to return the legal status to their community, people immediately began to look for options to build a new prayer house. The land was found quite soon, and every Sunday about a hundred people still gathered in a temporary structure, which rose on the site allocated for this purpose.

One of the parishioners independently financed the groundwork. At the construction site of the future church, the future rector Father Vitaly Gurev and a representative of the Ternopol eparchy Father Georgy Prokopchuk consecrated the beginning of the work.

Future rector Father Vitaly Gurev and Father Georgy Prokopchuk, a representative of the Ternopol eparchy, on the construction site of the church

With the support of the Kiev Metropolis, the Favor Foundation and the Holy Dormition Pochaev Lavra, as well as the joint efforts of the numerous united community of Butin and Kinakhovtsy, the new prayer house was built at a record speed. It was granted an iconostasis by the Kadubovtsy parish of the UOC of the Chernovtsy-Bukovina eparchy, which was already installed in the newly built premises.

A year later, on September 23, 2018, the throne of the new church of St. Theodosius, the Archbishop of Chernigov, was consecrated on the second day after he was commemorated by the Church. Metropolitan Sergius (Gensitsky) of Ternopol and Kremenets arrived in Butin that day to consecrate the throne of the only Orthodox church in the district built for people instead of parishes seized by the Kiev Patriarchate.

The church services are always crowded here: no less than a hundred people gather here from the surrounding villages every Sunday; at Easter, the parishioners numbered 146 people in the temple.

All this time, community lawyers have sued in the court for accepting the case for consideration, and slowly but inevitably the justice system has to “see” the rights of these people. De jure, in Butin and Kinakhovtsy, the Kiev Patriarchate celebrates the “victory”, and UOC communities in these villages do not exist on paper. De facto, both temples, as people say, are practically empty on Sundays. It remains unclear where the hundreds of signatures for the "transfer" are. But people are returning to the Church, which they were urged to leave.

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