The beating of UOC parishioners, violence against the bishop and hatred to fellow citizens and home folk. Why, instead of unity, the creation of the OCU leads to enmity.
In Luka-Meleshkovskaya, Father Varsonofy is not allowed into the temple by OCU supporters!
The rector with parishioners was locked in the church! On the morning of March 16, the Orthodox faithful of Vinnitsa learned about this at the Liturgy in their churches – who had an opportunity immediately went there for prayer standing.
The fact that OCU activists attempted to beat our hierarch and roughly pushed him out of the church grounds was known to the believers later.
“Who has ever heard of stretching hands to Vladyka?!”
The conflict situation around the Savior-Transfiguration Church in the village of Luka-Meleshkovskaya near Vinnitsa has been fueled day after day. The church community led by Fr. Vasily Almukhamed remained loyal to the UOC and His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry, while the meeting of the villagers voted to transfer the church to the OCU. The UOC church community has documents to the temple. OCU activists want to settle in the temple and suggest holding services in turn.
Negotiations did not lead to anything: the OCU adherents did not take into account the argument that UOC priests have no right to hold services on the same throne with schismatics, according to church canons.
At 8.30 on March 16, the bishop service and a general confession of the clergy of the Vinnitsa region were scheduled in the temple. The night before, the rector had discovered that the locks on the church doors were damaged and covered with epoxy glue. The locks had to be cut off, and the priest and some of the parishioners stayed overnight in the temple. And from 6 a.m., OCU supporters appeared in the churchyard, put up a tent and were intended to hold their “worship service”. They blocked the doors to the temple outside, so the rector with the parishioners found themselves trapped inside.
The arrival of Archbishop Varsonofy of Vinnitsa and Bar was met by the OCU supporters extremely aggressively. The desire of the bishop to talk to people and the intention to go to the temple were sharply rejected. By order of the defector Fr. Viktor Chverkun, Vladyka was forced out of the church grounds by force.
– We had to break down the church doors when we saw our Vladyka being beaten! Fr. Vasily said. – Who has ever heard of stretching hands to Vladyka?! They could have respected at least his rank!
One of the believers, who rushed to defend Vladyka, had his head injured, another one was torn off the sleeve of the jacket. Many parishioners had bruises. And then the Orthodox fell on their knees in front of the temple and began to pray. It was raining with snow. By 10 am, Archbishop Varsonofy and the believers had managed to enter the temple through the back doors.
They seem like ordinary people
When we arrived at the Transfiguration Church in Luka-Meleshkovskaya, the fight and the rain had already ceased. The temple is old, wooden, all in blue colours, stretching to the sky with high domes. And under it, there are about 50 people - excited, screaming, crowding at the entrance.
And such exaltation in their views, such aggressive enthusiasm in postures and gestures were felt that it was scary to approach them. They seem like our ordinary people – villagers, workers. But here, under the temple, they were dominated by the spirit of enmity, hatred, and righteous anger toward enemies. And the enemies are the priests, fellow villagers and the townspeople, loyal to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. These OCU activists shouted "Shame!" and "Down with the gang!" to them in a joyful frenzy, feeling absolutely self-righteous.
Five years of brainwashing gave its fruit: all that was said by these people copied TV messages, fueled by high emotions and a tendentious attitude to the situation.
“Moscow priests, katsapnia, who we feed, shameless separatists” are the softest of their expressions. At the same time, the fantasy worked in a deliberately revealing way. Someone had put an empty beer or wine bottle under the porch of the temple. And they started talking that it was the priest with the parishioners who had allegedly been drinking in the temple all night long — there were scattered bottles in the courtyard.
– In the morning, they barely kept on their feet from drinking! the middle-aged woman says eagerly.
– What makes you think so? I ask.
– I saw it myself! the woman loudly stated, making wide eyes as a sign of special truthfulness of the words.
And off they went: a group of women voluptuously discussed the supposed event, which immediately acquired additional details of their evil fantasies.
– More than 100 priests from all Vinnitsa region have already come here! See how many of them! said one of them with anger and fear.
– From the whole region? 100? That cannot be true! I doubt. “Let's go to the temple and see,” I suggest to her.
The woman recoiled from me, as they say, "like the devil from incense".
– Look what they are doing – beating the windows in the temple! a cry rose when a piece of glass fell out of the bell tower window. The parishioners were putting audio speakers before the service and damaged the glass by chance. The crowd under the temple immediately called this the "desecration of the shrine". The “committed offense” was reported to the police, and fragments of glass on the ground were shown to the “1 + 1” journalists, who immediately filmed them as evidence of the “crime”.
– You only look at what they did to the temple! I was taken to the courtyard to look at the pile of rusty roofing iron. – The church is a monument of historical significance, and they are destroying it!
– Maybe, they have been repairing the roof? I assumed.
– Oh, so you are on their side! I felt a wave of strong rejection ...
"I speak the folk language"
– We should have a Ukrainian church, not a Russian one! My forefathers built this church!” shouts another woman. To say that we already have the Ukrainian Orthodox Church does not work – she does not want to hear anything.
– This priest said that Ukraine does not exist, that Russia is here, several women said categorically at once. My efforts to find out when the priest said such things led to a big confusion in dates and situations. All claimed with wide eyes to have heard that themselves, but each called a different day and place.
– For my whole life, I have never said that there is no Ukraine. Never, says the rector of the Savior-Transfiguration Church, Archpriest Vasily Almukhamed. – I have always told them that in Orthodoxy, there is no Ukrainian Church, Russian, Moldavian, Belarusian, etc., but we have the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. And if each master starts making his god, then it will not be the Church. In 1983 I served in the army in Melitopol, so the company commander, captain Trunov, almost every other day placed me in detention quarters for never speaking Russian. And I can’t speak either right Ukrainian or Russian – I speak the folk language. And I can’t have said that there is no Ukraine?! I'm Ukrainian.
And the priest told TSN reporters from the “1 + 1” channel how from the first day of the war he has aided Ukrainian military men in the ATO with food and other necessities, that he has sent tons over the years there. He also told them how he married the guy who went to the ATO and performed a funeral service over another one, who died there. And that he has in the altar a list of more than 30 ATO soldiers, for whom he prays at every service. And that he helps orphanages in Lugansk and Donetsk. It is unlikely that Luka-Meleshkovskaya residents are not aware of this.
“It wasn’t easy for us to perform the Liturgy today”
And while one part of the villagers shouted “Shame!” under the walls of the temple, the other residents prayed together with the Orthodox from many parishes of Vinnitsa and 30 priests who came to support their brothers and sisters in Christ. The Bishop's Liturgy took place.
The beautiful temple, the magnificent singing of Vinnitsa choristers, the sun's rays penetrating into the church, lighting their faces ... But the main thing is the power of prayer. Many later said that it was a special service – joyful, deep, heartfelt. From time to time there was a feeling that the air was thick with the spirit of the worshipers, with the unity of hearts and thoughts.
“It’s a special joy that with God's Grace we had the opportunity today in this temple of the Transfiguration of Our Lord to unite our hearts in prayer to the Lord Almighty. May the Lord accept our prayers of repentance and bless us with peace, goodness, and love,” said Archbishop Varsonofy of Vinnitsa and Bar. “It wasn’t easy for us to celebrate the Liturgy today.” And we all know that during the great Lenten feat there are different temptations. Unfortunately, in the days of Great Lent, which we must spend in prayer, peace, and quiet, dark forces do not allow us to focus on prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ.”
And as on this day the Church commemorated the Great Martyr Feodor Tyron, Vladyka Varsonofy drew a parallel between his feat of confession of faith and the present-day situation:
– Feodor Tyrone did not succumb to the pressure and tricks and refused to offer sacrifice to idols. Then he was accused of having set fire to a pagan temple. The reason was found. The present time cannot be compared with the 4th century, but today also far-fetched reasons and methods are used. For example, here we, the clergy, are blamed for the war in the Donbass. This is a reason not to allow us to perform the Liturgy, where we pray for all the residents of the village. We came with peace. But they do not hear us. Television incites these people, and they yield to temptation. But this is political pressure, and it will weaken over time. Let us pray that the Lord will enlighten their hearts.
“If there is joy, there is no anger”
“We have one desire – to serve God and stay in the faith in which we are not only baptized but which we have known and realized. We do not want to diverge from our faith and betray it. And we want to pray to Christ in the temple. This temple belongs to the UOC community. And let the rest carry out legal work, but do not bring people together to provoke a confrontation, in which blood can be shed. Why do this?” said Fr. Vladimir Tiutenko, the head of the Legal Department of the Vinnitsa Eparchy of the UOC.
– But anyway, we must have the patience to explain to these people what our faith is, must realize what we are right about, regarding this temple as well, what the truth of our Church is. We belong to Ecumenical Orthodoxy, so we are the Body of Christ. We are a branch that is in that vine which is the Church of Christ and Christ himself. Christ saved us and Christ will judge us. And we must understand where the truth is because Christ is the Truth itself. Only where the truth is, there is Christ. Our Most Blessed Onufry is recognized by the entire Ecumenical Orthodoxy – we are the Church of Christ with the true Sacraments.
And in polemics with those who think differently, we should not allow ourselves to be irritated. If we get angry, we personally lose – lose before Christ. If we are Christians, we should rejoice at being persecuted and slandered. And if there is joy, there is no anger. Either one or the other. The Lord on the cross pitied those who crucified Him. "They do not know what they are doing." Are these people completely aware of what they are doing? The organizers know, and ordinary people are influenced by information. It is enough just to talk with one person, and he/she will say: "Thank God that they explained it to me." And some people need to fall into the swamp, get dirty, feel that spirit and understand that this is not what they thought. And only then they come to their senses – they have such a path. Therefore, we need to patiently explain and wait for their return. At the same time, they themselves should be in the right spiritual state, at the same spiritual height that the Lord calls us to.
What is happening now is due to our sins. Because in peacetime for 29 years, we have failed to show them such a height of spiritual life that people would turn to God and have respect for the Church of Christ and the priests. Therefore, we must humbly endure this injustice and suffer now. But if spiritually we are in the Truth of God, then, having led us through trials and impairments, the Truth will triumph. For us, temples were opened for standing in the true faith and confession of the new martyrs of the twentieth century. And if we also stand up for the faith, even if the temples are now closed, for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren they will be opened with the grace of God.