Life after seizure. Postoinoye residents: Godless people grabbed our temple
The second story of UOJ from the series “Life After Seizure” tells about the fate of the UOC community in the village of Postoinoye, Rovno region.
Initially, supporters of the OCU with the help of the authorities took away the temple from the UOC parishioners, which they built 30 years ago with their own hands, and then stormed and captured a church house where the priest lived and performed worship after the raiding incident. After this massacre, several parishioners were inflicted facial injuries (a torn nose and ear) and were taken to the hospital.
Now the community has to serve in an old rickety house, which was provided to them by one of the villagers.
The rector of the church as well as his small children was threatened. He was forced to take his family to his parents and is now going to worship services to the village being 50 km away every Sunday and on church holidays.
On April 3, 2019, raiders from the OCU committed a raider seizure of the temple of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and, being loyal to themselves, hanged on it the flag of the notorious extremist organization “Right Sector”.
The raiders chose to undetake an attack on a working day when all members of the community were at work
Below is a story of the rector of the temple:
"Today, in view of the circumstances that occurred at the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, we are forced to pray with our community in the house which was donated by one of the villagers so that the community has the opportunity to continue to offer our prayers to the merciful God.
The events in our village began to unfold initially with the adoption of the so-called Tomos, delivered to Ukraine from Istanbul. On January 14, an initiative group of the village in the face of several people came and invited our community to move to the newly created Orthodox Church of Ukraine arguing that there is now an independent Church which received the Tomos of autocephaly, and we should continue to pray in the newly created Church.
The community immediately gave a negative response and spurned it. We can say that the disputes in the village lasted for a long time until April. There were repeated calls to me. They asked me to make a transition and “support the society”, but I emphasized then and do it now that members of the community who constantly go to the church, pray , take part in divine services, receive the Holy Communion – they all are with me and have no desire to go to the newly created organization – the OCU.
Then threats were uttered against me and my family, which is why I even had to send my children from Postoinoye to our parents in Gorodok, where we have to live at the moment. To live in Postoinoye is impossible, because there were continual threats of physical violence. I worried not so much about myself as I did about my young children. We were compelled to evict from our house, in which we not only lived but were also registered with young children.
Further on, the situation was heating up and on April 3, I received a call that some individuals were to come to take over our temple. Before that there had been other attempts of raider seizure, in particular, on February 24, 2019. But then it was Sunday, a holiday, and the whole community was assembled. We were able to defend our temple. Therefore, this time they chose to commit a raider attack on the working day when young members of the community were at work, so this time the attempt was successful. There arrived aggressively minded persons who had nothing to do not only with our church community, but also with our village; these were the people I had seen for the first time. The police arrived too, but openly took the side of the OCU. Not only our community, which was trying to prevent the seizure, was pushed by the police from the doors of the temple, but a “living corridor” was made for a man with a grinder who cut off the locks from the doors. To the applause, these people entered the temple, seized it, and our parishioners were simply pushed aside."
Correspondent: were there any bribery attempts?
"Yes, there were, although they were not fixed anywhere. They also suggested that I change my faith for money. I explained to them that the Lord can take away more than they offer to me. For me it’s the same as Judas, who sold Christ for silver coins. You can’t sell your faith, leave your community or go with it to the newly created OCU just because it is politically 'appropriate'."
They kept on beating me and my daughter even when we were walking to the ambulance.
Olga Zabida tells about the developments in the village after the granting of the Tomos:
"A bus arrived with outsiders of strong physique who began to move towards the church. We got ahead of them, stood in front of the gates of the church and began to sing “Virgin Mary, rejoice ...” They began to ridicule and insult us. In general, I want to emphasize that there were those who had never attended church, maybe once a year at Easter.
Our parishioners, who go to church every Sunday and every holiday, have never seen them at all. When we stood on the steps of the temple porch, a resident of our village, Andrei Zhuk, who had previously been fired from the police unit in Kostopol, pushed me in the shoulder and said in my direction: “Take her away.” Another man (Nikolai Ignatiuk) twisted my arm and pushed me off the steps. And then two more women began to pull my hair and insult me. Later, a woman from our street straightened my shoulder.
So, they seized our temple, we put up with it and began to pray in the priest’s house. On June 20, 2019, I was going from work when a neighbor told me that there was booze near the store and the drinking men said they would seize the priest’s house. When the offenders came up to the house, I noticed everyone was totally drunk. We stood on the steps of the priest’s house and began to sing “Virgin Mary”. They surrounded us; three of them broke the window and made their way into the middle room of the house. These were Yuri But, Sergey Zhuk, and Yuri Yefimets. They got into the house and began to squeeze us with the doors, while we were standing on the threshold. One woman, Maria Sheliuk, grabbed me and pulled me off the steps. When I fell, they began to hit me on the head and in other parts. Even when my daughter was taking me to an ambulance car, they kept on beating me and her. Then the teacher at school told me that my children are zombies because they go to church. How can one understand it, tell me?!"
The priest was knocked and trampled down
Maria Zhuk tells her story:
"Once the Tomos was issued, it escalated from there. Seizures began.
They tried to do this before the election (presidential – note). This seizure also took place during the election campaign. Until the last I could not imagine and did not believe this could happen. Until the last. I used to work as a teacher. I stood on the threshold, at the church doors, we were singing church hymns ...
The crowd (OCU activists – note) crushed me, such an elderly person, pulled me off the threshold by the hands, knocked down the priest, stamped on his feet. But no one stretched out his hand and raised our father. This is barbarism, these are unbelieving people."
I will only be in the Orthodox faith until the end of my life – I am 85 years old now.
The elder of the temple, Stepan N., who is 85 years old, shares his impressions:
"It is soon 30 years since we started to build this church (seized – note). We built it on our own; no one was engaged in any money-raising. 150 people would come to the construction site, there were no engineers.
Everything was calm for almost 30 years until these atheists came, who do not even know what the Church is, who had never been there before. We asked the authorities to seal the temple until the circumstances were clarified, but the authorities liquidated our community, and now we are not listed in the registers. And we do ask for help so that God would show his strength and truth would triumph. Personally, I’ve been going to church since an early age, my grandfathers and parents went there, and I'm not going to change anything. I will only be in the Orthodox faith until the end of my life – I am 85 years old now."
Later, no longer on camera, we asked the rector of the community a question: “What are you most afraid of?” He replied:
“I have been serving in this village for eight years. And when it all started, all these threats, coercion, pressure, demands to go to the schismatics from the OCU, I was most afraid that my parishioners, my flock would fall into schism ... It would mean that I worked in vain all this time, that I could not explain to them what the Church is and why we should be faithful no matter what. I was very afraid. But everybody remained faithful. No one left. Of those people who constantly went to worship, no one left. And this is what makes me happy.”
Let's think about these words! The priest, who was kicked out of his house with his family, whose temple was taken away from him, who is constantly threatened that something bad will happen to him any time unless he stops going to the village for worship. Nevertheless, he says that his biggest fear is not these threats, but when someone from the sheep of Christ, entrusted to his pastoral care, may feel tempted and betray the Church having traded the Cross of Christ for a calm and safe life.