Life after Tomos. Believers of Mnishin: We were pitted against one another

The UOC community in Mnishin is forced to hold services in a tiny hut after the seizure of their temple. Photo: UOJ

Mnishin believers say that the Tomos brought enmity to their village. The temple is occupied, the brother does not speak to the brother, neighbours are hostile.

The third video from the series “Life after Tomos” is about the life of the UOC community in Mnishin, Rovno region.

The Intercession Church in Mnishin is more than 150 years old; it is an architectural monument. The state must maintain and repair it by law. But over the past decades, the state has not allocated a penny to this temple. All expenses for the repair, maintenance, and decoration of the church were borne by the church community. And suddenly, with the advent of the Tomos in Ukraine, government officials became suddenly concerned over the fate of the temple and decided to undertake the so-called inventory. The believers were against it because everything that is in the church — liturgical utensils, books, icons, etc. — was bought with the money of parishioners and has nothing to do with the state. But they could not prevent the inventory since the temple has the status of a monument of architecture. After the inventory, the local authorities decided on the alternate ministry of the UOC and OCU communities, although the latter has been recently formed and also has nothing to do with the temple, its maintenance, and repair. But the worship in turn did not work either. Then the representatives of the OCU forcibly expelled the UOC community from the church.

The Intercession Church of vlg. Mnishin seized by raiders from the OCU

Early in the morning of May 12, 2019, unknown people in camouflage drove up to the temple on an old ambulance and blocked the entrance to the temple. The locks were cut off by a grinder, one of their elderly parishioners had his jaw broken and teeth knocked out. After the "work", OCU supporters paid the mercenaries. Since then, parishioners of the UOC have been forced to serve in a tiny old hut, the total area of which hardly exceeds 20 sq.m. “It all started after the Tomos,” the parishioners say. “The village was pitted against one another. The brother doesn’t talk to the brother, neighbours are hostile. Hell happened ...” The OCU members call themselves “Ukrainians” and label the UOC parishioners as “Muscovites” and their children as “Putin’s spawn”. The community wrote a letter to President Vladimir Zelensky, reporting on the lawlessness of the local district and regional authorities, who replied to all the appeals of the believers: "Poroshenko will win the election anyway." The community members ask Zelensky for help, but there is no response yet.

We present the eyewitness accounts of how it happened.

“The father had his jaw broken and two teeth knocked out during the assault”

Victoria

Victoria, a parishioner of the Intercession community of the UOC, vlg. Mnishin:

“On May 12, 2019, at 6 am, my father called me and said: ‘We are informed that the community of ‘Ukrainians’ is cutting down locks and we should come.’ We arrived. Some men were standing (there is the video I took on the phone), we were not allowed in. 

At 8:00, their ‘priest’ arrived, they entered the territory and the temple. By this moment the locks had already been cut. Obviously, this was done at night, they had been preparing. A big mess started. They beat and pushed both women and the elderly, children, etc. In general, the hell happened. 

One of the men wanted to knock out my phone, but the blow ricocheted and hit me on the head. My husband and father ran up. The husband asked: ‘What are you doing? Everyone is taking video, and she is doing so, she has every right.’ The father of his godchild ran up, grabbed my father's breasts and dragged him to the side. He himself hit my father in the leg, and another man hit him in the jaw. We went to the emergency room, where he was diagnosed with a fracture of the jaw with a shift and two teeth knocked out. On Monday, we went to the maxillofacial surgery department. There he was hospitalized, done a bypass surgery and had his jaw completely clamped. And for three weeks he lay in the hospital and ate through a straw.

Correspondent: Who is that community? What do they call themselves? 

They call themselves Ukrainians and us – Muscovites and Putin's spawn. In the last week of August, we had a lot of communicants before school. We were all lined up here because there was simply no place in the house where we serve. 

Correspondent: Do you serve here? Aren’t you allowed into the church? 

No! At first, we were not even allowed into this hut; for the first month we served before the gate. The father sprinkles, reads out the names of schoolchildren, prays that they study well, and obey the teachers. And, you know, such unpleasant comments followed ... My child is still going to kindergarten, but if he already went to school, I wouldn’t feel good. When they say ‘Moscow spawn’, when the names of the children are called, they shout – read out Putin. I don’t understand what’s that to do with Putin when we go to pray to God? They said that they would neither stack nor thrash the grain for the members of our community to see how we could cope without them. It seems to me that this is no longer faith, and it hurts to see all that.”

Poroshenko came, rewarded everyone in the district and the region, so they did their utmost

Lidia Shevchuk

Lidia Shevchuk, a parishioner of the Intercession community of the UOC, vlg. Mnishin:

“Poroshenko came, rewarded everyone in the region and the district, so they act. People were hired, they found a ‘weak’ district and through the village close churches here and there ... It was he (Poroshenko – Ed.) who did it. 

Before that, everything was quiet: all went to church, someone donated, someone didn’t. But everything is done here by us. The domes were donated by us, pensioners, and the paving slabs they walk on, both doors and windows, are all our work.”

The village quarreled. The brother does not talk to the brother, neighbours are hostile.

Maria Tokarets

Maria Tokarets, parishioner of the Intercession community of the UOC, vlg. Mnishin:

“We told them – in the end, you quarreled the village, pitted people against one another. The brother does not talk to the brother, neighbours are hostile. Hell happened ... There were the police and the ‘Right Sector’ here.

 And we turned to the police with a request to detain a man with a grinder who cut locks. They respond: ‘We do not have the right to intervene, we maintain order.’ But what kind of order is that if people are standing in front of the gate and are not allowed into the church?! You didn’t go to church, but I did, so why don’t you allow me in? They won’t let us in, and that’s it. We come to the police with a request: do something to let us in, why are you here?! They answer: ‘We maintain order.’”

While we, ATO members, shed blood they seized temples at home

Leonid Geleshko

Leonid Geleshko, a parishioner of the Intercession community of the UOC, vlg. Mnishin:

“The 34th separate assault battalion, twice wounded, lay for a year and a half, couldn't walk. Why did they begin to take away temples? While we shed blood, they seized temples? I’ve come home and cannot go to my church, or what? Not a single ATO member followed them, all are for us. How is it possible? 

Correspondent: And how many people from the village participated in the ATO? 

Six.

Correspondent: Are they all parishioners of the UOC? 

Yes, all our lads are for true faith, for the priest and go to church, as it should be. And they want to confess and consecrate Easter cake and do other things in their church. We’ve come home. But we are not allowed in. But they won’t let us do this. Why so? 10 minutes is enough to take back the church by force. But we do not do this, it’s not our methods.”

We hold our services in this hut. It’s a bit tight but all right.

Vitaly

Vitaly, a parishioner of the Intercession community of the UOC, vlg. Mnishin:

“People (raiders – Ed.), as already said, came on an old ambulance, introduced themselves, including as the ‘Right Sector’. There were others, complete strangers from a neighbouring village. In general, all this was bought and seized. 

As a result, we hold our services in this hut. It’s a bit tight but all right. We cannot, as they do, throw them out by force because scuffle will start again, someone will suffer again. We want everything to be resolved peacefully so that everything is clarified – who’s got the right, that there is peace and quiet.”

It all started after the Tomos

Татьяна Дмищук

Tatyana Dmishchuk, a parishioner of the Intercession community of the UOC, vlg. Mnishin:

“We’ve written an appeal to our President. ‘We appeal to you as the highest official of the state. We hope that our Appeal will be heard, and you can solve a painful issue for us. Because of the policy pursued by Poroshenko, in our Rovno region, real raider seizures of churches began with the participation and assistance of high officials of the Rovno region, in particular the former head of the RSA Muliarenko and his deputy Bogatyrchuk.’ Well, and so on, how it all happened. 

No matter how much we applied, they continued to do their job. And, of course, everything came from them. Orders came from the district and regional councils. Whenever we came to the head of the regional council Muliarenko, we were ‘kicked off’ all the time. His deputy Bogatyrchuk met with us and openly said that Poroshenko would win the election anyway. They supported one side. 
Correspondent: Tell me, please, when did it all begin? What event triggered everything? Tomos! It all started after the Tomos, of course!”

 

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What will happen if the Church of Greece recognizes the OCU?
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