Zadubrivka: How humans cease to be humans

OCU raiders have reached a new level of atrocity in Zadubrivka. Photo: UOJ

What god do the OCU activists pray, if they were happy about the death of the rector priest, beat up the believers, and poisoned the women in the temple?

It’s just impossible to believe in what happened on the evening of May 4, 2020, in the village of Zadubrivka, Zastavna District, Chernivtsi Region. It is impossible to believe that people who call themselves Christians can act like beasts and, having despised all the laws of God and human beings, create a real coven on the tomb of the priest who had just died. It’s hard to believe it’s neither about Islamic fanatics nor ISIS terrorists, but about our fellow countrymen, the inhabitants of Ukraine who are able to resort to such vileness and inhumanity.

On February 2, 1990, after 70 years of militant atheism, a community of Christians was reborn in Zadubrivka. In the church of the Archangel Michael, prayer sounded again and Divine Liturgy was performed.

Church in honor of the Archangel Michael, Zadubrivka village. Photo:

Members of the community held worship services, repaired and decorated the temple, and helped each other in everyday difficulties.

When the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) was created in Ukraine and a wide campaign was launched to transfer the communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to this organization, at the meeting of the religious community, the Christians of Zadubrivka unanimously voted to remain faithful to the canonical Church.

This meeting was held on February 3, 2019. Soon on February 15, the church community in honor of the Archangel Michael began a prayer stand in defense of the rights of the UOC believers because of the attacks from supporters of the OCU. It continues to this day. For over a year now, parishioners have been on duty around the clock near the church, praying and psalm-singing.

In May 2019, the territorial community of Zadubrivka voted to transfer the church to the OCU. At the same time, they grossly violated the provision of the law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations, which assigns the right to determine the fate of a religious community exclusively to the religious community itself, but not to the territorial community or any other body or organization.

Since that time, the confrontation between proponents of the OCU and the Christian community of Zadubrivka has become particularly uncompromising. The OCU activists constantly staged provocations, often tried to block the road to the temple in order to prevent the believers from entering church territory or getting out after the service. The OCU “priest” continually insulted the Orthodox and made it clear to his supporters that they would eventually appropriate the Orthodox temple.

Almost every Sunday, the police had to come to Zadubrivka to pull the community of the canonical Church and supporters of the OCU apart. This was justified, because from time to time the latter committed overtly illegal actions.

On August 26, 2019, three drunk activists of the OCU came to the temple and began to threaten the members of the community on duty with massacre and blowing up the temple. Then they threw a military smoke bomb into the church premises.

Smoke bomb in the temple of the UOC. Photo: Chernivtsi-Bukovina Diocese

The names of these people are known, the police expropriated the smoke bomb as material evidence, but none of the perpetrators was brought to justice then. A few weeks later, one of the parishioners of the St. Michael's temple suffered a broken rib from the OCU member.

However, despite all these threats and afflictions, the Christian community has survived to become even more united and consolidated.

“People are praying. Of course, we feel tired due to the moral pressure. However, the good thing is that since February 3, our religious community has rallied and become a real family. Like in any family, we have common joys, common sorrows. But we discuss everything together. I think this is very important. We live together as an early Christian community, we are close to one another,” said the rector of the community, Archpriest Leonid Delikatny, in February 2020, when the UOC believers celebrated the anniversary of the round-the-clock prayer standing.

Archpriest Leonid Delikatny with parishioners. Photo: Chernivtsi-Bukovina Eparchy

But on May 4, 2020, Father Leonid died ... Due to the frequent nervous strain, constant harassment, threats, insults, going to courts and other government bodies, his weakened body could not bear it, and Father Leonid reposed in the Lord.

The Chernivtsi-Bukovina Eparchy described his unequal confrontation with the representatives of the OCU as follows: “They crucified Father Leonid for two years ... He slept in the church on the floor, guarded the shrine at night, offered prayers at the church in winter in severe frost, turned to the courts, police, functionaries ... his heart ached for the shrine. He did not miss a single service, earnestly urged everyone to pray and rely on the Lord in everything ... His body grew feeble ... he got ill and died ...”

In order not to cause a meeting of a large number of people who might want to pay last respects to the good shepherd and thereby not provoke a quarantine violation, the diocese decided not to announce the death of Fr. Leonid. However, the OCU found out about this and then began what could not be called other than blasphemous Sabbath.

At about 11-12 o’clock in the afternoon, when very little time passed after the rector’s death, supporters of the OCU began ... to celebrate his death. Here is how one of the Zadubrovka residents tells about this: “They got together, including the head of the village council, and began to threaten us that now they would go to burn carpets in the church, because we supposedly had a coronavirus there. There were 20-25 of them. They stood, laughed, clapped their hands and almost danced because Fr. Leonid died.”

“Father Leonid was crucified for two years ... He slept in the church on the floor, guarded the shrine at night, offered prayers at the church in winter in severe frost, turned to the courts, police, functionaries ... his heart ached for the shrine. He did not miss a single service, earnestly urged everyone to pray and rely on the Lord in everything ... His body grew feeble ... he got ill and died ...”

Such a reaction to the death of a person, whoever he is, gives creeps. Well, one cannot gloat over the grief of others, especially when the grief is great. It is impossible, without losing human appearance, to rejoice at someone’s death. However, the OCU supporters were happy. Then something completely unimaginable began. A true military operation, thought out and organized. The operation against defenseless people suffering the loss of their loved pastor.

On the evening of the same day, May 4, two buses with armed people in balaclavas arrived at the temple. Eyewitness testimony: “One of our local Orthodox Christians saw that a crowd of military men in balaclavas was heading towards the temple – at about 21:30. We had four guys and three women on duty. One guy with the women remained to guard the temple inside, the remaining three went to the main entrance. When they (supporters of the OCU – Ed.) approached, a bus came up right away, they pulled out a generator, a grinder, cut the locks on the first and second gates and then entered the temple territory. We stood at the main entrance to prevent them from entering the door. There were approximately 40 of them together with the local villagers – these are only men in balaclavas, with batons, with [gas] spray cans.”

These people, using a knife and batons, beat up the believers guarding the temple and did it so brutally that they ended up in the hospital, and one of them needed an eye surgery.

The aggrieved parishioners of the UOC in Zadubrivka. Photo: Chernivtsi-Bukovina Eparchy

Moreover, when an ambulance drove to the village to provide assistance to the injured people, the “priest” of the OCU personally blocked one of the roads leading to Zadubrivka and did not let the doctors go to bleeding people. It doesn’t fit into my head how this is possible, but it was done by the man who dared to call himself a “priest” and put on a cross, a symbol of the crucified Savior.

Another group of the OCU supporters cut a tree on another road to the village, thus blocking the opportunity for both the police and the church’s defenders to come to assist their brothers in faith. In addition, before this operation, the electricity was turned off in the village so that dark deeds could be done in the darkness.

Having dealt with the three defenders of the temple, the attackers tried to break open the doors of the church, but when they failed to, they began to fill the temple with tear gas through the slot in the door so that the unfortunate women who had taken refuge there would either suffocate or open the doors themselves.

In some ways, it resembles the actions of German Nazis who drove the inhabitants of Ukrainian villages to churches or other premises and burned them. However, they were the Nazis, strangers, but here are citizens of Ukraine, possibly residents of the same village. How is this possible?

Nevertheless, the supporters of the OCU were not to seize the church of Archangel Michael. Whether the protection of the Archangel helped or God heard the prayers of the late Fr. Leonid, whose body was not yet buried, but the Christians managed to defend their temple. Despite the blocked roads, believers began to flock to the church. After a while the police appeared, at whose sight the assaulters turned off the generator, loaded it into the car and gradually dispersed.

When they failed to break open the doors of the church, the invaders began to fill the temple with tear gas through the slot in the door so that the unfortunate women who had taken refuge there would either suffocate or open the doors themselves.

The police recovered evidence, recorded a pool of blood on the porch, interviewed eyewitnesses, but did not detain any of the offenders.

On the next day, May 5, the UOC Chancellor, Metropolitan Anthony (Pakanich) of Boryspil and Brovary, sent an appeal to law enforcement authorities regarding an attempt to seize the church of the Archangel Michael and the brutal beating of believers. He demanded that the authorities protect the UOC community from illegal encroachments, conduct an objective investigation and hold the perpetrators accountable, as well as cancel the illegal decisions to transfer the community to the OCU.

This is the legal side of the issue. But there is a moral one too.

  • Why did proponents of the OCU reach such a moral decline that they did not at least wait until the body of the deceased rector of the temple could be buried?
  • Why did they vilely take advantage of the bereavement of the congregation to attack them out of the blue?
  • Why did they wait intentionally for the death of Father Leonid to put their dirty design into action? After all, the operation was clearly thought out, each of the attack groups knew and played its role perfectlly: some blocked roads, others turned off the electricity, others with batons hiding their faces attacked those on duty at the church ... This doesn’t work off hand, one needs to prepare for this in advance.
  • How could the “priest” of the OCU, who must have heard the Beatitude “Blessed are merciful,” hampered an ambulance to take the beaten and crippled people?
  • How can the OCU proponents even call themselves Christians when they act in the diametrically opposite of what Christ commanded?
  • Why did they plan to grab the temple? For what purpose? What god were they going to pray to?
  • Why, at the current level of development of social networks, all kinds of instant messengers and other media, we don’t hear condemnation by Ukrainian society of the actions of OCU supporters in Zadubrivka?
  • Why did the head of the OCU Epiphany Dumenko, to whose glory all this happened, not dissociate himself from these obviously criminal actions of his supporters? Why didn’t he say that he could have nothing to do with those who, blasphemously mocking the death of the priest, are trying to seize the temple in which this priest had taken so many efforts, both prayerful and physical? Why did Dumenko not say that he could not be in solidarity with those who poison women with tear gas in the temple? Or does the end justify the means?

When it was already late at night that the invaders in balaclavas left the temple territory, the faithful lit the flashlights on their mobile phones and began to sing the Troparion of Easter: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!”

Screenshot of the Facebook page of the Chernivtsi-Bukovina Eparchy

They were able to defend their temple, defend their shrine. But this is not a victory. Victory will be when they can overcome the hostility toward their offenders in their hearts, when they can forgive them wholeheartedly, just as Christ forgave his crucifixes, when they can fulfill the words of the Savior:

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Мatthew 5: 44-48)

This is what Christ has commanded us all; this is what the late Father Leonid taught his flock...

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