Faithful 2: Katerynivka. Healing after the Seizure

The opening theme for the film about the UOC community in Katerynivka. Photo: a screenshot from the UOJ YouTube channel

How the most brutal seizure of the temple in Ukraine was healed by faith.

Clubs, gas, blood and broken ribs

Galina Nikolaevna:

“The command was to ‘crackdown on everyone’. And the beating began. I haven’t seen such a battering even in the movies, they beat everyone.”

Liudmila Kolodiy:

“My grandson saw, he saw everything. And he tells me. The jacket was torn. He saw everything, he just told me. And I rushed there, my daughter is calling: "Mom, don't go, there is blood here!"

I take hydrogen peroxide, green stuff. Tear the sheet into bandages. I go to help, I see that near the church, near the well, the boys are washing from the blood. I say: "Children, do not go! Young girls from the regent (department – Ed.), seminarians ... Do not go there! Girls, you are to give birth, do not go there!" And then I think why I didn’t lead them the paths that I know ... I don’t know how they got out of that bloodshed”.

Galina Nikolaevna:

“I fell down and started screaming because there were a lot of people standing there. There were dogs there, and there were a lot of people.

Then they began to threaten that I should be burned, expelled from the village. They called me whatever they wanted. They called me a scab. They could just spit!

I'm going, and they put the cart like this, across the road. On the one side, you cannot pass, and on the other, the horse stands, you cannot pass. And what is to be done? And he says, now she will go, fall, give a scream, and I will stand and laugh."

Liudmila Kolodiy:

“We went through ... it's hard to remember ... God forbid anyone else to experience this. Perhaps, other villages, other churches went through easily. But it was very difficult for us to go through that. The whole village was sick. Those who suffered from hypertension could not bring the pressure back to normal. We didn’t know how it would end.”

These events took place on September 21, 2015, on the day of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Representatives of the Kyiv Patriarchate, together with the radicals of the Right Sector, with the help of local authorities, seized the Orthodox Church of the Holy Great Martyr George the Victorious in the village of Katerynivka, Ternopil region.

The believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church defended their shrine as best they could – they tried to reach an agreement peacefully. But the invaders were in an aggressive mood, and while the believers were singing prayers, they used clubs and tear gas. People, defending their holy temple, received many injuries: concussions, fractures of limbs and ribs, numerous bruises. About 20 people were injured, among them were teenagers, seminarians from Pochaiv. As a result, the temple was taken away with blood, the law and God's commandments were trampled. The faithful of the UOC attempted to return their church peacefully, in a legal manner but everything was against them, the whole system – from local officials to courts.

Galina Nikolaevna:

“The fact that I was insulted and mocked is not important – I am a little thing, but there was an encroachment on a shrine, and a shrine is a shrine, it has been prayed for so many years, consecrated by angels and God from heaven. This cannot be encroached on. I think that in general people should not do evil, it will definitely come back."

Archpriest Sergiy Gladun:

“Some people have forgotten that the Church is not Ukrainian or Russian, it is Christ's. As our people in the village said that they had destroyed the collective farms, plundered and destroyed everything, and now they came and turned to the Church. I am very sorry that some poor people fell for this, someone out of fear, someone under the pressure of this or that authority. And on this ground, there was a division in our village."

OCU and "Renovationism", parallels

The way and from whom the Orthodox Church of Ukraine was created strongly resembles the events of the 1920s, when the Bolsheviks who came to power in 1917 created the "Renovationist" or "Living Church". The similarity is further enhanced if we consider the actions of the Church of Constantinople then and now.

The ideas of Church Renovationism appear during the 1905 revolution. But, as they say now, this project "takes off" in 1922, when Leon Trotsky draws up a plan to split and destroy the Church and entrusts it to the head of the 6th branch of the OGPU, Yevgeny Tuchkov.

The ideas of an autocephalous Ukrainian church also appear during the years of the 1917 revolution, are reanimated after the collapse of the USSR in 1991, but the OCU project “goes off” only in 2018, when representatives of the American administration patronize and, probably, initiate anti-canonical actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Ukraine and provoke a division in Orthodoxy.

The OCU project, like the Living Church project in its time, was created not in the Church and not by the Church, but in the bowels of the state apparatus – the President’s Administration. And it was not church leaders who were doing this but politicians and state officials: Poroshenko, Parubiy, Groisman, Klimkin, Yurash, Pavlenko and others.

After the creation of the "Living Church", the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the RCP (b) sent telegrammes to the local authorities, which said of the need to support the "renovationists" by the Soviet authorities. The GPU apparatus put pressure on the ruling bishops so that they would submit to the Higher Church Administration and the Living Church and repressed those who disagree. Thus, by the end of 1922, the renovationists seized two-thirds of the 30 thousand churches that were in operation at that time.

At first, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, represented by Patriarch Meletius IV (Metaxakis), refused to recognize the "renovationists", just as until 2018 the Phanar did not recognize Ukrainian schismatics.

In the 1920s, among the supporters of "Renovationism" there were disagreements and unwillingness to unite into one structure, just as it happened in our times with the schismatic UOC-KP and UAOC. Then Yevgeny Tuchkov and the OGPU were involved in the unification of the "renovationists"; in Ukraine, former President Petro Poroshenko took over this task.

In December 1923, instead of Meletius IV, Gregory VII became the Ecumenical Patriarch, who not only recognized the Living Church but also demanded the resignation of Patriarch Tikhon. In addition, in 1924 he planned to send a special Commission to Moscow, which was charged with ... Quote:

 “To go there to prompt, with God's help, with words of love and by means of various indications, the restoration of harmony and unity in the Fraternal Church for the good of all Orthodoxy”.

The aforementioned "commission in its work should rely on those local church trends that are loyal to the Government of the USSR", that is, on the "renovationists". Only an international church scandal prevented this commission from reaching the USSR. But exactly according to the same scheme, with the same task in 2018, the so-called "exarchs" of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, who also relied on Ukrainian schismatics loyal to the Poroshenko regime, were sent to Ukraine. This loyalty to the authorities and anti-Russian attitude turned out to be sufficient arguments to trample the canons and betray their own ideas and previous statements, to recognize the gathering of schismatics as the Church and grant them the Tomos.

Regarding Patriarch Tikhon, the head of the Phanar wrote: "In view of the church disagreements that have arisen, we believe it necessary that His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon sacrifice himself for the sake of the unity of the divided and for the sake of the flock, immediately retiring from the Church Administration." On June 1, 1924, the “Izvestia” newspaper published an article entitled "The Ecumenical Patriarch removed the former Patriarch Tikhon from the administration of the Russian Church."

In exactly the same way, Patriarch Bartholomew demanded that His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry resign his powers as Metropolitan of Kyiv, and then declared him deprived of his See and only a titular bishop, whom he, Bartholomew, “tolerates” on sufferance in Ukraine.

Within the framework of our film, there are no tasks and no opportunity to describe all aspects of the shameful history of "Renovationism": how the state gave them churches and other property forcibly taken from the Church, how "renovationist" "priests" wrote denunciations against the clergy of the Church, according to which they were sent to the GULAG or were shot. Likewise, many unworthy actions of the representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in connection with "Renovationism" remain outside the scope.

But what has been said is enough to understand – both the Soviet "Renovationism" and the Ukrainian OCU are essentially purely political projects, invented somewhere in the bowels of the state apparatus and intended to solve political problems. As can be seen from the history of "Renovationism", such a task was the destruction of the Church.

It seems that even today this is the true task of the OCU project, in relation to which the Patriarchate of Constantinople, as an instrument in the hands of the princes of this world, repeats the same shameful and anti-Christian role that it once performed for the Renovationist Church and the godless politicians behind it.

Oleg Drel:

“After they seized the St. George Church of (Katerynivka village – Ed.), people gathered, but they had nowhere to go to pray. It's a pity because for a couple of years near that church I worked together with people ... we put much effort into it: laid the tiles, made the pavement and the domes. This is the merit of all the people of the whole village."

Left without their temple and desperate to see justice from the state, people had to pray outdoors, near the fence of the seized temple, in the open air. But they were not discouraged because believing people know that above the human there is the highest justice, God's. And you need to rely on it.

Archpriest Sergiy Gladun:

“The district administration convinced us that they would give us land, that everything should be democratic. But nobody gave us this land. They wanted to allocate the site of the former landfill, where the farm manure was collected. They wanted to give land in a field outside the village, where there is no electricity, nothing so that, as they said, this “Moscow Church” and their priest would not be in the village.

But a woman who heard that we had such a need was found at her initiative. They once lived here, on this territory, where a new temple is now built. Here there was a very old hut, already falling apart. And this woman said that she wanted to give us a plot for the construction of a temple. The place is actually in the center of the village, very beautiful.

Of course, this was the very first great joy after the great sorrow, after the church was taken away from us."

The believers rallied in trouble, became stronger, and without waiting for more mercy from the authorities and invaders, they decided to build a new temple of God in Katerynivka.

Oleg Drel:

“I want to say that we have very friendly people, they laid marble tiles in the church. People, as they say, chipped in on it. Praise the Lord for the temple!"

Archpriest Sergiy Gladun:

“There used to be huge thickets here. Here, where the cross stands, there was such a large stump that the tractor dug out for 2 days. The tractor broke down, 4 cubic meters of land had to be excavated to uproot this stump.

I also remember the brigade that laid the walls. These were guys from Kovel, near Belarus. They are so religious people that they work all day, and at night they say: "Father, bring us some literature." I bring them a stack of large books: the lives of the saints and "Spiritual crops" and other spiritual works. And this woman at whose house they lived says: "Father, I have not seen such lads yet ... They work all day, on Wednesday they do not even eat sunflower oil, they hold such a dry fast, and read up half the night."

The Lord sent us such a team who wanted to be the unknown builders of this temple. They worked for a minimal price, practically for a nominal fee. But they knew that they were building a house of God, building a temple, not for the people of the village of Katerynivka but for God Himself."

Natalya Gladun:       

“Each flower was planted not just in a conveyor way. Each was planted separately, sprinkled with earth, and a piece of love was added to each. Every parishioner rejoiced at this, because before everything had been somehow routine. And when the church was taken away from us, a lot was taken away, we began to appreciate the little. We began to appreciate every flower. We began to appreciate an opportunity to pray in the temple, a possibility to put a candle, an opportunity to just get together and offer a prayer to God and just to live, to enjoy life because people are used to saying that when a lot is taken away, you begin to appreciate little things, so pleasant, so necessary in life, necessary for a believer. Because without God there is no way to go, that's for sure."

Archpriest Sergiy Gladun:

“A special, festive Divine Liturgy was served, with a council of priests. People prayed, they had tears of joy. Remembering the previous events that befell them, now they were already rejoicing with the hope that all the worst was over. And all that remains for us is to pray, to be grateful to God, to be grateful to the people who gave us such joy.

And even more so today the bells, which we have been waiting for 3 years, were consecrated. They, by the grace of God, were also donated by benefactors, bought for our church. The bells that will call people on a holiday, and not only on a holiday to the holy temple for prayer.

This temple of ours is donation-based, "A Drop of Peace". And church utensils are also all bought with donations. People, thank God, remember the tradition that everything in the temple should be sacrificial. Someone has a birthday, someone has some significant event at home, so they ask: Father, what icon can we buy and donate to the church, or maybe you need something else?

Thus, we have both a lectern and candlesticks – these are all donations. For example, this icon of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Grand Duke Vladimir was donated by the “Favor” charity foundation. Three years ago, it was brought for the blessing when Vladyka Sergiy was consecrating the temple. This icon of the Holy Great Martyr Panteleimon is a temple icon that was brought from Mount Athos and donated by the brethren of the Holy Panteleimon Monastery. On the day when the church was taken away from us, people were beaten, Vladyka Sergiy called me and said: you just withstand, all the brethren of Athos are praying for you.

The word 'withstand' does not mean to keep the temple by any means but to make some sacrifice. As I understand, 'withstand' means to keep the flock so that people do not go off the right path. The great icon of the Most Holy Theotokos 'Joy of All Who Sorrow' is an ancient icon that was still with us in the old Church of the Great Martyr George the Victorious. That temple was made of wood, and this icon was opposite the choristers. What does this icon mean? This is in the name itself. At every sorrow, people approach this icon and ask the Mother of God for help. And, as I understand it, they get what they ask for. Before they had wanted to take the temple, there were many attacks, there was even such that people and I locked ourselves in the temple, and they knocked down the doors. There was real horror. People stood, cried and prayed in front of this icon so that the Most Holy Theotokos would save, help and comfort. And when we left the church, by the grace of God we managed to return this icon."

Archpriest Sergiy Gladun:

“The schism is painful, scary and insulting, but we also benefited from it. Because people are uniting – Orthodox Christians are becoming even more believing, loving each other. We see that the Lord cleanses the Church of Christ: whoever believed even a little, he/she believed even more, whoever did not believe at all, becomes hardened and fell away from the Church altogether. We are very sorry for these people, we pray for them and grieve that it happened, but we also know that without their repentance and awareness of the harmfulness of their own choice, nothing will change for them. Even if we wanted to save them, we cannot but do it."

Mother Valentina Gladun:

“This is our little lot of paradise. Whatever adversity and anxiety may occur in life, you come here and feel – the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, you pray, cross yourself, and it feels so good in your soul. Our parishioners always try to decorate our courtyard with flowers, and the Lord blesses their labours with these flowers blooming. This is like a type of our souls, the faith that we live and hope that the Lord will hear our prayers, forgive our sins that we commit. With faith, hope and love, we ask God to give us at least such a small paradise where we can rejoice.

At one time we had a black streak in life. We just got married, we were a young couple, we already had a little daughter, and the Lord sent us such a test – the father fell ill. And the doctors told me: in three months your husband would be in a wheelchair. I didn’t say anything to the father, but thought to myself – for all God's will, as the Lord rules, so it will be. And one day my father's bones began to ache very much. He needed to serve the service, and he says: how will I go if everything hurts so much. It was the feast of Panteleimon.

And I say: 'With God's help, come on little by little.' The Lord helped, gave the priest strength, he went to the service, served. And then it became very difficult for him, and he went out to the people and said: 'Pray for me, my health is failing me, I feel bad, I feel very bad.' And all the people in the church knelt with candles and began to pray. You know, there was such a strong common prayer, and then there were no schisms in the village, no strife, people prayed for their priest. The father came home that day very exhausted. But the next day I saw the father no longer taking pills, and before he swallowed handfuls of them. On the second day and third day he did not take pills, and I said: 'Father, you noticed that you do not take pills!' And he was surprised: 'How can I not take?' I said: 'Since the feast of St. Panteleimon, you have not taken pills.'

The miraculous help of the Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon is known to many. Ancient texts and legends keep a lot of stories about healings given to saints, and today priests and believers know many miraculous cases from their own lives. And it is no coincidence that the new church of the believers in Katerynivka was dedicated to Saint Panteleimon. During his lifetime, the Healer Panteleimon firmly defended Christianity, enduring terrible, inhuman torments for his faith. He was forced to abandon the Christian faith and return to paganism. He was threatened. They tortured him. But his face was bright and his faith was strong: "I believe!".

With the name of Christ, he healed the lame, the blind, and the lepers. With the name of Christ, he helped the disadvantaged. With the name of Christ, he was martyred. Having gained eternal life, the Healer Panteleimon fulfills many requests addressed to him for the treatment of ailments. Desperate people, exhausted by going to doctors' offices, turn to him for healing. The Great Martyr Panteleimon is asked in their prayers to deliver from sickness and infirmity. And he comes to the aid of everyone who turns to him with faith, hope and prayer.

Mother Valentina Gladun

“This is the third birthday of our church. Three years have passed since Vladyka consecrated our new temple, which was built by the efforts of many people and benefactors from the "Favor" Foundation ‘A Drop of Peace’”.

Ruslan Kurganov

“Our programme “40 Churches” is precisely aimed at ensuring that people can renew the sacraments, so that there is a place for them to confess, receive communion, both for children and themselves. And this temple in Katerynivka was the first temple. There is always something first, it is unknown, that is, there is no experience yet. And, of course, it is significant that we are here today. We did not know how quickly this temple would be built, how funds would be raided, and so on. But today I am already stating that the temple was raised in the shortest possible time, in six months. People helped as much as they could, but we, mainly – with advice, a project, permits. And, of course, the organization itself. Therefore, by joint efforts in 2017, it was consecrated."

Even having despaired of their earthly powers, those who trust in the Lord with all their hearts and do not give up in a good deed, do not betray their faith will find help and win the victory. So it has been, and so it will be. So it happened in Katerinovka. Having suffered for Christ, believers gained more than they had previously. Not only a new temple but a truly living strong community and reborn souls strengthened in faith. The tests turned out to be the road to new spiritual health, to healing. And now, turning with prayers to the Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon, the community asks to heal both their village and our entire country, to heal the souls of Ukrainians from hatred, war and anger. And God knows little by little it happens. Through the prayers and good deeds of the new confessors, the Lord will return peace to Ukraine.

Archpriest Sergiy Gladun:

“We hope that at least someone will think about it. While the soul is in the body, a person can repent. God grant! Some people have actually repented and returned. Someone is pondering whether to return because they think: what have we done, how can we look this priest in the eye, after we have said all sorts of things to him ...

But I constantly call on my people in the sermon: dear ones, tell them that whoever wants to come to us, I will embrace, I will never say anything bad. Who will come, who will repent in our holy Church – I will never remember any grievances and I will treat this with understanding as Christ rejoices for every repentant sinner. As they say in the Holy Gospel, that in heaven they rejoice more for one repentant sinner than for 99 righteous people – so we must learn this and make ourselves love our neighbour, and if there is such an opportunity – to accept those who repent and return."

 

 

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Poll

How has your life changed since the outbreak of war?
It hasn't changed in any way
69%
My church has been seized by OCU members
6%
My church has been damaged/destroyed by shelling
6%
I'm going to another church because of displacement
19%
Total votes: 16

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