Symeon Lukach Martyr of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Symeon Lukach was born on 7 July, 1893, in the village of Starunia of Solotvyno District, Stanislaviv (now, Ivano-Frankivsk) Region. The curious peasant boy had a great gifting for studying. When he studied in school in his native village and then in Bohorodchany, he covered a three year’s program in two years. He studied in the Kolomyia Gymnasia so well that he was popular as a private tutor and was able to pay his tuition fee himself. In 1913, he entered a spiritual seminary where he was a model of a person of prayer. However, he was able to complete the studies in the seminary only in 1919 due to WWI.
Later, as a priest in the village of Liadske Shliakhotske near Tlumach (now, Ivano-Frankivsk Region), in 1920, he was appointed a teacher in his native Stanislaviv Seminary, where he worked until April, 1945.
As Blessed Bishop Hryhorii (Khomyshyn) felt that UGCC was in danger, before his arrest in spring, 1945, he secretly ordained Fr. Symeon and two other persons bishops. As the ordination was absolutely secret, NKVD officers did not know about them and did not arrest the new bishops at once.
Bishop Symeon Lukach became one of the most active leaders of the underground UGCC.
For that active priestly ministry and his refusal to transfer to the “state” Orthodoxy, he was arrested by NKVD in October, 1949. The repressive machine was in a hurry to isolate the dangerous leader as soon as possible without even having time to prepare a legal sanction for the arrest: the warrant was issued later.
The arrest resolution of 27 October, 1949, read: “After the invaders were driven out, as an active supporter of Vatican, in 1945-1946, in the period of reunion of the Greek Catholic Church with the Russian Orthodox Church, he opposed the reunion and went underground.” On 30 December, 1949, the investigation term was extended as the authorities claimed that “recently, information has been received which shows that Semen Lukach as a supporter of Vatikan, was an illegal bishop of the Greek Catholic Church in Stanislaviv Region and led the anti-Soviet activity of the Uniate underground.”
In the beginning of 1950, he was sentenced to 10 years. Despite his poor health, he was sent to unbearable labour to the camps of the Krasnoyarsk Region. He worked in tree felling industry. He endured the hardships and after his release on 11 February, 1955, he again began to work as a priest and returned to his daily service to people and God. He did not take steps to improve his health and was not “quiet,” as he was recommended to do. As an intellectual, he worked on his book “False Prophets.” He also secretly conducted training for intended priests…
In 1962, he was arrested for the second time. After a search and confiscation of all property, the bishop was sent to a prison in Ivano-Frankivsk. There, he met a young boy, Mykhailo Kosylo who was going to be transported to a camp. The bishop used that opportunity in the transit prison to read lectures in moral Theology to him. Later, Mykhailo Kosylo became one of the most active Greek Catholic priests in Galicia.
The accusation against the 69-year old bishop read: “The accused Lukach together with the leadership of the underground activity of Uniate priests in Stanislaviv Region compiled manuscripts of religious character and distributed them among Uniate priests, believers and monks in order to spread Catholicism, which he did not deny during the court session.” The reason for his sentence was formulated as follows: “…Both the danger of the committed crime and lack of repentance after the first sentence: he stated that his position remained the same.” According to Article 209 of the Criminal Code of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, he was sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment. Even the judges were impressed by the will power of that ill but unbreakable person.
Bishop Symeon (Lukach) served his sentence in the Stanislaviv prison. In prison, the bishop fell seriously ill. The prison doctors diagnosed it as asthma. I reality, it was tuberculosis.
In March, 1964, due to his bad health condition, Bishop Symeon was transported from prison to his native village Starunia to let him die there. Despite his bad condition, the bishop fulfilled his priestly responsibilities: he served Liturgy daily, heard people’s confessions, observed fasts.
On 22 August, 1964, he died in the village of Starunia and was buried there.
In the beginning of the 90-s of the 20th century, the whole Orthodox community of the village of Starunia transferred to UGCC, and in summer, 1991, the community built a monument to Bishop Symeon (Lukach) near the Church. One of the village streets was named after the bishop. The community highly appreciated its pastor who was for it not only a priest but also “the master of morality” as well as in his young years in the seminary.
In June. 2001. Pope John Paul II beatified Bishop Symeon (Lukach).