What kind of people are the current owners of the shrine in the Kholodny Yar?

10.11.2011, 13:49
The ancient Holy Trinity and St. Mot­rona’s Monastery has been established as far back as in the 12th century and well-known throughout the land.

The ancient Holy Trinity and St. Mot­rona’s Monastery has been established as far back as in the 12th century and well-known throughout the land. It was destroyed repeatedly in the turbulent periods of our history. The Mongol invasion, Catholic encroachment after the Union of Lublin, Turkish raids during the Ruin, Bolshevik terror, and the German occu­pation during the World War II – these are only some of the disasters that befell the monastery. It has overcome all of them through unswerving faith of its residents and aid of its patrons, both earthly and heavenly ones, who protected the monastery and helped the shrine to rise from the ashes again every time. The patrons included hetmans Petro Konashevych-Sahaidachny and Bohdan Khmelnytsky, bishop of Pereiaslav Kyrylo Shumliansky and many others.

It was at the St. Motrona’s Mo­nas­te­ry that plans were developed for Maksym Zalizniak-led Haidamak uprising of 1768, as a group of Zaporizhian Cossacks organized the war council, which adopted a strategy for propagation of the popular movement and sent envoys to various regions of Ukraine. The monastery was a spiritual center of the liberation struggle in the days of the Ukrainian revolution of 1917-21, too, when it hosted the headquarters of the Kholodny Yar Host, which was loyal to the Ukrainian Natio­nal Republic and put a heroic resistance to the Bolsheviks until 1922.

Should we turn our attention to the current residents of villages around the Kholodny Yar, we would still find among them patriotic descendants of the gallant warriors from the Kholodny Yar, people who are proud of their land and their history. At the same time, the current owners of the Holy Trinity and St. Motrona’s Monastery, who represent the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, are less than pleased with this patriotic spirit. The local guerrillas fought for Ukraine’s indepen­dence against the Bolsheviks, who three times in the re­volutionary years broke into the monastery (by then a women’s convent) and raped nuns. The UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate’s policy prevents them from commemorating and even complimenting any people who fought against the Bolsheviks for Ukraine’s indepen­dence, and, in fact, protected the monastery and its residents. So they have to wriggle out of the quandary somehow. Father Yurii says: “The Kholodny Yar guerrillas defended Ukraine as a country, but not some natio­nalist idea of Ukraine. They defended the people’s faith, but hardly were defen­ders of the nation’s sovereignty.”

His interpretation is rather explicit in its bias, and the Reverend Father himself must know that it is a lie, but his pro-Moscow prejudice forces him to keep de­via­ting from the truth. It is especially so as his church is locked in a fierce struggle with the UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate, who also claim the St. Motrona’s Monastery as their own, or at least plan to make it one of their own someday. Father Yurii calls the Patriarch of Kyiv’s followers “nationalists,” “libel-mongers” and accuses them of unjustly exploiting the fact that his church is formally referred to as “the Moscow Patriarchate,” all this in addition to the traditional accusation of persisting in schism.

The monastery views the Koliivshchyna uprising of 1768 in a similar vein: “It was not a war between the rich and the poor, but a war between the Catholics and the Orthodox,” Abbess Motrona says.

So be it. Maksym Zalizniak and Ivan Honta did fight for the Orthodox faith. The Kholodny Yar guerrillas’ leaders fought for the same, according to Father Yurii. However, the present leadership of the Holy Trinity and St. Motrona’s Monastery demonstrates conspicuous indifference to and detachment from their protectors and does not want to commemorate them in any way, even with a plaque only. They ignore Maksym Zalizniak as well as, say, Ivan Kolomiiets, a captain of the Kholodny Yar guerrillas. The latter was buried in the monastery grounds, but, apparently, does not deserve even to have his tomb restored, after it was razed to the ground in Soviet times. The clerics justify their inaction with the claim that such plaques are inappropriate in the monastery, as “people come here to pray.” We can only wish for the Orthodox of Moscow Patriarchate to adhere to the same political neutrality and having an exclusive focus on the spiritual realm during elections and other contentious events in the nation’s life, because, judging by the recent events, such a neutrality is, to put it mildly, far from being universal among clergy of this denomination.

Patriotic elite of the Kholodny Yar are very disturbed by the current stance of the St. Motrona’s Monastery’s representatives. Bohdan Lehoniak, director of Medvedivka Local History Museum, speaks quite frankly: “We have never seen them to make even as much as a gesture of solida­rity with the Ukrainian patriots. They do not feel strongly for Ukraine. They have no use for the concept of the Ukrainian state. They celebrate liturgy in Russian, because for them even the Ukrainian text of the Lord’s Prayer is a non-starter.”

Such is the stance of the St. Motrona’s Monastery’s leadership, the people whose institution’s bells once served for the ra-pid mobilization of warriors from the surrounding villages. Such is the thinking of the clergy in the unconquered heart of Ukraine, where the air itself is filled with a free Cossack spirit like nowhere else, where the peasants are the descendants in blood and spirit of the irreconcilable Haidamaks and where there are still heard sometimes the dying words of Vasyl Chu­chupaka: “Hear me, the Kholodny Yar! New warriors must come in our place!” – the words which he had exclaimed before committing suicide, when encircled by the Bolsheviks.

Political activities of the Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate have long concerned all politically aware people not only in the Kholodny Yar, but throughout Ukraine, too. It is one thing when we have in this country such political movements and parties as Russian Unity, whose continued existence may be attributed, however unsatisfactorily, to the temporary weakness of the government and a faulty understanding of political freedom, which we mistakenly extend to the point of to­le­rating organizations that are seeking to shred our nation into pieces. But it is quite another thing when the idea of Rus­sian unity is implemented by the church that its parishioners see as an infallible autho­rity. We must be fully aware of the harm caused by the fact that Ukrainian believers in Ukrainian churches receive the Word of God from the priests who see Ukraine’s independence as a mistake. Without any exaggeration, this stance may be interpreted as a spiritual war against our country, more damaging than even the Bolshevik invasion of 1917-21 was. It is extremely important to stop being careless about it now, while we have yet a chance to rectify the situation.


10 November 2011 The Day