“SAINTS OF UKRAINE”
As the Christians of the world begin a time of reflection before observing the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we will take a look at Christians in Ukraine. The Ukrainian people lost religious freedom after WWII. It was buried in the ashes of a crippled nation; but rose to gain faith again. Christ and His Church has once again found a place in the lives of the Ukrainian people. Having spent a part of a summer with the people of Kiev and Donetsk in Ukraine, I know first hand of their love and dedication to their Saviour.
20th Century History: This was a difficult and painful period. Western Ukraine was absorbed by Poland after the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This lasted until World War II when there were a number of changes in the country’s regimes. Russia invaded Ukraine and then the Germans occupied it from 1941–1944. Historians have written it like this:
“After the war, Ukraine became a part of the Soviet Union, which was the beginning of cruel persecution. Christianity was declared illegal….It is the tragedy of the 20th Century, the epoch of terror and violence, which has most affected the development of religious life in contemporary Ukraine. Approximately 17 million people are estimated to have died a violent death in Ukraine in that century…The war on religion was the ideology of the Communist regime and no effort was spared.
Church buildings were ruined, burnt down, profaned; priests and faithful, Orthodox, Catholic and representatives of other religions were shot, arrested and deported to the Siberian gulag; church communities were persecuted, confined to underground activities or entirely destroyed. Both the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church at the beginning of the 1930s and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in 1946 in Halychyna and in 1949 in Transcarpathia were liquidated. The Roman Catholic Church and Protestant churches survived in only a handful of carefully monitored churches. Even the activities of the Russian Orthodox Church (which functioned as a state church) were limited and it furthermore suffered from infiltration by Soviet security organs. There was a progressive spiritual vacuum and a deepening demoralization of society.”
The Underground Church: In the 1980s, persecution of Churches ceased. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church emerged from the underground and communities of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church became active in 1989. The declaration of Ukrainian independence from Russia in 1991 paved the way for a new religious freedom in Ukraine. The blood of the martyrs have soaked the land, but the people of Ukraine now know and love the freedom to worship. As they look at new elections in the government and the Russian influence within the country, they must decide if these freedoms are precious and worth preserving…or will they fall back into the bondage from which they have freed themselves?
The video below gives a history of some of the Martyrs of Ukraine’s Christian church. ( For best viewing and reading enlarge to full screen and turn on sound.)