It was in the 18th century that an Orthodox priest was cutting the grass around his parish with a scythe when he came across this icon lying on the ground.
He asked his daughter to clean it. According to strict Orthodox tradition, water that has been used to clean an icon must be returned to a river where there is running or "living" water.
As she went with the water, an elderly woman who met her was inspired and told her not to return the water to the river but, instead, give it to the people.
She did and miracles began to occur. To this day on the icon's feast, July 15, the Priest dunks an icon of Okhtyrka (Akhtyrka) three times in a vat of water and the people take this water home with them as a holy thing.
There are 324 miracles confirmed by the Russian (Nikonian
)Synod and this icon is one of only six in the world that bears the Tsar's personal seal.
The original icon displayed the style of ornamentation called "Shatuvannya" or covering of everything in an icon with gold or silver or other metal, leaving only the faces and hands of the Persons displayed uncovered.
The Austrian government ordered all icons stripped of their gold ornamentation during the First World War and so this icon was as well.
It was then lost and turned up in the possession of a friend of my family's, Mr. Kolankiwsky, who had an art gallery in Niagara Falls dedicated to the Passion of Christ and other artwork of William Kurelek.
The Apostolic Administrator, Bishop Danylak, following the death of Mr and Mrs. Kolankiwsky, had the icon (he was the executor of their will, I believe) returned to Okhtyrka. I understand that it is now in a museum there, but I could be wrong.
I have a colour copy of the icon that I pressed to the original and have framed.
The original is truly beautiful. There is a nail above the head of the Theotokos that once held fast the gold covering. The face of the Mother of God looks as if it is alive.
In my view, I thought it would have been better to have enshrined that icon in a church here rather than to return it so soon somewhere where the people might not appreciate its spiritual value - they do appreciate its artistic value, but . . .