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Father Mykola Kvych: ‘I was accused of sponsoring the Ukrainian Navy’
20 March 2014, 15:42 | Interview

Oksana Klymonchuk for UGCC
Translation by Areta Kovalsky

http://risu.org.ua/en/index/expert_thought/interview/55814/

The last two days the faithful of our church and the citizens of Ukraine who follow events in Crimea eagerly awaited news of Father Mykola Kvych – a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest and a military chaplain. This summer would have marked 10 years since he began his service in Sevastopol. Unfortunately, on the day of the so-called referendum, the priest was forced to leave Crimea, because if he had stayed, he may have been charged for “extremism”...
In an interview with the Information Department, the priest described what happened to him in the past two days and why he chose to leave.

- On March 15, on Friday, after I celebrated a “parastas” with the parishioners, I was visited by the security services. First, I spoke with one man, who then summoned two more, and later with the police.
And you were asked politely to go with them?
I would not call it “politely.” I was forced to go with them and give them written permission to search my apartment.
At first I said I would not give them permission. In response to this they said, “Well, then come with us to the car, we will persuade you.” This meant that they would make me.
Did you have weapons?
They were looking for weapons, but didn’t find any, because I didn’t have any. I only had bulletproof vests. When they found these vests, they began to say that according to the law, civilians need permission to use clubs, bulletproof vests, and handcuffs.
I said I could have understood them if I had had a club (imagine me, a priest, running with a club!). A bulletproof vest is used only to protect human life.
I was supposed to give these vests to some Ukrainian troops who were patrolling their naval base. My intention was good.
I had given two bulletproof vests to two journalists. I hadn’t had a chance to give the others to the naval base. With great difficulty I had managed to at least give some food to our boys.
They accused me of wanting to give the vests to a certain group that wanted to cause some disruption.
How are you treated?
In various ways... beaten over the head (the priest was embarrassed to talk about it. - Ed.) they cursed... I do not use such words, so I cannot repeat them. They did not talk to me as a priest and not as a normal person.
I was held from 1p.m. to 9 p.m. During this time I was questioned by representatives of the security services, the police, and Russian counterintelligence.
What language did you speak to them?
They forced me to speak to them in Russian. They said: “The Ukrainian language will not be heard here.”
Did you tell them something interesting?
They wanted to know who gave me the bulletproof vests, whom I was supposed to give them to, and to whom I had already given them to. Of course I did not tell them anything. But later I found out from a journalist that they had seized some vests from some members of the press. Maybe it's the ones I gave, I don’t know.
They took all my phones. I didn’t have time to erase some messages, so I think they were able to learn something from them.
Father, did you think that they really believed that some “Banderite group” existed?
When they entered my home and saw the yellow-blue and black-red flags, banners of the Naval Forces of Ukraine, and refrigerator magnets with Shukhevych and Stepan (Bandera - Ed.) plus Ukrainian literature, they began to call me different names, to swear, to say that I was part of the SS...
And it did it bring to mind some associations?
I am not a native of our underground church, but I know a lot about this period of the UGCC, so I was reminded of the direct persecution of the priests.
It was reported that in two weeks you must appear in court. According to which law are you being tried and for what?
According to Ukrainian law, but I was told that if the situation changes, then I will be tried according to the Russian legislation. The people that helped me leave Crimea explained that if I had not gone, I would have been tried for extremism under Russian law, which can carry a sentence of up to 15 years.
In addition to bulletproof vests, they said I was a sponsor of the Ukrainian navy, that I allegedly supplied them with weapons.
Are you going to go to this so-called trial?
I think not (laughs - Ed.). If I broke the law to save at least one person’s life, I would be happy. If I violated some rule of law, then I am ready to answer for this, but before a Ukrainian court and Ukrainian legislation, not a Russian one or some other one.
But are you really a sponsor of the Ukrainian navy?
Of course not: am I an oligarch? I just organized the delivery of food to our soldiers during the siege. Besides food, we gave them candles, matches, hygiene products ... and this was called sponsorship.
Did you leave Crimea without any trouble?
Not entirely. I was forced to turn off my phone when I was leaving the territory of Crimea. I managed to leave only because I was accompanied by an officer of the Black Sea Fleet. A Ukrainian, my good friend. When we left my home, we were accompanied by a few men. We just jumped in the car, thinking that we would get held up...
Did our other priests remain on the peninsula?
Yes. Now they are forced into hiding. I think they will leave Crimea the same way as there is information that people are interested in them too.
You were in Sevastopol – the most pro-Russian Crimean city. How would you describe what is happening there?
Sevastopol was euphoric. Many people were running with Russian flags shouting “Russia, Russia!” My last night in Crimea I stayed with a Roman Catholic priest, in the morning I woke up to someone shouting “Russia!”
In Sevastopol, indeed there are many who want to join Russia. But this is not true of the rest of Crimea.
But they do not mind getting salaries, pensions, water, gas, electricity, subsidies from Ukraine...
They are not thinking about this at all. My wife tried to explain this to them, but people say, “And what, Ukraine will turn off our water?” They think that Russia will give make them a bed with an expensive and warm blanket on which they can just lie and sleep and not have to do anything more. I can say that this is a territory of people who believe that they should just automatically be given things, and that they are not obliged to do anything themselves. The people who shout that they are for Russia are just lazy people. Many of them are former military officers or military wives. They got apartments and large pensions. In the summer they rent out their apartments to tourists. When talking about joining Russia and the higher pension, they thought why not.
You served in Crimea for 10 years. And now you have to leave the peninsula...
I am most hurt that we never really cared to make the region Ukrainian. For example, in the large cities there is only one Ukrainian school. In Sevastopol, there are no Ukrainian schools, only Ukrainian classes.
Ukrainian authorities did nothing to make Crimea Ukrainian. When Kunitsyn was in power and nine million hryvnias were allocated to develop Ukrainian culture, in Sevastopol the money was simply stolen.
Our church also should have been more interested in its priests, should have helped them more. They sent us there ... we certainly did what we could, but there were too few of us and our opportunities were limited.
As far as I understand, you will not return to Sevastopol for now?
Not yet, but if I am needed, I will return, because extraordinary people live there. There are not enough gifts in the world to thank those people for their courage and attitudes. And it's not just our Ukrainian Greek Catholics, but also Russians who came to us, and Armenians. It is worth fighting for Crimea for these people.

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My father is buried in the cemetery of a Russian Orthodox Church. I have been choir director and cantor in Russian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox, and Ukrainian Catholic churches.

My heart feels like it's being ripped out as I watch the fratricidal war building up between Russia and Ukraine. They are brothers of the same mother: the Baptism of Kievan Rus'.

Through the prayers of Our Lady of Pochaev, and the holy Fathers and Mothers of Ukraine and Russia, may peace be brought to these two countries.

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Originally Posted by Pasisozi
My father is buried in the cemetery of a Russian Orthodox Church. I have been choir director and cantor in Russian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox, and Ukrainian Catholic churches.

My heart feels like it's being ripped out as I watch the fratricidal war building up between Russia and Ukraine. They are brothers of the same mother: the Baptism of Kievan Rus'.

Through the prayers of Our Lady of Pochaev, and the holy Fathers and Mothers of Ukraine and Russia, may peace be brought to these two countries.


QFT

There is irony in this paragraph from the interview:

"I am most hurt that we never really cared to make the region Ukrainian. For example, in the large cities there is only one Ukrainian school. In Sevastopol, there are no Ukrainian schools, only Ukrainian classes. Ukrainian authorities did nothing to make Crimea Ukrainian."

I believe those opinions go a long way to explain the west's muted response to Crimea.

I pray the Russians do not read more into that muted response so as to embolden further adventurism.

The demographics and history are indeed complex and confusing.



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The only reason Khruschev handed Crimea over to Ukraine was because the peninsula was developing ever so slowly.

Crimea has no water of its own, for example. After being united to Ukraine, not only water, but all manner of resources flowed into Crimea as its infrastructure developed.

It was that same infrastructure, developed by Ukraine's resources, that ensconces the Russian Black Sea Fleet today.

If Russia wants to take over the Crimean "welfare case," well, it has already.

As a Ukrainian Greek Catholic-fascist, I rejoice over this since it will weaken Russia's economy further.

Way to go, Tovarich Putin!

Alex

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That went down like I thought it would.

My thoughts on the matter: pro-Russian, pro-right-wing non-EU Ukrainian, none of our business (our government shouldn't have helped overthrow the Ukrainian government), and big-picture Catholic.

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Dear Serge,

Hope you are well.

Alex

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Of course I feel bad for the few Greek Catholics in the Crimea. Fellow Catholics, American freedom of religion, and all that. But it's Russia, not America. And their patriarch supported the anti-Russian rebels. (Then again, if the rebels hadn't overthrown the government, the Crimea wouldn't be in Russia now.) I've said my piece in the link. I'm all for a right-wing, partly Greek Catholic, non-EU new Ukraine. But the far east, like the Crimea, is Russia. Big-picture long-term goal of reunion with all of the Orthodox, even though they don't like us - not a political version of Uniatism, trying to break up Russia. And, practically speaking, those poor Greek Catholics are a long way from home. Like you don't go to certain parts of the United States and avoid certain neighborhoods, maybe they'd be better off going home to Galicia.

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Perhaps it is time for Russia to join the rest of the civilized world?

And why would anyone want to be in spiritual union with a country with an authoritarian, imperialist regime/weltanschauung?

Wouldn't that dilute the spirit of real, Gospel-based Christianity?

Canonical hierarchy, icons and adherence to ecumenical councils alone do not a true Christianity make.

Corporatist perspectives on Christian reunion should not be anyone's goal.

St Maximos the Confessor opposed the entire Christian world because it had taken a false doctrine, monthelitism, as the foundation for ecumenical reunion.

And history proved him to have been correct.

Alex

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Originally Posted by Orthodox Catholic
Perhaps it is time for Russia to join the rest of the civilized world?

I'm not anti-Russian, and trying to impose Western liberal values on the rest of the world is just that, liberal. Look how well that's worked out for America in Vietnam, Iraq, etc. Not. We should mind our own business like the Canadians do.

Originally Posted by Orthodox Catholic
And why would anyone want to be in spiritual union with a country with an authoritarian, imperialist regime/weltanschauung?

Because sacramentally we are the same church. They are an estranged part of us: that's our doctrine. And the church, I believe, is apolitical. Monarchy, republic, dictatorship - it's all good to us. Russians are authoritarian so they like their governments that way. Fine with me.

Originally Posted by Orthodox Catholic
Wouldn't that dilute the spirit of real, Gospel-based Christianity?

Not necessarily.

Originally Posted by Orthodox Catholic
Canonical hierarchy, icons and adherence to ecumenical councils alone do not a true Christianity make.

Can't argue with that.

Originally Posted by Orthodox Catholic
Corporatist perspectives on Christian reunion should not be anyone's goal.

Au contraire. As far as I know, it is the teaching of the church regarding the Orthodox. Corporate is the way to go, because they are real churches.

Originally Posted by Orthodox Catholic
St Maximos the Confessor opposed the entire Christian world because it had taken a false doctrine, monthelitism, as the foundation for ecumenical reunion.

And history proved him to have been correct.

And he was on Rome's side. The Russians aren't heretics.

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Dear Serge,

You know, I have missed our back and forths from years back . . . smile

In response to your responses, first of all I'm not anti-Russian either, just anti-Russian imperialism. Many Russians, although we cannot now determine how many, are for Ukraine and the UGCC was helped constantly by ROC members, as you know, during the underground period.

Our UGCC bishops, such as Bishop Bohdan, have supported the Maydan movement, and are opposing what they say is the false propaganda and even evil lies coming out of the Kremlin. Who am I to contradict my bishops? wink Obedience can be hard sometimes . . .

I agree with your point on imposing Western values on other cultures. I just don't agree that Russians are barbarians for whom those values are foreign. To assume that would be to ignore the development of Russian culture in the last three hundred years.

As for minding our own business - when has Canada minded its own business? Is there a Canada you know about that I don't? Canada has had a mission into Afghanistan too and our Prime Minister has been most vociferous with respect to decrying Russia's aggression etc.

Minding one's own business could also translate into refusal to condemn wrong-doing or evil.

Your points on how we are the 'same church' sacramentally . . .

But so what? The Orthodox don't share that same understanding of ecclesiology and Catholics, especially EC's, tend to pretend that they do, that it doesn't matter, we don't care about the differences etc. Well, the Orthodox DO care about the differences and they are real "deal-breakers' when it comes to ecumenical rapprochement.

And when one deals with anyone on a spiritual plane who does not respect who you are (i.e. Catholic or Eastern Catholic), what is the point of carrying on with the pretense that there is some real "ecumenism" going on? The very word is anathema to many Orthodox, even on this open-minded forum . . .

Is the church "apolitical?" Ideally, perhaps. Historically and in terms of "realpolitik" - don't think so.

There is the reality of the Church having to live under all kinds of governments, governments that curtail human rights or else openly abuse them, that try to destroy the Church and the like. I've seen articles by Orthodox writers who promote monarchical forms of government and say that Orthodoxy is "inclined" toward it - now that is OK with me.

The Church today is aligned with the nation it serves in particular circumstances. The question becomes problematic when the Church, Catholic or Orthodox, becomes a tool in the hands of the government, especially for imperial agendas. It is a problem for the Church in both East and West.

You objected to my use of "corporatist perspectives" and to that I say that I don't disagree with "corporate reunion" at all. By "corporatist perspectives" I mean something different - the focus on external organizational unity as the first priority whereby doctrinal and other issues become secondary in the process.

This is, one could argue, at the root of anti-ecumenical attitudes among Orthodox. And I can't disagree with them in this instance. No one is saying the Orthodox Churches aren't real Churches. At least we're not.

St Maximos the Confessor was on Rome's side with respect to the Filioque in the first instance. He would have agreed with the condemnation of Honorius for his role in the Monothelite affair.

The Russians certainly aren't heretics. That point was furthest from my mind, I don't know why you bring it up here. And there can be worse things than being a heretic.

The Kremlin sets the policy for Russia but that doesn't mean the Russians like it. There is very little those who would like to see the Kremlin's demise can do about it without severe repercussions. And that shouldn't concern you or I, of course.

But let Russia stay in Russia.

Alex

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Originally Posted by Orthodox Catholic
when has Canada minded its own business? Is there a Canada you know about that I don't?


That's right, don't forget The Pig War!


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Fascist and fascism are overused misunderstood terms in modern political polemics.

Under a classical definition of "fascism", elements of which include, but are not limited to: a regime utilizing powerful and continuing nationalism, a disdain for basic human rights, the identification of enemies or scapegoats as a unifying cause, the projection of state power by military means, an entrenched oligarchy, the veneer of democratic institutions, control of mass media to some degree, an interrelationship between the organs of state power and religious institutions and pervasive cronyism and corruption. Using these definitions, one would not be far off the mark to describe Putin's Russia as a state tilting towards at least a fascist orientation. In all honesty, the same could be said for both Tymoshenko and Yanukovich' s regimes as well.

The situation there is complex, nuanced and of interest to us on a religious forum because of the interplay among and between the major religious players and the state. To describe the crisis as a simplistic "good guy/bad guy" face off is both dangerous and naive.

In the end, my eastern side understands the existence of the ancient enmity and rivalry between my ancestors, the Rusyny and the closely related Halychan/Galicians (I understand it exists, I don't accept why it exists), the shared history of the various Eastern Christian peoples of the "three Rus" and the pathological distrust of the Greek Catholics by Russian Orthodox (which played out in the forced Russification of Greek Catholic converts in America, something I was brought up to remember and not forgive,and the forced liquidation of the Greek Catholic faith in post war USSR and Slovakia.)

But my western side comes down on the side of a people of a nation of 46,000,000 people to self determination and secure borders absent compelling evidence of a clear and present danger to its neighbors.

Their is no such evidence. Protection of a "sphere of influence" is a dangerous 19th century concept and no excuse for 21st 've they adventurism.

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Dear DMD,

That's the very best presentation on the nature of fascism I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

All of your points are worth pondering, several times over.

Thank you for the great effort you put into your posts, sir.

Alex


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