Whose Memory the Holy Church Celebrates on the
24th of July and the 24th of August

The Movement to Abandon the Unia and Return to Orthodoxy in Lemkovina

Grave of Saint Maximus
in his native village
of Zhdynia

The Orthodox movement in Lemkovina had deep roots and causes. The infamous Union with Rome did not originate with the masses of the common people, but was imposed through the machinations of the urban merchant class and a small minority of the clergy, who greatly desired the same feudal rights their Catholic counterparts enjoyed. Thus, these two classes of people betrayed their Orthodox princes and the faithful. The two religions struggled with fire and sword, but even after the victory of the Unia, Orthodoxy was not so quickly forgotten. To counterbalance Catholic influence and to further deceive the people, the Uniates carefully preserved the purity of the Eastern Orthodox ritual, considering that a policy of slow and gradual latinization would be far more successful in the long run than one of outright imposition of the Roman ritual. Yet the cultural inclination of the Lemko people toward the Russian mainstream, which expressed itself in undisguised sympathy for Russia and all that was Russian, could not be silenced even in the province of religion. In the eyes of most of the prominent Galicians and Lemkos, the Unia was but the instrument and means employed to sunder the one Russian family, and they directed their gaze toward Orthodoxy as the ancient and original Faith of their people when Holy Russia had been one. This inclination, which was distinctively Russian, was a crucial element in the Lemko reaction against the "Ukrainianism" artificially concocted by the Austrians as a weapon against the pan-Slavic movement which threatened their domination of the area.
Even among the Lemko Uniate clergy there were sympathies toward Orthodoxy. These sympathies were so intense that the very concept of "Catholic" was considered a sort of heresy. Indeed, their concept of the Union was reduced to a purely jurisdictional recognition of the primacy of the Pope of Rome.
Orthodox sympathies were characteristic of the people of the Carpathian Mountains, and to a lesser extent of the Galicians. Alarmed by the growth of these sympathies and correctly concluding that this growth was being directed toward rapprochement with Russia, the Austro-Hungarian authorities began to eradicate the "Russian" sedition. Unprecedented repressions were imposed upon the Russophile clergy, both Uniate and Orthodox. The area teemed with informers. Not only the gendarmes, village clerks and sheriffs, but also teachers and some of the clergy denounced their neighbors. It reached the point where, in some areas of Carpatho-Rus', the entire educated class --- priests, lawyers, judges, teachers, high school and university students, as well as peasants --- were arrested en masse. The prisons were quickly overflowing with those accused of treason.
In accordance with a directive issued by Vienna, the Uniate Metropolitan of Lviv, threatened by the growth of Orthodoxy, quickly shifted his ecclesiastical policy to one of isolation from all that was Orthodox and Russian. He drew up a Ukrainian Uniate ritual that differed significantly from Orthodox ritual. The names of saints especially revered in Russia were deleted from the calendar. The veneration of wonder-working icons of the all-holy Theotokos that had manifested themselves in Russia (e.g., the Iveron, Kazan and Pochaiev Icons) was proscribed. The word "Orthodox" was replaced in the divine services with "Catholic". Candidates suspected of Russophile sympathies were refused admittance to the Uniate seminaries, acceptance being confined exclusively to those who professed a Ukrainian outlook and were prepared to submit a written oath of hatred for Russia.
Throughout the Carpathian region a tremendous upheaval shook the parishes. Uniate priests of Russian persuasion were driven from their posts, their families were thrown out into the streets, and few were the courageous souls who dared to defy the authorities by sheltering the homeless. The parishes were then turned over to newly ordained priests who had received their education at the hands of the Jesuits at the Basilian College. The imposition of the new Ukrainian Uniate ritual was entrusted to the Jesuit-educated monks of the "Order of Saint Basil the Great". But if life had become so difficult for the Uniate Russophile clergy, it was far worse for the few Orthodox priests and their families in Carpatho-Rus' and Galicia. One such priest is Hieromartyr Maximus Sandovich, of blessed memory.


Saint Maximus Sandovich - continued

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Original page design and layout by Walter Maksimovich

Originally Composed: April 7th, 1997
Date last modified: December 1st, 2000