Easter Sunrise at Yavoriv Base Church Where Service Was Held Served as Target Practice for the Soviets

Soldiers at the site of the Church of St Michael the Archangel (Velyka Vyshenka). Padre Min Kim

Capt. Min Kim, Chaplain, Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), Canadian Armed Forces, special for NP-UN.

During Operation UNIFIER (Third Rotation) Easter Sunday was uniquely meaningful and memorable. Early in the morning of April 16, 2017, two chaplains (Canadian and American), accompanied with two other members, went in advance to a training area where a local Church is located. It is the site of that local Church that made an Easter Sunrise Service memorable.

The Church of St Michael the Archangel in Yavoriv Raion, Lviv Oblast, Ukraine (formally in the village of Velyka Vyshenka) does not manifest its form or majesty, for the glorious beauty of this dome Church built in 1927 was ruined by the Soviet occupation regime during early World War II.

As WWII just began, the Soviet decided to expand what used to be a training ground for the Polish Army, causing a resettlement of over 125,000 residents of the villages, including people from Velyka Vyshenka. Despite the former residents’ ardent efforts to return to their homes, in 1950 they were forcibly deported from their own villages.

Meantime, the Church of St Michael the Archangel took an unexpected role of being a live fire target for tanks, cannons, and other military activities. The Church survived but only with part of its skeleton, which depicts symbolically the sufferings and afflictions of Christ and that of His persecuted Church. The house of peace was used for the house of death, killing innocent people. The noble raison d’être of the Church was despised and rejected, and became the Church of sorrows and was acquainted with griefs and shames.

Once the Church was in the proving ground for a fire target, but now it is in the Ukrainian military training area, and has been kept protected from being a victim of cruel military activities since the Independence of Ukraine.

On that historical site, about 40 Canadian and American military personnel gathered to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. At the corner of the ruined Church building there was a small candle that replaced the Paschal Candle (Easter Candle), lighting the dawn in a cup of no beauty. Together with that candle light, they also remembered in their prayers the persecuted Christian Churches in the world and the Ukrainian soldiers fallen in the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) zone.

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