Luhansk Region Priest Converts from Moscow Patriarchate to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
A priest in the Luhansk region has become the first to transfer from the Moscow Patriarchate to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine
Volodymyr Mahlena is 51. Russian-led forces now occupy his hometown of Kadyivka in Ukraine’s Luhansk region. Volodymyr became a priest 7 years ago. His first parish was in an abandoned building, which previously served as a post office.
“There was an altar here. This is where we performed the divine liturgy. I entered through this door and conducted the communion. The windows were sealed with something. Everything was covered in wallpaper. I tore it down so that there would at least be light in the church,” the priest of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Volodymyr Mahlena said.
Volodymyr Mahlena decided to transfer to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine after the Unification Council in Kyiv, which took place on December 15, 2018.
“I see that there will be a new church. Absolutely from scratch, a new church will be born, where decisions about the church’s development will be made not only by priests, but also by parishioners,” Mahlena added.
Volodymyr’s family supported him. However, his son and wife still have some concerns.
“Someone has to be first. I’m not sure if I would be brave enough to do the same,” the son of the priest, Kyrylo said.
“I’m very scared. Some people say that they support us, some don’t say anything at all,” Volodymyr’s wife, Olena Mahlena said.
Church services in Starobilsk usually gather around 30 people.
“This is the first swallow in the Starobilsk district who fluttered out of Moscow’s nest and settled in our, Ukrainian nest,” said a resident of Starobilsk, Mykola.
The building, where the services are held, has no heating, electricity, or water. The wooden floor is breaking down, the ceiling is on the verge of collapse, and the plaster is crumbling. But parishioners are ready to help with the restoration.
“I promise to plaster the window sill,” a resident of Starobilsk, Volodymyr said.
“I can do the ceiling. I have my own construction company. I can take care of the ceiling here as a personal contribution to this building, this church,” a resident of Starobilsk, Yuriy said.
“We will approach all people who care about it, patriots, so that we could do more than just pray in this building. We are planning to establish a library, a children’s parish church school, and a volunteer center,” resident of Starobilsk, Nataliya Ivashko said.
Volodymyr Mahlena is an optimist. He believes he can bring the building to life.
“We will have a library here in the new community. On Sunday we will already perform the liturgy here,” Mahlena said.
Volodymyr lives with his family in the village of Vesele. For now, they are not planning to move to Starobilsk. He says the villagers need him and come to his house for confessions.