The Peresopnytskye Gospel (Пересопницьке Євангеліє)

The illuminated Peresopnytskye Gospel was written in Old Ukrainian from 15 August 1556–29 August 1561 by nobleman Mykhailo Vasilevich of Sanok (son of the town’s archpriest) and Archimandrite Hryhoriy. This translation of the Gospels, one of the very first into Ukrainian, was funded and requested by Princess Anastasiya Yuriyivna Zaslavska, her daughter Princess Yevdokiya Chortoryyska, and her son-in-law Prince Ivan Fyodorovych Chortoryyskyy.

Work was begun in the Butler’s Monastery of the Zaslavskyy Princes at the Church of the Holy Trinity in the village of Dvirets. It was completed at Peresopnytsya Monastery of the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin in the village of Peresopnytsya.

Art critic and historian Lev Andriyovych Skop (b. 1954) believes the illuminations were done by painter Feodosiy (Fedusko) of Sambir.

The book was kept in the Peresopnytsya Monastery for many decades, though its whereabouts from 1600–1701 are unknown. Then, on 16 April 1701, Hetman Ivan Stepanovych Mazepa (the highest-ranking military officer of the Cossack hetmanate) presented it to the Pereyaslav Cathedral.

From 1799 on, it was kept in the archives of the Pereyaslav seminary library, where it was discovered in 1837 by writer and historian Osip Maksimovich Bodyanskiy. Mr. Bodyanskiy, one of the very first serious scholars of the Ukrainian language and a former student of the Pereyaslav Theological Seminary, was delighted to find this beautiful, valuable old book, and wrote an essay about it. His essay reintroduced the book to the general public and scholarly community.

Ukraine’s national writer Taras Hryhoriyovych Shevchenko wrote articles about the book in his archaeological notes of 1845 and 1846, and several other writers also studied it.

When the Pereyaslav seminary relocated to Poltava in 1862, the Peresopnytskye Gospel went along with them and found a new home in the Poltava Theological Seminary. During the early 20th century, it was stored and studied in the Poltava Ancient Warehouse and the Poltava Museum of Local Lore. In 1940, it found its way to the Poltava Art Museum.

After the Nazi invasion of June 1941, the Peresopnytskye Gospel and all the other irreplaceable treasures of the art museum were evacuated to safety in Siberia. When the war ended, the book was given to Kyiv Pecherska Lavra, a huge museum complex on the grounds of a former monastery.

On 24 December 1947, it was taken to the library of the USSR Academy of Sciences (now the Vernadskyy National Library of Ukraine, part of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine).

Monument of Mykhailo Vasilevich of Sanok and Archimandrite Hryhoriy in Peresopnytsya, Copyright Bulka UA

The Peresopnytskye Gospel was translated from an 11th century Church Slavonic edition from Bulgaria, which has a foreword by Archbishop Theophylact. While the Old Ukrainian translations of Matthew, Mark, and the foreword stay fairly close to the original Church Slavonic, Luke and John are increasingly closer to vernacular. However, linguists differ on whether the entire translation is “almost purely vernacular in its own language” or “a rather moderate Ukrainianization of the Gospel text.”

Very helpfully, the text provides translations of Old Slavic words which wouldn’t have been easily understood by many people of a later era. There are also definitions and explanations of Ukrainian words. Some Old Slavic and Greek words are left untranslated, but they too have definitions in the margins or right above the words in question.

Since Ukraine won her hard-earned independence in 1991, the book has been used for the swearing-in of the president, alongside the constitution and the Act of Proclamation of Independence of Ukraine.

Copyright under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International.

Oleksiy Oleksandrovych Glagolev (Олексій Олександрович Глаголєв)

Oleksiy Oleksandrovych Glagolev (2 July 1901–23 January 1972) was one of three children born to Father Oleksandr Oleksandrovych Glagolev and Zinayida Petrovna Glagoleva (née Slesarevskaya). His maternal grandfather was head of the Kyiv Theological Academy’s library.

Oleksiy graduated with honors from Kyiv’s renowned Third Gymnasium, and attended Kyiv Theological Academy from 1919–23. Though religious schools had been closed by the Bolsheviks, this school nevertheless continued to function informally.

In 1926, Oleksiy married Tetyana Pavlivna Bulashevich, the daughter of a sugar plant owner. They had three kids—Magdalina (b. 1926), Mykola (b. 1928), and Mariya (b. 1943). It stands to reason that Mariya was a late-life surprise!

Copyright Половко Сергей Николаевич (Polovko Sergey Nikolayevich)

On 7 May 1932, Oleksiy was arrested on charges of counterrevolutionary activity but released a week later due to lack of evidence. However, he was branded the son of a “cult minister” and thus disenfranchised. To make money, Oleksiy first found employment as a concrete worker, then as guard for the nursery school of a jam factory.

In 1936, Oleksiy entered the Kyiv Pedagogical Institute, studying math and physics. After his 1940 graduation, he went to Georgia to secretly accept priesthood in the Georgian Orthodox Church, but refused at the last minute. Though they shared the same faith, their national churches were different, and Oleksiy was confident that someday soon the Georgian church would have their own bishops.

In 1941, shortly after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Oleksiy was ordained in his own country and served in the Church of the Intercession in Kyiv. 

Church of the Intercession in Kyiv, Copyright Posterrr

During the war, Father Oleksiy and his family (nine people in total) risked their lives to rescue Jews by providing false documents and hiding people in their own homes and in church buildings. Father Oleksiy’s wife Tetyana also gave a woman her own passport with a new photo, which almost cost her her life. It was a miracle the Gestapo didn’t arrest her.

The Glagolevs also rescued a Russian Red Army lieutenant colonel, his wife, and their six kids. Tetyana was pregnant with her surprise third child at this time, and she and everyone in her family would’ve been murdered had they been caught. Despite the huge personal danger, the family continued to shelter people and provide phony papers.

In autumn 1943, Father Oleksiy was arrested by the Nazis, beaten up twice, and deported to Germany with his son Mykola. Miraculously, they were able to escape and come home. 

Church of the Exaltation of the Cross in Kyiv, Copyright Thez

After the war, upon the urging of fellow clergy, Father Oleksiy wrote a detailed letter about his rescue of Jews to Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchëv, then First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. He continued serving in the Church of the Intercession until its 1960 closure, and then moved to the Church of the Exaltation of the Cross and the Florov Monastery.

During Father Oleksiy’s five final years, he served in the Church of the Intercession of the Mother of God in Solomyanka. The brutal beatings from the Nazis had a lasting impact on his health, and caused a long, serious illness at the end of his life, requiring several operations.

Father Oleksiy doubtless got his courage and righteousness from the example of his father Oleksandr (seen above), who was also a priest. In 1905, he strongly protested against the bloody pogroms in Kyiv (putting his own life and safety on the line), and in 1909 published an article strongly condemning antisemitism in the Church.

During the 1913 blood libel trial of Menachem Mendel Beilis, he was a key expert witness for the defence, explaining why the consumption and spilling of blood are contrary to Jewish Law. Father Oleksandr also regularly helped poor and needy Jews and Muslims in Kyiv, not just other Christians.

Sadly, he was arrested by the NKVD on 20 October 1937 and was tortured to death in prison on 25 November.

In 1991, Yad Vashem honored Father Oleksiy and his wife Tetyana as Righteous Among the Nations. Seven other members of the Glagolev family received the honor in 1992—their older daughter Magdalyna; Father Oleksiy’s brother Serhiy and his wife Mariya; Mariya’s sisters Klavdiya and Tetyana; Serhiy’s mother-in-law Oleksandra Yehorycheva; and Oleksandra’s brother Hryhoriy Maslennikov. Father Oleksiy’s son Mykola was honored in 2000.

Serhiy and Mariya’s daughter Zoya is currently recognized as a righteous person of Ukraine, but hasn’t gotten the honor from Yad Vashem yet.

Andrey Ivanovych Sheptytskyy (Андрей Іванович Шептицький)

This year, for tragically obvious reasons, my A to Z theme is Ukrainian culture and history. I hope you all enjoy learning about this beautiful people’s proud heritage.

Andrey Ivanovych Sheptytskyy, a member of an old, esteemed Galician-Ruthenian boyar family, was born 29 July 1865 in the village of Prylbychi (then part of the Austrian Empire). His father, Count Ivan (Jan) Kantiy Remigian Sheptytskyy (Szeptycki), served as an ambassador of many districts; his mother, Countess Sophia (Zofia) Ludwika Cecilia Constance Fredro, was a writer and artist; and his maternal grandfather, Count Alexander Fredro, was a prolific writer.

Andrey was the third of seven children, all boys. His birth name was Roman.

From a very early age, Roman was very humble, honest, and devoted to prayer. His genuine piety inspired his brothers to pray the rosary daily themselves and keep one with them at all times, even while they were sleeping.

Roman began his studies at home with tutors, then enrolled at St. Anne’s Gymnasium in Kraków in 1879 with his brothers Yuriy (Jerzy) (the second-born) and Aleksandr (fourth-born). Sadly, the oldest brother, Stefan, died at age two in 1864, and Yuriy died at age seventeen in 1880.

Szeptycki (Sheptytskyy) counts’ coat of arms, Copyright Avalokitesvara

On 1 October 1883, Roman entered military service in Kraków, which only lasted a few months. On 8 January 1884, he was sent home after contracting an illness, and diagnosed with scarlet fever. Complications included acute joint inflammation and blood poisoning. Roman almost died.

When he miraculously recovered in late February, doctors insisted he not return to military duty, and Roman’s father pulled some strings to make sure he was honorably discharged. In autumn 1884, Roman and Aleksandr moved to Breslau, Prussia (now Wrocław, Poland) to study law at the city’s venerable university.

Roman graduated in 1887, and upon the suggestion of his father, he moved to Khyriv to attend their Jesuit college. A week after his arrival, in August 1887, he introduced himself to the Basilican fathers at the Dobromil Monastery.

That October, Roman’s father sent him on a tour of the Russian Empire (Podolsk Province, Kyiv, Moskva), during which he met several important philosophers and historians. On 8 February 1888, Roman visited Rome for the second time and was part of a general audience with Pope Leo XIII.

Pope Leo XIII in 1887

Roman’s maternal grandma managed to secure a private audience for the family on 24 March, during which Roman asked for a blessing to become a Basilican. Three weeks after Roman returned to Kraków, on 19 May 1888, he received his doctorate. He entered the monastery on 29 June, and took his first vows on 13 September.

Along with his new life as a monk came a new name, Andrey.

Andrey continued to take university classes during the next few years, and showed great devotion to his calling. During Lent 1891, he only ate once a day and drank a cup of tea twice a day.

Another illness befell him in August 1891, typhus. His parents brought him home, and upon doctors’ advice admitted him to a rehabilitation resort in the southern Polish city of Zakopane. Andrey returned to the monastery on 17 May 1892, and made eternal vows on 11 August.

He was ordained a priest on 3 September, and celebrated his first Divine Liturgy in his home village of Prylbychi on 11 September.

Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops in Lviv, 1927; Father Andrey is in the middle of the front row

Father Andrey completed his theological studies in 1894, after another serious illness. In 1896, he was appointed abbott of Lviv’s St. Onufria Monastery, and in 1897 he and Father Platonid Filyas began publishing Missionary magazine (which exists to this day).

He was ordained a bishop in 1899, and served for fourteen months in the Stanislaviv Eparchy. During his tenure, he convinced the Austrian government to donate money and land for a seminary, contracted an artist to decorate the cathedral with frescoes, and made the radical move of communicating with his congregants in the vernacular Hutsul dialect.

Father Andrey became Metropolitan of Galicia on 12 January 1901.

As metropolitan, Andrey went from strength to strength. He founded another theological magazine; reorganized the Lviv seminary; opened many other seminaries, monasteries, schools, libraries, hospitals, gymnasia, and nature reserves; sent talented students to universities in other countries and gave them scholarships; assisted with nuns’ congregations; helped with the development of Ukrainian theology and the Russian Greek Catholic Church; supported Ukrainian cultural and educational societies; founded the Ukrainian National Museum.

Father Andrey continued his religious activities, including ordinations, even after the Bolsheviks took over. He suffered two years of house arrest because he refused to leave his flock.

Copyright Український інститут національної пам’ят

Father Andrey always took a strong stand against injustice and oppression, and risked his life not just speaking out against Stalin, but writing letters to him in protest of Soviet abuses. Though he initially welcomed the German occupiers in 1941, since they restored the Ukrainian state and weren’t atheists, he soon realized what they were really all about and began condemning them in the strongest terms.

He also protested against the ghettoization and murder of Jews, by both Nazis and local collaborators. Father Andrey was the only ecclesiastical figure of such high rank in occupied Europe to defend the Jewish people. He helped to hide many Jews (including over 300 kids) and valuable Jewish documents in church buildings.

Father Andrey passed away on 1 November 1944, at age 79. He was given a huge funeral and buried in St. George’s Cathedral of Lviv. Today there are many monuments to him all over Ukraine, and things named for him.

Though he’s posthumously received several awards for his rescue of Jews, he hasn’t been named as Righteous Among the Nations because of his initial, misguided support of the Germans.

St. Vladimir

St. Vladimir, Grand Prince of Kyiv (ca. 958–15 July 1015), was the sixth Ryurikovich ruler of Kyivan Rus. He was the youngest son of Prince Svyatoslav and his servant-turned-wife Malusha.

In 969, Svyatoslav moved his capital to Pereyaslavets (modern-day Nufǎru, Romania). To his oldest son, Yaropolk, he gave Velikiy Novgorod (Great Novgorod), and to Vladimir he gave Kyiv.

Svyatoslav was slain by Pechenegs in 972, and in 976, a fratricidal war erupted between Yaropolk and his younger brother Oleg, Prince of the Drevlyans (an East Slavic tribe). After Yaropolk killed Oleg in battle, Vladimir fled to their relative Haakon Sigurdsson, Norway’s ruler.

Haakon sent many warriors to fight against Yaropolk. When Vladimir returned from Norway the next year, he marched against Yaropolk.

On his way to Kyiv, Vladimir sent ambassadors to Prince Rogvolod of Polatsk (an ancient East Slavic city) to sue for the hand of his daughter, Princess Rogneda (962–1002), who was engaged to Yaropolk.

When Rogneda refused, Vladimir attacked Polatsk, raped Rogneda in front of her parents, and murdered her parents and two of her brothers.

Vladimir secured both Polatsk and Smolensk, and took Kyiv in 978. Upon his conquest of the city, he invited Yaropolk to negotiations at which he was murdered.

Vladimir was proclaimed Grand Prince of all Kyivan Rus.

Vladimir expanded Kyivan Rus far beyond its former borders. He gained Red Ruthenia (Chervona Rus), and the territories of the Yatvingians, Radimiches, and Volga Bulgars.

He had 800 concubines, and at least nine daughters and twelve sons from his seven legitimate wives.

Though Vladimir’s grandma Olga had converted to Christianity and begun Christianizing Kyivan Rus, Vladimir was an unrepentant pagan. He erected many statues and shrines to pagan deities, elevated thunder god Perun to supreme deity, instituted human sacrifices, destroyed many churches, and murdered many clergy.

When a Christian Varangian named Fyodor refused to give his son Ioann for sacrifice, a mob descended upon his house. Fyodor and Ioann, both seasoned soldiers, met the mob with weapons in hand.

The mob, realizing they’d be overpowered in a fair fight, smashed up the entire property, rushed at Fyodor and Ioann, and murdered them. They became Russia’s first recognized Christian martyrs.

Vladimir thought long and hard about this. In 987, he sent envoys to study the major religions and report back on their findings. The envoys also returned with representatives of these faiths.

Vladimir rejected Islam because he couldn’t give up pork or drinking, and didn’t want to be circumcised. He rejected Judaism because he felt the destruction of Jerusalem was “evidence” we’d been “abandoned” by God.

Vladimir found no beauty in Catholicism, but was very impressed by the beauty of Orthodox Christianity.

Vladimir agreed to become Orthodox in exchange for the hand of Anna Porphyrogenita, sister of Emperor Basil II of Byzantium. (Porphyrogenita, “born in the purple,” was an honorific for someone born to a Byzantine emperor after he’d taken the throne.)

Kyivan Rus and Byzantium were enemies, but after the wedding, Vladimir agreed to send 6,000 troops to protect Byzantium from a rebels’ siege. The revolt was put down.

Upon his return to Kyiv, Vladimir compelled his subjects into a mass baptism in the Dnepr River, and burnt all the pagan statues he’d erected.

After the mass conversion, Vladimir formed a great council from his boyars, gave his subject principalities to his twelve legitimate sons, founded the city of Belgorod (Bilhorod Kyivskyy), and embarked on a short-lived campaign against the White Croats.

Though his conversion was politically motivated, Vladimir nevertheless became very charitable towards the less fortunate. He gave them food and drink, and journeyed to those who couldn’t reach him.

He married one final time, to Otto the Great’s daughter (possibly Rechlinda Otona).

In 1014, he began gathering troops against his son Yaroslav the Wise. They’d long had a strained relationship, and when Yaroslav refused to pay tribute to his brother Boris, heir apparent, it was the last straw.

Vladimir’s illness and death prevented a war. His dismembered body parts were distributed to his many sacred foundations and venerated as relics.

Several cities, schools, and churches in Russia and Ukraine are named for Vladimir. He also appears in many folk legends and ballads. His feast day is 15 July.

An ikon of St. Vladimir is one of the things my character Ivan Konev throws into a valise before he escapes into his root cellar to hide from vigilante Bolsheviks who’ve broken into his house in April 1917.

That ikon becomes very dear to Ivan and his future wife Lyuba. They believe Vladimir protected them during the Civil War. When their oldest son Fedya goes to fight in WWII, they lend him the ikon.

The Umileniye ikon

The Umileniye (Tenderness) ikon is extremely unusual in Eastern Orthodoxy, in that it shows Mary alone. Almost all Orthodox Marian ikons depict Mary with Baby Jesus, in contrast to most Catholic images of Mary.

This ikon was very precious to St. Serafim of Sarov, one of the most beloved of all Russian saints. He was very fond of praying before this ikon. The oil from the lamp he kept burning in front of it was used to anoint the sick and bless visitors who came to make confession.

It was the last thing he saw in that lifetime, as he died while in prayer by it. He called this ikon “Joy of All Joys.”

In 1903, the year Serafim was canonized, Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Aleksandra went to the Sarov monastery to desperately pray for a son. Since so many miracles had been attributed to him, they felt he surely would answer their prayers.

They finally got their boy, but not in the way they’d expected. Their prayers were answered differently, more challengingly.

The Umileniye is believed to show Mary at the moment of the Annunciation, when she was told she’d have a child and humbly accepted this mission, with the reply, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

The Slavonic words around her halo say, “Rejoice, O Virgin Bride,” which is the refrain of the much-beloved Akathist Hymn.

Though some people think the ikon may have been inspired by Catholic art, it’s very common for the holy doors of an ikonostasis to depict Mary at the moment of Annunciation.

Today, the ikon is housed in the home of Patriarch Kirill of Moskva. A copy was left with the Trinity Cathedral of the Serafim-Diveyevskiy Monastery, a nunnery in the Nizhniy Novgorod district of Diveyevo.

On feast days, the original ikon is often brought out for public veneration.

Near the end of his life, St. Serafim gave the nuns of Diveyo 1,000 rubles to create an appropriate place for this precious ikon. After his death, the abbot of Sarov gave the ikon over to them. Presently, the sisters honored it with a silver riza.

A riza, which means “robe” in Russian, is a covering which protects ikons from damage by candle wax, incense smoke, and oil.

In 1903, after Serafim’s canonization, Tsar Nicholas II donated precious stones to make the ikon even more beautiful.

The Diveyevskiy Monastery has written this prayer to offer before the Umileniye:

My character Inga Savvina is very drawn to the Umileniye (and Theotokos [Mary] of Tolga) when she stays by her best friend and penpal Yuriy Yeltsin-Tsvetkov’s family’s summer home on Vancouver Island in the summer of 1947. She’s seen many ikons in her paternal relatives’ homes, but this is new to her.

Klarisa, the older of Yuriy’s two little sisters, tells Inga Mary is everyone’s mother, and that she’s very special to people without mothers. She suggests when Inga misses her real mother (who’s serving twenty years in Siberia), she can talk to Mary.

Though Inga has been raised an atheist, and resisted all religion during her five years in America, her unexplainable pull towards these ikons continues. She sees Mary as a loving, universal mother figure who’ll always support and listen to her, and eventually begins praying to her.

Yuriy performs an emergency baptism of Inga just before she falls unconscious from polio in August, and after she recovers enough to leave the hospital and marry Yuriy, she agrees to be chrismated by a priest.

Inga’s Orthodox conversion isn’t motivated by genuine spiritual awakening or religious belief, but she makes a genuine effort to grow into real belief. Along with her baptismal cross, she always wears a necklace with a miniature of the Umileniye, and continues building her relationship with Mary.

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