Originally published December 26, 2009
A few months ago, I had another opportunity to visit the country again. I went back to my boyfriend’s farm, and this time we visited an old, unused church.
We drove up to the cemetery where the church is located around dusk on a cloudy, quiet evening. There was still some light, although the sun was setting quicklyin the background. As we got out of the car, and hopped over the barbed-wire fence, I was struck by an ominous and uncertain feeling. I felt as though we were doing something wrong by visiting this church. Jeff assured me that it was open to the public, and I followed him closely as we walked through a large field to reach the church.
There are actually two buildings – the church itself, and the bell tower. Jeff could not convince me to go into the bell tower building, even though I will admit that I was curious. The door was easy to open, but the inside was a mess. There were stairs (sort of) winding around the inside walls. They were about two or three story’s high with the bell at the top. It still actually worked, but we are not sacrilegious enough to ring it. I was concerned that the stairs were not sturdy enough to hold both our weights, and Jeff grudgingly agreed that I was right.
The actual church itself was incredible. The door – as Jeff predicted – was unlocked, and anyone was free to walk in. The inside was dark, slightly damp, yet perfectly preserved. There were about eight pews in the small room, each one facing towards a beautiful altar. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Behind the altar was a room with a bible, written in Ukrainian and in perfect condition. It was just sitting there, waiting to be picked up, read and examined. A small room in the back probably used to be the Minister’s quarters, but I did not feel comfortable going in there to look around more.
In the main room above the pews was a small balcony. Jeff hoisted me up a very sketchy looking ladder, and we looked down on the main room. It was peaceful and serene, yet frightening at the same time. As we looked towards the altar, a large clap of thunder sounded outside. I have to admit, I was worried I would turn a corner and discover a dead body stashed somewhere. I voiced this concern to Jeff, who wasted no time telling me I was being ridiculous. No one comes to the country to kill someone, he said. It’s too far away.
To provide a bit of background, this particular church has been around since 1901. It was restored in 1978, and opens annually on July 12 for a public service and a picnic. Similar to Marconi School – which I wrote about in an earlier blog post – the church is maintained locally, and is open to the public. There is a guestbook (which I signed), and place to make donations. It is incredible that no one has vandalized the church, because the inside is truly beautiful.
On the way out, we visited the cemetery, and found gravestones dating back to the early 1900’s. It really put things in perspective for me as I looked around. People lived, worked, loved and died in this area, and are still doing so today. Sometimes, in the city, I forget there is an entire other world in the country. People are everywhere, doing the same things we are, hoping and praying they will make it through life safely. Next time we visit the farm, Jeff is taking me to a mass grave. I can’t imagine how I will feel standing there…