It was during the Orange Revolution in December 2004 when I visited Kyiv Pechersk Lavra for the first time. I had just turned 17, and it was my first trip to Kyiv. So, I took part in the demonstrations in the evenings and I tried to visit museums and explore the capital in the mornings.
One of the first points in my must-see list was, of course, the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra. Yet, at its entrance, I was attacked by an evil Russian-speaking monk who said he would not allow me to enter the territory of the monastery with an orange ribbon on my clothes because Lavra allegedly stayed out of politics. His tone was aggressive, but the argumentation seemed reasonable, so I hid the ribbon into my pocket and went on a tour.
The impressions from the tour were discouraging enough not to visit the Lavra for the next 14 years, including the time when I even lived in Kyiv. On the one hand, there were beautiful churches, fascinating icons, breathtaking caves redolent of the history. While on the other, there was rudeness of the monks, their open hatred for Ukraine, imperial teachings during the tours and the undisguised luxury life of the monks.
While I was there, I heard about a cradle of the Slavic peoples; that in fact there was only one Slavic people — Russians, who were the descendants of the Rus; and that all the other religions were heretical. I also heard about a passionate Orthodox Yanukovych, the anathema to Mazepa and charlatan Filaret. I heard that we all had to live in Russia as one state and that the hero Illya Muromets, whose remains lied in the Caves of Saint Anthony, was a confirmation that the Russians had always been stronger, and that they always took Kyiv as a hometown. After this visit I wanted nothing but to wash it all off me, clean my ears and forget about it forever. There was another place in Kyiv where they brainwashed visitors in the same way. It was Bulgakov Museum in Podil neighborhood, and I also had a misfortune to get into it. It was my first and last time there.
Now, after four years of war with Russia and the news that the Ukrainian Church will officially receive Tomos from Constantinople, the status of the Orthodox Lavras in Ukraine became bait for Russian propaganda and political disputes in our country. As Russian mass media often say in their news stories, “junta can take the Lavras (Pochayiv, Kyiv Pechersk, Svyatohirsk) only by force.”
After all, the recent change in the legal status of the Pochayiv Lavra only stirred up emotions. Earlier, the commission of the Ministry of Justice canceled the decision on the state registration of the right of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate to use the property of the Holy Dormition Pochayiv Lavra.
The fact is that being in the hands of the Moscow Patriarchate, all three Orthodox Lavras became one of Russia’s means of waging a hybrid war against Ukraine, a tool of brainwashing and inciting hostility between people and peoples. You will probably not be surprised by the fact that the website of the Pochayiv Lavra located in Western Ukraine has only Russian-language version. Similarly, nobody was surprised by the words of the Russian terrorist Girkin, who captured and destroyed Donbas under the Kremlin order. Once he said in the interview: “All my protection consisted of the monks of the Sviatohirskaya Lavra. One of the Sviatohirsk novices was in charge of the division of the Slavic brigade.”
Unfortunately, Kyiv Pechersk Lavra associates not with holiness but with its Superior Pavlo (Lebedev), his luxury life, Mercedes cars and his sermon that took place in January 2014, after the first murders on Maidan, when this clergyman compared Yanukovych to Jesus Christ.
I do not even mention the fact that the priests carry out reconstructions and repairs according to their preferences and tastes, often destroying or distorting ancient monuments in these national holy places.
Is there any solution to this problem? I believe that it would be a mistake to take Lavra away from one church and give it to the other (even though, this time it could be the Ukrainian church). We need to transfer Lavras to State ownership, or the ownership of the national historical and cultural heritage sites following the example of St. Sophia’s Cathedral. That’s it.