Archpriest VOLODYMYR SAVIYSKY, UOC, Prymorsk, Zaporizhzhia, occupied Ukraine

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Archpriest Volodymyr Saviysky

Archpriest Volodymyr Saviysky, former rector of the St Nicholas Cathedral of the Berdyansk eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the city of Prymorsk on the Sea of Azov (part of the Zaporizhzhia oblast of Ukraine occupied by Russia in a full-scale invasion since the end of February 2022).

The priest gave an interview to Nastoyashcheye Vremya, where he spoke about the persecution he suffered during the occupation.

According to the priest, the military burst into his church with machine guns and disrupted the liturgy. On another occasion, eight armed military men in balaclavas searched the yard, his house and basement. According to the priest, the military claimed that in Kherson they shaved the heads of the priests and kept them tied to the bed for five or six days.

Throughout 2022, he continued to pray for Ukraine. When he was about to perform a prayer service for Ukraine on 31 December 2022, he was stopped by the Russian military: “Armed people dragged me out from behind the altar and forced to take off the vestments. The interrogation lasted five hours. They stripped me to the waist looking for tattoos [laughs] — a Ukrainian trident or some kind of other symbol. They searched the house and took away a computer and phones. This was my first arrest.»

The priest was detained seven times. During one of the detentions, Russians demanded that he would find out the mood of the parishioners during confession. They also forced the detainees to listen to propaganda lectures and required the priest to share political information among parishioners.

In 2023, the occupying authorities demanded that the priest would leave the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. “At some point, they began to say that we do not have the right to remember Metropolitan Onuphriy of Kyiv; instead, we should remember only Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. They forced Metropolitan Ephraim of Berdyansk and Prymorsk to flee: the bishop was forced to leave, and the authorities began to promote the idea that the Berdyansk eparchy should be transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church… Remember only the Patriarch and the new bishop sent from Moscow, cooperate with the authorities, and everything will be fine with you, manna from heaven will rain down on you.” Because the priest refused to sign a petition to transfer to the Russian Orthodox Church, he was detained and interrogated. “They drove me around the city demanding that I accept the decision of the Moscow Synod about the transfer of the Berdyansk diocese to the Russian Orthodox Church. I said that I remain a priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, I am a Ukrainian priest, my Metropolitan is in Kyiv – His Beatitude Onuphriy; I took the oath on the cross and Gospel. Then the persecution started.” The priest was threatened with defrocking and criminal prosecution. On 1 June 2023, he had to flee abroad; currently, he is a refugee in Norway.