Cardinal and Patriarch Josyf SlipyjIt is a sad day indeed when my email inbox is inundated with messages from various organisations and individuals worldwide condemning the removal of an innocent memoral plaque embedded in the wall of a former Soviet prison in Kharkiv, Ukraine, commemorating the Ukrainian Catholic community's charismatic leader, Cardinal and Patriarch Josyf Slipyj. 

For the benefit of anyone hearing about Slipyj for the first time, I should perhaps clarify by drawing an analogy.  Imagine the outrage if someone were to rip out a memorial plaque in Krakow dedicated to the memory of the late Karol Wojtyla, better known as Pope John Paul II.  Or how about the removal of a memorial plaque from a prison in South Africa recalling the incarceration of Nelson Mandela?  Preposterous?  Of course!

Unfortunately, this is precisely the type of desecration that has taken place in Kharkiv.  There simply cannot be any sensible justification or explanation for it.

Yet Ukraine somehow "accepts" that such "occurences" can "happen".  The underlying reason for this, perhaps, is that the country is unable to come to terms with its own past! 

Slipyj, who died in 1984, was uncompromising in his faith in God and a free Ukraine. He survived 18 years of Soviet imprisonment and was released in 1963, thanks largely due to the intervention of Pope John XXIII.  

Though many in Ukraine and beyond revere his name and what he stood for, there are clearly those who still seek to airbrush a very shameful past out of the history books.  Perhaps they genuinely believe that the removal of a memorial plaque will help their cause.  It won't!

Plaque or no plaque, the memory, spirit and majesty of Josyf Slipyj will live on (long after the small minded "removal men" are dead and gone)!  The sooner that they realise this, the better - for Kharkiv and Ukraine!

Fedir Kurlak

Ukrayinska Dumka


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