Belarusian Orthodox Church paid tribute to the victims of Chernobyl disaster

Report prepared for OCP news Service
April – May 2014

On the 26th of April – the day of the 28th anniversary of the accident on the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant in Ukraine – the Metropolitan Paul of Minsk and Slutsk, the Patriarchal Exarch of all Belarus, served the lity for the dead and the Divine Liturgy in the Minsk church of the icon of Our Lady “The Seeking of the Lost”.

This place of worship is often called “The Chernobyl church” and it is not by accident. Its construction started in the year of the tenth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster: on the 26th of April 1996 the Belarusian President and the Metropolitan Filaret put the memorial capsule into the altar apsis. The building of the church was initiated by the Minsk eparchy and the Republican association of public safety officers “The armour of Chernobyl”. While speaking after the service, the head of the association Alexandr Kuzmenko told: “We came here first of all in order to follow the dictates of our hearts. Because 28 years ago the 26th of April saw a terrible tragedy, the catastrophe of a global scales, so to say. Such accidents never happened before and that is the reason why nobody was ready for them”.

The honorary chairman of a veterans organization Alexandr Sharento shared his memories with the reporters of the Orthodox Christian portal sobor.by: “Everything was contaminated: the grass was black and the forest was red. We needed to remove the grass in all the residential areas and relocate 14 cemeteries. It was forbidden to visit this zone. If one took anything from the zone, he was doomed to die. We did everything by ourselves: we sawed pines, set up the posts, strung the barbed wire…”

The church “The Seeking of the Lost” was built in commemoration of the deceased liquidators of Chernobyl disaster. Here there is a plaque with their names and a museum commemorating them. The Minsk parish of Our Lady “Joy of all who Sorrow” is also dedicated to Chernobyl catastrophe. During the Divine Liturgy in these churches the special Chernobyl prayers are offered and the dead heroes are commemorated. But the thing is that, as Alexandr Sharento tells, a lot of liquidators, who are now the disabled people of groups I and II, are dying now.

The head of the museum of the parish “The Seeking of the Lost” Sergei Sobolev said: “Today here are a lot of Chernobyl liquidators. It is the perpetuating of the memory of the dead heroes and of the ill what our parish is nowadays busy with. And it is our parish where on the entrance arch the Chernobyl prayer is written, the prayer which is pronounced during every Liturgy, and here we say today: “Lest we forget those heroes and those martyrs”.

Remembering Chernobyl is important not only for those who survived the tragedy but even to the greater extent to the coming generations in order to prevent them from the mistakes of the past. As Alexandr Kuzmenko believes, we must do our best in order to prevent such tragedies in the future.

Not only the liquidators but also the relatives of the victims and the displaced people came to the church “The Seeking of the Lost” in that mournful day. The memory about the tragedy is also important for the Church because the self-sacrificing deed of the liquidators is a true example of that evangelical love when one gives his life “for his friends”.

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