Odessa Monastery latest in rash of devastating fires at UOC monasteries, churches

Odessa, Ukraine, April 24, 2020

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On the night of April 23-24, a large fire broke out at the Holy Dormition Monastery of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Odessa, which seems to have been a case of deliberate arson.

The fire is the fourth in a string of arson attacks against UOC churches and monasteries in the past two weeks. The blazes come at the same time as media attacks against the UOC have ramped up again, accusing its monasteries of ignoring safety and sanitary measures during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Witnesses say that an unknown person initially threw Molotov cocktails under some of the monastery’s cars, though monastery inhabitants managed to immediately extinguish those fires, reports the Odessa Diocese of the UOC.

The cars were near the brothers’ and workers living quarters. Had they caught fire and exploded, they could have injured and/or killed many innocent people.

At the same time, a fire was started in a 600 sq. m. utility room that eventually burned down.

Noticing the second fire, the monastics immediately called the fire department, which arrived seven minutes later. The National Police Investigation Team and the State Emergency Service also arrived on the scene.

As of 4:00 AM, the fire was localized. There were no victims of the fires, though Archimandrite Vladimir (Yakimenko), 46, broke his leg while helping the fire department. He was taken to the hospital for treatment.

The Diocese also livestreamed from the scene, showing that, in the end, fires broke out in three separate places. A cowshed and woodshed also burned down. The monastery largely supports itself wit dairy production.

As seen in the video, parishioners standing outside the gate testified that they heard an explosion before the fires started. Several witnesses also saw a suspicious man running down an alley away from the monastery with a bag or package.

This morning, the Diocese also posted a video showing the results of the fire:

The Odessa Diocese notes that there have been several fires at UOC churches and monasteries lately:

At the same time, a fire has been blazing in the media against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its hierarchs, clergy, and monasteries.

It was announced on April 20 that the city of Pochaev was closed for entry and exit due to the spread of the coronavirus. And while the office of the National Police in the Ternopil Province declared that such a move was actually illegal, the Holy Dormition-Pochaev Lavra decided to go into quarantine, not accepting any more pilgrims, in large part due to the media hysteria surrounding the monastery.

“We have already been credited with various instances that turned out to be complete frauds,” commented Hieromonk Nikodim (Shamailo), the assistant dean of the monastery. “And most likely, they will also try to link the situation in Pochaev with us. Although it should be emphasized that among the brethren and novices of the Lavra there is not a single case of coronavirus infection.”

In late March, Ukrainian media reported that a busload of Moldovan pilgrims visited the Lavra, during which six of them became infected with the coronavirus. After investigating, local police determined that no such pilgrimage had taken place.

The mayor of Pochaev also later stated that there were no cases of infection or even symptoms of the virus at the Lavra.

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