Winnipeg Ukrainian church forgives statue vandals, seeks return of stolen head

Whether it was a crime of opportunity or an act of senseless vandalism, members of a Winnipeg Ukrainian church on McGregor Street were devastated to discover that a statue of their patron saint had been desecrated.

Anna Katchanovski has been attending service at the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Sts. Vladimir & Olga for decades, walking by the statue of St. Volodymyr countless times.

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“I’ve been here for 30 years and this has always been a part of it,” she said.

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Tuesday morning, parishioners and church leaders we’re appalled to discover that their beloved statue had been vandalized — it’s head was missing, as was a cross held in its hand.

“You don’t even know what to do and what to say, it was just heartbreaking,” Katchanovski said.

The statue, which was created by renowned Winnipeg sculptor Leo Mol, was blessed by Pope John Paul II when he visited Winnipeg in 1984.

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The saint it depicts is significant for Ukrainian Catholics, credited with bringing Christianity to the Ukraine in 988 A.D.

A church staff member said residents at a nearby complex were awoken in the early hours Tuesday by a grinding sound.

When people went to investigate, they found that the statue’s head had been stolen, along with it’s staff. Scratch marks could also be seen on other parts of the statue.

“I was shocked,” said Right Rev. Monsignor Michael Buyachok.

“The people were crying that somebody would do such horrific damage to the statue.”

Buyachok is hopeful that the historic artifacts will be returned to the church.

The congregation is hoping that the culprits with the stolen parts of the statue will give them back, without fear of penalty.

“If they in their heart want to return it we would welcome it and we will have no charges against them,” Buyachok said.

“That’s what we have have to do as a church, even forgive the most horrendous attacks that are done against the church.”

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Winnipeg Police are also reminding businesses dealing in scrap metal to be on the lookout for the stolen items.

“This is a very unique object, it’s the head of a statue,” Winnipeg Police Service Const. Jay Murray said.

“I think that anyone that’s in the business of buying metal is going to recognize that this probably came from somebody’s property and its probably stolen.”

For the time being, Buyachok said, the church plans to keep the statue standing whether they receive the items back or not.

-With files from Sharon Pfeifer