In a political action, especially in propaganda, we often see simplifications of analysis and checking complex problems for simple descriptions. They usually end with definite suggestions of solutions and social offers. It is the same case with the analysis of complicated relations among nations, including Poland and Ukraine

It is impossible to limit the whole Polish-Ukrainian history to a debate on massacre in Wołyń or let the Polish parliament acknowledge it as homicide, mentioned on the National Remembrance Day of Homicide Victims (11 July). Politicians were opposing it, like Lech Kaczyński, who avoided naming the crime, and he concentrated his attention on the role of reconciliation among nations. What was essential in outraged cries of polemicists was counting victims, but there was no deeper reflection in it, which might open a road to reconciliation and future.

Unity of faith and nations

In the second half of 2016 in the series of Lublin ‘Library Ucrainium’, an extremely important book entitled ‘Two Kingdoms’ (‘Two Tsardoms’) was published, unfortunately only in the Ukrainian language for now. Its author is very appreciated in the memory of Ukrainian Greek-Catholics, a martyr – bl. Grzegorz Chomyszyn (1867-1945), a bishop from Stanisławów (Iwano-Frankiwsk in Ukraine at present).

He was a great Ukrainian patriot. In the inter-war time he often criticized the Polish government for unjust and short-sighted policy towards Ukraine. Moreover, he never let his believers pursue a fight for their rights with non-Christian methods. He also reprimanded his priests for it.

During the First World War bishop Grzegorz (Grigorij) Chomyszyn was the only active hierarch in Galicia. At that time he made a definite action leading to a break-up between the Greek-Catholics Orthodox Church with Orthodox religion. So, the old-Slovak word ‘tsar’ was removed from liturgical texts, which had been used to define the person of a ruler, as it was strongly associated in Galicia with the Russian tsar. The hierarch touched on the issue of introducing a new calendar of holy days, in order to free them from the Julian (the Russian) way of counting the time, and make them similar to ‘Roman’ holy days (called the Polish ones), for example, remembrance day of St. Dymitr was moved from 8 to 1 November, so that it was a day-off. He worked for the sake of bringing back the cult of the Blessed Sacrament, neglected in Orthodox religion. He began solemn ceremonies of Corpus Christi.

In his teachings and sermons he used to remind that conversion could not take place at the cost of Catholic faith, and understanding is not based on resignation from authenticity of faith. In his work ‘Two Kingdoms’ bishop Chomyszyn made a review of facts and opinions on the Greek-Catholic Church. He emphasized that Catholicism is the only reference point for contradictory and tempestuous ideological trends bothering believers. He did not want to remain passive towards what – according to him – weakened the Church through causing a gap between Poles and the Ukrainians. Unity of faith should be a fundament of unity of two nations, hurt and conflicted for ages.

‘No’ for nationalism

According to bishop Chomyszyn, an enemy for progress and development of the Ukrainian nation was the increasing nationalism. In his work ‘An Ukrainian problem’ from 1933 he wrote: ‘This defective, poisoned and harmful nationalism became a new religion in our country, similarly as materialism for the Bolsheviks. “Ukraine above everything” is a dogma of our nationalism. Issues of faith, Church and religion are not significant or are in the background, tolerated only for tradition or a custom. Everything which is national, is considered as saint, valuable and necessary, and the issues of faith, Church and religion are thought to be useless, unproductive, backwardness’. Nationalism in Ukraine – in the opinion of the hierarch – took on pagan features, and fused with the ethics of hatred. It ordered hatred towards everything which is not national. As bishop Chomyszyn wrote: ‘In the background of Ukrainian nationalism there appeared signs of a kind of Satanism’ (‘An Ukrainian problem’). He warned that politicians, leaders and ‘hurray-patriots’ are preparing a bad fate for the Ukrainian nation. He predicted: ‘We are going to be overwhelmed a fiery lava pouring out from a seething cauldron, and it may completely remove us from the surface of the earth’. He called nationalism heresy, ‘the hardest and the most dangerous heresy of our times’. Such opinions led him to a dispute with a metropolitan Andrzej Szeptycki about whom the Armenian archbishop of Lvov Józef Teodorowicz used to say that ‘he was sitting on two stools (…), was in a relation with the Ukrainians and was flattering Russia’. Bishop Chomyszyn definitely opposed to the opinions and actions of the metropolitan. He questioned his reforms of rites, which strengthened – in opposition to Latin (Polish) traditions – Russian orthodox churches. In ‘Two Kingdoms’ nationalism was defined by him as idolatry: ‘Nation above everything’. We do not do a favour to God when we place God’s name in the second place: Nation and God’. The bishop blamed the metropolitan for resigning from ‘reasonable policy’, ‘taking on a passive attitude towards terroristic fighters, or maybe he rather approved of them with silence’ (p. 71). The title of the work ‘Two Kingdoms’ refers to the work by St. Augustine entitled ‘God’s State’, which clearly points to the difference between ‘God’s Kingdom’ and ‘World’s Kingdom’. Bishop Chomyszyn clearly placed the opinions of the metropolitan on the side of the ‘World’s State’.

Onto altars

In 1943 bishop Chomyszyn asked metropolitan Szeptycki to write a pastoral letter of all Greek-Catholic bishops on ‘the fall of morality in our nation’. He emphasized that he condemned ‘the underground work of irresponsible factors, as it leads to a formal banditry, and, as a result, also to anarchy’. Bishop Grzegorz forbid his priests to engage in – according to the orders of the German authority – recruitment of volunteers to the division SS Galizien. Being under pressure from the authorities, he forbid his priests, who wanted to join this formation, to leave their previous duties in parishes.

To his horror, he predicted tragedies and disasters prophetically, which nationalism was to bring about to his beloved Ukrainian nation. The crime in Wołyń killed from 60 thousand to 130 thousand Poles and to 20 thousand Ukrainians (including those who refused to take part in this crime). About 40 thousand Ukrainians took part in this massacre (per about 5 million Ukrainian population living the areas of today’s western Ukraine).

Bishop Grzegorz Chomyszyn became a martyr – destroyed by ‘the lava from the East’; he was arrested together with other Greek-Catholic hierarchs by NKWD after another invasion of the Soviets to eastern Małopolska. He died as a result of exhaustion and inhuman conditions as a martyr in a prison hospital in Kiev on 28 December 1945. In 1946 the so-called synod of the Greek-Catholic Church, under the soviet supervision, caused a liquidation of the union; it also paid a tribute to the ‘great metropolitan’ as a pioneer of orthodox religion on the Ukrainian land. Ukraine became a part of the Soviet Union.

During his visit to Ukraine, on 27 June 2001 John Paul II beatified bishop of Stanisławow Grzegorz Chomyszyn as blessed together with other martyrs of the Greek-Catholic Church.

It is another time when it has turned out in history that for religion people are able to do a lot: to quarrel, write, fight and kill. There is only one difficult thing for them: to live according to its commandments. It is easier to judge the seriousness of faults, accusations nationalistically and proclaim radical mottos rather than to forgive or reconcile.


„Niedziela” 14/2017

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: