A beloved statue at a Ukrainian Catholic church in Winnipeg's North End has been left headless by suspected vandals over the long weekend, but the church's pastor is holding out hope for its return.

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A beloved statue at a Ukrainian Catholic church in Winnipeg's North End has been left headless by suspected vandals over the long weekend, but the church's pastor is holding out hope for its return.

The bronze statue of St. Volodymyr outside the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Sts. Vladimir and Olga was vandalized sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning, said the Right Rev. Msgr. Michael Buyachok.

Residents of the St. Josaphat Selo-Villa retirement home across McGregor Street from the church had observed "some activity by the statue" Sunday night, he said Wednesday.

"And then (between) Monday night (and) Tuesday morning, they saw these people doing that again, but they figured they were just playing. And then that was it, until Tuesday morning, they saw the head taken off."

The statue of St. Volodymyr was made by the Winnipeg artist Leo Mol (1915-2009), and was blessed by Pope John Paul II in 1984.

"There's always kids playing there, they're either pulling out the flowers or just standing on the thing, but nobody really thought that they were damaging it to the extent that they did," said Buyachok.

The cross that tops a staff in St. Volodymyr's hand is also gone. The pastor said the church has notified local scrap metal dealers of the theft.

"I guess they're taking it to resell, because that's expensive metal... but if they just destroyed it, and they threw the head in some trash can, it would be hard for us to find."

The church has experienced vandalism before, "but not to that extent," Buyachok said.

"We would sometimes catch these kids and say, 'Hey, don't do that.' I would talk with them nicely and they would run away, and they would be happy. But this time is more serious. It's a tragic event because the statue symbolizes something for us, and the people, the congregation, they know the statue from memory."

The church isn't interested in pursuing legal consequences for whoever took the head, he added.

If it is returned, "We would say, 'Thank God we found the head,' and we'll get the head fixed."

solomon.israel@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sol_israel