August 18, 2019

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Monsignor forgives thieves who stole saint's head

Statue head returned to church

Two Good Samaritans have found and returned the severed head of the statue of St. Volodymyr.

Right Rev. Monsignor Michael Buyachok, of the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of St. Vladimir and Olga, and parish secretary Anna Katchanovski, said the head was left at the door of the church on Saturday around noon.

“It was a sad day on Tuesday, but a glorious day on Saturday,” Buyachok said after the morning service on Sunday.

“And they didn’t damage it — thank God. We are so relieved. The statue will be intact once again.”

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Two Good Samaritans have found and returned the severed head of the statue of St. Volodymyr.

Right Rev. Monsignor Michael Buyachok, of the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of St. Vladimir and Olga, and parish secretary Anna Katchanovski, said the head was left at the door of the church on Saturday around noon.

A staff member of the church found the head in a backpack on Saturday. Two people had found it on nearby Dufferin Avenue. (Kevin Rollason / Winnipeg Free Press)

A staff member of the church found the head in a backpack on Saturday. Two people had found it on nearby Dufferin Avenue. (Kevin Rollason / Winnipeg Free Press)

"It was a sad day on Tuesday, but a glorious day on Saturday," Buyachok said after the morning service on Sunday.

"And they didn’t damage it — thank God. We are so relieved. The statue will be intact once again."

As for the perpetrators, Buyachok said "God will handle them. As for ourselves, we forgive them."

"God will handle (the thieves). As for ourselves, we forgive them."

Katchanovski said the head was inside a black backpack that was dropped off late Saturday morning on the front steps of the church by two people who found it in the 500 block of Dufferin Avenue.

"Our custodian was here because of Doors Open. We were in a meeting when all of a sudden he runs in saying they’ve found the head. We all started laughing and cheering.

"It was almost like a Christmas moment."

The St. Volodymyr statue, which was created by Winnipeg sculptor Leo Mol, was blessed by Pope John Paul II during his trip here in 1984, and the site where it stands, at the corner of McGregor Street and Flora Avenue, was dedicated in 1988 to mark the millennium anniversary of his baptizing of Ukraine in the year 988, and the beginning of Christianity in that country.

Right Rev. Monsignor Michael Buyachok, with the statue head, which was returned Saturday. (Kevin Rollason / Winnipeg Free Press)

Right Rev. Monsignor Michael Buyachok, with the statue head, which was returned Saturday. (Kevin Rollason / Winnipeg Free Press)

Katchanovski said vandals began sawing off the head on Sunday night, May 19, and returned the next night to finish the job. They made off with it and parts of the cross and staff that were parts of the work. The staff and cross have not been located.

Katchanovski said police have taken the backpack for forensic analysis.

Winnipeg police said on Sunday they are asking for the public’s help in finding the top and bottom of the missing staff.

"Investigators believe that the top and bottom of the staff may have also been discarded in the area," police said in a statement.

As well, police are asking anyone who has information about the vandalism and theft to contact investigators at 204-986-6219 or Crime Stoppers at 204-786-TIPS (8477).

The vandalized statue of St. Volodymyr at the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vladimir and Olga in Winnipeg's North End. (Solomon Israel)

The vandalized statue of St. Volodymyr at the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vladimir and Olga in Winnipeg's North End. (Solomon Israel)

David Loch, owner of Loch Gallery, which sold Mol’s artwork, but who was also a friend of Mol, has offered to foot the repair costs.

"I know Leo would be happy I’m going to help," Loch said. "All I know is what happened and we have to get it fixed and replaced.

"It is so important that the work is treated with respect."

Loch said once he sees the statue and the head he will know where best to send it for repairs.

"It will have to be transported out of Winnipeg," he said.

The bronze statue of St. Volodymyr was once blessed by Pope John Paul II. (The Canadian Press)

The bronze statue of St. Volodymyr was once blessed by Pope John Paul II. (The Canadian Press)

"We will get it back to looking as close to 100 per cent as possible."

Both Buyachok and Katchanovski thanked Winnipeggers, the media, and people from around the world who offered support after news about the vandalism got out.

"The response by people was astounding," Katchanovski said. "It took on more than a religious symbol, everybody took it up.

"We got calls from England, Germany, Ukraine and elsewhere, from people offering to fix it. I’ve been here for 30 years and it has always been part of it here.

"It would be hard to imagine the place without it."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

Read full biography

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History

Updated on Sunday, May 26, 2019 at 11:16 PM CDT: Edited

May 27, 2019 at 9:06 AM: Updated

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