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80-year-old once imprisoned by the Soviet Union renovates church to be dedicated to John Paul II

Mykola Horbal

Andriy Horbal | Facebook | Fair Use

Anna Gębalska-Berekets - published on 10/20/21

When Mykola Horbal began his renovation project, 26 garbage trucks were needed to empty the church and the adjacent land.
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Mykola Horbal, a retired Ukrainian member of parliament, has been renovating a church in his home village of Latacz, Ukraine, for five years. The poet and former human rights activist began the seemingly crazy project of returning the church, which was full of garbage and practically in ruins, to its original function: worship.

He started alone, and drew funds from his modest retirement to renovate the exterior of the building. Today, he has the support of donations to continue the work.

“After the closure of the collective farm, the church remained empty for several years and began to fall apart. My father couldn’t bear to see it in that state. He thought to himself, ‘So many people have prayed to God here.’ He could no longer remain passive in the face of this sacrilege,” says Mykola’s son Andriy Horbal.

Mykola Horbal is directing the work from Kiev, and not a day goes by without him asking the Lord to grant him health to complete this project. “Instead of a spirit of desolation, it is the Holy Spirit that must dwell here,” his son continues. 

On Facebook, Andriy reports on the progress of the work. Electricity, ventilation, frescoes… For the moment, everything remains to be done inside the church.

“A 3D model with the exact dimensions of all the surfaces has been made … The priority now is to prepare the interior liturgical design. I invite all specialists interested in the project to take part in it,” writes Andriy Horbal in a post on the social network.

A building with an eventful life

The church, built at the end of the 19th century, was initially home to a Polish Catholic community of about 30 families. With the arrival of the Second World War, the inhabitants were deported, and under Soviet rule the building was transformed into a collective farm. Eventually, it was used as a dumping ground. When Mykola Horbal began his renovation project, 26 garbage trucks were needed to empty the church and the adjacent land.

The 80-year-old wants the building to be placed under the patronage of St. John Paul II. He hopes that it will be a place of prayer, but above all a sign of reconciliation between Ukrainians and Poles. No Polish community resides in the area anymore, so the bishop of the Lviv diocese, Bishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki, chose to entrust the church to the village’s Greek-Catholic community.

Mykola Horbal, his son Andriy, and many people of good will continue to work on a daily basis, until the day when praise will once again resound from the walls of the church.

Inspiring storiesPope John Paul II
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