Biography of Father Nikolay Shchepaniuk

Born March 8, 1883, in Cebrów, outside Tarnopol in Galicia. Graduated from the gymnasium, and upon enrolling in the theology department of [Jan Kazimierz] University in Lemberg [Lviv] he became acquainted with Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, who administered his exams. He had a good relationship with him and often visited him. After finishing university in Lemberg he continued his studies at Innsbruck. Ordained a priest of the Eastern Rite in 1907. In 1907 Metropolitan Sheptytsky appointed him vicar of the Greek-Catholic cathedral parish of St. George in Lviv. In 1915 he was taken from Galicia to Kiev by the occupying Russian forces and placed under police surveillance “for Uniate activity.” He worked in the city library and studied the history of Ukraine; he was dedicated to the work of ecumenism. At the beginning of 1917, after the February Revolution, he returned to Lviv, where Metropolitan Sheptytsky appointed him pastor of the Greek-Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Kiev (1917-1929). After this church was closed, he served in the parish in Radomyshl and in Krymok, Zytomyr deanery. In 1926, after the death of Fr. Nikolay’s wife, Bishop Michel d’Herbigny, a secret Papal emissary to the USSR, at the request of the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Zhytomyr, granted him permission to minister in the Latin rite as well. He was the pastor of parishes in Makariv and Voinarovka, Kiev deanery, and in Yanushpol, Vinnytsia deanery. Fr. Kazimierz Naskręcki spoke of Fr. Nikolay as “a real apostle and a tireless preacher.” May 25, 1929 – arrested in Krymok. Charges stated that “being a priest of the Uniate Church, he systematically led counter-revolutionary agitation among the parishioners of the Uniate Church, setting them against the Soviet regime with his preaching and inculcating into the masses a religious fanaticism – and he openly spoke from the pulpit against anti-religious propaganda with the goal of stirring up the masses.” His connection with Metropolitan Sheptytsky, according to the investigator, was proven by the discovery during the search [of his quarters] of an “expansive report directed to Sheptytsky, ready for dispatch, in which was set forth a sizable amount of information about the condition of the Orthodox Church and its status in connection with the status of the Uniate [Church] in Ukraine.” November 23, 1929 – sentenced under Articles 54-10 and 54-11 of the Criminal Code of the Ukrainian SSR to ten years in corrective labor camp [Special Board, USSR OGPU Collegium]. Sent to Temlag, where he was assigned to general labor on account of his receiving help from priests in Ukraine. August 16, 1933 – released early from the camp because of his health; returned to Krymok, served at Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Vishevichi (Pokrova), where there was a wonder-working icon of St. Anthony of Padua. He also travelled to parishes in Radomyshl and Boyarovka, Nemenaevo and Klavdievo. The authorities soon took away his passport and forced him to return to Krymok, forbidding to minister in the Eastern Rite. The faithful dearly loved and respected their kind and solicitous pastor; even the Communists of the local collective farm had their children baptized by him, and on church holidays the faithful, not hiding from representatives of the local authorities, would not go to work. The authority of Fr. Nikolay was so great that nineteen Komsomols and some students from the higher grades regularly attended Mass at the church in Krymok. July 29, 1935 – arrested in a case against a “fascist counter-revolutionary organization of Roman Catholic and Uniate clergy in Right-Bank Ukraine.” Charged with “counter-revolutionary, nationalistic activity and anti-collectivization agitation.” May 14, 1936 – sentenced under Articles 54-4 and 54-11 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR to five years in corrective labor camp [Special Board, NKVD, UkrSSR]. July 17, 1936 – sent to Sevvostoklag, along with Fr. Stanisƚaw Jachniewicz and Pyotr Sosenko. He worked at various jobs at the command post in Yagodnoye, Magadan oblast. October 9, 1937 – arrested in the camp; the investigation was completed the following day. October 10, 1937 – sentenced to death [Troika, NKVD, Dalstroi]. October 27, 1937 – shot. At his interrogation on May 28, 1927, Fr. Nikolay, in response to the investigator’s question, “why was he arrested?” – stated: “I think I was arrested on account of the sharp sermons in which I spoke out against certain measures undertaken by the Soviet regime with respect to religion […] As for my attitude toward the Soviet regime, in view of its laws on the question of the church, I can under no circumstances come to terms with the situation, when they issue decrees about the complete dissociation of the church from the state and at the same time, issuing such laws, the authorities encourage and support anti-religious and anti-church propaganda. Such a situation cannot inspire trust in the regime either among the populace or abroad […] Basically, all my harsh sermons exclusively concerned anti-religious questions. In particular, I sharply condemned the involvement of soldiers in an anti-religious demonstration, as I believe that this demoralizes them. Seeing outsiders in my church and believing that they were sent by the regime to keep tabs on me, I was outraged and my sermons became all the sharper. I also said from the pulpit that I fear nothing, and let those who come to the church to monitor me denounce me. Such are my convictions, which I have no intention of concealing.” Sources: Archive of the Directorate, FSB, Magadan oblast; GARF, f. 8406, op. 2, d. 5393; Dzwonkowski, pp. 462-465; Osipova (1996), p. 214; Parafialna gazeta (1995), No. 44, p. 8; Investigatory Matter 68067 fp and 59869 fp, Archive TsGAOO (Ukraine); Sokolovskyi, pp. 237-240; Parafiial'na gazeta, 1995, no. 44, p. 8; Madała, p. 148
Variant Names:
Shchepaniuk, Nikolay; Shchepani︠u︡k, Nikolaĭ Vasil'evich
Cebrów (Tarnopol, Poland); L'viv (Ukraine); Innsbruck (Austria)
male; clergy and religious; executed