Ukrainians in the United Kingdom
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Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Great Britain [Українська Автокефальна Православна Церква у Великій Британії] – a religious organisation of Ukrainians in Great Britain belonging to the Orthodox Christian faith; part of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) in the Diaspora (see below). Since 1995 it has been within the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and is referred to also as the Ukrainian Orthodox Diocese in Great Britain (Ecumenical Patriarchate).

UAOC Cathedral in London

During and immediately after the Second World War two priests of the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church in Canada served as military chaplains for the Orthodox Ukrainians in the Canadian armed forces based in the UK (see Ukrainian Canadian Servicemen’s Association): the Rev. Semen Sawchuk (August 1944 – February 1945) and the Rev. Stephan Symchych (January-September 1945, and January-February 1946). There were also Orthodox chaplains in the Polish Armed Forces under British command, in which most of the Orthodox faithful were Ukrainians and Belarusians. The chief chaplains were two bishops of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church: Sava Sovetov (of Russian origin, in England from September 1943, archbishop from 1947) and Matthew Siemaszko (of Ukrainian ancestry, in England from January 1945). After the war they organised the Polish Orthodox Church Abroad under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch. There were attempts by this church to attract Ukrainians from among those beginning to arrive in large numbers from the European continent (see Ukrainians in the United Kingdom), but most declined to join.

At a Сouncil (Sobor) of bishops of the UAOC in the Diaspora which took place in March 1946 in Germany, responsibility for development of the UAOC in France, Belgium and England was assigned to the then Bishop Mstyslav Skrypnyk (resident in France). In mid-1947 Nikita Bura, Serhij Nahnybida, Michael Oparenko and George Salsky formed an initiating group for the establishment of the UAOC in Great Britain (UAOC-GB). In August 1947 Bishop Skrypnyk visited the UK and held the first UAOC church service in the country (at the head office premises of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain). He also appointed a church committee which took the first steps in organising the UAOC-GB. Following the emigration of Bishop Skrypnyk to Canada (November 1947), in April 1948 responsibility for the UAOC-GB was assumed by the head of the UAOC in the Diaspora, Metropolitan Polikarp Sikorskyi (resident in Germany, and, from 1950, in France). In place of the church committee he established a General Church Council, whose initial members were elected at the first UAOC-GB Convention held in October 1948. For a number of years the Council received financial and other support from the Foreign Workers Committee of the British Council of Churches.

From 1948 until 1981 the UAOC-GB remained under the direct authority of successive heads of the UAOC in the Diaspora, each of whom was resident outside the United Kingdom: Metropolitan Sikorskyi (1948-1953), Metropolitan Nikanor Abramovych (1953-1969, resident in Germany), and Metropolitan Skrypnyk (1969-1981, resident in the USA; from 1971 he was concurrently the metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [UOC] of the USA). In the latter period the UAOC-GB was frequently visited by the metropolitan’s vicar bishop, Orest Ivaniuk from Germany. In the absence of a bishop resident in Great Britain, responsibility for the administration of the UAOC-GB rested with successive heads of the General Church Council. The first head of the Council was the Rev. Ihor Hubarshevsky. In November 1950 Metropolitan Sikorskyi dismissed him from this position and in his place appointed the Rev. Wasyl Ilczuk. As a result of this a section of the faithful, led by the Rev. Hubarshevsky, left the UAOC-GB and formed the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (Conciliar) in Great Britain. After the death of the Rev. Ilczuk in 1951, the Rev. Serhij Moltschaniwskyj was appointed head of the UAOC-GB General Church Council. In June 1971 he was replaced, owing to ill health, by Sylvester Bohateretz. Between 1948 and 1978 nine UAOC-GB Conventions took place, attended by members of the clergy and parish representatives, at which General Church Council members were elected.

In May 1981 the newly-consecrated Bishop Anatolij Dublianskyj became bishop of London and Western Europe (resident in Germany). In August of the same year the UAOC-GB was raised to the status of a diocese (eparchy) and Bishop Dublianskyj was installed as the diocesan bishop. In May 1983 he became archbishop of the diocese of Western Europe and the newly consecrated Bishop Wolodymyr Didowycz (resident in Germany) was appointed bishop of the diocese of Great Britain. At the beginning of 1986 he was raised to the rank of archbishop and his jurisdiction was extended to include the UAOC in Australia and New Zealand. In 1988, at his own request (owing to ill health), he was relieved of responsibility for the diocese of Great Britain, and from then until 1991 the diocese remained under the direct authority of Metropolitan Skrypnyk (resident in the USA; from June 1990 he was concurrently patriarch of the UAOC in Ukraine).

In October 1991 the newly-consecrated Bishop Ioan Derewianka became bishop of the diocese of Great Britain (resident in Belgium). In 1995, together with bishops of the UOC of the USA, he was received into the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch (as titular Bishop of Parnassos). In 1999 he was raised to the rank of archbishop and his jurisdiction was extended to include the diocese of Western Europe (in 2000 it was further extended to include Australia and New Zealand). In December 2005 the newly-consecrated Bishop Andriy Peshko (titular Bishop of Krateia, born in Ukraine) became bishop of the dioceses of Great Britain and Western Europe, resident in London, with Archbishop Derewianka continuing to head the diocese of Australia and New Zealand. In 2008 Bishop Peshko moved to Canada, and Archbishop Derewianka again assumed responsibility for the diocese of Great Britain (and that of Western Europe). In 2010 he became a member of the Pan-Orthodox Episcopal Assembly for Great Britain and Ireland, which was formed in that year. In July 2016, owing to ill health, he resigned as bishop of the three dioceses which he headed until then (Australia and New Zealand, Western Europe, Great Britain). In the same month Bishop Daniel Zelinsky (titular Bishop of Pamphilon) of the UOC of the USA was appointed bishop of Great Britain and of Western Europe (while remaining bishop of the Western Diocese of the UOC of the USA).

With the raising of the UAOC-GB to the status of a diocese, the General Church Council became the Diocesan Council. In 1984 the church was registered as a charity. In September 1999 the Diocesan Council was renamed the Diocesan Consistory. After the death of the Rev. Bohateretz in 1992, the Rev. Mychajlo Hutorny became head of the Diocesan Council (acting head until 1994). From August 1998 to December 2005 the Diocesan Council, and subsequently the Consistory, was headed by Bishop Derewianka. The Rev. Bohdan Matwijczuk was appointed Consistory administrator in October 2004, and its head in 2008. Five Diocesan Conventions of the UAOC-GB were held in London between 1981 and 1998. Four Councils of the whole of the UAOC in the Diaspora also took place in London (in 1972, 1978, 1983 and 2005).

Ukrainian Orthodox communities in Great Britain were initially organised in the camps and hostels in which most Ukrainians lived in the immediate post-war years, and by 1949 they numbered over 100. The territory of Great Britain was divided into pastoral regions, with a priest assigned to each one. In 1948 there were five such regions. As the number of priests increased, the division of the country into pastoral regions was amended accordingly. Parishes (with elected parish councils) began to be formed in some towns and cities, and by the end of the 1940s there were nine of these. In 1949 a church building was purchased in London and furnished with a chapel and an office for the General Church Council. From the end of the 1940s, as the camps and hostels began to be closed down and Ukrainian communities were established in towns and cities around the country, the UAOC-GB began to consolidate in places which had the largest numbers of Orthodox Ukrainians. Services were held mainly in Church of England churches. In the years from 1952 to 1967 the parishes in Oldham, Rochdale, Bradford, and Derby purchased their own churches (redundant Church of England buildings). The Manchester parish built a new church, whose construction was completed in 1974. With the support of the wider Ukrainian community in Great Britain, in 1977 a church was purchased in London and this became the UAOC-GB cathedral (in 1983 a memorial cross commemorating the Holodomor famine of 1932-33 in Soviet Ukraine was erected in the cathedral grounds by the Ukrainian community). Between 1954 and 1962 the UAOC-GB included an autonomous Free Cossack Orthodox Deanery, comprising supporters of the Ukrainian Cossack tradition. In 1987 the UAOC-GB numbered 20 parishes (all in England) and five smaller church communities (all in England with the exception of the Edinburgh community in Scotland). In mid-2016 the UAOC-GB had five parishes (Bradford, London, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale) and two church communities (Leeds, Nottingham). The Church operates as part of a three-tier structure, comprising the metropolitanate, the UAOC-GB diocese and individual parishes, with a separate constitution applicable to each tier. The Wales Orthodox Mission, with a parish in Blaenau Ffestiniog, is under the spiritual authority of the Metropolitan of the UAOC in the Diaspora, but is not formally part of the UAOC-GB diocese.

Between 1947 and 2016 about 45 priests have served in the UAOC-GB, the number in any given year ranging in the main from 5 to 15. In 1947-48 five priests, who had been ordained in Ukraine before 1945, came to the United Kingdom: the Rev. Yov Skakalskyj arrived from the Rimini prisoner-of-war camp in Italy, and the Rev. Lew Opoka, Andrij Mirosznyczenko, Ihor Hubarshevsky and Alexander Dowhal came from Germany. In 1949-1950 they were joined by the Rev. Serhij Moltschaniwskyj and Wasyl Ilczuk, who had been ordained in Germany after the war. In the 1950s-70s over 20 individuals who had settled in the UK after the war underwent training in theology and pastoral work (mainly on courses held in England from 1955 to the 1970s) and were ordained as priests of the UAOC-GB. Some, after serving for a short time in the UK, emigrated to other countries (prominent among them was the Rev. Stepan Yarmus, who emigrated in 1960 and became a leading figure in the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada). In 1991 Malcolm Biron and Bohdan Matwijczuk, from the first generation of British-born descendants of post-war Ukrainian immigrants, were ordained as deacons, and subsequently (in 1997 and 1992, respectively) as priests. Since the 1990s several priests from independent Ukraine have served in parishes of the UAOC-GB, mainly on a temporary basis. In mid-2016 there were two active priests belonging to the UAOC-GB diocese: the Rev. Bohdan Matwijczuk and Petro Somikov.

Of the 34,000-36,000 Ukrainians who came to the United Kingdom during and immediately after the Second World War, the number of Orthodox Ukrainians, according to various estimates, was between 6,000 and 12,000. In the mid-1950s, after the emigration of many Ukrainians from the UK to other countries, there were almost 3,000 registered members of the UAOC-GB. At the end of the 1970s there were about 1,500 active parishioners. Since the 1990s the number of Orthodox Ukrainians in the UK has gradually increased as a result of the new wave of immigrants from independent Ukraine. In 2016 the total church attendance in the diocese as a whole was about 300 on a typical Sunday (about 150 of this number being in London), rising on major feast days to several thousand in London and about 260 in other parishes.

Active within the UAOC-GB in 1948-1950 was the Brotherhood of Saint Michael the Archangel, whose aim was to support the church in its objectives. In 1951 the Brotherhood was revived as a central body coordinating the activities of local lay brotherhoods and sisterhoods organised at larger parishes. The Brotherhood was most active in the 1950s. In 1971 the Sisterhood of Saint Olha was formed to coordinate the activities of local lay sisterhoods. In recent years only the London parish has had an active sisterhood. From 1973 until the early 1990s the Ukrainian Orthodox Youth League in Great Britain was active within the UAOC-GB. Its aim was to educate its members in the Orthodox faith and promote the preservation their Ukrainian identity. Most UAOC-GB parishes have had, or continue to have, church choirs, of which the most notable was the Dnipro choir in Oldham.

The UAOC-GB is active in the field of supplementary education within the Ukrainian community. A Ukrainian supplementary school was founded in 1949 at the Bradford parish and operated until the 1960s. In the 1950s-1960s similar schools were also run by the parishes in Oldham, Rochdale and Leeds. Support for some of them was provided by the Federation of Ukrainians in Great Britain. Since 2013 a supplementary school has functioned at the London parish. For many years, priests of the UAOC-GB have served as chaplains to Ukrainian organisations in Great Britain, in particular the Ukrainian Youth Association, the Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organisation and the Association of Ukrainian Former Combatants. The Church has also been active in the field of publishing. In 1948-1950 it published Bratskyi Lystok, a bulletin of the Brotherhood of St. Michael the Archangel. From 1950 to 2011 it published Vidomosti, the journal of the General Church Council, and, subsequently, the UAOC-GB diocese (from 1994 it was also the official publication of the metropolitanate of the UAOC in the Diaspora). The Church also published a range of liturgical and other books (including accounts of the history of the UAOC-GB on the occasion of its 15th and 40th anniversaries), greeting cards etc, mainly in the 1950s-1980s.

Photo: UAOC Cathedral in London.

Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in the Diaspora

In Eastern Christianity an autocephalous church is one which is self-governed, and not subject to a higher authority. The UAOC was first established in Ukraine in 1921 following the Ukrainian Revolution of 1917-1921. The aim was to re-establish the independence of Ukrainian Orthodoxy from the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), to which the Kyiv Metropolitanate had been transferred in 1686 from the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In the 1930s, under pressure from the Soviet authorities, the UAOC ceased to exist. It was re-established in 1941-42, during the German occupation of Ukraine, under the spiritual authority of metropolitan Dionisii Valedinsky, head of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church (which had been granted autocephaly by the Ecumenical Patriarch in a decree, or tomos, issued in 1924). As Soviet forces began to retake the country in 1943-44 most of the UAOC bishops were evacuated to Warsaw. By the end of the Second World War the bishops had reached Germany, where there were many UAOC priests and a large number of Orthodox Ukrainian displaced persons and refugees. In 1945 the hierarchy in Germany founded the UAOC in the Diaspora (whose original Ukrainian name, UAPTs v emihratsii, was subsequently changed to UAPTs na chuzhyni, and later to UAPTs v diaspori). The church was headed by the metropolitans Polikarp Sikorskyi (1945-1953), Nikanor Abramovych (1953-1969), Mstyslav Skrypnyk (1969-1993) and Constantine Buggan (1994-2012). At the present time it covers Great Britain, Germany, France, Belgium, Australia and New Zealand, and is headed by Metropolitan Antony Scharba.

At a joint meeting held in April 1960, the leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA (founded in 1920), the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada (founded in 1918; renamed Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada in 1990) and the UAOC in the Diaspora resolved that the three Churches (the largest Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdictions outside Ukraine) shall constitute metropolitanates of a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) in the free world. For a short time the UAOC in the Diaspora maintained close relations with the UAOC in Ukraine, which was re-established in 1989. In June 1990 Metropolitan Skrypnyk, while remaining head of the UOC of the USA and the UAOC in the Diaspora, and resident in the USA, was elected patriarch of the UAOC in Ukraine (he held all three positions until his death in 1993). In 1995 the UAOC in the Diaspora, together with the UOC of the USA, was received into the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch (the UOC of Canada has belonged to the Ecumenical Patriarchate since 1990). Since 1996 the bishops of the UOC convene in the Permanent Council of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine.

Roman Krawec

(see also Churches and religion)


Propamiatna knyha 15-littia Ukrainskoi Avtokefalnoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvy u Velykii Brytanii (1947-1962), ed. by S. Molchanivskyi (London, 1962)

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Narys istorii Ukrainskoi Avtokefalnoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvy u Velykii Brytanii (1947-1987), ed. by S. Bohatyrets (London, 1988)

Pokalchuk, Yu., Ukraintsi u Velykii Brytanii (Lviv, 1999), pp. 87-90

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