LAST UPDATED Dec 20, 2004
St. Vladimir Parish on theOccasion of the Memorial to Bishop John
Ukrainian Gift of Life
Good Morning. Xryctoc Bockrec!
"Voskrecenya Yanni" (the resurrection of Yanna) was the title of a newspaper article published in region of Volyn, Ukraine. It was entitled "Voskrecenya Yanni" because 9 year old Yanna, who came from Volyn to America for heart surgery, is living a full, happy life despite unbelievable odds. Yanna was the 13th child in our program to bring children to America for surgeries that cannot be performed in Ukraine at this time. Her defects were more serious than the doctors anticipated and four weeks after the surgery she was still not stabilized. The day after her 9th birthday, Yanna suffered cardiac arrest. It was by the grace of God that her surgeon was on the floor and responded to the code blue. For 45 minutes he refused to give up on doing everything he could for her to come back to life. Today, two years later, Yanna is a healthy, growing, perfectly normal young girl despite expectations of brain damage or loss of her hand which was black and lifeless.
Her mother, Jenya, believed in God and refused to give up on her daughter’s life. The mother’s faith and the child’s strength gave hope to the nurses and to the doctors, to the hosts and to the volunteers. Those who work in the Pediatric Critical Care Unit at Montefiore hospital still tell the story of the resurrection of Yanna and the faith of the mother from Volyn.
I tell the story of our miracle child Yanna today because I believe that there are no coincidences but only God incidences. I believe that it is no coincidence that I was invited here during the season when we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ and on the day that Bishop John – who was also born in Volyn, Ukraine - is being remembered in this church. Bishop John’s faith left a permanent imprint just as Jenya’s faith leaves a permanent imprint. Bishop John is remembered because he planted seeds that caused spiritual life to blossom and the Church to be unified. He is remembered not only for his love of God but also for his love of people. The fruits of the seeds he planted are seen in the goodness of this parish to Ukrainian Gift of Life and the children that have been saved.
It is indeed an honor to be invited to speak before you today!
I do not have to tell you about the poverty which our brothers and sisters living in Ukraine experience. I also do not have to tell you about the corruption that exists at all levels of government. It almost seems that where there is a little bit of power, there is a little bit of corruption and where there is a lot of power, there is a lot of corruption. Can you imagine how difficult it is for the average person in Ukraine to have hope in mankind and to hold on to faith in God? Conditions are barely improving and there sometimes seems to be no way out.
Last year, we became aware of another newspaper article that was part of a series that began on July 16, 1990, when Ukraine voted to become independent. A newspaper reporter decided to follow the life of a child, Sergiy Omelchenko, who was born immediately after the vote for independence. For ten years the reporter paralleled the life of this child and the new life of Ukraine. Initially, he wrote of the hope of the family: that he grow and mature in a free society where his independence could blossom and he could worship God freely, without fear of intimidation. But then they discovered that Sergiy had a congenital heart defect that impeded his growth and limited his freedom. And so they paralleled these limitations to those Ukrainians were experiencing.
When we became aware of this case shortly before the 10th anniversary of the vote and Sergiy’s 10th birthday, we telephoned Archbishop Antony to share the plight of this child and his family. The family was embarrassed that they were begging for help when they were young and willing to work but could not provide for their family. The Archbishop’s response was quick and decisive. He pledged his financial support to purchase the consumables used in surgery to match the pledge of surgical and hospital services without cost to the family. In this way, competent Ukrainian medical professionals with help from the diaspora would have the opportunity to heal Sergiy of his genetic heart defect. Praise God the surgery was successful. In responding to the Archbishop’s love and generosity, the family wrote about the lack of words to express the joy of the parents and the gratitude of the young boy who could now share in the activities of his friends.
We all would like to do more for our brothers and sisters living in Ukraine. I think it is important however, to identify one specific area among the many areas of need, so that the impact could be positive and significant. Yet, this area which you have chosen to support – children with heart defects needing surgery – impacts much more than the heart of the child. You offer an opportunity for life without asking what the child will become as it matures. You have not demanded that the child perform in one way or the other. You have not required that the child meet any criteria in order to benefit from your generosity. How wonderful you are to gift life with no strings attached. What grace you must receive for such generosity and trust.
Your parish has collectively participated in the program "Operation Child Cardio Care" to sponsor four specific children’s surgeries in Ukraine.
Until you provided the material means for these children to benefit from the skills and technology of the doctors, the wellbeing of these children who were in desperate need of surgery was but a dream to their parents. It is your goodness that made their nightmare into a wonderful dream come true.
Members of your parish community have also supported the broader effort of Ukrainian Gift of Life to provide surgeries in the US, training opportunities, equipment and medical supplies contributions through their individual donations and memorials. Parishioners have also generously donated their time to spread the word about our work. All these efforts give support not only to heal the hearts of these children but to sustain the trust in mankind and faith in God of the families of these children. Without your goodness and the goodness of others like you, the opportunity for new life for over 85 children like Yanna, Sergiy, Ihor Hev, Olga Motychak, and Viktor Schtypenko, would not be possible. Also, the opportunity for mothers like Jenya to impact others with the strength of their faith would not be possible. When children have had surgery in America or in Ukraine because of your generosity and the generosity of others like you, the families and children, like the Omelchenkos, Hevs, Motychaks, and Schtypenkos go home and share their stories of healing and the generosity of American people. This gives many people in Ukraine reason to continue to believe that God’s hand is active in their lives and that they too can continue to hope in the future.
Your generosity and the support and dedication of your pastor, Father Frank, has moved the members of Ukrainian Gift of Life to vote the "Heart and Spirit Award" to this parish. This plaque, created in Ukraine, is but a small token of the esteem and appreciation of the Ukrainian Gift of Life family in Ukraine and America.
Father Frank, you lead your parish in the footsteps of the men of God who have come before you. You nurture your parish family and provided the loving care that has helped it to blossom. In this Easter season, we pray that God continue to bless you and this parish so that it will continue to grow in love and faith.
Vichnaya Pamyat Bishop John!
Mnohaya Lita Father Frank!
Mnohaya Lita beloved parishioners of St. Vladimir Church.