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Mykhailo Hanushevskyi

Mykhailo Hanushevskyi

An earnest priest-confessor of the faith, a great national leader and organizer, the member of the Parliamentary Representation and one of the greatest patriots of Galychyna.

The most Blessed Mykhailo Hanushevskyi was born on December 5, 1880 in the village of Suhovola, near Lviv city. As a student of the I Academic Gymnasium in Lviv he took active part in youth clubs, was responsible for school books registering and was an outstanding singer in the school choir. During vacations he returned to his native village and carried on cultural and educational work. He made reports, organized cultural and educational life in nearby villages. At the same time he studied St. Theology, philosophy and law at Lviv University. He belonged to the leading group of students and as the singer of the choir of theologians, with whom he travelled about Galychyna, he had the opportunity to learn the life, the manners and customs of his countrymen.

As a seminary student he organized a student cooperative society and was its director and books registrar. At that time the cooperative life in Western Ukraine began only to develop, and one of the early pioneers of the movement was Father Mykhailo Hanushevskyi.

He took an active part in the competition of Ukrainian students as a representative of the Ukrainian University, and after the students` session in 1901 he left Lviv and continued his studies in Vienna, then in the seminary in Lviv. In the autumn of 1905 Metropolitan Archbishop Andrey Sheptytsky ordained the priest Mykhailo Hanushevskyi and appointed him his chaplain. Father Mykhailo carried out this work for one year.

However, he burned with a great desire to "go to the masses" and having resigned his position of a chaplain he began working in Verbylivtsi village (near Rogatyn), later in Letsivtsi village (near Pereginsk) and then in Voloske village (near Bolekhiv). In those villages he organized consumers` and credit cooperative societies: "Power", "Unity" and "Love", and in Bolekhiv – a cooperative society "Hope". He also organized reading rooms of  “Prosvita” and communities of sobriety for parishes.

In 1911 Father Hanushevskyi led the parish in Hutsulia in Nadvirnyanskyi district. It was really a parish district with headquarters in Mikulychyn; it consisted of the villages Tatariv, Yamna and Polyanytsya Popovychivska. In the latter village Father Hanushevskyi built a style Hutsulian church with the altar and iconostasis of the cedar wood. In 1913 he moved to the parishes in Dora and Yaremche (the same district in the mountains), where he remained until 1927 as a Nadvirna Dean and organizer of consumer and credit cooperative societies “Garasd” (OK). He also organized the society “Prosvita” and bought books for its reading room, organized the sport society “Lug” (Meadow), The Communities of Sobriety and others.

At the beginning of the 1st World War Father Hanushevskyi received – the Gold Cross of Merit with a Crown - the highest distinction of Emperor Franz Joseph I. Only six persons in Galychyna, who were not soldiers, received this distinction for the public, cultural and educational activities. Soon the villages, where Father Hanushevskyi worked, came around. People of the region appreciated the hard work of Father Hanushevskyi, loved and respected him for it.

In 1919 the Romanian troops occupied Dora village. Carrying the authority of the priest, Father Hanushevskyi often defended his parishioners from Romanian military authorities and forced the soldiers to stop their unfair actions. After the lands had been occupied by the Poles, Father Hanushevskyi was jailed for his patriotic activities. In 1921 he was arrested for the second time by the Poles before the elections to the Sejm, because the Ukrainians of Galychyna boycotted those elections. At that time Father Hanushevskyi served his time in Stanislaviv prison for a few weeks, being deprived of contact with his parish and leading people of Hutsulia. The Polish occupation lasted for many years. Those were bitter times for the Ukrainian people. However Father Hanushevskyi didn’t give up and continued organizing different cooperative societies, reading rooms of “Prosvita” etc. At the same time he took on new workers, organized courses for cooperative societies, bibliology courses, new reading rooms etc.

Since 1927 Father Hanushevskyi has worked in Stanislaviv. He became the Chairman of the Supervisiory Board of the District Cooperative Union, of the Supervisiory Board of the department Maslosoyuz (Butter Department) and of the district Society “Renascence”. He was a member of the Directorate of Co-operative Bank, the chief controller of the Ukrainian County Council, the guardian of the Plast organization, Sokil (the Falcon).  Father Hanushevskyi also established the credit and consumer cooperative society, a reading room of Prosvita in the village. For his earnest pastoral work he was appointed the Advisor and Reviewer of the Episcopal Consistory.

In 1928 Father Hanushevskyi was elected as the Ambassador of the Ukrainian People's Democratic Union at the Warsaw Seym. During this time he worked in a slightly different direction. He headed the commission for assistance to military disabled soldiers, widows and orphans; he fought for the adequate salaries to Ukrainians from the Polish government and was also involved in school, cooperative and other public affairs. He had the happiness to seek for success.

At the beginning of World War II Father Hanushevskyi and his family visited the Lemko region, where at the end of 1939 he and other cooperative leaders reorganized the Lemko Cooperative Union. In the fall of 1941 he returned to the parish in Ugornyky village, where he continued his favorite work.

Before the end of the Second World War Father Hanushevskyi did not take the permission of his Bishop Grygoriy to go abroad with his children. His response was resolute: ‘I want to stay with my people. If I have to die for it, then this is probably God's will.’ His wife and two daughters decided to share the fate and the trouble of their father. The years passed. They were difficult, full of bitter experiences and they steeled the faith and love of Father Hanushevskyi to God and his people. Despite of all the events Father Hanushevskyi stayed true to the Ukrainian Catholic Church to his last breath.

Neither unbearable anxiety during the Siberian exile, sufferings of his family, thousands of miles from the native border nor seductive promises of freedom and profitable life at the cost of betrayal of the Christian faith dispirited him. Seven years of exile in northeast Siberia passed away (as everything passes in the earth); the longing, which wound as the viper around his heart, remained in the Siberian taiga. The prayers of Father Hanushevskyi and his family were heard. God turned them back to their homeland. ‘We feel well here on our holy native land’, he wrote to his children, ‘we did not hope to see it again ... I was praying to God for the grace to die in my native land, near my parishioners. And God heard me, his unworthy servant!’

The year 1960 was a happy jubilee of the 55th anniversary of Father Hanushevskyi`s Ordination and marriage and his 80 years. His relatives and former parishioners celebrated this anniversary, although modestly, but grandly and worthy. However, severe illness, which began in the early years of his staying in Siberia, slowly but relentlessly, undermined his emaciated body. A few days before his death he asked to read the letters, which he kept under the pillow, from his dear children. Two days before his death he knew the time of “his parting until the Day of Resurrection.” Father Hanushevskyi asked to bury him in the parish cemetery, where he paid his last tribute to his dear parishioners during 23-year priesthood in this parish. He said goodbye to his wife and praying silently, without complaints he went to his last home.

He lay in catafalque with a small icon of Saint Josaphat, who was a martyr-witness of the unity of Christ Church. Soul of Father Hanushevskyi was at that time before the throne of God. Two days after his death, which occurred on February 9, 1962, when the sun gilded the top of the trees, wrapped in silvery rime, the relatives and parishioners carried his earthly remains from the suburbs of Stanislaviv to the cemetery in Ugornyky. The funeral took place on Sunday – a special day of Saint Sacrifice for parishioners. Hundreds of his former parishioners mourned fervently, parted with their priest, who as a good shepherd laid down his life for the sheep. Mother earth, loved so dearly by Father Hanushevskyi, took him into the interiors; the native land and the native people, to whom he was faithful until his death.