... The Drogobych Priests-Martyrs

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Дрогобицькі священномученики

The Drohobych Seminary is named after the Blessed Priest-monk-martyrs Severyn, Yakym and Vitaliy. These three priests were zealous pastors of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who were ardent pastoral workers and who died at the hands of Bolshevik forces in Drohobych. In June 2001, during his pilgrimage to Ukraine, the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II declared them blessed.

Яким Сеньківський Born May 2, 1896 into a large family in the village Hayi Velyki, near Ternopil. From childhood members of the Senkivskyy family were used to hard physical labour in the fields. However, their parents spared no money on the education of their children, whom they raised in a Christian and patriotic spirit. Both the sons of the Senkivskyy family (Ivan (later - Yakym) and Volodymyr) became priests.
Ivan (Yakym) Senkivskyy graduated from his theological studies at Lviv and 4 December 1921 he was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of St. George. He continued theological studies in Innsbruck (Austria) where he gained his doctorate.
Fr. Senkivskyy entered the Order of St. Basil the Great on July 10, 1923 in Krekhiv, made his first monastic vows March 1, 1925, and August 31, 1930 - his perpetual vows. He had a cheerful character, and was an friendly, kind, exemplary monk. From 1925 to 1927 Fr. Yakym worked as assistant priest in the parish of Krasnopushcha in the Ternopil region, and from1927 - 1931 he was a professor of Humanities (Ukrainian Studies, Latin, History, Geography...) at the district Graduate Theological School at St. Onufrius Monastery in the village of Laviv, Sambir District. Besides this he was sent to teach Catechetism at a local school and in the village of Linyna.
In 1932, Fr. Senkivskyy was appointed to Lviv, where he led the Marian Society and the Basilian Third Order. Often, especially during Lent, he led retreats, and throughout the year he gave missions. The Chronicle of Lviv Monastery records: Fr. Yakym Senkivskyy has a gift from God for communication with people, especially young people, and during his sermons, churches were completely filled with the faithful.
In 1939, Fr. Yakym Senkivskyy was appointed Abbot of the Monastery of the Basilians in Drohobych. With the arrival of the Rev. Professor Yakym Senkivskyy in Drohobych there was a revival in pastoral activities and religious life was enlivened by great missions and enriched by new elements of parish work. From the earliest days of his stay in Drohobych he became a favorite of all the town. He won for himself the sympathies of the population through his brilliant talent for preaching, his ability to adapt himself either to the intellectual or to the worker, to the elderly and to the young, even to small children. He was always polite and cordial and with a smile on his face. With the advent of Soviet power in Galicia Fr. Senkivskyy became a symbol of the Church and the people in Drohobych.
Through his sermons Father Yakym knew how to keep people spirits high and give them hope for a better tomorrow. The Soviets repeatedly called Professor Fr. Senkivskyy in for "conversations" and eventually he was required to stop his pastoral work in the Monastery. On the morning of June 26, 1941 the Priest-monk Yakym Senkivskyy celebrated the last Holy Liturgy of his life, and before dinner the Bolsheviks arrested him, along with the Priest-monk Severyn Baranyk. A few days before the faithful had urged the Fathers to leave the Monastery as quickly as possible and wait out the danger elsewhere. Witnesses report that Fr. Yakym answered: "I will not hide, and without the Lord’s Will, not a hair will fall from my head."
On June 29, 1941, a Sunday morning, before the Germans reached the city, people rushed to the prison with the hope of freeing their relatives, but they found only hundreds of tortured bodies. In one of the basement cells of the prison, among other things, the Office Book of Fr. Baranyk and a holy card belonging to Fr. Senkivskyy were found. However, the body of the Priest-monk Yakym Senkivskyy OSBM was never found, witnesses said that it had been boiled in a cauldron and given to the prisoners to eat. There is a great probability of this being true as people who then were in prison, claimed that the soup, which they were fed was of a sweetish taste, and they had found human nails in it.

Fr. Severyn BARANYK
Священомученик Северин Бараник Born July 18, 1889 in Uhniv (Lviv region). He joined the Order of St.Basil the Great on September 24, 1904 at Krekhiv. On May 16, 1907 he made his first monastic vows, and his perpetual vows on September 21, 1910 He received priestly ordination on February 14, 1915.
Living in Zhovkva monastery, Fr. Severyn led an active pastoral life. He worked as a catechist, edited a children's magazine "Nash Pryjatel (Our friend)", was the Director of the Association of Apostleship of Prayer and the Marian Association for the Youth, head of the orphanage, and gave instruction to monks, and led retreats for the faithful.
In 1932 he was appointed Abbot of the Basilian monastery and pastor of the Holy Trinity Church in Drohobych, one of the most important churches and religious centers of Galicia. Many difficulties and joys awaited Father Baranyk in his role as Abbot. Fr. Severyn worked constantly and vigorously giving retreats, was a great friend of young people, and interested in the sporting life of Drohobych, and was also an energetic philanthropist and a member of the City Council.
With the arrival of Soviet troops in Drohobych NKVD (Secret Service Police) agents banned the Drohobych Basilians from going outside of their monastery, citing as the reason the demands of wartime. The faithful advised them to flee as soon as possible and wait out this difficult time, but the Priest-monks did not want to take this advice. On June 26, 1941 the NKVD took them to the Drohobych prison and nobody saw them again after this.
Two or three days later the Germans came and let people look for their relatives in prison. What was revealed was a nightmare. Mr. Josyf Lastov'yak says:
"At the end of June 1941 the front approached Drohobych. The Bolshevik government tried to cover their tracks. I saw a big hole hidden behind the prison, which was covered with sand and smoothed down with a roller. When the Bolsheviks retreated, the Germans came, and people rushed to the prison to find their relatives. The Germans let several people into the territory of the prison - to recognize their murdered relatives, but most people stood at the gate. I was a boy, so being near the gates meant that I could not see anything, so I went off and climbed up a tree. There was a terrible stench. I saw how the Germans had sent people to open a pit that was covered with sand. The pit was fresh because people uncovered it with their own hands and pulled the bodies of the murdered people out. Near the pit was an awning, but underneath it I saw the dead body of Father Severyn Baranyk, OSBM, which was very damaged due to torture in prison: the body was unnaturally swollen, black, a frightening face, and my father later told me that on his chest they had carved a cross. I saw the body of Fr. Baranyk at a distance of 10-15 meters.”
A few years after the war, the local prosecutor, telling Mrs. Sofiya Morska about what happened then in the prison, and in particular to the priests (Severyn Baranyk and Yakym Senkivskyy), said: "One of them was cooked in a pot and given to the prisoners to eat, the others were buried in the ground up to their necks and they walked on their heads. "
The burial place of Fr. Severyn Baranyk is not definitively known, but numerous reports indicate that he was buried with others in a "common" grave in the cemetery on M. Hrushevskyy Street in Drohobych.

Fr. Vitaliy BAYRAK
Священомученик Віталій Байрак Born February 24, 1907 in the village of Shvaykivtsi (Chortkiv district, Ternopil region). In 1922 he enrolled in the Gymnasium at Chortkiv where he proved to be an exemplary student and an active organizer of public activities. He entered the Basilian Monastery on September 4, 1924. After the novitiate in Krekhiv and training in monasteries in Lavriv, Dobromyl and Krystynopil (the present Chervonohrad), he studied philosophy and theology. On February 26, 1933 he advanced to perpetual vows. He was ordained a priest in the Monastery of Zhovkva on August 13, 1933.
In Zhovkva Fr. Vitaliy Bayrak led the parish life in the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He also was the Deputy Abbot and took care of the parish office. He became Chaplain to the Marian Women’s Group and ran the Association of the Apostleship of Prayer for a Happy Death.
Despite all his occupations, Fr. Vitaliy led retreats and preached in various places in Western Ukraine. In July 1941 he was appointed Abbot of the Monastery in Drohobych, to replace Fr. Yakym Senkivskyy who had been martyred by the Bolsheviks. Here Fr. Vitaliy led an active pastoral life and guided the same associations as he had in Zhovkva.
On September 17, 1945 he was arrested by the NKVD of the Drohobych region. By the decision of the Military Tribunal of the NKVD Drohobych region November 13, 1945 he was sentenced to eight years in prison with confiscation of property. A witness Mr. Vasylenko, who in 1946 tried to give Fr. Vitaliy some blessed Easter foods, said that he had been severely beaten and carried back to his room in a sheet. Fr. Vitaliy Bayrak died at the hands of the NKVD executioners in Drohobych jail on May 16, 1946. He was rehabilitated posthumously by the Regional Office of Prosecutions on August 14, 1995.