“Our Strongest Protection Is the Orthodox Cross”: Lugansk Priest Vladimir Maretsky Described His Time in Ukrainian Captivity

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



“Our strongest protection is the orthodox cross,” said the archpriest Vladimir Maretsky

The Novoaidarsky district court of the Lugansk region in absentia sentenced the priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate – ed] to six years of imprisonment and put him on the wanted list for attempting to stop a column of military equipment that moved to Donbass in the spring of 2014.

This was stated in the statement of the Security Service of Ukraine. Let us briefly return to 2014, when on the land of the Lugansk region military equipment came and armed nationalists tried to eradicate the Russian-speaking population – the people of Donbass rose. People “met” the armoured machinery with human corridors. In a literal sense, they laid down in front of the tanks in order to stop fascism from coming onto their native land. This couldn’t be seen even in a nightmare.

The local militia knew – we are all in God’s hands, and the belief in justice was so strong that it didn’t allow them to stay idle. Vladimir Maretsky, who at that time was the prior of the St. Nicholas Church in the village of Raygorodka of the Novoaidarsky district, was taken prisoner by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.  

In a special interview with the People’s militia of the LPR press service he described what he had to live through for his faith and his love for his Motherland.

“In 2014, when a special purpose military unit subordinated to Kiev came to our village (Raygorodka), we blocked their movement in order to control their participation in our life. They came here not to distribute gifts, and of course they were ready for everything: not just dispersing demonstrations – they were ready for any provocations in order to create the illusion that the army of Russia came here. Although at that moment there were only peaceful residents who lived here, on our territories.”

What did the blocking of the road lead to?

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“We held this military unit in Raygorodka for nearly one and a half months. We allowed their vehicles to move only for food, but they didn’t have the chance to participate in any actions connected to their direct activity. We controlled all of this. And on May 25th 2014, when the presidential elections of Ukraine took place, our group was provoked into committing actions aimed at disrupting these elections.

There were also people who helped the other side. We, 13 people, were taken prisoner in the settlement of Novoaidar. At first the ‘Aidar‘ battalion kept us in Polovinkino, then it was the SBU of the city of Kharkov, after this it was the 27th prison in Kharkov, and in August I was transferred – the only one from the entire group – to the 18th Kholodnogorsk zone [correctional facility – ed] in order to create that illusion that I am already at home. 

We were shot, hung, drowned, strangled, and fed with dust. Many of the guys who were with me had broken bones and ribs, and teeth were knocked out. They twisted my joints and struck me with rifle butts. There I endured a stroke without medicine, the entire right side of my brain was covered with blood. But I survived, thank God! The Lord after all gives strength in such cases.”

What aim did they pursue?

“They had a task: to drag the Russian world into a new war. I think this was their most main desire. They successfully tried to bring it to life. And it is precisely our resistance – ordinary miners, collective farmers – that kicked this idea out a little from under their feet. They all expected to see here whole divisions or the army of Russia, but there wasn’t any. And whoever they might capture were just ordinary working people or volunteers who came to help and support us under their own will. As soon as an exchange happened, literally in several days, I already learned that my traces were lost in the Kharkov region, and that I am again being searched for.

Although the promises were as such: ‘Go home, continue to serve, nobody will touch you’. But we were immediately put on the wanted list. They hung up our photos on billboards and announced that if we were seen we should be immediately destroyed. We became so dangerous for some reason. Although yes, dangerous because our weapon is God’s word. And our strongest protection is the orthodox cross. Especially since we adhere to our faith, we don’t betray it on a fashionable whim, so, probably, we are indeed dangerous to them.”

Back then you were condemned to life imprisonment?

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“Yes, I learned from social networks and through reports that it turns out that I had been condemned to life imprisonment there. And now, when they added another 6 years to this, it even amuses me a little bit. It turns out that if suddenly I will be in their captivity and I will wait for my life path to end in the cell, then afterwards they, probably, will hook me up to a machine and survey me for another 6 more years.

What can you say about the attitude of the orthodox church there, on the territory of Ukraine?

“It seems to me that today, without having found any more telling arguments for provocations, they undertook what is the most painful for people: pulling out a person’s faith from inside them means to kill the soul. As far as we remember the Holy Writ, there is even a warning: ‘Be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul’. Today it became fashionable to unite all sectarians, Protestants, and other movements, autocephaly, schismatics, but even with all this unification, they don’t become more gracious.

At the time they betrayed Christ, they entrained a whole mass of people. And we know that in the first year when the schismatic movement in Ukraine appeared, even back then all their Epiphany water disappeared. This was a significant event to show people that this is wrong! People must adhere to the traditional canonical church, which is recognised around the world, and which for many millennia proved that it doesn’t seek any personal benefit. It cares about the salvation of the souls of people who gave themselves to this church.”

To complete our interview, do you have any parting words for the inhabitants of the Republic?

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“Always remain faithful to God, always act in good conscience. Even if you don’t know God’s law, but act in good conscience, then it means that you already partially observe it. Study your faith, strengthen your children’s knowledge of our culture and our traditional religion – canonical and recognised around the world. And don’t forget that today everyone needs your help, so pray!”


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