Seminarians of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary Mark the 31st Anniversary of Chornobyl Nuclear Explosion at the Metropolia Center of the UOC of the USA
Visitors of the Metropolia Center of the UOC of the USA often notice a dead tree in front of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Bound Brook/Somerset, NJ, which for years has been informally referred to as a symbolic monument to the tragic events of April 26, 1986 – the day of Chornobyl Nuclear explosion.
For quite some there has been a desire to replace a dying tree with a young one that will symbolize the call to Life. With the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, the student body of St. Sophia Seminary participated in the planting and dedication of a new Maple tree as the world-wide community marks the 31st Anniversary of Chornobyl Nuclear Disaster.
Archbishop Daniel, assisted by Very Rev. Fr. Stephen Hutnick and Deacon Ivan Tchopko led a Memorial Panakhyda at the planting site of the tree, calling to remembrance countless victims of Chronobyl.
Following the service, the Archbsihop spoke of the importance of remembering not only the victims of the disaster who perished, but also those who survived and continue to this day to suffer the consequences of the radioactive cloud, which spread not only throughout Ukraine but all around the world. He reminded the faithful that the truth about the accident at Chornobyl only became known because of that cloud being detected and analyzed over other nations, forcing the Soviet regime to admit the truth of the disaster. It is still doubtful, even some 30 years later that the entire truth about the accident was ever told.
Later in the day, Metropolitan Antony shared with the Seminarians of the Church that this is already a nineteenth tree planted on the grounds of the Spiritual Metropolia Center of the UOC of the USA that is dedicated to the tragedy of Chornobyl. The first was planted on St. Thomas Sunday at the 15th anniversary of the tragedy in front of the Ukrainian Cultural Center by the students and teachers of St. Andrew Ukrainian Studies School, which holds its classes in the Cultural Center classroom wing. The second tree was planted on the circle before St. Andrew Memorial Church at the 20th anniversary of Chornobyl by the youth of our church from around the country. The third and fourth trees were donated by Metropolitan Antony (then Archbishop) on the 25th anniversary of the disaster on the Memorial Church grounds adjacent to the statue of Metropolitan Vasyl Lypkivskyj – two maple trees, one to commemorate the survivors and the other to commemorate the victims of the nuclear explosion. On the 30th anniversary of Chornobyl in 2016, Pokrova Sisterhood of the Memorial Church sponsored the planting of two rows of 14 flowering pear trees along the sides of the driveway before the Memorial Church. The trees on the left, when facing the Church, commemorate the survivors of the nuclear disaster – especially the children – and the trees on the right commemorate those who perished in the disaster.
The Metropolitan has always expressed his belief that the planting of trees to commemorate the survivors and the deceased is the most appropriate manner to remind visitors to our Metropolia Canter about the Chornobyl nuclear explosion. Life – as seen in the trees, which will grow for generations to come – continues on after suffering and death. A cold stone monument is beautiful, as the Metropolitan stresses, but a living memorial creates a more positive contemplation of how good always prevails over evil – how life prevails over death – thanks to our Risen Lord!