Let’s get to know the martyrs represented in our parish’s icon “Synaxis of Ukrainian Martyrs”. We begin with the young woman seen in the icon’s top centre: Maria Shved (1954-1982).
(Текст українською мовою в бюлетені 25.07.21)
While the 1970s and 80s were generally a time of optimism in North America, in Ukraine people continued to be persecuted for being Ukrainian-Catholic: arrested, tortured, even killed. Maria Shved, vivacious, funny, generous and kind, was murdered before she could celebrate her 27th birthday. She was born on October 17th, 1954, in the village of Yaremkova, Sambir Region. Her mother took Maria and her 2 siblings, the older Stefania and younger brother Bohdan, with her to church whenever possible. Maria fervently prayed for her father to stop drinking, and according to the parish priest, this small child’s devotion brought peace to their household. Maria grew up with a strong faith and concern for others. After completing school she went to work in the factory “Progress” and later in a telegraphic equipment plant in Lviv. She lived with her sister Stefania, who already had a family of her own. Stefania recalls how they could stay up all night talking, laughing and listening to Maria’s stories. A fellow factory worker (Nadia Vytvytska, a Basilian nun) remembers her as looking so much younger than her years. She would give away anything she owned if someone asked her for it. She was “quiet and humble. She never raised her voice, and I never saw her bad-tempered.”Maria supported Bohdan, her brother, sending him money if needed and keeping him “in line”. She was a people person and others valued her view and advice. In time, this colleague learned that a fellow worker was an informer to the authorities and was tracking Maria’s movements.
The Soviets had outlawed the Ukrainian Catholic Church, closing our churches or declaring them Russian Orthodox. So Maria attended the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Lviv for daily liturgies. There she met several of our underground clergy and nuns and assisted Fr. Peter Perizhak in his secret ministry to Ukrainian Catholics. She was so engaged that, although the Sisters of St. Joseph did not accept new members in those dangerous times, they could not reject her wish to join them. As a novice she continued her ministry with Fr. Perizhak. On Sept. 29, 1982, (the feast of St Sofia) Maria planned to visit her mother in the evening, because it was her mother’s name day. She went to church after work and boarded the streetcar with Fr Perizhak after Liturgy. At the church of St Elizabeth and Olga, the two sat on a bench to talk. Father gave her a holy card for her mother’s name day. Suddenly the secret police appeared and demanded Father’s papers. While he was being questioned, Maria quietly slipped away taking Father’s bag containing his vestments and liturgical objects so that he could not be charged with illegal activity. She ran along Turgenev Street to the gate of building #10. The “guards” pursued her, brutally attacked and killed her. The authorities tried to blame Fr. Perizhak for her murder, but eventually let him go. Ultimately, despite an eyewitness to the attack, no one was charged.
Maria’s family was not given her body until 5 days after her death. She was buried in her village of Yaremkova. Approximately a hundred people gathered at her funeral on that still autumn day. They made a wreath of fresh blooms. She lay dressed in white. A single bell tolled from behind the locked doors of the village’s small wooden church. As she was carried to the cemetery, hymns were sung and, in his homily, the Roman Catholic priest (our priest would have been arrested had he been present) asked that we not pray for Maria, but to her . . .
She was simple, good, humble, compassionate; she simply loved people and knew how to accept that which Jesus prepared for her each day. (Sr. Halyna Sovhan)