The Church Smelling of Taiga

The Church Smelling of Taiga

We conversed with Father Krzysztof Korolczuk, a Jesuit who has been working in Tomsk Oblast and in the city of Tomsk for four years. He comes from Białystok from Dojlidy Górne district. We conversed with him in a Catholic chapel, in a rural localitiy Krivosheino on the way from Siberian Białystok where Father Krzysztof rebuilds the burnt church.

T. Danilecki -  The church burned down in Siberian Bialystok on 19th April 2017. Father Krzysztof, please tell us, how did You memorise that moment?

Father K. Korolczuk - It happened three days after Easter. One of our parishioners woke me up at 6 a.m. She said that the church had burned. We were just about to baptize her last child - Violet, but she was ill. We arrived with Mr. Vasyl Chaniewicz there around middday. The view of the conflagration, still burning in some places, was terrible. Inhabitants were very moved. Older people mentioned the former church. They said: ‘This is for our sins...once there was a club in the church. I was also interrogated by police twice and questioned by fire brigade there. We will not undo this. But something can also be born from the ashes.’

- Exactly! Today we saw a church which restores hope! How does it happen that its construction is so advanced?

- The church is small, wooden. It is important to make it smelling of taiga. The first church which was built by the people who had come here to create their new homeland, was also wooden. We had big reconstruction plans at the beginning. It was to be a brick and larger church. Unfortunately, we couldn't cope financially. The second project was created one year ago, but there was not enough money for its implementation at that time. Finally, we decided on a wooden church so that it could be built quickly. If you build a house out of raw wood, it collapases. That is why this building is being constructed from logs made of dried and glued planks. That kind of building does not collapase, so you can insert windows and it is immediately ready for use. A house of normal, fresh wooden planks is built for about two years and then you have to deck walls and finish everything inside. In the case of a house of glued planks, you do not need to do anything special inside. All you need to do is to protect and paint it.

- Were you sure that this church need to be rebuilt from the beginning? Were there any doubts?

- We talked about it with Father Stefan Lipke - the parish priest in Tomsk, with Father Wojciech Ziółek - the superior of the Jesuit community in Tomsk, then also with our bishop. It was apparent immediately that something had to be create in this place. Agnieszka Kaniewska from Poland supported us instantly. She spent several years in Tomsk and often visited Białystok before the tragedy.

- The case of the burned church was commented a lot, not only in Białystok itself but throught the country. The media also wrote about it. People collected money. Was somehow managed to rebuilt the church!

- Money was sent from Bialystok as well as from other parts of Poland. Inhabitants of Tomsk also donated money. Especially those who have their roots in Siberian Bialystok. We received money from practically all over the world. We are very grateful to all donors, also for those who supported us in prayer and offered us moral support. If money remain and Bialystok be able to give us help, then will be possible to  build a fenced field for children, like a ‘mini-orlik’, because there is no pitch at all. We are talking today in the chapel in the town of Krivosheino, where locals gather. Many of them lived in Bialystok once. Today it is an ordinary building. We want it to be seen that this is a chapel. We want somehow to mark it.

- Paradoxically, this burned, small church in a little Siberian Bialystok connected people from all over the world! It's like a miracle ...

- Yes. The reconstruction of the church revived this small community in some way. It brought us all closer together. The land for the construction of the church was consecrated in June, on St. Anthony's Day. We prepared foundations at the beginning of July and the construction works with small breaks have been lasting from that time. Local inhabitants have no money, but they help us a lot with the work. Bialystok was a place slightly forgotten by great people, but unforgettable by God. And now, all kinds of  people come here. There were, among others, volunteers - students from Gdańsk, who helped organize a camp for children in Bialystok and later in the neighboring Malinovka. A community of believers is being organized around this building. Some of these people are waiting to baptize their children or to get married in a new church. This church is a kind of a glimmer which shows that Białystok has not died yet. It's a sign of hope for the future. It's difficult to find work here, the only one is on the cow farm in the neighboring Pudovka. Three or four people work in the bakery. Kindergarten, club, that is all. Young people leave because there is no work here. All inhabitants have gardens: they plant vegetables and potatoes, but they have no money.

- Therefore,  it is necessary to help them not only spiritually but also materially.

- Inhabitants of Bialystok were covered by a relief operation organized by Caritas from the German Osnabrück. It consisted in purchasing of cows from the money transferred for poor families with many children. They also receive hay for the winter. The condition is that every first calf which is born, will be passed on to other needy people.

- When will the construction of the church finish?

- We want to make a roof in two or three weeks. I hope that there will be doors and windows for winter. Maybe will be possible to do the underfloor heating? Maybe Christmas will be in the new church? We are planning to consecrate the church on St. Anthony's Day, on 12th June  next year.

- We wish You that!

- God bless you!

Fot. dr Marcin Zwolski / MPS

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