A scene from the very powerful must-see movie, “To Believe”. It made such a lasting impression on me because it vividly describes the intense persecution of 1921 and genocide that the people of the Ukraine had to endure under Russian Soviet Communism, referred to as the notorious “Holodomor” in 1932-33. They killed over 3 million Ukrainians by mass starvation in taking away their wheat crop for the Soviet Russian government. Russians often call Ukrainians Khokhols [хохол; xoxol]. It's like calling a black man "nigger". That kind of Russian domination over the centuries is why the Ukrainian people are fighting so fiercely to resist the Russian invasion of February 24, 2022, now having passed over a year of terror, hardship, sacrifice, courage, and faith in the fight for national independence and freedom.
”Give me liberty or give me death !” The Ukrainian people have the same attitude. France helped us through the Revolutionary War in our fight for freedom and independence. Some 245 years later under the leadership of the United States, the NATO members have been providing billions of dollars in arms to help Ukraine’s fight for its independence and freedom. The NATO countries are quite united. In our country the leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties for once are working together and cooperating in a bipartisan manner.
Ukraine’s battle for survival is also our battle because there is no stopping blatant aggression over its neighbors until the free countries work together to preserve the world order established by the United Nations after World War II. That is, the world powers must solve their disagreements only by negotiations and other peaceful means, NEVER by aggression. As promulgated by Woodrow Wilson after World War I, a people has the right to self-determination. In the same way after World War II colonies of Britain, France, the United States, and others were granted their independence......including India, South Africa, the Philippines, Indonesia, Congo, etc.
The main point of the movie is to show our awesome responsibility to pass down the faith to the next generation…….our children and grandchildren. We are losing our youth because we are not passing down the faith and are poor examples of what Catholic Christians should be. We are lax in living our faith.
This is truly a must see movie, only 58 minutes long……for me a tear jerker, which I watched several times. The very well done movie, produced by EWTN Ukraine, is in Ukrainian with English subtitles. That will give you an idea of the Ukrainian culture and language. Khrista, a Ukrainian exchange student and a regular at our 10 am Mass, could add some real insights. The movie, filmed in Ukraine, has been shown on EWTN, our Catholic channel numerous times.
Click on the link
https://ondemand.ewtn.com/free/Home/Series/ondemand/video/en/to-believe. Then hover on the picture below the large one and click on the arrow that will appear. Watch the movie and see what happened over 50 years later to a little boy who received the Faith during the persecution.
In the movie, “To Believe”, we follow a rural Ukrainian family, its parish family, and its pastor Fr. Sebastian Sabudzinski over a period of about 100 years with scenes from the 1921 persecution after the 1917 Communist Revolution; the 1930s during the Holodomor, a period of intense persecution and genocide of forced starvation under Josef Stalin (3 million people starved to death); 1953 - more persecution under the regime of Josef Stalin; and 2020 after Ukraine obtained its independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. This is what the people of Ukraine are fighting to preserve…..their faith, their freedom, and their independence.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian dictator has dreams of turning back the clock to the “glory days” and restoring the Soviet empire of the 20th Century and the Russian Empire of Czar Peter the Great and Czarina Catherine the Great in the 18th Century. Both empires subjugated Ukraine for so many years.
The Baltic Countries, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and the eastern third of Poland (1793-1918) among others were part of the Russian and Soviet empires. After World War II these countries along with East Germany, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovakia were taken over by Russian Soviet Communism. In 1991 they obtained their independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. For a history of the Russian Empire go to https://www.britannica.com/place/Russian-Empire/Peters-immediate-successors
The 1921 Persecution. Very dramatic is the village’s struggle to hide the sacred vessels, protect the Eucharist from desecration, and the martyrdom of the leaders of the village together with its pastor, Fr. Sabudzinski. He is an inspiration to the persecuted. As St. Paul said, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35-39). The people of the village still found ways to pray together. The acting is excellent.
Seven Ukrainian priests and lay leaders are marched into a forest to be executed. They are given one last chance to renounce their faith. All refused; all were shot to death in 1921. What would you do under the circumstances?
During the Holodomor of 1932-33, the family tried to hide its wheat crop from the Soviet Russian government. This was a period of forced genocidal starvation resulting in 3 million deaths to keep the people in line and subservient to Moscow. For details of the Holodomor in a graphic video go to“The Holodomor: How Stalin Starved Ukraine” https://www.google.com/search?q=holodomor&oq=Holodomor&aqs=chrome.0.0i433i512j69i59j0i512l4j0i433i512j0i512l3.9832j0j15&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#fpstate=ive&vld=cid:3c6edd61,vid:lejDbulJN54.
An old man told a little Ukrainian boy in 1953: “I want you to remember what price was paid to keep the faith. There is nothing more precious than faith in the entire world. If you have it in your heart, it will be your priceless treasure that other people can tap into. This (a tattered Bible) is my most precious gift that I can give you. Promise me to keep it.” May this old man (me) and other men of my generation and young fathers too share the same with you, our dear youth. Under the secularization of America, we are already undergoing a subtle persecution that could get bloody someday.
Scenes from the movie, “To Believe”. The photo on the lower right depicts the Bishop telling his story of having received a tattered Bible and the faith as a boy to pass down despite intense persecution.
The movie ends with a commentary: “Not everything was lost during the long night of Communism. As gold is tried with fire, so faith is tempered in suffering and persecution. There is nothing more valuable to human life than God. Whoever understands this truth and testifies with his life and is ready to die when needed, may rest assured that his life is not wasted. Now our task is to cherish the Faith and pass this history to future generations.” Do we Americans need a persecution to set us straight?
May God have mercy on the people of Ukraine who are suffering so much and may He bring good out of their travail. Ukraine will come out stronger because of this tremendous cross, overcome the corruption inherited from Communism, and become a great country. Sunday Mass attendance has increased significantly in Ukraine. A Ukrainian mystic prophesied that Russia will be converted through Ukraine. For now Russia continues in its errors as Mary foretold at Fatima.
Joe Loya, the father of a priest and a deacon, once said to his four boys in his Archie Bunker style when they were kids. “God put me here for one reason and that’s to get you guys to Heaven.” That’s what it’s all about, men and you will answer for how well you did in passing down the faith. Fr. Thomas Loya, now a Byzantine Catholic priest, pastor of Assumption Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen, Illinois never forgot those words of his father and repeated them at his funeral.
The most important lesson from the movie, "To Believe" is the tremendous responsibility of each one of us to PASS DOWN THE FAITH to our children and grandchildren. If we don't do that, the generations that follow us will be unchurched unbelievers and the American Church could fall into a dark period of indifference and closed churches.