Ukrainian Vatican. The church develops Zolotnykivska hromada

Ukrainian Vatican. The church develops Zolotnykivska hromada

Mariyskyi spiritual centre in the Zolotnykivska AH of the Ternopil Oblast creates enterprises, develops tourism and finances infrastructure projects.

By Dmytro Syniak 

No one is surprised by the EU flags hanging near the national one in the Ukrainian hromadas. Yet in the small village of Zarvanytsia, that is part of the Zolotnykivska AH of the Ternopil Oblast, the flag of Vatican is placed next to the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag on the wall of the Mariyskyi spiritual centre of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.


We arrive in Zarvanytsia in the evening. In course of 20 years the whole town was built here from scratch: a huge cathedral, monastic cells, several churches, high bell tower and an administrative building, which is also a retreat house, where pilgrims, novices and priests live. Orthodox Christians call such towns lavras, and Catholics, including Greek Catholics – Mariyskyi spiritual centres (i.e. devoted to Virgin Mary). The Mariyskyi centre in Zarvanytsia is among the 20 largest in Europe.

The Mariyskyi centre in Zarvanytsia is among the 20 largest in Europe

Last year about 1 million (!) believers from all over the world joined the Cross Procession. It's easy to calculate that even if each of them left at least UAH 100 in Zarvanytsia, the annual budget of the Mariyskyi spiritual centre amounts to UAH 100 million. Meanwhile, the budget of the Zolotnykivska AH with population of 8 thousand people, last year amounted to UAH 48 million, including UAH 15 million of own revenues. In such circumstances, the church becomes a powerful force, which in a purely literal sense can significantly change the world around itself.

One of the small church hotels in Zarvanytsia

Vira Shpunyar, press secretary of the Mariyskyi spiritual centre

Metropolitan Andrey’s guidance

“In 1910, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky created a Land Bank in Lviv, which began to provide loans to peasants,” Vira Shpunyar, press secretary of the centre, begins vividly. “He also founded “Zemlia” (“Land”) company, that was purchasing large land plots, distributing them later – at no cost or at very modest prices – among poor peasants. The Metropolitan made a lot to expand cooperative movement among the peasants, and before the Second World War it was even more vibrant in Ukraine than in Poland. The Metropolitan invested in the traditional folk industry, construction of brickworks, confectionery and tile factories. The profits from commercial activities were directed at charity or the needs of the clergy.

With the blessing of Vasylii Semenyuk, Archbishop and Metropolitan Ternopil-Zborivsky, Father Volodymyr Firman, rector of the Mariyskyi spiritual centre, who was born and raised in Zarvanytsia, in 2006 opened the farm “Zarvanytsia Agro”. In addition to religious seminary, Father Volodymyr graduated from the Lviv Business School at the Ukrainian Catholic University with a degree in “Effective Small Business Management”.

Metropolitan, who contributed a lot in the development of cooperative movement in Halychyna

Now, the company, that is owned by the Mariyskyi spiritual centre and has several directions of work and several affiliates, employs over 40 people.

Paradoxes of the Zolotnykivska AH

Danylo Buhai, head of the Zolotnykivska AH

The Zolotnykivska AH can be called a hromada of paradoxes. It includes 14 village councils – 21 villages – but its population does not exceed 8 thousand people. There is practically no industry here, but there are 28.5 thousand hectares of fertile land. This land is cultivated by more than 20 farms, however, hromada’s own revenues does not exceed UAH 15 million. The AH left healthcare facilities in the rayon, but took on education: established a hub school, and decreased the degree of 4 schools at once.

The achievements of the Zolotnykivska AH are generally typical: several renovations of administrative premises, purchase of solid fuel boilers, ASC opening with the support of the U-LEAD with Europe Programme. The President and the Prime Minister visited this hromada as well.

ASC of the Zolotnykivska AH

The Zolotnykivska AH has a real diamond – the village of Zarvanytsia with its Mariyskyi spiritual centre, the Ukrainian Vatican.

Business for the sake of spiritual enrichment

Not all projects, initiated by Father Volodymyr with a team of like-minded people, were successful at the very start. For example, at first, the launch of spring water bottling line did not bring profits.

Selling prices for Zarvanytsia water were lowered to UAH 7 for 1.5 litres, only to reach the prime cost. The largest agricultural “Zarvanytsia-Agro” enterprise of the church operates according to the same principle. Last year it paid almost UAH 1.5 million of various taxes and fees. In addition, the enterprise provides products to the entire Mariyskyi spiritual centre, as well as to the kindergarten and school of the neighbouring village of Vyshnivchik, and also to the Zarvanytsia collegium “Znamennya” with in-depth study of spiritual and educational disciplines. In summer, the Mariyskyi spiritual centre opens its summer camps and takes an active part in the rehabilitation of ATO soldiers, who come to centre’s retreat house together with their families.

Spring water bottling line was not profitable, the main goal of the project is the possibility of uniting people with the Mariyskyi spiritual centre

“Zarvanytsia-Agro” cultivates various crops, has its own animal breeding farm, dairy cooperative, apiary and an oil-producing unit. The straw is processed by the pellet unit, which successfully sells its products abroad.

Hromada cultivates various crops, has its animal breeding farm, dairy cooperative, apiary and an oil-producing unit…

Last year, the church together the German philanthropists, found by Father Volodymyr, renovated the Vyshnivchyk kindergarten.

Ukrainian Jerusalem

The Cross Procession leads to a large unusual architectural complex, constructed in the middle of the forest in course of 4 years. Stairs reach three crosses on conditional Calvary. Next to them is a copy of the Holy Sepulcher from the Holy Land. 

“All these buildings are copies of similar architectural monuments in Jerusalem,” tells me a guide-novice named Oleh. “Father Volodymyr wanted all the copies to be absolutely precise, and even consulted with Jerusalem architects about it.”

A magnificent view on the entire Mariyskyi spiritual centre and Zarvanytsia opens from the Tower of David

Ukrainian Jerusalem impresses with its scale, majesty and some non-local, Mediterranean beauty.

The calculation of Father Volodymyr proved to be correct. After the construction of Ukrainian Jerusalem, the number of visitors to the Mariyskyi spiritual centre increased by 1.5 times.

Agrarian Centre

“Every year we implement one large project,” continues Vira Shpunyar. “Ukrainian Jerusalem was opened last year, and this year we are planning to start the construction of the so-called Agrarian Centre.”

In fact, the Agrarian Centre should be a specialised conference hall. That is, they plan to hold various religious meetings here, as well as organise short courses for agronomists, veterinarians, beekeepers, gardeners, poultry farmers, etc.

The youth club, restored and maintained by the church

All future business projects of the Mariyskyi spiritual centre are also planned within a social entrepreneurship format, in which Father Volodymyr Firman became an expert, recognised throughout Ukraine.

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article report


Тернопільська область


Золотниківська територіальна громада


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