Monsignor Ivan Ljavinec

* 1923  †︎ 2012

  • “All the people, the whole village, were in the basement, and some people from other place, too, because the basement space was large. We agreed with my colleague Vincek that we would not let them know that we knew Russian, and that if we had to speak, that we would only speak the truth… They found out about our Russian immediately, of course. I remained with one group and he was in the other. I got an idea, and I said to the others that the Russians were probably already here: ‘When they come, get up and shout in a loud voice: Urraaaaay!’ It just occurred to me. And really, I remember that two young soldiers descended the stairs and their eyes were sparkling, they were probably drunk. Our cheering ‘urraaaaay’ was a great surprise to them; they did not know where they were and what was going on. Then I started speaking immediately, but they were after watches, they took our watches and they left. Others followed them, and then others. I walked out to the courtyard and the front line was still there. Messerschmitts were flying.”

  • “The whole summer 1955 until Christmas was filled with harsh interrogations; the following interrogations were then only supplemental interrogations. Obviously, their first and foremost question was about my illegal activity and co-workers. My first reply was that I had not been doing anything illegal and that my activity was oriented at the Greek Catholic Church which was joined with the Orthodox Church at that time…They claimed that it was not true and that what I did was anti-state activity… I replied that the church did not equal the state… Secondly, I did not agree with the word ‘illegal,’ and even at court, when they read my accusation: ‘Then you engaged in illegal activity…’ I objected: ‘No, I was not doing anything illegal.’ ‘How come?! Were your registered somewhere?’ I said: ‘No, I was not registered deliberately, and I will pay the fine related to that...’ They claimed that such were the rules and that the law said so. I replied: ‘But the church has not been outlawed by the law.’”

  • “The people from Hromoš came and I told them: ‘I promised to celebrate the mass with you, but I don’t know if I can go to you now, because they are watching me and I won’t be able to walk all the way, anyway.’ They told me: ‘We picked our best horses and we will not go by the road, but straight through the forest We need to bring you there, because all the people are waiting there, they are singing and waiting. We cannot return without you, you need to go with us.’ And so I went, of course, and it was very heartwarming and emotional. They brought me back to the teacher’s house and they even gave me a basket of eggs. I didn’t know what to do with them, and so I gave them to the locals. After lunch the women called me and they told me: ‘Father, we were discussing what to do over and over, but what do you think…? We have been protecting Jews here, and if they did not catch you here now, they will arrest you afterward.’ They decided to offer me a hiding place.”

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    byt Mons. Ljavince, Praha, Prosek, 28.04.2007

    délka: 03:31:37
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Stories of 20th Century
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There is so much evil, but some good people are found even there

Ivan Ljavinec
Ivan Ljavinec
zdroj: Ondřej Bratinka

  Ivan Ljavinec was born April 18, 1923 in Volovec in the then Carpathian Ruthenia which belonged to the Czechoslovak Republic. He comes from a teacher‘s family of Greek-Catholic faith who registered themselves as Rusyn nationals. After graduation at grammar school he studied theology in Uzhhorod and he asked the bishop for an opportunity to study at a seminary abroad. In 1941 he went together with his friend to Pazmaneum in Vienna, which was the central foreign seminary of the Hungarian diocese. Universities were then closed down and they both found refuge in a Cistercian monastery Heiligenkreuz. This place became part of the Soviet occupation sector at the end of the war and Ivan‘s superior thanked God‘s Providence that he had accepted both friends. They could speak Russian and they managed to negotiate with the soldiers and the monastery Heiligenkreuz was thus saved from looting and it survived the arrival of the Red Army only with minor damages. Ivan felt great regret for the surrender of Carpathian Ruthenia to the Soviet Union. He went to Prague, where he opted for the Czechoslovak citizenship. In 1946 he completed his studies and at the same year he was ordained a priest in Prešov. He began working as a secretary of bishop Pavel Gojdič and he was involved in many other activities of the Greek Catholic Church. This church suffered persecution alongside the Roman Catholic Church. By coincidence he evaded the nationwide arrests of members of Catholic orders in 1950. The so-called Prešov sobor (assembly - transl.‘s note) was fully controlled by the Communist Party, and it declared a unification of the Greek Catholic Church with the Orthodox Church, which was subject to the Moscow Patriarchate. Parsonages and churches were transferred under the administration of Orthodox priests and the Greek Catholic faith became outlawed. Interned bishop Vasil Hopko appointed Ivan Ljavinec a general vicar and a representative of interned bishops with an extraordinary procuration and tasked him with maintaining contact among the priests and officially pardoning those priests who had signed the agreement of unification with the Orthodox Church under pressure. Ivan Ljavinec was arrested and sentenced in the trial Ljavinec and Co. in 1956 for subversion of the people‘s democratic state system. He served his sentence in the prison in Prague-Ruzyně, in Valdice and as a prisoner he also mined in the coal mines in Rtyně v Podkrkonoší. He was released in 1959.  In a hopeless situation without home and employment and suffering from a lung disease he received help from friends and acquaintances. Ivan Ljavinec organized a successful petition for restoration of the Greek Catholic Church. In 1969 he was granted the state permission for ministry as a priest. He administered the Greek Catholic parish in Prague. In 1989 he became the bishopric vicar of the Greek Catholic Church in the Czech Republic. After the establishment of the Apostolic Exarchate by Pope John Paul II for Catholics of the Byzantine-Slavic rite he was ordained the first apostolic exarch. He received the bishopric ordination on March 30, 1996 in Rome. Ivan Ljavinec died on December 9, 2012.