Few will remember French novelist Alphonse Daudet’s poignant short story, “The Last Class.” It is about the consequences of the seizure by Germany of the French province of Alsace in 1871, at the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian war. Monsieur Hamel, the French language teacher at the local school, rises “pale from his chair… My friends, he said, my little friends… But he could say no more; he was not able to speak the words.”
Monsieur Hamel’s sad duty was to inform his pupils that this would be the last class in French that was allowed to be taught. Starting the following day, it would be in German.
Occupied Ukraine is heading in precisely the same direction. The Kiev Nazi junta is taking decisive steps to eradicate every vestige of Russian Orthodox heritage on the territory it still controls. Besides the already outlawed Russian language, religious institutions are also a principal target. Over the last two months, as the regime’s prospects have turned increasingly precarious and survival uncertain, it has been conducting probably the last but also the most painful of its pogroms. Numerous churches and facilities of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church in communion with the Moscow Patriarchy have been stormed by the secret police and priests, monks, and laypeople arrested and harassed. Without even a pretence of legal procedure, parishes belonging to the legitimate Church have been handed over to the unrecognised church entity set up in 2018 for the express purpose of supplanting it, with the connivance of the corrupt and renegade Ecumenical Patriarchy of Constantinople. Quite naturally, one of the main targets of this persecution is the symbolic Kiev Pechersk Monastery overlooking the capital. It is under the jurisdiction of the canonical church.
In November, it was searched by the secret police and its abbot, archimandrite Paul, and the monastics were aggressively mistreated on the pretext of looking for evidence of political activity hostile to the regime. The junta then proceeded to draft a law that would ban church entities suspected of having ties with foreign ecclesiastical centres, a measure clearly aimed at the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is in communion with the Patriarchy of Moscow and commands the loyalty of the majority of the population.
Hesitant to overplay its hand and seize at once Ukraine’s holiest religious shrine, the junta has perfidiously adopted a gradualist approach, choosing instead an intermediate solution that should not alarm unduly the war- and terror-weary public. Arbitrarily and without explanation it has closed off the Monastery’s upper floors, decreeing that December 31, 2022, would be the last day that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church would be allowed to conduct religious services there. The Abbot of the Kiev Pechersk Monastery, Archimandrite Paul, is now cast in real life in the role of monsieur Hamel in Daudet’s literary tale. His poignant but dignified appeal and the moving scenes of the last liturgy served in the Trapezna church on the upper floor of the monastery complex, which henceforth is off limits to the faithful, have been recorded, for the benefit of whoever has the stomach to watch. It is here:
The circumspect diction and a captive’s stilted body language speak volumes about this oppressed churchman’s true position in the model liberal democracy that is today’s Ukraine. It is now but a matter of time when the entire monastery, upper and lower floors, is handed over to the bogus “church” and the abbot and monastics are physically expelled by the junta’s Tonton Macoutes.
Needless to say, none of these outrages have been noted or condemned by the human rights and rule of law watchdogs of the collective West. And how could they possibly have been, given that the perpetrators are their own Ukrainian puppets? Public admission of such foul deeds would demolish the mendacious narrative fabricated to misrepresent those thugs as champions of freedom and democracy.
There is a compelling argument that the persecution of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine is not just a local project but part of a broader scheme, executed in every instance on instructions by the same external decision-making centres. The giveaway is the ultimatum of the Baltic statelets to their local Orthodox churches, which also are in communion with the Moscow Patriarchy, to either sever ties or face repercussions. Such concerted assaults on the freedom of conscience had not been seen even at the height of the cold war. Nor had it occurred to any of the Western governments which were at war with Germany to demand of their local Roman Catholic hierarchies to either sever ties with the Vatican, which was located in the territory of Axis belligerent Italy, or be placed outside the law. But that is exactly what did occur to them now.
As on the day of monsieur Hamel’s last class in French, when “the order [came] from Berlin that no language but German shall be taught in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine,” soon also analogous orders will be handed down in Kiev that in Ukraine religious worship by Orthodox believers shall be permitted exclusively in places under the auspices of clergy aligned with the junta. And such iniquitous orders shall remain in effect until Ukraine is liberated, but not a minute longer.
Having been cast by their tormentors in the role of the French Alsatian schoolmaster who finished his last class by writing on the blackboard, in letters as large as he could manage, “Vive la France!”, Abbot Paul and his superior hierarch, Metropolitan Onuphry, now might as well play out their roles to the letter.
In their next public sermon, let them therefore exclaim truthfully and boldly, “Long live Holy Russia!” Pour épater la galerie of Ukronazi freaks, if their eminences are unable to think of a more cogent reason.