Fr John Flader Q&A: Another apparition of Mary in Ukraine

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As war rages, Ukrainians look to Mary for protection. PHOTO: CNS/Joshua Roberts, Reuters

Dear Father, I have a friend from Ukraine who said Our Lady appeared in that country in 2002. Can you tell me anything about this apparition?

According to the reports, on 27 August 2002 two girls from the village of Nyzhne Bolotne, in western Ukraine, went to a grove to get some water from a spring. Olenka Kuruts was ten years old and her friend Mar’yanka Kobal was nine.

Olenka looked up to see what she described as a “beautiful lady” standing some distance behind Mar’yanka. Mar’yanka also saw her. Because the lady did not say anything, they became frightened, thinking she might be a witch.

The lady was standing on a small cloud adorned with flowers, just above the ground. She was wearing a white dress with a blue belt and a white headscarf. When the girls arrived home they told their parents.

Olenka’s parents did not believe her story and they scolded her for wasting time on such foolishness. But Mar’yanka’s father Petro was a Greek Catholic priest, and he cautioned the girls to be careful and always make the sign of the cross. Later that day, the girls went to pick up Olenka’s sister from kindergarten and they saw the lady again.

When they made the sign of the cross to protect themselves, the lady was pleased and smiled, making the sign of the cross too. The girls asked her who she was and she told them she was “the most pure Virgin.”

In later apparitions Our Lady said that she came to promote the authority of the priests among the people, to unite the Church, to bring together the Ukrainian people who were separated, and to promote more prayer. Mary asked that the priest inform the local Church authorities, particularly “the old Bishop Marhitych”, who was auxiliary bishop of Mukachevo.

The bishop was informed and he immediately went to the village to question the girls. He wanted to know if the lady could confirm her identity in some way, and the girls replied that when people started praying at the spring confirmation would be given. On August 31 Bishop Marhitych held a religious service at the spring. He supported and promoted the visions.

Word spread and soon many pilgrims from all over Ukraine were going to the site in the hope of seeing a miracle. A chapel was built and people reported seeing Our Lady, some saying she was weeping and others also seeing the Holy Family. The cross standing in front of the chapel lost its gilding and blood appeared on it instead.

A sample was sent to a laboratory, and tests revealed that it was truly blood. Many people said that they could look directly at the sun without damage to their eyes. Miracles were reported at the spring and some people smelled incense or roses, despite neither being visibly present.

Several weeks after the apparitions began, Olenka said she saw a man appear next to the priest during a Mass. She whispered to Mar’yanka, who also saw him. They described him as tall, with shoulder-length hair and a beard. There were wounds on his hands and he was very good looking. The girls both reported that he seemed to be conducting the service along with the priest, making the same gestures.

Wondering if this was Jesus, they asked Our Lady at her next appearance and she confirmed that it was Jesus.

Many people thought the girls must be making up a story, but the girls were healthy and normal, active in typical activities for their age, and they had no history of lying or telling tales.

On one occasion when Olenka kissed the feet of Jesus who appeared before her, she suddenly felt a sharp pain in her hands, feet, heart and head. She collapsed on the ground, spreading her arms out in the position of someone being crucified. She could not be lifted from the ground. A boy ran back to the village for help, returning with Father Atanasy Chiypesh and a watchman.

They eventually got her home after sprinkling water on her face. Unable to speak, she wrote that she would not be able to attend school during Lent due to her inability to walk. Father Atanasy questioned her carefully, and she told him she had accepted an offer to suffer along with Jesus.

The pains of the stigmata lasted for some time, but then ceased.
At present there is a monastery of the Holy Family on the site, as requested by Our Lady.

On the 27th of each month busloads of pilgrims arrive, and each year on August 27 the anniversary is celebrated with fireworks. Clearly, belief in the apparitions is well established.

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