Friday 28 September 2012

Blessed Budka's Birthday into Heaven

Blessed Nykyta Budka was arrested in Lviv by the Soviets on 11 April 1945 and transported to Kyiv the following day.  For the next twelve months he was interrogated and tried for 'crimes' against the Soviet Union and the Communist Party.  A military tribunal sentenced him to five-years imprisonment on 29 May 1946.  After that he vanished and, for over ten years, no one knew his whereabouts or even if he was alive.  It was rumoured that Budka was being held in Siberia.  Instead, he was among the many innocent people who had been sent to prison camps near Karaganda, Kazahstan.  After Stalin's death, Soviet authorities began to release the survivors. These men and women were finally able to tell the stories about those who had lived and died in the gulag.  Among the survivors from Kazakhstan were Blessed Bishops Ivan Liatyshevsky and Aleksander Khira, and future-archbishop, Father Volodymyr Sterniuk. In 1958 Soviet authorities finally confirmed that Nykyta Budka had died close to 1 October 1949, but more precise dates and details are still lacking to this day.  

Budka and other Ukrainian Catholics who had been criminalized by a criminal regime were politically rehabilitated in September 1991.  This occurred less than a month after Ukrainian independence, with the Soviet 'Union' still officially in existence and the Communist Party having been declared illegal.  Yet no official follow-up to the case has ever occurred, even though Canadian Ukrainians had asked their government for a redress to the Budka case in 1989.

Kazahstani authorities have only recently confirmed that Budka served out his sentence at the Karadzhar prison camp near Karaganda, where he died of heart disease on 28 September 1949. Additional documentation, obtained unofficially in 1995, further specifies that Budka arrived at the camp on 5 July 1946 and was admitted to a nearby hospital on 14 October 1947, the feast-day of his patron, the Protection of the Mother of God according to the Julian calendar.  That day was also the forty-second anniversary of his priestly ordination and the thirty-fifth of his episcopal ordination.  Even the date of his death occurred on  the forty-second anniversary of his ordination to the diaconate.

In 1988 Archbishop Stereniuk recounted a story that he had heard in the camps about Budka dying at a hospital and his remains being left in the forest never to be found.  The documents we now possess are contradictory: one states that he died in the Dzhartas hospital and his body was transported back to the prison camp to be examined and buried at the prison cemetery on 2 October.  This version would explain the origin of some of the legends about the disappearance of his remains from the hospital.  Other documents state that he died at the prison camp itself, still classified perhaps as a hospital outpatient. 

Resolving the discrepancies in the existing data and verifying existing documentation requires better cooperation between Ukrainian Catholic representatives and government institutions in Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia. The best way to obtain the truth would be for the  Government of Canada to request a full investigation into the details of the imprisonment and death of a Canadian citizen now honored as a blessed-martyr by 13 million Catholics throughout Canada and 1 billion Catholics throughout the world.