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Appearances of the Virgin in a remote village

 

The appearance of the Holy Mother of God, Virgin, was and continues to be reported in various parts of the world. Such appearances were reported from very early times of the Christian era. In more recent times, people claimed to have seen her in several places in Portugal, France, Spain, Greece, Ukraine, and elsewhere. There seems to be a certain pattern to her appearances — secluded places and children as the most likely witnesses. At the end of the summer of 2005, appearances of the Virgin were reported from the village of Nyzhne Bolotne in the Land of Zakarpattya (Transcarpathian area). Mariya VLAD, a writer, went to investigate.

 

Lady on the cloud

On August 27 2002, some time in the afternoon, two girls from the village of Nyzhne Bolotne in Zakarpattya, Western Ukraine, went to a grove locally known as Jublyk, to get some water from the spring there. The water from that spring is believed to be the best in the whole area and is widely used for cooking, and people from several villages in the vicinity regularly go to the spring to fill buckets and other receptacles with the “good water” to take it home.

One of the girls’ name was Olenka Kuruts, and her friend was Mar’yanka Kobal; Olenka was ten and Mar’yanka a year younger. At one moment, when Olenka looked up from the water, she saw there was a beautiful woman standing some distance away behind Mar’yanka. Olenka told Mar’yanka to look around, saying there was a beautiful lady standing behind her. The girl looked around but saw no one. When her bucket was filled, she looked around once again, and this time she did see a woman quietly standing several paces away. She did not say anything, just looked at the children who took fright thinking the woman could be a witch. The children saw that the woman was standing on what looked like a little cloud rather than on the earth, with all kinds of flowers adorning it. The woman was wearing a white dress with a blue belt and a white headscarf. The buckets full, the children started on their way home, and the lady on the cloud followed them, sort of gliding rather than walking. She escorted the girls all the way to the village.

That was what they told their parents who did not believe their stories. Olenka’s parents even reprimanded her for reading “all sorts of rubbish” that gave her all these fancy ideas, and sternly admonished her not “to waste her time on foolish things.” But Mar’yanka’s father, Petro, who was a priest, warned the girls to be careful and told them to make the sign of the cross over themselves if they saw “that lady on the little cloud” again.

When later in the day, the girls went to the local kindergarten to pick Olenka’s small sister, they saw “the lady on the cloud” once again. The children made the signs of the cross over themselves as they were told to do by Mar’yanka’s father, but the lady was not at all put out by this — on the contrary, she seemed to be quite happy and radiantly smiled, making the sign of the cross with her folded fingers herself. Only then, did they girls take enough courage to ask who the lady was, and the woman replied something, which one of the girls heard as “Presvyata Diva” (The Most Holy Virgin) and the other as “Prechysta Diva” (The Most Pure Virgin).

On their way home from the kindergarten the lady appeared once again, this time in company with what the girls described as “two angels,” one taller than the other. At a later appearance, the Lady said there was a third angel too, still smaller, and the two small angels were the guardian angels and the bigger one was Archangel Michael. As a matter of fact, Archangel Michael was believed to be the guardian angel of the local church.

 

As the children grew more accustomed to the appearances of “the Lady on the cloud,” they became bolder and started asking questions. Answering one of their questions, the Lady said that she came to promote the authority of the priests among the people, to unite the Church and to bring together the Ukrainian people who were separated, adding that the children should tell their parents to go to Jublyk to pray.

Mar’yanka’s father, on hearing about this request from his daughter, was in doubt whether he, a priest, should go to a spring in the wilderness of a forest and worship there. It did not seem a proper thing to do. But the children kept reporting new appearances of the Lady who admitted that she was in fact The Virgin, Mother of God. She also asked the children to let the priest Petro (Mar’yanka’s father) know that she wanted him to inform the local church authorities of her appearances. When the Reverend Petro asked the Lady through his daughter who should be the first to be told, the answer was — “the old Bishop Marhitych.” The late Marhitych was then the Bishop of the Greek-Catholic Church of Zakarpattya.

The Reverend Petro did go to see the bishop and told him of what was going on. The old bishop came to the village of Nyzhne Bolotne with no delay and put many questions to the girls. One of the questions was to ask the Lady for a confirmation of Her being the Virgin. The girls related that the best confirmation would be when people started coming to Jublyk to worship. And the bishop, casting aside all doubt, went to Jublyk to conduct a religious service. The villagers learnt about it on the grapevine and the service was held on August 31 2002.

Since then, thousands of people not only from Zakarpattya but from the whole of Ukraine have visited the place hoping to witness the miracle themselves.

I was there too. At the foot of the hill, sparsely covered with trees, I saw a small, babbling spring, with the water coming from under a rock. The place was wet and I thought, No wonder the nearby village is called Nyzhne Bolotne (literally — the Lower Boggy Place). It took me three years to make up my mind to go there. It was my sister, Hafiya-Viktoriya, who had visited the place ahead of me. Once she called me on the phone — she was so overwhelmed by emotion that I could hear that she was speaking through her tears, “Mariya,” she said, “you should go to Jublyk — I was there and I saw the Virgin!”

And I did go though it’s about a thousand kilometers between Kyiv and Nyzhne Bolotne. There is no railroad station anywhere near, so most of the other people who wanted to go there had to go by bus or by car. But in their eagerness to see a miracle, people were prepared to go to any lengths, both literally and metaphorically, to come in touch with something holy. There was a lot of scepticism expressed concerning the Virgin’s appearances, and some church hierarchs even warned of possible “Satan’s treacherous tricks.”

 

Partaking of the Eucharist

But for now we go back to the first weeks that followed the Virgin’s alleged early appearances reported by the children. Once, during a service in the local church the children regularly went to, Olenka saw a man, who was not supposed to be there, standing by the side of the priest. She mentioned this in whisper to Mar’yanka who also began to see the silhouette of a man that gradually acquired the visual substance of a tall man with the shoulder-length hair and a small beard.

Mar’yanka told her mother in whisper what she was seeing — the man wore a blue garment with a sort of a red shirt underneath it; his feet could not be seen as they hid in a small cloud. The girl also described marks, like wounds on the man’s hands. In the girls’ description this man, invisible to others, was very good looking. Asked whether he was just standing there, the girls said that he seemed to be conducting the service together with the priests, making the same gestures. Later, they asked the Lady whether the person they had seen in the church could have been Jesus Christ himself, and the Lady confirmed it. Still later, the children reported seeing someone who could have been St Joseph — he had a brown robe on, holding a long stick in one hand and a lily in the other.

The children’s parents were still in doubt whether what the children were telling them was true, warning them that there could be a great punishment for inventing things like that. But the children kept repeating, “We have seen the Virgin, Jesus, and Joseph, honest, we swear.”

There had been no visionary experiences in the children’s earlier life; neither were they known to have lied before. They had never told tall stories or invented fairy tales before either. But rumours about the children having psychic or mental problems began to spread, and their visions were called by many to be purely psychic phenomena. All of it added fuel to the doubts. But the two girls looked absolutely normal and behaved in every day life the way children are supposed to behave. There was only one strange thing about them — they kept insisting that they saw the Virgin regularly. Once the children reported that the Virgin partook of the Eucharist during the service in the church. It sounded like a highly unlikely thing — the Virgin Mary partaking of the holy Body and Blood of Our Lord and God the Saviour? Unthinkable! But the children claimed that they asked about it the Virgin herself and she confirmed her receiving the Sacrament; she also said that Jesus also partook of the Eucharist with her, but instead of wine He had water. St Joseph was also there, during the Liturgy.

When asked why nobody else saw what they were seeing, the girls said it was impossible for everyone to see Jesus. He could be seen by everybody only at the Last Judgement when the world would come to an end — but the world was not at its end yet, and so Jesus could be seen only by very few.

 

Heaven and Hell

One day, eight other children accompanied the two girls to the place where they had seen the Virgin. Once there, the girls asked the children if they wanted to kiss the hand or the feet of the Virgin. When the children said they would like to do it and Olenka showed them the place where the Virgin’s feet were — and though the children did not see anything, they kissed the place on the ground where Olenka’s finger was pointed at, and they felt a strange warmth there. On their way home, the children saw a mysterious light that accompanied them back to the village.

On another occasion Olenka kissed the feet of the Christ when he appeared before her and felt sharp pain stab her in the hands, feet, heart and head. A moment later she collapsed on the ground as though in a swoon. The children who were with her, rushed to her and tried to raise her to her feet, and the girl came to. She was weeping and asking them not to tell anybody what had happened to her. But she collapsed again and as she fell she spread her arms and stretched on the ground, her body assuming the position of someone crucified. Attempts to get her back to her feet failed, and a boy from among the children who were there rushed back to the village to seek help. A watchman was the first to reach the scene, and soon after him came the Reverend Atanasy Chiypesh. He raised her to her feet, supporting her under her arms. When he thought she regained the ability to hear, the priest asked her whether she was in pain. She answered by nodding her head, and then let him know that her hands, feet, breast and head were the places where it hurt. When he asked, whether she thought these were the stigmata, she nodded, Yes.

After some time, when the girl could speak, she said she wanted to stay in Jublyk for the whole night to be with Jesus. The priest led her to the spring, sprinkled some water into her face and then gave her some water to drink. He told her to ask Jesus to let her go back to the village. Olenka began to pray and then nodded as if to say that she could go. The priest and the driver of the car came in, carried her to the car to take her home. When they drove up to her house, the priest explained to her parents what had happened. The girl did not say anything. Using gestures, she asked for a pen and a piece of paper, on which she wrote that she would not be able to attend school during Lent which had just begun.

Next day, the Reverend Atanasy came to her place again and talked to her about the events of the previous day. What follows is my reconstruction of the conversation that took place then, based on what the Reverend Atanasy told me. I closely followed what was related to me.

The girl said that when she kissed the Christ’s hand, she felt as though something heavy, like a cross, fell down on her. It was so heavy that she collapsed under its weight.

“Did you feel anything else except pain?”

“I sort of walked on the road to Calvary, and helped Jesus carry the cross. When I saw Jesus crucified, the vision disappeared and I felt as though it were me who was crucified… Jesus, Mary and Joseph asked whether I wanted to suffer alongside Jesus, and I said yes… They told me I would not be able to walk until Easter… I saw the Virgin in a dream at night. She took me with her — we rode on a cloud to Paradise, Purgatory and Hell…”

“Can you tell me what you saw?”

“I saw a great many people in Hell.”

“Could you discern anyone in particular?”

“I could. There were priests, bishops and ordinary people too. There was a greater number of bishops than of anybody else.”

“How did you know they were bishops?”

“They wore the bishop’s garments.”

“Do you mean to say that being in hell they were still wearing their vestments?”

“Yes, they were.”

“Did you ask the Virgin why there were so many bishops there?”

“Because, in spite of being bishops, they did not believe in God.”

“And who came next after the bishops?”

“Ordinary people.”

“How did hell look like?”

“It’s a place where people suffer. I did not see any bubbling pitch or fire but I saw that those people in hell were suffering greatly. They were tormented by the regret that they had committed sins.’

“What about Purgatory?”

“There were a lot of priests there who had not committed bad sins but they had not listened to the righteous bishops and had done some wrongs things.”

“And who are the righteous bishops?”

“They were all martyrs who died because of their faith.”

“Did you see any bishop in Purgatory?”

“No, I did not.”

“Did you get to see Paradise too?”

“Yes, the people there looked very happy.”

“And who were in the majority in Paradise?”

“Just ordinary people.”

 

Doubts and miracles

The Synod of the Greek-Catholic Church held in the city of Mukachiv sent letters to all the dioceses of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church recommending not to organize any trips or pilgrimages to Jublyk. The level of doubt was still high, but people who did go there reported seeing the Virgin, the Holy Family. Many of them said that the Virgin was weeping. There were some other miracles reported — the cross standing in front of the chapel built in Jublyk lost its gilding; blood appeared on the cross (the sample of this blood was sent to a laboratory for a test and the test showed that the liquid tested did have the properties of blood; the newspaper Argument-gazeta wrote about it in its 12 May 2004 issue). Many people also said that while in Jublyk they could look straight at the sun without blinking and without any damage done to their eyes.

Olenka suffered the pain of the stigmata for some time and then the pain stopped. Mar’yanka stopped seeing visions and the Virgin ceased appearing before her. But Olenka continued to see the Virgin. Some church and civil officials paid visits to Jublyk, but no actions were taken. There was and is a lot of controversy surrounding Jublyk and things that continue to take place there. There were reports of people getting miraculously cured; some people said that they smelled roses and incense though neither was anywhere to be seen.

I, as I have said earlier, was there too. My brother Mykola drove the car. My sister Hafiya-Viktoriya and my niece Olesya were with us. I was not privileged to witness a miraculous healing, neither did the Virgin appear before me but I did not feel my time wasted. My relatives and I saw the sun the way it never looked before with a circle of a different colour around it. My brother partook of the Eucharist and received the Holy Communion for the first time since his school days, and he is a person well-advanced in years. This alone justified our long trip. The atmosphere of the place was indeed very special — spiritually uplifting would be probably the way to describe it best. I talked to the local people, to the parents of Olenka and Mar’yanka, and to the Reverend Atanasy Chiypesh who was particularly helpful. Combining all the stories I heard, I wrote this story.

If you find it hard to believe, you are welcome to go to the spring and grove in Jublyk, in the vicinity of the village of Nyzhne Bolotne in Zakarpattya, Western Ukraine, and see for yourself. I am sure serenity and peace will enter your heart. n

Photos by the Reverend

Atanasy Chiypesh

 

Editorial comment: We leave it to the discretion of our readers to believe the story related here or dismiss it as not worthy of your attention. We found we were not in a position to pass judgement and at the same time we thought it would be wrong not to let it appear in print. What if there is something to it after all?

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