“Help, holy father, my heart is aching...”
“What torments you, my daughter?” Cheslav Kurechko carefully gives a hand to the woman. People in despair, when they have no hope, often come to him for help, the abbot of the Holy Trinity Catholic Church of Rositsa village in Vitebsk Region. He revives hope by putting faith in their hearts. His parishioners call him a spiritual pastor and say, “His services and conversations with him are fascinating, his words convincing, he makes people feel better and purer.”
Today the name of Cheslav Kurechko is renowned throughout Belarus. He was awarded the Presidential award ‘For spiritual revival’, one of the most prestigious national awards in the field of culture traditionally awarded on Christmas day. More often, its laureates are those who have everyday occupations, they teach in schools, work in hospitals, museums and rural clubs. Their selfless devotion saves the world from spiritual hard-heartedness and impoverishment. Everyone has his own way to God. In his youth, Cheslav was a normal boy who went to school and did his national service in the North. He completed catering college and was a culinary expert working at a restaurant, when he then decided to submit an application to the theological seminary.
Nine years ago Rositsa was an unpromising village with a population of one hundred people. With his arrival, the village began to revive and change. The Holy Trinity Catholic Church, restored by the efforts of Cheslav Kurechko, became the centre of spiritual attraction. Pilgrims from neighbouring villages, and from other countries came to visit it in memory of the priests Antoniy Lyashchevich and Yury Kashira who, together with civilians, were burnt by the fascists in February, 1943. The invaders offered them a chance to escape, but they refused, deciding to share fate of their flock. More than seven hundred people died in the fire.
Holy Trinity Catholic Church of Rositsa village in Vitebsk Region
In the summer, a sea of flowers covers the place. Evergreen thujas, barberry and blackthorn, a symbol of the thorns representative of martyrs and blood, leads from the church to the graves. Father Cheslav planted the lane with his own hands. “I inherited a love of flowers from my mother who died when I was six years old. She wanted one of her sons to become a priest. I have fulfilled her desire,” says Cheslav Kurechko.
The holy father is convinced that the power of people is in love: to God, their family, their native land. He gets up at dawn every day, and devotes a lot of time to his parishioners, helping them to understand family and personal problems. He even holds separate services for men and women. The holy father says that after such heart-to-heart talks people quite often reconsider their attitude to life.
Lane from thujas, barberry and blackthorn, which was planted by Cheslav Kurechko
Interfaith friendship in Rositsa and the neighbouring villages, guided by father Cheslav is the normal way of life. On the Catholic Christmas Eve or Orthodox Christmas, residents gather at a communal table for a festive tea. Father Cheslav bakes many delicious things with which he treats both Catholics and Orthodox Christians. After all, his previous profession was a confectioner.
By Sergey Pimenov
The award ‘For Spiritual Revival’ has been given by the President of the Republic of Belarus for 19 years in succession. At this time, about one hundred people of different trades, composite authors and labour collectives from all over the country, have received the award. The first laureates of 1997 were: People’s Artiste of the USSR Victor Rovda, prior of the church in honour of the Icon of the Mother of God Joy of All Who Sorrow Igor Korostelev, sister of charity Vera Plyushcheva, and the ensemble Chistyi Golos.