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“I miss the church, and preaching, but I am happy that in Orthodox churches preaching also can be heard”

 -       Leonid Mikhailovich, how did you come to God? Some people say, you took on the sacrament of Baptism in the Orthodox Church. When and where did it happen?

 –       Everyone finds his own way to God. It is true. My path was quite long, but obviously it was the way the God intended it to be. I made a lot of mistakes in my life, and solely because I only counted on my own: I thought of myself as someone who can do anything and knows everything. Today, when I am 55 years old, reading the Bible for the ninth time, having heard a number of sermons, with full responsibility, as a person who isn’t a zombie (as the newspapers wrote about me), as an Orthodox I can firmly state: without knowing your true predestination (a person is a part of God), you will achieve nothing in your life. But this is another topic to discuss the next time for sure, as this matter concerns the philosophy of my actions and life principles.

 Yes, indeed I was baptized in the Orthodox Church, and it was 54 years ago. This church was located somewhere on the Lermontovskaya Street in the city of Kharkov, where I was born. Unfortunately, I don’t know where exactly it was located. I don’t know the number of a communal apartment where I was brought to after my birth. Well, most people of my generation don’t know that about themselves. I cannot even find my father’s grave who was buried in Siberia, but who was born in Ukraine, and his roots are here. That is the way it was during the Soviet times. I hope there will be nothing like that in the future. Yet, your question is very interesting and I will try to find out where that apartment and the church are. There is somebody who could tell me this. I hope to get this information. Unfortunately, either my 20 years elder brother or my father are no longer alive. And my mother, unfortunately, lives the dreams from the past: she has been paralyzed for over a decade and she can’t perceive adequately neither me nor the reality, especially recently. In moments of her enlightened consciousness I say to her: “Mom, I am the mayor of the city of Kiev. Almost half a million of people supported me. You can be proud of me”, – but she does not understand it. I only pray to God asking that she doesn’t suffer.

-       Internet sources report that you attend the Orthodox Church in the Trinity Monastery of St. Jonas, and at the same time you happen to be the pastor of the church “The Embassy of God”…

-       I am not a pastor of any church. It would be a very big honor for me. I am not a pastor of either an Orthodox, or Protestant, or Catholic churches. Today, I am a humble parishioner mostly of the Orthodox monastery of St. Jonas, which is located in the Botanical Garden (in Kiev). I always go there on Sundays, regardless of my health condition. Regarding the “Embassy of God”, this is a name of the evangelical church (Christian) which has a century-long history. Yes, I came to God being baptized in the Orthodox Church. But after that I went astray for more than 40 years since my job and the philosophy of communism didn’t welcome it at all, so to speak. I came back to faith about ten years ago in the Protestant Church…I really loved the preaching by the pastor of the church – a nice guy, despite different color of his skin, – Sunday Adelaja.

 Today, I understand that there are traditions of the Ukrainian nation, and my position must certainly comply with the spirit of the community. I cannot challenge the society. Frankly, I miss the church, and preaching, but I am happy that in Orthodox churches preaching also can be heard.

 I really like the abbot of the Monastery of St. Jonas. Young, but a crystal-pure individual. I also admire the head of the Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (Metropolitan Vladimir) I can feel that he is close to God and his intentions are pure. I also understand the position of the Orthodox Church which Patriarch Filaret represents: this position is very similar to mine in politics. It is very patriotic and it facilitates building a sovereign state which was dreamt about hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Today, any of our great ancestors who once aspired to build a sovereign state, can be proud not only of our politicians, but also of such outstanding church activists like Patriarch Filaret.

 “Only those people can directly interact with the God who devote all their time to this”

 -       Leonid Mikhailovich, what is the relationship between you and the organization of the International festival of the Orthodox cinematograph and literature “Intercession”?

 -       I think the International Orthodox Festival of cinematography and literature “Intercession” is a good initiative and should be continued. Decision to converge certain political positions with the national deputy of Ukraine Andrey Derkach and his opportunities, which he fulfilled by introducing me to the head of the church Vladimir (the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate) inspired me to become a part of it. Though, I have already known him for ten years and have attended his reception together with the faction, which I became a part of ten years ago when I was elected to the Verkhovna Rada. But after that I haven’t got a chance to meet with the head of the church and my aspiration cooled down. Now I know that he understands me and I truly appreciate his gentle heart, strong faith, and experience.

 -       Do you remember the first time you came to the monastery of St. Jonas? How did you meet Father Jonas?

 –       I came to the monastery of St. Jonas by chance. But how I met 
Father Jonas was completely amazing – I was at one of the procedures regarding the festival “Intercession” in a group of priests. When suddenly I felt that there is a man behind my back who empathises me. Frankly, I am a very sensitive person. He then helped me with a gesture what really shocked me. He is a young and very spiritual man.

 Afterwards, I went out and discovered many Orthodox churches. But the monastery of St. Jonas is special. As soon as I got in I keep coming back there every Sunday. I felt some kind of purity. There I never wait for the meeting with the monastery authorities, and I never look for any social interaction. I just put the candles in a way our ancestors did, and pray for every member of my family, for my charitable and political activities so that they would prosper for the welfare of the nation.

 –        What impressions stay in your heart after talks with monks?

 -       I never had an honour to speak with the monks. However, once I had a talk. About ten years ago. I saw the monks in one of the churches…And what I didn’t like about the church is that the monks had unlimited access to the monastery resources and sometimes…they had a drink. In general, they were nice and decent, but that particular encounter pushed me away. It is said that there are monks who spend their whole lives in prayers. I am very curious to meet such people because I know for sure, that only those people can directly interact with the God who devote all their time to this.

 –       How strong is your desire to attend services in the monastery of St. Jonas?

 –       I am not sure if my desire is to attend the exact monastery in particular. But I am sure that the monastery of St. Jonas is one of the best among those I have seen. And I think that most of the credit belongs to the abbot himself, a young and very spiritual pastor. Yet generally, as it is written in the Bible, I understand that where the Trinity is, there is me, and the Holy Spirit. One can find the goodwill of God in any church, yet he must listen to the heart and search for the place closest to God.

“A politician must be a social person”

 -       What does the Kiev Pechersk Lavra mean to you? What kind of mood do you experience being at this monastery?

 -       I perceive the Kiev Pechersk Lavra as the historical and architecture ensemble and a part of Ukraine, as a symbol of the renaissance of the Slavic nations and Christian faith. I haven’t been to the monasteries of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra yet. But I probably will. I like your advice.

 -       As a man who is called to lead others you are endowed with a huge responsibility. Certainly, there are difficulties, problems and challenges in your life… Where and how do you find your solace?

 -       I find my peace in reading the Bible every night before I go to sleep. Before I go to work, at least for three minutes I read the usual prayer – the one which Jesus laid out onto everyone in the New Testament: “Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, let it be done on earth as it is in heaven…” I read a small prayer for the new day to be productive, and for personal peace so that I treat people decently because sometimes I can be harsh. I think and pray for my children and grandchildren – they are so grown up already and so beautiful, I pray for the people of Kiev. I always pray for sympathy towards the misery of the fellow men. It comes with time. And it is very important for the political activist.

 –       It is known the Metropolitan Vladimir sanctified your office. And when you met him you said: “No spiritual leaders have ever been here before you”, – whereas social media reported that the whole building was sanctified by the Patriarch Filaret. Here comes up a question: why didn’t he sanctify your office?

 -       No one else but the Metropolitan Vladimir would sanctify my office. In any case, without his consent, because I am the man of my own principles. He did it and I am honoured to be proud of it since he is a great and very spiritual man. I think that what he did in my office would cause much more significant consequences in my life; as my heart is very predisposed towards Metropolitan Vladimir. I stand behind my principles, and no deceit or hypocrisy from my side towards people I interact with, are possible.

 In regard to Patriarch Filaret (Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate) – he sanctified the major part of the city hall. He is a great patriot of Ukraine and at the same time very faithful and spiritual man. However, his position is rather the position of a believer with certain political inclinations. Every Orthodox Church bears a political burden. I admire the position of Filaret in a way he stands for the sovereignty of Ukraine in all senses. This is exactly how I see Ukraine, and I am very grateful to this man as a priest who supports the choice of the Ukrainian nation, shares a sense of understanding and appreciation for other possible confessions, because the God is one but the roads to Him are many.

 I am very grateful for your questions. Some of them now hold significant meaning to me as I intend to finally find the place I was born at, and the church I was baptized in. And it’s all on my to-do list. Moreover, I had a chance to explain myself and my deeds. I am not a betrayer – I am a believer. But I am a social person and people have to understand this, because a politician must be a social person. He must not devote 99% of his time to the spiritual world because a lot of deeds which I don’t like are being done today on Earth. And my place is among the people and it does not matter if they share the ideology of mine. I need to be down-to-earth and solve the issues of the city life. Apart from that, my mind is constructed in a way that it is impossible to influence me, and my thought of God during the three-minute prayer are significant to me. Next time I will read it to you. It strengthens and gives me confidence that everything in my life is done by the will of God, and I can serve the city of Kiev.

 Thank you. With this, I accept any unfair, in my opinion, offence. Anyway, I learned to be grateful to God for everything. I know that challenges give me endurance and strength as a politician, and the honour and respect from the people – give me confidence in my actions. Public support is major to me.


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