Voices from Russia

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Ukrainian Church in Woonsocket RI Will Honour Firemen Who Battled November Fire

00 Benefit Concert. St Michael UOC. Woonsocket RI. 18.05.13

There was a typo in the last line… “St Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church” was mistakenly inserted. I corrected it. The people doing the poster were rushed… shit happens. It’s put to rights, now…


St Michael Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Woonsocket RI is still recovering from the November fire that heavily-damaged its ornate 70-year-old granite and wood church building at 74 Harris Avenue. Nevertheless, coping with the near loss of their church won’t keep St Michael’s parishioners from offering a special tribute to the firefighters who kept total disaster at bay back on 21 November 2012. Fr Anthony Perkins, pastor at St Michael, said, “At the end of the Liturgy on Sunday, we’ve invited them to come. We’re going to present them with an icon of St Michael, who’s not only our patron saint, but he’s also the patron saint of firefighters”. The parish had the icon specially-made; it’s giving it to the firefighters in the hope that they’ll remain safe in their dangerous work to help others. Fr Anthony said, “We pray for them at every service”.

The parish hasn’t been able to hold services in their Ukrainian-style church (highlighted by two stone towers topped by gold-leaf ornamental domes) since the accidental fire broke out inside the structure. Instead, parishioners gather for liturgy in their church hall across the parking lot. For now, they’ve installed an iconostas… a separating wall between the altar and the congregation… borrowed from another church. Speaking of the temporary modification, Fr Anthony said, “Now, it’s recognisable as a worship space”.

The parish is still working out the details of the repair of the damaged church with its insurance company and Fr Anthony said that he expects repair work would start in the near future. He added that the fire damage could’ve been much worse if city firefighters weren’t as successful at saving the significant city landmark as they were, saying, “It was pretty close to being destroyed, really close, because the fire had gotten up into the rafters. Once that happens, it usually becomes a total loss”. However, the firefighters and their scene commanders kept in constant contact with parishioners as they battled the blaze, and they were able to work out a strategy that saved the church. Fr Anthony noted, “We told them where they could poke a hole into the rafters through the choir loft and they were able to go through that to put it out”.

The firefighters also went into the sanctuary of the church to rescue important parish religious artefacts that would’ve been otherwise lost to the fire. Fr Anthony stated, “After they put the fire out, they were like a moving company and got everything out of there. We weren’t able to salvage everything, but the important things were. We had religious relics in the church and they were able to get them out. They were tremendous. They kept talking to us and telling us what was going on. They were able to stop it. It’s going to need a new roof, but we didn’t have to tear down the walls”.

In the aftermath of the fire, the parishioners held services outside the church right away, but didn’t get a full understanding of the damage occurring in the fire until recently. After visiting the church to see the damage himself, Metropolitan Antony Scharba, the First Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, told Fr Anthony that he should take his congregation inside the fire damaged church. Fr Anthony told us, “He said, ‘You have to bring the people to see this’. So, the parish held a prayer service inside their church about a month ago, and it was a powerful experience for the congregation”. The parishioners of St Michael Ukrainian Orthodox Church continue to work toward the day they’ll once again hold services inside their church and Fr Anthony said that the ceremony honouring city firefighters would be another step along that road.

In an effort to help repair the church, a benefit concert will occur on Sunday, 19 May, at the Blackstone River Theatre (click here for directions) on 549 Broad Street in Cumberland RI at 19.00 EDT. The concert will feature Ukrainian musician Julian Kytasty (click here for a vid). Admission is 20 USD (630 Roubles. 15.60 Euros. 13.20 UK Pounds) for adults, 15 USD (423 Roubles. 11.70 Euros. 9.90 UK Pounds) for seniors and 10 USD (315 Roubles. 7.80 Euros. 6.60 UK Pounds) for children under 12. For more information, call (401) 725-9272.

18 May 2013

Joseph Nadeau

The Call (Woonsocket RI) 


Editor’s Note:

These guys ain’t fly-by-night Johnnie-come-Lately newbies… they’re the real deal; hey, send ‘em a fin or two, if you can. They’re on the up-and-square. This is a typical Orthodox parish founded by hard-working immigrants, sustained by their faithful kids. It’s what Orthodoxy in the American diaspora is all about… give ‘em a hand… they need it.



Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Accidental Blaze Damages St Michael Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Woonsocket RI


When Tina Perkins answered the pounding on the rectory door, the pastor’s wife from St Michael Ukrainian Orthodox Church couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Flames had broken through the roof of the iconic granite church located at 74 Harris Avenue, just 20 yards or so from the side door of the rectory. She said, “The fire-fighters were banging on the door, telling us to get the kids out of the house. The back of the church was engulfed in flames. It got up into the roof and was coming through the rafters”. Fire-fighters were summoned to the blaze just after 04.30 EST Wednesday by a 911 call, which Perkins surmises must have been placed by a neighbour. She told us that the church has a fire alarm, but it’s not hard-wired to the Woonsocket Fire Department. She said, “We didn’t hear it”. As the faint glow of dawn broke, the flames had been extinguished and smoke could be seen wafting from two charred gashes in the slate roof of the 70-year-old church. No one was injured.

However, the damage was done, and Woonsocket Fire Captain Michael Morin, Assistant State Deputy Fire Marshal, said that it was extensive. He said the fire heavily damaged the rear interior of the church, a floor had given way, and fire-fighters were worried that the main crossbeam that supports the peaked roof of the structure had also been compromised. The finished basement, used for church functions, was also flooded. It took just a few hours for investigators to determine that the cause of the fire was accidental. The State Fire Marshal blamed the fire on leftover coal and ashes from an incense burner placed in a plastic bucket. The ashes had apparently been left in the church the previous evening, following a service in honour of church’s patron saint.

In an eerie coincidence, the fire happened on the very day the Ukrainian Orthodox church celebrates the Feast of St Michael… 21 November. as he stood in the morning chill outside the church, Fr Anthony Perkins, the pastor, said, “People are going to be heartbroken. They had a lot of love for this building, a lot of memories, a lot of history”. He also said that the sons and daughters of Ukrainian immigrants who arrived in Woonsocket just after the turn of the 20th century built the church in 1942. Today, the church has over 100 member families; it’s actually growing, drawing newcomers from outside the traditional ethnic base.

St Michael Ukrainian Orthodox Church is one of the most striking and majestic church edifices in the city. Its twin granite towers topped with golden onion domes typical of Eastern European religious design easily distinguish the landmark structure. Although the interior framework of the building is wood, and the rafters, as Tina Perkins put it, are “like kindling”, the exterior of the building is of sturdy granite block. The roof is black slate. Look closely and you’ll notice the slate shingles on one side of the roof aren’t the same size as those on the other. That’s because the church was built during a period of World War II materials shortages and construction crews… church members themselves… used whatever they could scrape together.

Fr Anthony vowed, “We’ll rebuild. It’s a very strong community”. Until then, he said that services would be relocated to the rectory building where he and his wife reside with their four children. He said that it has a hall inside that’s big enough to hold services. As Fr Anthony spoke to a reporter, the porch of the Victorian rectory had been temporarily converted into a repository for some of the church’s most symbolic assets… an ornate, hand-carved lectern bearing a portrait of St Michael, the metal baptismal font, a candle urn, an altar tabernacle, and many other items. Fr Anthony credited fire-fighters with saving the treasured artefacts, saying, “As soon as they could get into the church they started bringing stuff out that they knew was important to us. The fire was still burning and they were going into the building to bring things out”.

Fr Anthony said that he was grateful that no one was injured in the fire and that, despite the horrific damage to the structure, it’s salvageable, thanks to the efforts of fire-fighters. As crews were winding down operations, one fire-fighter spontaneously acknowledged the success of the operation, saying churches, by nature, are notoriously vulnerable once a fire gets started inside them. In their very design, churches are open, airy chasms where fires quickly spread. He said, “You know how many churches are saved in fires? Not many”.

21 November 2012

Russ Olivo

The (Woonsocket RI) Call


Editor’s Note:

Whatever you may think of Ukie nationalist nutters, these guys need an old-school po-nashemu hand. Send ‘em a fin or two, if you can. Here’s some contact info:




(401) 762 3939

Snail Mail:

St Michael Ukrainian Orthodox Church

74 Harris Ave

Woonsocket RI


Give ‘em a hand… that’s what baba and dede would’ve done… you should do it, too! Hey, they might even give ya some pierogies and pivo… ya never know. Remember, it’s a Christian’s duty to give what they can at times like this.



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