Just over a year ago, Father Yarko and his family left Brisbane to work in the Archeparchy of Presov, Slovakia. The archbishop and metropolitan is Jan Babjak SJ. There are 300 priests in the eparchy. Almost every village in North East Slovakia has a Greek Catholic parish. There are two other Greek Catholic bishops in the country – Bishop Milan Chautur C.Ss.R. in Kosice and Bishop Peter Rusnak in Bratoslava.
Father Pasok’s village of Pcoline is about 35 kilometres from the Ukrainian border on the east, just a few kilometres from Poland in the north and about 150 kilometres from Presov. Father Yarko’s parents and Adriana’s mother live there. The people are mostly ethinically “Rusnaks”. There are fewer than 100 such families in Australia. They speak a language which is very close to Ukrainian.
Slovakia is now in the European Union, therefore travel to the rest of europe does not require a passport or visa. There are only about 5 million people in Slovakia. Father Yarko serves in 3 villages – Pcoline, Cukaluce and Kuzmice. The eparchy is on the new calendar. 10 – 15 people come to the daily Divine Liturgy, while the churches are full on Sundays and holidays. Father Yarko is very lucky to have an 85 year old priest – Alexij Ianocko to help him with the parishes. Confessions are very common in the parishes.
It is interesting that the government still keeps a red star monument to communism right in front of the priest’s house, beside the village chapel. There are still many sympathies there of the “good old days” when Slovakia was ruled by Moscow.
There is little in the region to keep the young people there, most have moved to the cities or other countries. There are almost no cows or poultry in the area. I did not see any in my three days there. It’s not like in Ukraine.
The faith is very strong in the area. There are a number of students from the village in the seminary. There are about 70 students in the seminary.
Father Yarko has another job as well. He is an adviser to the Bishop in the area of canon law. He often travels to Presov to serve in the tribunal of the eparchy. He has a licenticate in canon law from Rome.
There is much work to do and life in the church is very full and rewarding. The children go to the local school and are in need of practicing their English, they have totally intergrated into the local culture.