Members of 2 rural Manitoba churches stunned by vandalism

Pews, iconography, candles — almost every surface inside a pair of rural places of worship — are covered in powder that church leaders believe came from a fire extinguisher.

Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox and St. Elijah Romanian Orthodox churches in Lennard, Man., about 20 kilometres east of the Saskatchewan border near the northern part of Riding Mountain National Park, were hit by vandals with what is suspected to be fire extinguishers. 

A film of white powder covers the red carpeted floor, the furnishings and the religious artwork in the churches.

“I couldn’t believe the whole church was covered,” said Barry Sawchuk, vice-president of St. Elijah. “There isn’t an inch of space that’s not covered.”

Don Kobluk, an elder at Holy Trinity, was shocked to find a similar scene at his church.

He was driving by the church Saturday and noticed the door and a gate were ajar. He went in for a closer look.

Footsteps are seen through a layer of white powder on a red carpet floor in a church that was vandalized. Pews, icons and more were covered.
Barry Sawchuk, president of St. Elijah Romanian Orthodox Church, says he was shocked to find the church vandalized over the weekend. Nearby Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox was left in a similar state. (Submitted by Corey Leclerc)

“I didn’t know what happened…. I was stunned,” Kobluk said. “Everything was white. Our carpet in church is red, but it was white, and I couldn’t figure out what the heck happened here.”

Kobluk said there was an extinguisher in the church and he suspects it was used.

The icons, cabinets and more were left with a layer of dust similar to what Sawchuk found at St. Elijah. 

“I can’t believe a person or persons that could do something like that,” said Kobluk, who has been a member of Holy Trinity for about five decades.

He isn’t sure how they’ll clean up the mess, particularly on the 40-year-old iconography by Vera Senchuk, a noted Winnipeg iconographer who’s since worked on churches across Canada and beyond.

Sawchuk suspects the incident will disrupt planned services at St. Elijah in the coming days.

Church leaders and members stand on the steps of a white and grey church.
St. Elijah Romanian Orthodox is about 20 kilometres east of the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border close to the northern boundary of Riding Mountain National Park. (Submitted by Corey Leclerc)

It is going to take a lot of work to restore the church, he said.

“It’s just bad,” he said. “We don’t have very many members and everyone is getting old and trying to do our best to keep the church going, and something like this happens.”

The vandalism has been reported to RCMP.

More from CBC Manitoba: