PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Ukrainians, persecuted for their traditions, their language and their faith at the turn of the last century, fled their homeland for the mills and mines of the Mon Valley.
“They made their children learn English and the customs here,” says Father Greg Madeya.
Many found their final rest in “St. John The Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Cemetery” in North Versailles township. But Father Madeya says, the peace in the normally carefully tended place has been disturbed.
Between July 6 and 8, more than a dozen headstones were upended — a child’s grave among them.
“This is probably one of the earliest graves here,” says Father Madeya of the child who died during the great influenza epidemic.
The vandals left trash behind and veterans’ markers tossed.
The congregation of “St. John The Baptist Ukranian Church” in McKeesport, which owns the cemetery, is deeply upset.
“They take good care of their cemetery and they were just very hurt that somebody would come and vandalize and desecrate a place like that,” Madeya said.
Repairing the estimated nearly $3,000 in damages won’t be easy for this parish.
“The people here work very hard,” Madeya said. “It’s not a very big parish and the Sunday collection barely makes the bills.”
Special collections will be taken at Mass this coming Saturday and Sunday.
“Some kind people from the area have already called us from the neighborhood and from the area and sent us a few dollars,” Madeya said.
Police are now patrolling cemeteries in the area.
“We are a church,” says Father Madeya. “We’re forgiving. We hope that whoever did this learns a lesson from this.”
Parishioners, and others, who’ve heard about the vandalism here are also raising a reward. If you know anything contact Father Greg or the North Versailles Township Police.