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A testament to Ukrainian homesteaders: Benefit to help preserve Belfield church

Marie Makaruk, a retired teacher living in Dickinson, remembers looking forward to Easter sunrise services in the Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

“Going to church, it was dark yet,” she said. “My dad didn’t have a car and we went with horses. I remember coming to church, the beauty of watching the dawn, the quiet of the morning and the bells in the distance. It was beautiful.”

It’s because of memories like these that the Ukrainian Cultural Institute wishes to preserve the church now located at 403 Third St. NE, Belfield. It is no longer an active congregation.

Pyrohy luncheon

The UCI Preservation Committee is sponsoring a pyrohy luncheon as a fundraiser from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, April 25. The menu includes cheese, potato and sauerkraut pyrohy, sausage, veggies, Easter bread and spring desserts. Everyone is welcome.

“The first need is to build a handicap ramp as the people are aging,” Makaruk said. “Many want to look at the church but can’t get up the old-fashioned high steps.”

The goal is to have the ramp completed by the 2014 Ukrainian Cultural Institute in July, when the Divine Liturgy will be celebrated in the church.

Church origins

Makaruk wrote of the church’s origins: When Ukrainian immigrants began arriving in the late 1800s and 1900s, they established homesteads in Billings County. However, they had a desire to establish a place of worship.

The idea of building a church was daunting since funds were nearly nonexistent. Early church records show the collections were nickels, dimes, quarters and an occasional dollar. Homesteader Simeon Gulka was the architect and fellow homesteaders donated labor to build the church in 1917 at Ukraina.

Ukraina was located 11 miles north of Belfield and 4½ miles east. Over time, retiring farmers began to move into Belfield. The church was moved into town in 1951.

The church stands as a testament to the way Ukrainian churches appeared a century ago and how the members worshipped.

“Ukrainian churches, even today in Ukraine, people stand,” she said. “There are benches along the side for the senior citizens. The reason was because in Biblical times, you stood.”

She also remembers the length of services.

“In fact, one time I said we’re the only church to have intermissions,” she joked.

For the past 10 years, the church sponsors the religious aspect of the Ukrainian Cultural Festival. Clergy from Canada, Chicago or New Jersey arrive prior to the festival opening for the first service to pray for deceased members. They celebrate the Panakhyda (memorial services) at the cemeteries in Ukraina and Killdeer. On festival day, the Divine Liturgy begins at 9 a.m. The priest intones the Eastern Rite in English and Ukrainian, praying for the homesteaders.

Church board

A board is elected to preserve the church. Officers are: Marie Makaruk, president; David Logosz, vice president; Ruth Radebaugh, secretary and Sam Pasicznyk, treasurer. Directors are Mary Solberg, Don Makaruk and John Ktytor.

Preservation committee members are Larry Evoniuk, David Logosz, Agnes Palanuk, Bill Palanuk and Sam Pasiczynk.

“The reason I’m on the board is my parents were members of the church,” Pasiczynk said. “I’m trying to keep things going as long as we can in honor of our ancestors. We started preserving the church in 2005. It takes a very dedicated effort by the board.”

In addition to a handicap ramp, the preservation list of repairs includes window covers and rain gutters.

“Our aim is to remember our homesteaders and ancestors for their hard work — we have a sentimental connection,” Makaruk said.

Makaruk is fully supportive of the work of the preservation committee.

“It’s in memory of the homesteaders — they deserve it. They should not be forgotten for all their work,” she said.