The fate of a monastery, later a secret police torture chamber and bus factory

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Tvoemisto.tv visited the abandoned Monastery and Church, built in 1938 in Persenkivka and belonging first to the Order of the Barefoot Carmelites. Later, it became a secret police torture chamber, then the Lviv Bus Plant was constructed on this territory, and the sacred buildings were converted into dormitories and utility room.. We learned about the current condition of the buildings and whether it’s possible to preserve them.

In Lviv, on the bus plant’s territory, the ancient church and the Monastery of the Order of the Barefoot Carmelites are falling into disrepair. The cult buildings didn’t function long. Opened in 1938, in less than 10 years, they were turned into a warehouse, a club, and later abandoned altogether, after the bus plant was closed.

It’s not easy to get there now, the monastery stands in abandoned slums on private territory. No one takes care of it, although the building has the status of a monument of national importance. No one would even mention the monastery if the bank hadn’t put up a part of the bus plant’s debt for auction in June, where among other buildings, the monastery premises were included.

Prior to that, there were efforts to save the Carmelite monastery and church in Lviv in 2019. At that time, human rights activist Bohdan Rabeshko registered a petition for the preservation of religious buildings, which, incidentally, were damaged in a fire the same year. It completely destroyed the library and the ceiling.

The City council then assured the public that it had negotiated with the plant’s authorized owner and was planning to rent the monastery buildings for 1 hryvnia during a period of 3 years. However, the monastery and the church are still a remnant in the abandoned territory of the plant.

Mysteries of abandoned monastery

The monastery was built in 1938. At the end of World War II, when the Soviet army entered Lviv, the decline of this shrine began. The monks left Lviv, and the monastery building was occupied by NKVD units, which started bloody repressions in the basements of the former cells. Some historians believe that thousands of people were murdered here, and then probably buried on the monastery’s territory, says Bohdan Rabeshko.

«It’s an architectural monument. It’s condition is deplorable, no one has repaired it during this whole period of time. The effects of bombing during World War II are still noticeable on the top, bomb fragments remain there. Here, on the facade, a statue of the Mother of God of the Scapular used to stay. It was removed and buried nearby during Soviet rule. Eyewitnesses say that the snow is constantly melting in the place where she was buried», – he said.

Bohdan Rabeshko says that in Soviet times, the church of the Barefoot Carmelites was the assembly hall of Lviv bus blant, and the cells served as a dormitory for workers. The authentic stained glass windows were removed at that time, and windows with the factory’s symbols were installed instead. The church premises were divided into two floors, toilets and some technical rooms were completed.

«Production facilities were here too. Soviet authorities completed toilets and utility rooms in the church. The church was divided into two floors, and an assembly hall was built on top», – he says.

The main thing is to preserve this monument, he claims, because the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine has officially recognized the object as a monument, so it undertakes certain obligations to repair and restore it.

«It’s an architectural monument. The new owner, after he acquires the right of ownership, will be obliged to obtain permission from the Ministry of Culture to alienate the monument. There is also a protection zone around it, where it’s not allowed to build anything, except with the consent of the ministry. When I started collecting signatures to save the monastery, a mysterious fire broke out a few months later. I think it was arson – the first arson of an architectural monument in Lviv. Maybe for someone, this church is like a bone in the throat, it’s a sacred building, and here, maybe, some construction would take place», – Bohdan Rabeshko added.

Already protected from dismantling, reconstruction?

The head of the Department of Historic Environment Protection Lilia Onyschenko told Tvoemisto.tv that the monastery and the church are privately owned and no religious community takes care of it. Still, the object is valuable to the city.

«The monastery and the church are privately owned. We prepared documentation and put it in the state register of monuments to protect [the building] from dismantling and reconstruction. We would be happy to undertake the restoration if we had the funds and if this was the property of the city or some religious community», – says Lilia Onyschenko.

Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic communities are ready to take care of the monastery and church, says Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovy. In a comment to Tvoemisto.tv, he explained that Lviv cannot put in order the sacred buildings on the territory of the former Lviv bus plant, because they are pledged to the bank as technical premises of the bankrupt plant.

«The land is owned by the community, but we don’t possess the buildings. Lviv bus plant generated up to a billion hryvnias of debt, they are in various banks. The premises of the monastery and the church are pledged to the bank, it does not want to give it away, we can’t even buy it back, because there is a loan agreement.

«This is a sacred building, but they hold it as a production shop. This can only be arranged when a new owner appears and we would be able to negotiate with him. After all, land is the property of the community, this is our argument. Now, the process of selling the Lviv bus plant’s debts has begun. We keep this issue in focus, and if we press, this room will perform its [proper] function. Roman Catholics say that if these buildings are handed over to them, they are ready to restore the temple. Greek Catholics are ready to rent it», – the mayor said.

On July 5, in Lviv, selling part of the bus plant’s debt on the auction was ended. It was put up for sale in June by the state-owned bank «Ukreximbank». This is only a small part of the premises that are pledged. Among the six participants of the auction, the largest amount – UAH 170,010,000.00 – was offered by Capital Finance LLC.

The mayor stressed that the purpose of the land is production, and it won’t be changed. According to the platform Youcontrol, «Capital Finance» LLC is registered in Kyiv. The ultimate beneficiary is Lviv resident Maksym Chukhen from Rudny. He is also a co-owner of «Sparrow Industries» LLC, which will build the Signivka industrial zone in Lviv. The head of the company is Dmytro Larionov.

Let us add that Lviv bus plant supplied buses for the cities of Ukraine that hosted the Euro-2012 football tournament. «Lviv Bus Plants» LLC was bought by Russian businessman Igor Churkin. In 2013, the plant’s equipment started to be exported to the Dnipro bus plant (Kamyanske), and the production of trolleybuses and tourist buses was to be left in Lviv.

The building is located on Stryjska, 45 street

Viktoria Savitska

Translated by Vitalii Holich

Photo and video by Daria Kucher

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