About the Shrine of Our Lady of Boronyavo
"It is truly proper to glorify You, O Theotokos..."
Boronyavo is a small village in the southeastern part of Trans-Carpathia, not far from the junction of the Hungarian and Romanian borders with Ukraine, close to Khust. It is in a mountainous area known as the Hutsul Region or Hutsylchyna, a district of rugged mountaineers with a distinct culture and dialect. The small church was surrounded by fields in a valley of the Carpathian Mountains, and was defended against Communist destruction by devout Greek Catholic faithful of the area.
The church and monastery date back for centuries, and a small community of monks has lived here since the 1400s at least. After the Union of Uzhhorod in 1646, whereby the local Orthodox Church entered into union with the Catholic Church, the monks came under the Congregation of Saint Basil the Great. The Austrian Emperor Joseph II saw no need for small, contemplative communities in his empire, and the monks of Boronyavo were forcibly dispersed by imperial decree in 1771. However they kept their vows, lived in caves, and were later able to reestablish their monastery.
The icon is based on a vision of Our Lady that one of the monks had. It was enshrined in the chapel. During the closure, the shrine was protected through the intervention of townspeople who loved the monks. Immediately after the icon was put in the church, God began to work miracles, including the dramatic conversion of an atheist and many healings. Huge pilgrimages began to the shrine, particularly on the feast of the Annunciation (March 25), Saint Elias (July 20), and the Dormition/ Assumption of the Virgin (August 15), which is the largest of all the pilgrimages. The Holy See granted plenary indulgences to all those who participated in these events.
After Czechoslovakia’s forced cession of the entire province to the USSR in 1945, the native Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church was bitterly persecuted by the Soviets. The monastery was closed, the monks arrested, and plans set to destroy the entire site. But the icon of Our Lady was taken away to the city of Khust and hidden in an apartment there, and the local peasants regularly defended the buildings against destruction, even when bulldozers were brought in. Many people were arrested, but the church was never given over to Orthodox use, and it survived Soviet rule. Barbed wire was wrapped around the site of the shrine, and people would tie rags as a sign of their prayers onto the wire in defiance of the guards. It was used as a granary, but the church interior was not wrecked.
In 1991, after three years work of restoration, the church was re-dedicated. Bishop Ivan Semedi of the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo stepped aside at the altar to allow the former superior, arrested in 1946 and sent to the Arctic prisons, to come forward and offer the first public Divine Liturgy. The icon was enthroned above the Royal Doors of the iconostas in 1992, back where it belonged at last.
Basilian monks from Galicia were brought in by Bishop Semedi, and they ultimately replaced the humble church with a Ukrainian Baroque church that now serves as the shrine. The icon travels around Transcarpathia to visit parishes so that people have the chance to honor the Mother of God and ask her Divine Son's blessings through her prayers.