The Podolskaya Conference is a constituent part of Ukrainian Union Conference (UUC). Its rich history reflects the overall development of Adventism in the territory of Ukraine.
Territory: The Podolskaya Conference (PC) of the Ukrainian Union of Seventh-day Adventists is located in the central part of Ukraine (Podolia). It comprises the Vinnitsa Region (area: 26,513 km²: population: 1,575,997),1 Khmelnitskiy Region (area: 20,629 km²; population:1,275,333)2 and Zhytomir Region (area: 29,827 km²; population: 1,232,183).3 It was officially organized on September 29, 1981.
Podolia is a historical and geographical region (Podolsk Upland) that lies above the northern tributaries of the middle Dniester and the upper reaches of the Southern Bug. The main cities are Kamenets-Podolskiy, Khmelnitskiy (formerly Proskurov), and Vinnitsa. Sometimes the city of Ternopol, which was historically located in Galicia, is also included in Podolia.
Statistics (June 30, 2019): Churches, 109; companies, 50; membership, 5,392; population, 4,127,846. The general population per member ratio is 766.4
Address: Keletska Street, 50-A; 21021 Vinnitsa; Ukraine.
Administration: President, Alexander A. Zaytsev; secretary, Vitaliy V. Sych; treasurer, Vitaliy G. Shopskiy.
Origin of Adventist Work in the Territory of Podolskaya Conference
The rise of spiritual Christianity in Ukraine is primarily due to persecutions of Old Believers and sectarians in other parts of the Russian Empire. In the southern Black Sea lands, which from 1702-1737 were the official place of expulsion of dissidents and rebels, peasant believers found not only salvation but also favorable conditions for life and religious practice.5
In the nineteenth century, the Christian religious movement in the lands of contemporary Ukraine was named Stundism (a word derived from the German “Stunde” - an hour for reading and interpreting the Bible).6 In Podolia, the first Stundist communities appeared in 1870 in the Baltskiy District.
The presence of “sectarians” in Podolia was first mentioned in the years after the First Russian Revolution of 1905. According to archival data, in 1909 there were some 1,000 “sectarians” in the Podolskaya Governorate. Unlike, for example, the neighboring Volyn’ Governorate, where the majority of “sectarians” were Germans, the believers of the Podolia Governorate belonged almost exclusively to the “indigenous Little Russians.”
Adventist communities had a wide distribution across the Podolia Governorate. In 1910 there were 255 Adventists there, and the next year their number increased to 326.7 During the First World War, the position of the Adventist Church changed for the worse. It was the beginning of a difficult decade, and freedom of religion was significantly limited.8
Adventists of Podolia suffered the same fate as church members in most Ukrainian provinces. Harassment and persecution reduced their numbers.
According to the Governor of Podolia, in May 1912 Adventists were present in the Balta, Bratslav, Vinnitsa, Gaisi, Letichev, Litin, Olgopol and Yampol Districts.
The list of Adventists in 1915 gives clear information about the Adventist communities that were located in three settlements of the Vinnitsa District. The first one, probably, was in the city of Vinnitsa. It numbered 18 adult members (50 together with children) and was headed by Gavriil Krivulko (aged 31). The second community (about 60 members) functioned in the town of Voroshilovka and was led by Isaak Chernyy (aged 40). The third community (its location was not indicated) had 7 members.
Unfortunately, no information is available on the number of Adventists in the Podolia Governorate before the collapse of the Russian Empire. However, it is reliably known that they continued functioning in this region in 1917 in light of the fact that the Kamenets-Podolskaya Governorate (together with the Kherson Governorate and Bessarabia) was included in 1918 in the Black Sea Union of Seventh-day Adventists of Ukraine.9
Adventist Activity in the Territory of Podolskaya Conference
The first Adventists appeared in the village of Sutiski and the town of Voroshilovka in 1900. Then, thanks to an evangelistic program conducted in 1909 by pastors G.A. Rauss and I. Perk, the gospel message reached the village of Uladovka. That same year there were seven Adventists in that village.10
In 1910, in the village of Rakhny Lisovi, Yampol District, an Adventist community was organized after a campaign conducted by visiting preacher Z. Prowolowsky. A year later, I. Pilkevich arrived from Yelisavetgrad to the villages of Grigorievka, Bolshaya Aleksandrovka, and Malaya Aleksandrovka. In a short time he formed a group of like-minded people, including M. Ruglyak, P. Tsekhmister, P. Palash, F. Taraduda, Z. Taraduda, and others. Also, according to the report submitted in 1912 by the Olgopol District authorities to the Governor of Podolia, Adventists emerged in the villages of Kontseba and Baibuzovka, Balta District. The report mentioned, in particular, four Stundists who called themselves “evangelical Protestants observing Sabbath instead of Sunday.”
That same year, another Adventist community was organized in the village of Ovsyaniki. An old beggar sang a song in all the houses where people gave alms to him, catching the interest of E. Nastichuk, F. Taranyuk, K. Andreychuk, and L. Grushchuk. Soon the group of believers numbered 18-20 people. This group of Christians was not yet familiar with the Adventist message until one of its members, F. Kochubeynik, was imprisoned in 1914 when the First World War broke out. In prison he met Adventists. The first to accept the Adventist teaching were F. Kochubeynik, K. Baydachnyy, I. Pastushenko, K. Porkhun, and L. Grushchuk. As early as 1930 an Adventist church of 66 members was organized in Ovsyanniki.11
In 1916, Pastors A.M. Grits and Sviridov brought the Adventist message to the village of Makharintsy, Kazatin District. The first to respond were the Berezhnyuk family, whose descendants are currently Adventists residing in the town of Kazatin (A. Lysak, A. Malishevskiy, N. Berezhnyuk), and the family of T. Maystruk. From Makharintsy the Adventist message reached the town of Kazatin, where from after 1926 a group of believers gathered in a rented apartment occupied at that time by Pastor Kalmutskiy and his mother. This group was also visited by Pastor V. G. Gadyukin, who lived in the town of Berdichev. Subsequently M. Velichko, M. Tsiokh, L. Polishchuk, P. Polishchuk, M. Polishchuk, and others (all told, about seven people) from village of Vernigorodok joined this group. In 1932 Pastor V.D. Yakovenko was sent to serve in Kazatin.
Around 1965 Viktor Grushko, together with his family, came to Kazatin, then served by Pastor V. D. Gumenyuk. Grushko purchased a little house with an adjacent land parcel of 2,500 square meters. Pastor Gumenyuk hired a construction brigade to build a prayer house at that parcel. The prayer house, located at 10, Kotsyubinskogo Street, was built with funds donated by church members and personally by Viktor Grushko’s family.12
Pastors responsible for Vinnitsa Region: I. G. Gorelik, 1918-1920; G. A. Rauss, 1923-May 1925; S. I. Tkachenko, October 1925–1931; G. I. Gadyukin, 1931-1935; A. T. Grinenko, 1935-1937; V. D. Yakovenko, 1941-1946; S. P. Kulyzhskiy, 1946-1954; D. K. Kolbach, 1954-1955; A. D. Vasyukov. V. A. Komarov, 1955; V. S. Neykurs, 1966–1980.13
There is only scarce information on the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Zhytomir Region before 1900. It is only known that an Adventist company existed there by that time. The first preachers who lived and ministered in that area were Kirsch and R. Foss.14 No information is available of Adventist activity from 1902 to 1925.
On September 23-26, 1925, the first session of the Volyn’ Conference was held in Zhytomir. It was attended by 50 delegates from 12 churches and 13 companies, with a total of 476 members. By that time, an Adventist church in Zhytomir had been already organized. In 1937 and 1938 some of the members left and some were arrested, and the church in Zhytomyr fell apart.
The church in the village of Singury was officially registered in 1946. Members from many villages and from the city of Zhytomir gathered there until 1980. On May 10, 1980, the church moved to Zhytomir. Some years after, a plot of land was purchased and a prayer house was constructed. At that time the Zhytomir church already numbered over 80 members. In 1992, the first evangelistic campaign in Zhytomir was conducted by the American preacher E. Beck. As a result, more than 200 people were baptized, and the second church was organized in Zhytomir (pastored by V.V. Alekseenko, V. Logvinenko, etc.). In June 1998, a third church in Zhytomir, with over 120 members, was organized after an evangelistic campaign by V. Gil (pastored by A. Osadchuk, and M. Vilchinskiy). The organization of the fourth church (pastored by M.S. Kumchak, O.V. Kharlamov, Yu. Kryzhanovskiy, and Yu. Pelipenko) in Zhytomir was favored by two evangelistic programs, one conducted by O. Murga in 2005 (70 baptisms), and another by A. Antonyuk in 2007 (51 baptisms).15
The Adventist message reached Proskurov (now Khmelnitskiy) in 1923. Before the war, according to information provided by elderly church members, there were more than 100 Adventists in that city. The first Adventist church in Proskurov was founded thanks to the efforts of a German preacher, G. A. Rauss. In 1923 Adventist congregations were also organized in the villages of Nemichentsy, Dobrogorshcha, and Oleshin. Some years after, that territory was served by Pastor A.F. Grinenko, who fell victim to Stalin’s terror. In the 1930s the Khmelnitskiy Region was served by Pastor Kalmutskiy, who also disappeared into the camps. After World War II, Pastor K. Kolyadenko served in the Khmelnitskiy Region. In the 1950s he was succeeded by Pastors Fishchuk, V. Kaplun, Sorokin, P. Vlasik, and M.S. Yakobchuk (the latter purchased a plot of land for the construction of the prayer house for the first Khmelnitskiy church at 44 Pilotskaya Street).
In the 1980s Pastor V. P. Krushenitskiy came from Donetsk to serve in the Khmelnitskiy Region. In 1989 he was succeeded by Pastor I. L. Svirida.
From August 7 to September 17, 1992, an American preacher, E. Skorets, conducted an evangelistic program with the result that 118 people received baptism straight away, and another 36 after a week. This triggered the formation of the second church in Khmelnitskiy, with I. M. Skachkov as its first pastor. In July 1994 a plot of land was bought for the construction of the prayer house at 6b Svobody Street. The pastors who served in the second church were I. P. Borakovskiy (May 16, 1997), V.M. Ravlyuk (July 1998), V.V. Katyushko (December 2001), Yu.V. Vataman (August 2003), A.A. Zaitsev (August 2009), and D.P. Porkhun (July 2013).
The history of the third church in Khmelnitskiy began on July 17, 1994. This church was organized thanks to the evangelistic program conducted by preachers W. Snow and B. Kerry, which resulted in 140 baptisms. I. D. Larion was the first pastor of the third church. In later years he was succeeded by V. V. Datsko, V. D. Kostyuk, and V. S. Onufriychik. On June 11, 2001, church members purchased a plot of land at 43 M. Raskova Street to construct a prayer house.16 The churches in the city of Khmelnitskiy are actively involved in diverse outreach ministries.
Organizational History of Podolskaya Conference
The Podolskaya Conference was officially organized in September 1981. The Vinnitsa Region, the heart of Podolia, proved to be most receptive to the Adventist message and gave the church such well-known figures as V. D. Yakovenko, A. Grinenko, S. P. Kulyzhskiy, V. I. Prolinskiy, N. G. Trusyuk, and others. Here at different times quite a number of equally well-known preachers served: V. Yakovenko, D. Kolbach, V. Komarov, A. Vasyukov, N. Zhukalyuk, I. Bondar’, V. P. Krushenitskiy, and others. Pastor V. S. Neikurs also started his spiritual service in Podolia, serving as a district pastor from 1966 to 1981.
Podolskaya Conference Constituency Meetings
The first constituency meeting of the Podolskaya Conference was held September 29, 1981. V. I. Prolinskiy was appointed a senior preacher of the Adventist Church for the Vinnitsa, Zhytomir, and Khmelnitskiy Regions. The Church in Podolia remained united without experiencing separation.
The second constituency meeting of the Podolskaya Conference was held in early 1988. The delegates elected the PC officers: V. P. Krushenitskiy (chair), I. P. Chernychko (secretary), and F. V. Kovtyuk (treasurer). The conference united 39 organized churches with 2,310 members, 10 ordained pastors, and 22 Bible workers.
The third constituency meeting of the Podolskaya Conference took place in the prayer house of the First Vinnitsa church March 13 to 16, 1991. A total of 105 delegates, representing 49 churches with 2,651 members, attended the meeting. Delegates voted to accept 10 new churches, adopted the conference constitution, and elected new conference officers: G.G. Galan (president), and V.V. Alekseenko (secretary-treasurer).
The fourth constituency meeting of the Podolskaya Conference also took place in the prayer house of the First Vinnitsa church, March 9 to 11, 1993. As of January 1, 1993, the number of church members reached 4,013, 61 percent more than in 1991, served by seven ordained pastors and 25 Bible workers. The number of organized churches reached 58. The delegates elected Zh. D. Stangelini as president, V. V. Alekseenko as secretary, and N. M. Nikolaenko as treasurer (later replaced by F. V. Kovtyuk) of the Podolskaya Conference for the next three-year term of office. Board members elected were A. M. Gorokhovskiy, V. N. Kotyrlo, V. I. Krasnyanskiy, I. D. Larion, V. V. Moskvichev, R. A. Tupchienko, and S. G. Khomenko.17
As of March 1, 1994, during a three-year period 1,953 persons had joined the church through baptism or profession of faith. Numerous evangelistic programs were conducted, and conference membership reached about 5,000. Such rapid growth impelled the conference to recruit new ministers. In all three regions, the largest number of prayer houses were under construction between 1993 and 1996. The Khmelnitskiy Region accounted for the greater part of all prayer houses.18
The fifth constituency meeting of the Podolskaya Conference was held in March 1996. Delegates elected Zh. D. Stangelini president, I. D. Serna secretary, and I. D. Larion as treasurer.
From 1997 to 1999, through the efforts of local pastors, elders, and lay members, 186 “It Is Written” courses, as well as various outreach and literature evangelism activities, were conducted, resulting in the baptism of 1,488 new members.19
The sixth constituency meeting of the Podolskaya Conference took place January 19 to 22, 2000. In early 2000 the Podolskaya Conference had 125 churches with 6,323 members and 66 pastors. The delegates elected I. D. Serna interim president and secretary, and A. V. Protsyuk treasurer.
The seventh constituency meeting of the Podolskaya Conference was held from April 16 to 19, 2003. Delegates elected V. V. Katyushko as president, I. D. Serna as secretary, and L. I. Masyuk as treasurer for the 2003-2007 period.
As of April 2003, there were 99 churches and 42 companies with 6,817 members in the Podolskaya Conference. On April 17, 2003, a new conference constitution was approved.20
Aiming to enhance the quality of Adventist ministry, the conference purchased, built, or finished constructing a number of prayer houses, as well as built and purchased church-owned apartments.
Over the next four years dozens of large and small evangelistic programs were conducted in the Podolskaya Conference. Conference officers and board members held 53 meetings of the executive committee and paid hundreds of visits to local churches to help members in solving problems. The conference administrative office was opened, and the local media studio of Nadezhda TV Channel started to produce a new children's program, “Visit to a Goody-Goody.”21
The eighth constituency meeting of the Podolskaya Conference was held April 17 to 18, 2007. As of April 2007, there were 119 churches and 34 companies, with 6,952 members. Delegates elected A. I. Begas president, O. M. Rybochuk secretary, and M. S. Vilchinskiy treasurer.
The ninth constituency meeting of the Podolskaya Conference was held April 26 to 27, 2011. As of April 2011, the conference had 122 churches and 43 companies, with 7,034 members. Delegates elected M. S. Vilchinskiy president, M.S. Kumchak secretary, and V. Ya. Sugonyako treasurer. The Podolia-Dneprovsky Media Center (a branch of Nadezhda TV Channel) was established and headed by Zh. Zh. Stangelini. A new ADRA Department was organized and headed by Zh. D. Stangelini.
Thanks to the ministry of volunteer missionaries, pastors and lay members, many social programs, including “Stop Smoking Forever,” “Food without Harm,” “Walking Easily,” “Preserving and Renewing Sight,” “Nordic Walking,” “Victory over Hypertension,” “Diabetes is Not a Verdict,” “Effective Stress Management,” “Happy at Our Homes,” “Parking,” and the project “Vinnitsa, A City of Hope,” were implemented. A total of 13 recreation camps were organized in the town of Shepetovka, Khmelnitskiy Region. On September 1, 2012, due to the efforts of church members, the employees of the PC Education Department, and active parents, the Source of Wisdom Teaching and Educational Complex was opened. This school has grades from 1 to 7, two kindergarten groups, and four instrument music classes.22
The tenth constituency meeting of the Podolskaya Conference was held April 27 to 28, 2015. As of April 2015, there were 109 churches and 50 companies with 6,070 members in the Podolskaya Conference. The delegates elected M. S. Vilchinskiy president, A. A. Zaitsev secretary, and V. Ya. Sugonyako treasurer.23
During the post-communism years, due to mass evangelistic programs, the Podolskaya Conference grew at a swift rate. However, as early as 2000s, evangelistic programs receded into the background due to a lack of public interest. In the years following, the Podolskaya Conference has implemented an evangelism strategy based on social programs. To that end other church departments have been organized. Due to the freedom of religion in Ukraine, the new focuses in missionary work allow the church to reach human hearts more effectively.
List of Presidents
V. I. Prolinskiy, 1981-1988; V. P. Krushenitskiy, 1988-1991; G. G. Galan, 1991-1993; Zh. D. Stangelini, 1993-2000; I. D. Serna, 2000-2003; V. V. Katyushko, 2003-2007; A. I. Begas, 2007-2011; M. S. Vilchinskiy, 2011-2018; A. A. Zaytsev, 2018-Present.
Kuleba, V.I., and S. V. Kostyuk. Istoria razvitiya protestantizma na Ukraine i dvukh obshchin Vinnitskoy oblasti (Ovsyanniki i Kazatin).
Livanov, F. Molokane i dukhobortsy v Ukraine i Novorossii (ХVIII vek). 1868.
Parasey, A.F., and N. A. Zhukalyuk. Bednaya, brosaemaya bureyu. Kiev: Dzherelo Zhyttia, 1997.
Podolskaya Conference Committee, Proceedings of the Constituency Meetings of the Podolskaya Conference. Ukrainian Union Conference archives, Kyiv, Ukraine.
Head Office of Statistics of the Vinnitsa Region, accessed January 7, 2020. http://www.vn.ukrstat.gov.ua/index.php/statistical-information/-2017-/4842-2010-11-26-08-09-32.html.↩
Head Office of Statistics of the Khmelnitskiy Region, accessed January 7, 2020, http://www.km.ukrstat.gov.ua/ukr/statinf/dem/kn/kn1117.htm.↩
Podolskaya Conference Year-End Meeting, 2017. Available in the conference archives, accessed January 14, 2020.↩
F. Livanov, Molokane i dukhobortsy v Ukraine i Novorossii (ХVIII vek) (1868).↩
V.I. Kuleba, and S.V. Kostyuk, Istoria razvitiya protestantizma na Ukraine i dvukh obshchin Vinnitskoy oblasti (Ovsyanniki i Kazatin), 2-3↩
A. F. Parasey, and N.A. Zhukalyuk, Bednaya, brosaemaya bureyu (Kiev: Dzherelo Zhyttia, 1997), 34.↩
I. Kuleba, and S.V. Kostyuk, Istoria razvitiya protestantizma na Ukraine i dvukh obshchin Vinnitskoy oblasti (Ovsyanniki i Kazatin), 3-5.↩
A. M. Zinyuk (retired pastor), interview by author, January 14, 2020.↩
V. I. Kuleba, and S.V. Kostyuk, Istoria razvitiya protestantizma na Ukraine i dvukh obshchin Vinnitskoy oblasti (Ovsyanniki i Kazatin), 2-7.↩
A. M. Zinyuk (retired pastor), interview by author, January 14, 2020.↩
Golos Istiny, No.2, 1926↩
S. G. Khomenko (retired elder), interview by author. Available in Personal Archives, accessed January 14, 2020.↩
Profile of SDA Churches in City of Khmelnitskiy. https://hmelnitskij.jsprav.ru/religioznyie-uchrezhdeniya/tserkov-adventistov-sedmogo-dnya3844.html.↩
F. Parasey and N. A. Zhukalyuk, Bednaya, brosaemaya bureyu, 276-279.↩
Zh. D. Stangelini (retired pastor), interview by author. Available in Personal Archives, accessed January 14, 2020.↩
Podolskaya Conference Committee, Proceedings of the 5th Constituency Meeting of the Podolskaya Conference, March 1996, Ukrainian Union Conference archives, Kyiv, Ukraine, accessed January 14, 2020.↩
Podolskaya Conference Committee, Proceedings of the 7th Constituency Meeting of the Podolskaya Conference, April 16-19, 2003, Ukrainian Union Conference archives, Kyiv, Ukraine, accessed January 14, 2020.↩
Podolskaya Conference Committee, Proceedings of the 8th Constituency Meeting of the Podolskaya Conference, April 17-18, 2007, Ukrainian Union Conference archives, Kyiv, Ukraine, accessed January 14, 2020.↩
Podolskaya Conference Committee, Proceedings of the 9th Constituency Meeting of the Podolskaya Conference, April 26-27, 2011, Ukrainian Union Conference archives, Kyiv, Ukraine, accessed January 14, 2020.↩
Podolskaya Conference Committee, Proceedings of the 10th Constituency Meeting of the Podolskaya Conference, April 27-28, 2015, available in Ukrainian Union Conference archives, Kyiv, Ukraine, accessed January 14, 2020.↩