Svyatoslav Shevchuk is 49 years old. He might be young, but he has witnessed firsthand Ukraine’s transformation, and knows what persecution and freedom look like.
When he experienced his call to the priesthood in the 1990s, his country was still part of the Soviet Union. Religious practice was strictly prohibited, and seminary studies were secretly kept underground. He saw his fellow Catholic brothers and sisters being persecuted and arrested.
Back then, Shevchuk received donations from abroad that allowed him to cover his life expenses as a seminarian and a Theology student. In 1994, he was ordained a priest.
In 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine became independent. With independence also came religious freedom. Since 2011, Shevchuk is the archbishop of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church. Greco-Catholics might be a minority in Ukraine, but their presence in the country can be traced back to the 10th century.