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EWTN’s ‘To Believe’ Shows Enduring Strength of Ukraine Catholics

EWTN’s ‘To Believe’ Shows Enduring Strength of Ukraine Catholics

‘To Believe’ (photo: EWTN)

The new drama debuts this weekend.

Seven Ukrainian priests are taken into the woods to be executed.

Their crime? They refused to renounce their Catholic faith before the brutal Bolsheviks.

So begins the powerful film To Believe.

With the horrendous current events unfolding in Ukraine, EWTN will be broadcasting a new drama called To Believe beginning this Saturday, Feb. 26 (schedule below). The drama, which is so timely, draws viewers intellectually, emotionally and spiritually into the tragic, inhuman sufferings Ukrainian Catholics endured throughout the years of communist occupation.

Based on actual events, To Believe brings to life the stories of real people who persevered in their faith during the ruthless years of atheistic communist suppression. The true story focuses on a Ukrainian priest, Father Sebastian Sabudzinski, and those who were part of his small Catholic parish — particularly a man named Peter and his family —  during the Soviet persecution.

Filmed in Ukraine, the true story is all the more powerful because of its use of the native language (with English subtitles). Yet, when the narrative fast-forwards to 1953, the scenes become so compelling and moving that, for a major portion, no words are needed to, or even can, express the emotional reunion of Peter with his family.

Having been arrested by the Bolsheviks, Peter had been hidden away in a maximum-security prison for the last 30 years.

The family reunion is one of the most honestly poignant, emotional moments of the film.

Later, the family shows Peter the religious objects from the church that he tried to save and hide from the Soviets, and which, after his arrest, they kept safe.

That day, at the extended family’s first meal together, the wife, who herself was nearly killed by the Bolsheviks during a prayer gathering, asks her husband to forgive. To stand firm in faith and love of God, to persevere in the face of persecution, to forgive, to hope — these major themes weave together the film.

Some themes show up in the flashback to 1935, when the narrator relates, “The Church was the No. 1 enemy of the Soviet government. Churches were closed and destroyed. People found ways … of praying together.” Despite the clampdowns and brutality, the people found a way to gather to keep the faith alive. (Viewer caveat: here we see one of two more brutal scenes that show the lengths the ruthless communists and their diabolical leader used to try eradicating religion.)

But the people’s faith and love of God could not be extinguished. Enduring torture in a Siberian prison camp, the saintly village priest, Father Sabudzinski, would not renounce his faith. The already-imprisoned Peter has to watch the horrors — and at that point struggles with his faith. He was serving the long sentence because he helped his parish priest remove the church’s sacred objects and try to hide them before the communists could destroy them.

These sacred objects, including a chalice and Bible wrapped in a liturgical garment, also play a major role within the film as a silent witness to the faith, attesting to how faithful perseverance affects believers. In another scene, Peter uses the Bible at another family meal to pray for those still in the prison camps and for those who died in them, so that no one forgets what a person who rejects God will do or is capable of doing. Each scene becomes a reminder that faith was not lost but remained unshaken during the dark decades of atheistic control, right up into the current century.

There comes a point early in To Believe when the actors cross the threshold of acting and become people, real people, as if we’re seeing them in a documentary. Throughout the film, an emotive musical score underscores and complements the story.

Overall, To Believe becomes a revelation of what all the suffering of those keeping the faith alive all those decades achieved as they passed on the faith.

The story also serves as a reminder of the cruel treatment the people of the Ukraine suffered for decades in the 20th century, and which are been reprised before our eyes today as they call the Church to prayer.


Broadcast dates and times:

  • Saturday, Feb. 26 at 10pm ET [United States Eastern Standard Time]
  • Sunday, Feb. 27 at 10pm ET
  • Tuesday, March 1 at 3am ET
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