UKRAINIAN BAPTIST HERITAGE CENTRE

William (Wasyl) Siery

May 4, 1907 - April 2, 1983

Article in Ukrainian on Wasyl Siery's life written by Theodore Lucyk in the May-June 1983 issue of the Christian Herald, Vol. XLI, No. 5-6, pages 21-23.


Article in Ukrainian on Wasyl Siery's life written by Michael Podworniak in the Sept-Dec 1983 issue of The Messenger of Truth, Vol. LVI, No. 9-12, pages 47-50. English translation provided by Dan and Nellie Ciona.

 

In Memory of Brother Wasyl Siery. The Song is Completed.

          Every person, ordained to be born on this earth, has only one life.  And every person does not live his or her life in the same manner as others.  Furthermore, one cannot say too much about every person, who has lived out their appointed lifetime, as we can report about our brother and friend Wasyl Siery, when his life abruptly ended and he entered eternity.

          I became familiar with Bro. W. Siery in 1929 when we both were students of the Bible being taught by Bro. Moses Gitlin in the Town of Radosti, near Warsaw.  We were both young, full of strength, both yearning to learn and then to become workers somewhere in God’s Vineyard.  Much of our journeys were realized, but also many were lost in the whirlwind of the War which passed through our land.

          Bro. W. Siery was a model student of our Bible School.  He was full of life and his actions revealed a wonderful Christian character.  I wanted to acquire these same characteristics, but this was not always possible.  I lived with Bro. W. Siery in one room.  Our beds were close, one to another, and in the mornings, when we were rising at the sound of the bell, Bro. Wasyl, before washing up and dressing, he would first get down on his knees beside his bed to pray, thanking God for a good night’s sleep.  Other students, including myself, would first wash up, and dress, and then we would read the Scriptures and pray.  Therefore I was quite impressed with this character of Wasyl, but I could not attain this habit, because my character was much different.

          Another very good characteristic that Bro. Wasyl had was that he was a man of very few words.  He never argued with anyone, nor did he ever participate in any useless debates.  Initially he  would always listen carefully to the facts of any argument, consider and weigh them within his own heart before he would respond with some good and wise words.  Because of this, all of us at the Bible Institute loved and respect Bro. Wasyl.  It was impossible not to love Wasyl, recognizing his pure Christian lifestyle, for his peacefulness, which he constantly had in his heart, and which evidence you could see in his face.

          In 1933 I was drafted, right from Bible School, into the military in the Polish Army.  Wasyl and I were separated, and after having completed my military service, I moved to Volhynia.   Wasyl left the Town of Radosti, to go to his native village, Strijinetz, near Kobrin which at the time had one of the finest Evangelical Baptist Churches.  It was in this church that Bro. Wasyl taught Sunday School.  The Pastor of this church was Bro. S. Fedynich, who also went to be with the Lord a short time ago.

          It was at this time that Bro. Wasyl became a missionary worker with Pastor V. Fetler.  It was his job to visit Evangelical Baptist Churches in Volhynia and Polissya.  It was therefore a joy for us to again meet Bro. Wasyl at annual conferences, carrying out spiritual work in the same vineyard that God had placed us in.

          The terror of 1939 came upon us with the outburst of the 2nd World War.  All kinds of spiritual organizations in the former Poland were destroyed.  The territory became a wasteland.  There was a great persecution of believers.  At the beginning of 1940 I was fortunate to, illegally, cross the new German border near Bilostoky and I ended up in Warsaw, which was now occupied by the Germans.  It was a very hard cold winter.  We had no resources to live off, no shelter, so we, as outlaws, found a hiding place with our memorable sister Martha Kowalchuk.  It was soon after this that I again met Bro. Wasyl, who had also escaped, because at this time our homeland was occupied by the Bolsheviks.  But our fellowship was very short.  I left for Germany, to find some kind of livelihood, while, Bro. Wasyl, injured, remained in Warsaw. 

          Several more very difficult years passed.  Many different hordes crisscrossed through our homeland, destroyed everything in their path, which our hardworking people had built.   Then came that terrible and fearful year 1944.  The German front near Stalingrad was being routed and retreated to our Volhynia.  It was time again to “run for our lives” to escape our “liberators”.

          I again found myself in a destroyed and starving Warsaw, and again at the home of our good sister Martha Kowalchuk.  But Bro. Siery was no longer here.  He had been captured as slave labour and sent to Germany.  In a short time I was able to contact him by letter.  It was very pleasant to again correspond with each other by letter, writing one another of our experiences. 

          Our homeland was now a battleground and totally destroyed.  Many believers gathered  at the home of our sister Kowalchuk, from across all of Ukraine.  It was a beautiful spring.  Almost daily the air over Warsaw was home to the Soviet warplanes.  The radio and newspapers, also daily, reported horrifying news. In Warsaw anger burned fiercely against the occupiers, nor they did have any hope that things would get better from the advancing opposing army.

          A day or two before the outbreak of the rebellion of the residents of Warsaw, a large group of Ukrainian believers squeezed into open railroad cars at the train station.  The destination was Germany. We were not only leaving the battle ground, but also our native homeland and our people.  American warplanes were bombing Germany night and day, towns and cities were on fire, and our destination was to this part of the world. To whom and to where, we ourselves did not know.  The train arrived in the Town of Siegen, in the Province of Westphalia.  Our railroad car ended up standing in a area covered with bushes.  We climbed down from the railroad car and noticed that a man, passed a long line of empty cars and was approaching us.  He was smiling, waving his hands and then we recognized him; it was Bro. Wasyl Siery.  He was now working in this town, and somehow found out that we were arriving and came to greet us in this strange and foreign land.  To us this was a time of great joy.  We were put to work in another town, about 12 miles from Siegen.  Bro. Siery was able to visit us and we experienced great worship services.  We met either in our rooms where we lived or in the forest. Bro. Siery was the preacher at these services.  Siegen was an industrial town.  There were many Ukrainian girls working in the factories, and many of them were believers.  Therefore we went to Siegen many times, as a group, and conducted evangelistic services.  German believers, who lived in Siegen and knew Bro. Siery, helped us.

          The war ended, and all of us who were labourers in Germany, were gathered into a big Polish refugee camp in Ludenscheid.  Bro. Siery was one of these occupants.  We had great worship services in this camp, a great choir under the leadership of Bro. Serge Bychkowski, and lived through an amazing and unforgettable experience in our exile from our homeland.  Singing tenor, also in our choir, was Bro. Siery.

          Many Ukrainian, Belarussian and Polish refugee camps were organized in post-war Germany. Upon the advice of Bro. V. Husaruk and Bro. I. Polischuk we organized a double quartet.  This double quartet along with a preacher, travelled to all refugee camps, sharing in music and preaching.  Bro. Stephen Nischik was the organizer of the worship services and Bro. J. Barchuk preached.  Bro. Siery was a member, both of the double quartet, and well as the Missionary Choir.  With God’s blessing we conducted two missionary journeys, visiting tens of refugee camps which housed the people from our homeland.  We experienced blessed evangelistic services, where we listened to our native hymns and to the preaching of the word of God. Germany was destroyed, the cities were in ruins, the transportation system was irregular, the windows in railroad cars were broken and we were weak and hungry, but we were blessed, because we were able to give our own people, poor and exiled, joy from hearing their native hymns and the gospel of the Bible.

          I recall many interesting and emotional facts from these two evangelistic journeys.  I remember our very peaceful and quiet Bro. Wasyl Siery, who with the greatest of patience survived the discomfort and difficulties of the journey along with his wife Tania.  When we were hungry on this journey, he never complained.  When we had to stand in a long line in a ruined railroad station, in order to buy a ticket, he calmly stood as long as he had to. 

          Afterwards, I and Bro. Siery found our way to Canada, and even though we lived and worked in different cities, we regularly met at annual conferences and meetings.  Bro. Siery was always joyful, smiling and satisfied with life.  He was a member of the Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Church in Toronto and was in the leadership of this church.  He continued to sing in the Church Choir.

          Several years ago Bro. Siery became ill.  He underwent surgery, but he did not fully recover and return to good health.  It was evident that his days were numbered.  His song would be finished.  He knew this, but he was not afraid of death.  He was ready to leave this earth and any time, because he knew, that God had prepared a better place for him.

          Last year, 1982, Bro. Siery was still at the Ukrainian Bible Centre.  Every morning he would walk the pathways, filling his lungs with the aroma of the flowers. He would sit on the bench opposite our house and listen to the singing of the birds.  I felt that he was in deep thought, preparing for some very long journey.  Then he would get up and continue his walk.  Slowly, slowly, step after step, one foot after another.  And this journey was getting shorter and shorter.  Each step meant the journey was getting shorter, and literally, the pathway disappeared at the end of our row of cedars.

          We met almost daily.  When I informed him about the funeral of Lily Polischuk, a member of our Missionary Choir in Germany, Bro. Siery listened carefully and then said, “I wonder who will be next to leave this earth.” and then he added, “Maybe it will be me, or maybe you.  But if it is me, then I am ready.  I feel my life has been lived and we now have to prepare to go home . . . . .”

          I held Bro. Siery’s hand.  It was small and weak.  The sun was setting and as it cast its final rays on us,  we looked at each other and in front of my eyes stood “Bethel”, our home of Joy, where our Bible School stood.  In my vision I saw many brothers, that had already departed to eternity.  Bro. Gitlin, our teacher, Bro. Boris Volosevich, Volodymyr Morhon and many more.  And now the pathway is being prepared for Bro. Siery.  And later it will be for all of us.  Everyone in his own season, everyone in his own time.

          We are separated from Bro. Siery, never to see him on this earth again.  But we believe that we will see him in eternity, for this is the promise given to us in God’s word.  And even though he has left us, in exchange for eternity, a thing we did not want, in this we see the will of God.  Everyone who knew our dearly departed, our brother in Christ and Friend, will long remember him, because he definitely earned his reward by his dedicated Christian life.

Michael Podworniak.

 

 

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