Ride+Stride with Urij Ivanovich

John and Urij’s Ride+Stride Journey

This year, John Amos, a longstanding supporter of Ride+Stride, decided to take Urij Ivanovich, a Ukranian living in Nailsworth, along for the ride.  After their tour of the Stroud area, John asked Urij to write up some of his thoughts and impressions.  He was not expecting this moving and insightful piece.

Ride and Stride with Yurij Ivanovich, a Ukrainian living in Nailsworth

This year I did the ride and stride with Yurij.  He and his family are living in Nailsworth and are hosted by Juliet Strachan and family, they are attending St Georges Nailsworth.  On completion of the ride, I asked Yurij to write a small piece on how he enjoyed his day in the country, and how the countryside around Stroud compared to that of Kiev. This is his amazing effort.

Note that where possible I have kept what Yurij has written and only corrected where the translation from Ukrainian into English altered the meaning of the thoughts and ideas expressed.

John and Urij’s Ride+Stride Journey

In general, cycling around churches in the Stroud area proved to be very successful, interesting and useful. Happy is the person who imagined how many holy temples can be visited per day on a bicycle.

In Ukraine, as in the United Kingdom, there are many Churches that differ in age, the oldest in Ukraine from the 11th century – the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, and in England, from the early Christian times, the Cathedral in Gloucester, started in 1089.

There are many very diverse and extraordinary churches in Ukraine, with wooden church architecture, being represented by professional schools of craftsmen in wooden architecture, according to the geographical location.

The age of wooden churches is up to five hundred years old. However, the most painful thing is that 80 percent of these masterpieces were destroyed by the Soviet authorities. In England is preserved the world’s oldest wooden church of St. Andrew in Greensted, near London, whose age reaches one 1000 years.

The churches that I saw during my bike trip included meeting houses and Catholic churches. I was amazed with their cordiality, well-groomed organization and cleanliness both inside and outside. I enjoyed the tall bell towers, and the diversity of the architectural forms of the churches. It was especially pleasant to see on many churches the Ukrainian flag.

An ancient Ukrainian tradition is that the bell tower is separate from the church, this is something that I have not seen in English Churches. The central part of the interior of the Ukrainian Church is an iconostasis, a unique work of art and a millennial heritage of the Church. Although not every Church can afford a majestic multi-tiered iconostasis.  Looking at this heavenly hierarchy in front of the altar, a person can understand in an instant, the history of the church and the artists who made it and the depth of faith of the parishioners who created this Church.

Only in a few English churches I saw separate elements connected in one row of icons. Of course, it is a pity that the letter of the law rejected this wonderful means of knowing and contemplating divine fullness, like an iconostasis.

Stained-glass windows are perhaps the most talented works of masters, a combination of complex technologies and aspirations to see and recreate the divine to establish a lost connection between God and man as a huge decoration and evangelical wealth of all churches.

Just take time when you look into multi-coloured world of stained-glass windows. Unfortunately, there are very few Churches in Ukraine that have stained glass windows.

It is impossible not to look at the ultra-high ceilings, which are crowned with wooden beams in various geometric shapes, and be reminded of my childhood, of a kaleidoscope, a path to the sky, to the stars, and the window design makes it possible to cover a huge area.  

When we rode into one village, (St Peters Frocester) only the foundation and the bell tower remained from the Church. However, there is a wonderful wooden carved arch on the entrance gate which left a pleasant impression. Our route ran through different localities, the roads around the towns and the central streets, the cycle track, and we also rode alongside canals.

There was a pedestrian bridge that folded when the boat passes. There were many steep ascents and descents, when we seemed to achieve maximum bicycle speed. However, we were overtaken by someone on a bicycle with an electric battery. In the middle of the trip at Dursley, I felt that the saddle on the bike was loose, and it became impossible to go further.

Luckily, we were near a bike shop, and they kindly loaned us a key. The countryside in England, in my opinion, is rather sparsely populated with underdeveloped infrastructure, but around huge land areas where everything is cultivated, grown, grazed cattle and even kept rare animals.

But perhaps it was not necessary to go to around 45 churches in a day, and it would be better to stay in one church and delve into the history of this building, stand up for prayer, and talk with parishioners.

Nevertheless, in the present times, the enemy of the human race imperceptibly creeps into the light of the soul, which God created and erases the essence of the understanding of seemingly age-old concepts, what is man, God, Church?  

Do not we sometimes forget that a person is a spiritual being and first of all, needs spiritual food from his creator of the touch of that invisible healing divine radiation that acts in each Church and is transmitted to people accordingly, to his degree.

And also, a wonderful prayer mood, which is felt to many visitors as an invaluable gift of Church communities. I did find that traveling and visiting churches was a unique way of spiritual knowledge and enrichment.

This journey will be remembered for the rest of my life. But most importantly, the beautiful, kind, sincere people who are always ready to help their neighbour. I think that Ukrainians are similar to the British in this, and this is what makes our two peoples united.

They clearly see where good and where evil is.  I sincerely thank the people at the Church of St. George in Nailsworth, who sponsored me on this ride.

John Amos Churchwarden St Georges Nailsworth