Saint Maximus Sandovich

Father Maximus was born in Galicia, in the village of Zhdynia, Gorlice District, on February 1st, 1888, the son of Timko (Timothy) Sandovich, and his wife, Christina. His father was a prosperous farmer who also served as cantor in the local parish church. Together, they raised their children in piety and love for God, Church and the Russian people.
Timko perceived that his elder son, Maximus, was a gifted student, delighted in helping him chant the divine services in church, and read his morning and evening prayers without having to be reminded. When the boy completed his studies in the village school, his father sent him for four years of study at the normal school in Gorlice, and on successfully completing his education there, to the high school in Nowy Sacz. There Timko Sandovich arranged for his son to stay at the Russian Dormitory, which took in poor students and seminarians. At the Russian Dormitory, Maximus had the opportunity to study the Russian literary language, Russian history, the history of the Christian Church, and Russian culture, for the students were supervised by a Russian teacher acquired by the Dormitory's trustees from Russia itself.
Still, the expense of educating a boy in high school was beyond the means of a village farmer. This the young man knew, and when he had completed his freshman year in high school, Maximus transferred to a school run by Basilian monks in Krakow, with the intention of finishing his theological studies and applying for ordination. But the nature of the theology taught by the Basilians, and their way of life, was repugnant to the young Maximus, and he remained with them for only a few weeks. Eventually, he crossed the border into Russia and entered the novitiate at the Great Lavra of Pochaiev, in Volynia. There, the abbot of the Lavra introduced him to Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Volynia, who always helped men from Galicia and Lemkovina who wished to study in Russia. Maximus told Archbishop Anthony of his desire to enter an Orthodox seminary, and early in 1905, Vladyka sent him to Zhitomir.
Saint Maximus studied at the Orthodox seminary in Zhitomir for six years, and was graduated in 1910. He then returned home to visit his family for Pascha and Bright Week. Word of the arrival of the new seminary graduate soon reached the ears of certain villagers who had spent some time in America, attending Orthodox churches and making their confession to Orthodox priests there. These villagers, and especially those from the neighboring village of Hrab, came to Maximus and begged him to obtain priestly ordination, return to Lemokovina and organize an Orthodox parish in Hrab.
The suggestion of the Orthodox of Hrab moved the young Maximus and he promised them and people from other villages to seek ordination, that he might come back to Lemkovina and serve them. And he was as good as his word. On returning to Zhitomir, he married a young Orthodox woman named Pelagia, and in 1911 was ordained to the holy priesthood in Saint Petersburg by Metropolitan Anthony (Vadkovsky) before returning to his homeland. Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovistsky), aware of the dangers which lay in wait for any Orthodox priest serving in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, told him that if he wished it, he would find a parish for him in Russia, where he could live in peace, but the newly ordained Father Maximus refused a life of ease and chose instead the path of a missionary: the spreading of the Orthodox Faith among his compatriots in Lemkovina.
In November of 1911, Father Maximus and his wife traveled from Zhitomir to his native village of Zhdynia. As an Orthodox priest, he wore a long riassa, a pectoral cross, and did not shave or cut his hair. On reaching Gorlice, he walked through the marketplace. The Poles, seeing an Orthodox priest dressed thus, mocked him, crying: "Look, Saint Nicholas has come to the Carpathians!"
When the people of Hrab learned that Father Maximus was at his father's house in Zhdynia, they sent a delegation and invited him to form an Orthodox parish in their village. Father Maximus readily accepted. In Hrab, the people had prepared a commodious building to serve both as temporary church and residence for the priest.
Saint Maximus described his early ministry during his trial in Lviv: "In Hrab they prepared a house for me. I went to the warden in Jaslo and declared that at the request of the Orthodox of the village of Hrab I would take care of their spiritual needs. On December 2nd, 1911,1 served the first liturgy. Later, they brought me a letter from the warden, addressed to 'Mister' Sandovich. I refused to accept the letter, because I am not a 'mister', but a priest. The next letter was properly addressed 'To the Priest Sandovich'. This letter stated that I was forbidden to conduct services. I refused to comply. They held me in confinement for eight days and fined me 400 crowns. I continued to function as a priest. The building where I lived and celebrated the divine services was sealed by the authorities in Jaslo. I served the liturgy in another building. Kiselewski, the Uniate priest, complained that candles were burning during our services. They incarcerated me for a month, and the peasants who had been holding candles in their hands were kept under arrest for several days. 1
The authorities issued a circular forbidding all assemblies in Hrab and the surrounding area, allegedly to hinder the spread of German measles, I knew that the circular was issued with me in mind, to prohibit the exercise of my pastoral, ministry. This was confirmed when the Uniate authorities chose that time to have twelve of their priests organize a 'mission' in Hrab, and the supposed German measles epidemic did not hinder them in the least.

1 For example, Sylvester Pavelchak of Hrab, who held a candle on the feast of Saint Nicholas, was compelled to pay a fine of five crowns. Since he did not have the money, the court ordered his cow sold at auction. At his hearing, Pavelchak said: 'You are only fined if you're Orthodox.' Nicholas Walko had to pay a fine of 120 crowns for the same "crime", His remarks at the hearing were the same as Pavelchak's. An Orthodox woman died. They dug a grave for her in the cemetery. Kiselewski, the Uniate priest, ordered the grave filled in at night. The following day, the Orthodox re-dug the grave. When the funeral procession passed Kiselewski stood by the side of the road, with the teacher and students of his school, all refusing to bare their heads in respect. The gendarmes were also there. At the cemetery, the Uniate priest forcibly prevented the Orthodox from entering. He caused such scandal and trouble and lost so many of his parishioners to the Orthodox cause because of his behavior, that he emigrated to America, where he died in Ansonia, Connecticut.

The arrest of fathers Maximus Sandovich and Ignatius Hudima - continued.

Icon Return to Lemko Home Page

Document Information

Document URL:

Original page design and layout by Walter Maksimovich

Originally Composed: April 7th, 1997
Date last modified: December 1st, 2000