July 15, 2002
To: The Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Venerable Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America
Dearly Beloved in the Lord:
Of the many atrocities that are interwoven in the history of the twentieth century, we sadly recall the violence that was inflicted upon the millions of persons who suffered and died in concentration camps. As part of the horrors of both the First and Second World Wars, countless numbers of persons of all faiths and confessions were subjected to inhumane treatment, brutal torture, and cruel death.
Among those who suffered in the concentration camps established during the First World War were the Lemkos. The Orthodox Faith was gaining strength in Galicia, especially in the area populated by the Lemkos. Many Lemko immigrants were returning from the United States where many had left the Unia and returned to the Orthodox Faith of their ancestors. As a result, the Austro-Hungarian government suspected the Orthodox Lemkos to be Russian sympathizers. Many of these “Russian sympathizers” were interned in various concentration camps, the most notorious of which was Talherof, located near Graz, Austria. Although only a minority of the overall Galician population, the Lemkos were the majority of those imprisoned at Talerhof. It is unclear how many actually perished in Talherof, however those who survived suffered greatly. Included among those who suffered at Talerhof but survived were the wife and young son of Saint Maxim Sandovich, martyred in Gorlice in 1914, and glorified by the Polish Orthodox Church in 1994.
The first Sunday of August of each year has come to be observed as a day of special prayer and remembrance for those who lost their lives at Talerhof, most especially those who died in bearing witness to Christ and His Holy Orthodox Church. Therefore, I encourage you to participate in this annual commemoration by offering special prayers for the departed victims of this atrocity at the end of the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, August 4, 2002.
May all those who, throughout the centuries have given witness to Christ in their suffering and martyric deaths, continue to pray for us before the Throne of God.
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America