[St. Pachomius Library]

CHERNOBYL: Glimpses of the Miraculous

The icon "Our Lady of Chernobyl." (From the website Christian Icon, 2012. Copyright status of photograph unclear.)

The first great omen of the disaster, revealed at a time when nuclear energy was still rapidly developing.

The first great omen of the disaster which would shake the entire planet in 1986 was revealed long before, at a time when nuclear energy was still rapidly developing. It came, witnesses recall, on April 26, 1976, ten years to the day before the explosion of the 4th reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant: a sign sent by the Lord and Our Lady.

A local newspaper, Prapor Peremohy (meaning "Victory's Flag"), published an article at the time, entitled "Fairytales of the Clergymen." The author referred to an cloud of an unusual shape appearing in the sky that day, which some clergy had interpreted as an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, this was no mere atmospheric oddity.

That evening many locals witnessed a remarkable cloud floating above the ground. The figure of the Holy Theotokos could be discerned in it, with her face and brightly coloured raiment clearly visible. She was holding a tuft of dried wormwood, which the locals also call chernobylnik. The Mother of God dropped the wormwood over the city. Then the bright and radiant cloud moved towards the forest and stopped over the temple of Holy Elijah the Prophet. The Theotokos faced the temple and blessed it twice with both hands. As she appeared in the sky, the rain stopped, and the weather became warm and mild.

The local priest, Father Alexander Prokopenko, was told of this phenomenon. He explained that only the Mother of God may give a blessing with two hands. Bishops also have this privilege; however, the vision in the sky was not of a male.

The phenomenon was interpreted as a sign foretelling a dry summer and a poor harvest. Some people found and picked up pieces of the wormwood that fell from the sky. Many years later it became clear that it was indeed a prediction -- but when the Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded, nobody made a connection between events exactly ten years apart! Only much later did people recall the story and come to recognize the phenomenon as a sign from God.


In 2002, His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and All Ukraine blessed the creation of an icon depicting the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary over Chernobyl. It was painted by a servant of God named Ioann, an artist from Kiev, who also created the rest of the artwork in our temple. Ioann, who is an orphan, is very religious, pious and earnest; he fasted and took communion before starting the work. The icon portrays the Queen of Heaven, with the Archangels Michael and Gabriel on either side, rising in the sky above St. Elijah's Temple. She holds chernobylnik in her hands. Two capsules with wormwood picked in the Chernobyl area are affixed to the two sides of the icon. His Beatitude Vladimir blessed this image for veneration in Chernobyl.

Russian text © Valentina Serikova, 2016. English translation by Alesya Volchyk, edited for the St. Pachomius Library.