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Church recovering from break-in, theft

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A break-in at the Sacred Heart Zoria Ukrainian Catholic Church has caretaker Richard Kostur scratching his head.
“To see that happen, you know, it’s like somebody just kicked you and I have no idea, I’m trying to figure out why it’s happened. I don’t understand it,” he said.
Dauphin RCMP are investing the break-in and theft of crucifixes and candle holders in the rural church.
Along with wife Christine Kostur, the couple take care of the site, as they are one of the few remaining members in the Sifton area.
On July 2, Kostur explained, his son was painting window frames and left around 4 p.m. Kostur arrived at 7 p.m. to cut the grass and noticed something at the end of the cemetery.
“I saw something about two-and-a-half feet high and thought it looked like something from an altar. When I picked it up, I remembered holding it as an altar boy,” he said.
Then he and Christine unlocked the doors of the church and found the damage.
“I saw in the first entrance in the first foyer, the two cupboards ransacked. And then we opened up the main door and tears came my face. To see the church ransacked like that, they stole everything. They stole anything that was shiny,” he said.
Thieves took the tops of the staffs holding various church tapestries and left the wood staffs, Kostur said, pointing out some of the items were gold plated and others were at least 100 years old.
Kostur believes the thieves were in a hurry, as the item that alerted him to the break in was leaning against a fence.
“You know it’s kind of God’s way of saying, ‘here it is.’ Lucky for me to find it, because otherwise we might never see it for the next two weeks until we do grass again,” he said.
The RCMP took fingerprints and pictures, Kostur said.
Looking for answers, he went online and discovered there is a market for Catholic church altar items on eBay and wondered who would buy them.
While a crowbar was used to get in, he said, there was not a lot of damage to the building.
“They knocked a palm tree over and they put it back up. So somebody was trying to be civilized in the group,” Kostur said.
Everything needed for a Catholic service was stolen, he said, but the congregation still plans to hold a service, July 14.
“We’re still fighting, right, we still want to have the one service a year. So we’re keeping it going,” he said, noting the priest will bring items needed for the service.
“The priest said they can take material things, but they can’t take spiritual things and that is a good point. They didn’t take our spirit, they took material things.”
Kostur has hope the thieves will have a change of heart and return the items.
“Leave it on the step and we’ll just put it away and, like the church would do, just forgive and forget. That would be the best, honourable thing to do, is bring the stuff back,” he said.
Kostur is sad for the many families that have memories of the church and relatives in the cemetery, as they occasionally return to the site.
“At one time, they used to have 300 or 400 people in there and used to have midnight frolics. Zoria was the best place to go to, so it was a very popular place at one time,” he noted.
“It’s terrible to see that happen, thinking that an old church, that they could just rob it blind. I don’t know how people think, how they would do that.”
There is little left in the church, Kostur said, just the pews and the altar, as Sacred Heart Zoria Ukrainian Catholic Church has been broken into about three times, over the years.
“They stoled the chandelier first. It was gold plated and looked like something out of the Phantom of the Opera. This is like the third time and now they took everything that was shiny. They unscrewed the crucifixes,” he explained.
The church was built in 1938, as the original building burned down.

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M. A. Nyquist
REPORTER
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