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February 21, 2022 46 mins

Determined to speak to the priests from Holy Cross, Paula and Melanie go on a 5,000-mile mission to find them.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:05):
When we talked to Marietta Fernandez, one of the parents
from Holy Cross, she told us a story about Sister
Michelle Lewis that in all our years digging into the school,
we'd never heard before. Just before joining the monastery and
deciding to live the rest of her life as a nun,

Sister Michelle told Marietta that she took a trip home
to Ohio where she grew up. She packed up all
of her belongings that she had. She had a truck,
She put them in her truck. She drove to her
family's home. She dropped everything off on that drive. Sister

Michelle was letting go of her past life, getting rid
of what she owned, moving on from her job as
an accountant, and putting her divorce an abusive marriage in
the past. But she was giving up more than those
parts of her identity. Because I knew that she liked rock,
and I knew that she liked heavy metal and stuff
like that. I had this whole imagination of Sister Michelle

driving down the road by herself with all of her belongings,
you know, listening to Stairway to Heaven Metallica and the
Doors or everything, and saying this is the last time,
I'm ever gonna do this, because my life is going
to change. She released any energy that was in any

way negative in her life, and she knew that she
had to do that if she was going to be
a monastic, you give everything up, you really don't bring
anything with you. She was joyful to do that. She
was joyful because she was releasing that from her life.
She was starting over. Hearing the story about sister Michelle,

now it got us thinking about father Went and Father Damien.
We've spent so much time talking to the police and
lawyers and Mike over the years that we've always seen
the priests from that perspective as manipulative, power hungry frauds
who may be sexually abused one of the boys who
they promised a better life. But over the years, we

can't say that we haven't had our doubts about that
story as well. There was never any solid, corroborating evidence
that the abuse happened. If Mike was capable of doing
something as terrible as stabbing someone more than ninety times,
maybe he's also capable of lying about the abuse. And
if that's the case, who's to say that the priests

weren't doing the same as Sister Michelle. When they moved
to North Carolina, maybe they weren't running away, but giving
up what they had, the school, the monastery, their community
and starting over again. And when the Orthodox Church in
America also started looking into them, maybe they realized that
they didn't go far enough. They needed to give up

more and begin again, this time in Ukraine. But their
long silence in the decades since the murder has left
us feeling like we'll never truly know how to feel
about all of this. When we started the project, we
knew that in order for this story to feel fair,
we'd have to at least try to talk to Father

Went and Father Damien to share their side of the story.
But twenty years ago they didn't even answer questions while
under subpoena in front of a judge, And on top
of that, we had no idea where to even find them.
I'm Paula Barrows and I'm Melanie Bartley and this is

sacred scandal. Okay. So when we returned to this project
last year, here's what we knew about the group from
Holy Cross from what we could put together based on

what's publicly visible on social media like Facebook and LinkedIn
Father's Went and Damien Petro and Vasile all appeared to
be in Ukraine since about two thousand eleven, and it
looks like they've invested heavily in building some sort of
hospital or clinic called Protection Medical Center. It's an us Garad,
the biggest city in trans Carpathia, and it looks like

it opened around two thousand thirteen. We learned that the
clinic is like a mini hospital. It had a staff
of doctors, nurses and technicians. They did basic general medicine
type stuff, but also had expensive modern equipment to do
m R s, CT scans, X rays and minor surgery.

The website for the hospital where we got most of
this information, listed Father's Went and Damien Petro and Vasile
all as directors as recently as last year, but strangely
that site became disconnected over the summer and we couldn't
find any news as to why. Also, it looked like

they were starting to build a new monastery about eight
years ago from Facebook photos. It was shaping up to
be a small version of the gold onion domed Orthodox
churches you see across Eastern Europe, but we had no
idea where it was in Ukraine, and after two thousand
and fourteen there are no more public photos of Father

went or Damien. Up until then, they look almost exactly
as they did at Holy Cross forever in their long
black robes. But Petro, the monk who was once assistant,
had more recent photos. In older pictures he dressed in
monk's robes, but now he was almost always in regular clothes,

and as you click through its photos you see less
of the other monastics and more of someone else, a woman,
and they look close like a girlfriend or maybe even
a wife. We wondered if he left the group. It
was also unclear whether or not they still used the
monastery in North Carolina, which they still own. The property

was put up for sale around two thousand and sixteen,
but it never sold and they took it off the
market two years later. We tried reaching out to all
of them through social media because we had so many questions,
but never got any response. So last year, when we
talked to the former monastic candidate, Elia Hertztock, who lives

in Ukraine, we decided to see if he knew anything.
Elia told us that one of the monks, usp Lamback,
who is also another one of his cousins left the
group and they returned to Ukraine. He got married and
started a family. But Eliah heard that Joseph left in
part because of the medical center, because I know that

Joseph's brother we were working together, and he told me
that he visited the center before Joseph was there, before
he left, so he didn't like the way it was here,
that they had to work all the times, all the days,
and even if it was holidays, so Sundays, but usually

in our religion, if it's a big holiday or Sunday,
you don't do any physical work. And then they were working,
and he was asking his brother Joseph, why you're working,
and they said, because father went blessed our work. We
can do any time, anything and any day like that.

And then they were only two of them, was still
and Joseph and then just left. Eliot told us that
his other cousin, Vasile, was no longer working at the
medical center, but his path out of the clinic was different.
He's staying over there in the USA, and Vasil now
he is making a grill which chicken meat grilling somebody

chef in some shopping center where it's in the place
that they moved from Miami. I don't really remember, so
to your knowledge of a seal in the US, he's
not in Ukraine. I was speaking with his brother maybe
two days before, and he was asking me what do
you think I can do to bring was still back?

So he's not affiliated with Went or Damian anymore. I
believe they are. But father went and petrol what I
heard from what's ill brother there and he was by himself,
And believe is he still a monk? He's still a monk,

but he cooks chickens. Based on what we thought we knew,
we were obviously surprised to hear that any of the
former Holy Cross monks were living in North Carolina, but
we were even more stunned to find out that Bastille,
a monk whose job it was to serve the monastery,

was maybe working as a cook. It felt a little unbelievable,
to be honest, and we were hoping that knowing where
the seal was might help us get in touch with
the priests too. We tried calling the Weaverville Monastery, but
the numbers listed no longer belonged to it, and he
didn't reply to our messages online, so we sent a
local producer, Greta Webber, to see if she could confirm

if a seal was really alone in North Carolina. So
I'm now driving up the hill towards the monastery. It's
a gravel roads, pretty steep hill. Greta said that whatever
security cameras and electric fence that the O c A
Visitors saw when they first came to the monastery was
long gone by now, and that the whole setup felt

pretty simple. The monastery is really just like kind of
shipping container um looking very basic ah building. She also
noticed that the monastery's name changed yet again, says Holy

Transfiguration the word travel. But no monks were there. All
the blinds are closed in the monastery. Yeah, it looks
like no one's really been there for a while. Greta
was able to meet some neighbors from the houses around
the monastery. They were willing to talk to her bit

after she told him what she was doing, but they
didn't want to be recorded for the podcast. Greta said
none of them seemed to know much about the monks,
even though some of them were neighbors for years, but
they did say at least one person was living there
at the moment a monk they knew as Seraphim, who
we knew as Va Sial, and they told Greta that

he did have a job. He worked in a shopping center,
and so I kind of put it together that it
was Facile that worked, and so I just started calling
and literally just asking like, is Vasile working today? Eventually
I got to the I think it was the Delhi
Department and I asked, you know, it's Facile working today

and the guy was like who, And I was like, oh,
you know, he's Ukrainian and he was like, oh yeah,
Va Sial like, let me get him, and then I
was like, oh shoot, oh shoot. So I just hung up,
And was our mistake. We didn't really prepare Greta for
what the state of Asil if she found him. I
guess we figured we'd take it from there, would go

ourselves and try to talk to him. But by the
time she did confirm that Vasile was living in North Carolina,
Melanie and I had other plans. We figured out where
Father went and Father Damien's new monastery was, and booked
our flights to Ukraine. That's coming up after the break.

Welcome back to Sacred Scandal I'm Paula Barrows and I
Melanie Bartley. When Ilia confirmed that most of the Holy
Cross group was still in Transcarpathia, we knew we had

to go find them. I know it sounds crazy, but
it's crazy for Melanie and me too. We never thought
we'd go this far. What started as visits to Mike
and Prison, an hour or so north of Miami was
now a search for a monastery in a remote corner
of eastern Europe. We figured it's a small part of

the world. If we ask around, someone has to know
where to find the tall American priest. This was an
early December, just as the political tension between Russia and
Ukraine started to begin. Everyone in our family was worried
about us, telling us not to go. Are you sure
you want to go now? But by then we'd already

bought our tickets. So we flew from Miami to Istanbul
to Liviv, a city in western Ukraine, and that's the landing.
We got a landing ladies and gentlemen, which just a
lot of guys m and then we did a long

four and a half hour drive from one side of
the Carpathian Mountains to another. Here you go stir until
we got to us Garad, the city where the Holy
Cross Monks opened their medical center. I'm in. Before we

started looking for fathers, Went and Damien, though there was
another pair we needed to talk to first, Mike's parents,
Maria and Yuri co Fell. They still live a lot
like they did while Mike was growing up. Uri retired
from the railroad, but in their sixties they still work
in the fields with tools straight from the eighteen hundreds.

A few years ago, Mike wrote Apollo on Me, worried
because he hadn't gotten an email from his parents for
a long time. Aside from us, they're really the only
other people he hears from regularly. We got in touch
with the ko Fells, and it turned out that Florida's
prison email service was now blocked in Ukraine, so we
helped his parents get into a VPN so they could

get around their restrictions. Since then, we've kept in touch
with them too. We don't share a common language, but
we email and use Google Translate. We wanted to meet
them at their home and Sivkovina Bistra, the village where
Mike grew up, but they didn't want us to visit
and draw the same attention that the lawyers, private investigators

and other reporters brought two decades ago. So their local
priest drove them almost two hours from the village to
our hotel in Usgarad, and we spoke with them through
a translator, Julia Terasuk, who amazingly kept up with our
conversation for hours. Mel and I met the Coo Fells

for the first time in person a few hours after
we arrived in the city. We were honestly a little
worried about how this meaning would go at first, and
how they would feel about finally meeting us in person,
But when we saw them waiting outside our hotel, the
four of us recognized each other right away. They were
so friendly, bubbly and really excited to see us. We

all hugged and went inside to start the interview. Yeah,
my Rideo, she's Marie and she lives in Vista and
she loves him loyal life, and she's waiting for him
to welcome soon. And you, yeah, you MICHAELA. And he's

his father and he's waiting for him to meet us.
Though it was exciting to meet them after all these years,
we knew this would be different than our casual emails. Today,
Mel and I would have to bring up some more
difficult stuff with them, things we weren't sure they'd be
comfortable talking about, and after our emotional greeting, these questions

would be hard for us to ask. Mikailo has told
us that you, I guess you you had a drinking
problem when he was growing up, and he's very happy
that you're recovered down, but can you tell us a
little bit about that phase of your life you He

seemed a bit embarrassed that we brought up this time
in his life. He brushed it off and said it's
just something that people did in those days. But it
was his drinking that led to Mike's allegations of sex
abuse against him. But since those allegations, Mike's relationship with
his dad has meanted and he's actually retracted those initial

accusations against Uri. He said that he was too drunk
to realize he was touching Mike and not his mother
in their shared bed. Let's go back to these guys.
How did they present the opportunity to you? What was
the package? They said? Went initially told him that the

plan was to build a monastery and a hospital in Ukraine.
Mike would study for three years in the US, then
come back as a monk and a doctor and work
in the hospital. He couldn't say no to such a thing,
and they were they be meeting him here, maybe not
in his village, but they would flip close. We asked

the k Fels if they saw any signs that Mike
was struggling at Holy Cross. They mentioned a few things
that stood out to them, mostly that he seemed sad
or different when he came home. He would also flinch
and jerk back when they tried to hug him, and
that time when he came home with father Damien and
the adoption was brought up, they felt as if the

priest didn't want Mike to be alone with his own parents.
Mm hmm. So in he was coming everywhere, all around,
always with Damien, and the mother was asking what did
they love you so much there? Or like why would

they want to adopt you? In Mike's letters, the co
Fell said their son told them that he was fine,
but that Mike did hint at something he maybe didn't
want to share. Vin would be telling him to the
mother's day, are watching some weird movies in the evening,

He wouldn't confess what kind of movies because he felt ashamed,
but he would just say they watched weird movies, such
movies that I am closing my eyes when I watched.
Only now does she assume those movies were pornography. The
ko Fells first heard about the murder through Pedro's uncle,
who helped run the candidate's house in Ukraine. He called

to let them know what happened and to tell them
that their son confessed and wasn't prison And that's really
surprised Paula on me, we'd always just assume that father
went through father Damien were there. Wants to give them
this news, even with a translator. When they got the news, though,
Maria and Yuri were shocked and didn't know what to do.

In talking to them, it feels like they're still stuck
in that moment, lost and powerless. Um, how has this experienced,
This whole thing changed the two of you role. Our translator,

Julia choked up and started crying as the co Fells answered.
Through tears, she told us that they both talked about
depression and that Ury said he just has to keep
living but has no real happiness anymore. Yuri also said

he has health issues and his only hope is that
he lives just a few more years to see Mike
get out of prison now. Julia wasn't the only one
in the room with eyes filled with tears. The co
Fels told us that over the last two decades they
already cried everything out, but Maria said that maybe talking

about it now could lighten their hearts. We were all
so curious about whether Father Went or Father Damien reached
out to them at any point after Mike was arrested
to give them any more details on their son's case,
or maybe just to see how they were doing. Didn't
um Father Gregory call you at all? To what they

told us that they never once heard from any of
the priests or the monks in the last twenty years.
And this too really struck us. I mean, the co
Fells trusted them as priests and knew them both and
Father Damien slept in their house and try to adopt
their son. It always felt like the least they could
do was reach out, but that never happened. We are surprised.

We are surprised, and Maria and Nudi also were surprised
to learn from us that the group were now living
in Transcarpathia, something we figured they already knew finding out
that fathers Went and Damien were living so close, it's
still never called or visited. Clearly up the Kofels were

still emotional all these years later. They clearly felt wronged
by the priests. Maria wondered how they could all go
through this terrible experience together but get nothing but silence.
They even went so far as to blame the murder
on the priests because they were in control at Holy Cross.
They also believe their son's allegations of sexual abuse against

father's Went and Damien, and Maria said it wasn't up
to her or her husband to judge the priests, but
to God. That night, the k Fels changed her mind
about us coming to their home now. They insisted that
we stopped by if we had time during our trip.

Then we hugged again, we cried some more, and they
drove back up the mountain to Vergovina Bistra. We wanted
to know why no one from Holy Cross had ever
reached out to them, so the next morning we'd start
poking around Transcarpathia trying to answer that question. That's coming
up after a break. Welcome back to Sacred Scandal. Uskarad

is not a big city. There's not much more than
a hundred thousand people, and it's kind of small footprint
on the map. Its sprawl is confined by mountains on
one side and the border between Slovakia and Ukraine on another.
But on the eastern edge of town, about fifteen minutes
drive from the city center, the group from Holy Cross
built Protection Medical Center. It's a modern cottage looking clinic

that stood out from the worn industrial buildings with roll
up doors and iron gates that surrounded it. They didn't
know that there existed in a private hospital. I think
it's something quite unique for our town. Our translator, Yulia,
who's lived in Uskarat her whole life, told us she
never heard of the clinic and felt it was a

weird place to set one up. It's hidden off the
main road and not many buses, she said. I routed
out there. Not long before we left for Ukraine. We
found out that the website for Protection Medical Center was
down because now it had a different name. A new
pin appeared on its Google Maps location. It was called

Prevention Hospital. The new site showed it was part of
a chain of two or three other clinics of the
same name around us Gard. There was no mention of
the priests or monks anywhere on the site. We were
curious what happened and why it may be changed hands,
but we also wanted to see what they built. It

felt like Holy Cross Academy all over again. They create
some dream building, the name changes and then they disappear. Paula, Julia,
our producer Dennis and I drove out there one afternoon
just to see what they created. I mean, this is
very impressive. I'll be honest. It's a nice so strange

this building, it's really nice. It didn't look that nice.
She didn't look as in person. Is just like really impressive.
It's thing. It's really clean, it looks new. It kind
of looks like a like a like a ski lodge.
There are a lot of people here when you came out. Yes,
I was actually surprised that it was. We asked Julia

to visit the medical center before we arrived in Ukraine.
We wanted to see if she could figure out if
the priests were still involved or find a way for
us to get in touch with them through the center.
She found out that they did move on from running
the hospital because apparently it wasn't doing well. She said
stuff told her it was been running too much of

an American way. They had the philosophy of individual medicines.
It seemed not to work very well in Ukraine, probably
from some cultural differences. They still owned the facility but
rented everything to this new clinic. But something else happened.
While talking to the staff, without asking, someone gave Julia's

cell phone numbers for father, Went and Petro. We got
these phone numbers days before we left, and we debated
whether it was best to reach out before we got
there or not. On the one hand, we knew their
history and worried that if they knew we were coming,
they might do what they did before and leave. But
we also felt like we needed to let them know
about this podcast and that we would be trying to

talk to them when we got there. We were conflicted.
In the end, we decided to get advice from the
one person we knew who was closest to them, Mike.
We sent him an email asking what he thought was
best send the priests a message first or just show up.
He wrote back and said that if fathers went in.

Damien knew we were coming, they would probably try to hide,
and we did not want to risk going all the
way to Ukraine only for them to disappear. So after
visiting the hospital and dropping off our translator, Melanie den Us,
and I decided to just show up at the monastery
and see if they were willing to talk to us.

How did you find this place? One more time? Done us? Um?
I found it through father. You know that I'm not
friends with them on Facebook, but the father Damien had
pictures of them building a monastery, construction photos um the

town that they kept saying it was in. It is
I found that monastery and it is not that it
is not. And so what I ended up doing was
looking at other people who had commented on the photos
that they had put up and see where they were from.
And it kept saying that town. So I was like, well,

maybe if people who know this is coming and or
visiting there are from there, it's got to be close
to there. So I started I went on the map
and I just started looking around for any sort of
like thing that looked like new construction or a new build.
And I was looking at those photos realizing like it
needs to have trees in the background, so it needed

to be at the edge of one of these villages
or in the middle of the foreest. And so I
looked all around the on thett looking around, clicking around,
and then I went into the woods and I found
that clearing and I said, what the hell was this
and this clearing and I assumed then and I was like,
that's the building with the dome. It was the same

shape that has this area this like thing beside it
with bells. And then went and Damien both have pictures
of them in these houses that look like log cabins
and the buildings beside it, our buildings that look like
a little like log cabins, the words, and so I'm
just like this, it has this has to be something
that they built where they there. That's great detective work.

And it's like it's all, it's all. And then we
have confirmation from from Julia and then just show me
that thing today and I was like, that's it. Why
did she show you? There is a site and it's
a listing of monasteries I've come across about. She found
it because she started it in Ukrainian exactly, but she
started in Ukrainian and the name is slightly different, and
when you brought it up, we just confirmed. We looked
at the pictures that the pictures they have on there

with the construction photels, and it's the same building, the
new monastery and homes they built. We're in a clearing
about forty minutes outside of Uskarad. The land is isolated
on a mountain side. There's nothing but forest all around,
and the nearest neighbor was at least half a mile

away in a town across the river. This is the
moment we've been talking about so much that I can't
believe like we're here. I was nervous as we drove
there that morning. We debated whether or not this was
a good idea just to show up there unannounced. What
if they lived so remotely because they didn't want outsiders
coming there. What if they were armed and shot us

on site? Would anyone out here even no two minutes?
With that in mind, we booked our entire trip around
going to the monastery on a Sunday so we could
try to time our arrival just after Sunday liturgy when
there might be other people around. Knowing what we heard
about electric fences and security cameras at their place in

North Carolina. We didn't know what to expect. There's no
address for this monastery, so before we left, Paula and
I sent the coordinates of the property to our families
just in case anything happened. You to go into the
two of us go in is yeah, okay, I'm just

starting to get y. Yeah, I mean not starting. I've been,
but it's like we're getting closer and relaxed. People relax.
I'm kind of doing it for for my ex parents,
Like I'm going to knock on that door just to
ask them why they haven't called them. M As we

pulled off the main highway, we drove farther and farther
from town and deeper into the remote mountain forest. On
these rural back roads, the early winter snow started to
fall harder and harder, coating the road and the trees
in a cold white quilt. This is feeling a little
the shining. This is very the shining. It completely changed.

Everything is different. I help see anything. Oh okay, I
see where we're going. Yeah, this is very uh hard

to find. There's a here, this is a location. You
have arrived and there's a van m When we approached
the entrance to the monastery, there was an old Soviet

looking van at the bottom of the driveway. The gate
was open, but the drive was a rocky mountain trail
that was steadily getting snow eier and snow eier. The
hill was steep and through the narrow entrance between the trees,
you couldn't see any buildings. It was like looking straight

up at the sky. The local people didn't was driving
up the hill, so neither would we. We parked on
the roadside and waited to see if anyone would return
to the van. After a few anxious minutes, Dennis, our producer,
volunteered to walk up the hill to see if it
felt safe for us to enter the property. Dennis is

working up there to explore and see what's going on.
I just hope he doesn't get or anything. Oh hello, yes, yes,
I can. Okay, I'm gonna can you guys keep talking
so I know I can hear you. Yes, absolutely, isn't okay,

Like I answered on the on the apple on the
apple thinging and it's sound speaker. Yeah that's fun. Yeah,
that's fun. He's walking up all right, don it's gonna
be okay, can you hear me? It looks like all
the footprints are leaving here. M Are they thank footprints?

It's just a man. No, don't a point women's shoes? Really? Yeah?
This done because you're staring at me. There are so
many gates up here, really yeah? Are they closed? No,
they're open, just some trees down. We definitely can't drive

up this. No, right, we can't. No, I wouldn't. It's
it's bad even the cars that have come up here.
Or I'll skit it out. Okay, that would explain why
the van is down here. Yeah, this is not drivable. Dog,
it's not okay, happy to see me. Okay. If you're

scared of grab grab a rock or something. Stick, Yeah,
grab a stick. This is totally fenced off, even though
it's in a wood fenced off wire stop. I can't
see anybody else up here. I'm coming back down. Okay,
let me get over here. This is like a compound.

Is there like a doorbell or or a camera? Date
is open. I can't see any cameras, but there's a date.
It's open. Ship. I think somebody's coming, are you it's
by this dog? What if it's him? Is this dog

is like, yeah, that's I don't know what it is
or not. I'm coming Okay, I'm just getting paranoid being
up there. It's your cud. If you see this fence,
this fence will make you tar and like mind you
this is this is like dense forest stuff here. Okay,
get out, get over here. It seems kind of extremes. Okay,

I don't think it's safe for us to do this,
Like nobody wants you to come up here. Okay, Like
I mean, but is there someone coming down? Do you
see someone coming down or at all? Or no? No
not now okay, Yeah, we can't vibe up this, so
we have to walk up. This is not an easy

up or an easy down. Okay, it's easy. Okay. We
we see you, We see you, We see you, we
see you. I have man, you just get over here. Yeah,
this is unsafety ice that sense that's that fence puts

me off. I mean it looks like you know when
you see like government military property. Shut the funk up.
That's the type of thing. It's like, it's serious, it
goes It's like we're taking that what the whole road
is all the way up just little stones, imbalanced okay, yeah, yeah, yeah,

I need springles. I'm so nervous. Okay you did, Yeah,
I'm good. That's just that that fence made me paranoid
because it's it's like the whole property is off as
if like don't come or it's not just like don't
drive up here, don't walk up here, don't come sucking anything.
Let me see this. I would not drive up this

road out it because if you had to get out
of here, I mean you can see the tire tracks
for somebody going up there it was. It would probably
need change. It's a struggle at this point. Honestly, guys,
I think that we should send them. At this point,
it feels like send him the note. We drove back

to us Garad and wrote a long message on the way.
We explained what we were doing in Ukraine, that I
was a former holy Cross student, and that we wanted
to hear their side of everything. We sent the message
off to both numbers we've gotten Father Went and Petrol.
They were delivered and read on both ends, and we

waited for a response. I know you got my message
today and I was just following up for only a
few days. We must I think you should figured we
heard nothing for hours, so we tried to call those
numbers that evening, Hello, good evening is his father? Gregory went? No, Um,

who am I speaking to Wed? We did, That's something
we didn't plan for. What was somebody else to pick up?
We did? Yeah, but not somebody. Who's who's going to
talk to you in English and sound like that? Who
the hell was that? We couldn't tell if it was

Petro or Went or neither of them. We started to
worry if these were their phone numbers at all. Then
around midnight a text finally came in. It was Petro.
He said he wasn't interested in talking to us. He
also didn't believe that I was someone from Holy Cross.

We were already in bed in our hotel rooms when
this message came in. We huddled up for an emergency
meeting to figure out a response. We really wanted him
to understand why we flew halfway across the world to
talk to them, that this show would be released whether
they spoke with us or not, and that at this
point mihailoko Fell, a confessed murderer, was the main spokesperson

for what happened that Holy Cross, and that message changed
his mind. He agreed to talk with us privately at
our hotel the next day. Petro wanted to see if
he remembered Paula and if the others from the monastery
could trust us. We were expecting Petro to be cold
and stand offish, based on his texts and the testimony

videos we watched over and over through the years, but
he was incredibly warmed towards both of us. In the
hour or so that we talked, he really opened up
and we learned a lot. Petro was no longer a monk,
but an Orthodox priest. He was married and had a family.
He also told us he was still on the board

at the new medical center, but closing their clinic meant
there were other changes too. Petro told us that only
a few months earlier, after the hospital changed hands, Father
Damien left Ukraine. Now he was back in North Carolina
with Vasile. Our team met in a cafe after the
talk with Petro to share what else we found out.

Father dam Yeah, because they broke They have no money.
This ruined them, This ruined their list. The medical center
was a failure. They lost all their money there. There
is so much debt. Father went lives within Petro's house

with the family like Um. He said he was willing
to do a recorded interview and that he would talk
to Father Went about joining us well. He told us
he'd send us a text later that day. We waited
to hear back from Petro, and he finally messaged us

that evening. He sent a text saying Father Went would
like to talk to us on the phone first before
agreeing to an interview, but he said the priest would
call us. It was already late on our last line
in Usgarad. The next day, we planned to stop by
the Kofels as he was on the way back to Leviv.

We needed to leave by midday to avoid driving through
the mountains at night, and missed the worst of a
huge snowstorm that was expected to roll through in the evening.
We stayed in Usgarad a little later than we wanted,
hoping to hear from Father Went or Petro. We reached out,
but we got nothing but silence. With the snowstorm coming,

we gave up and started making the four and a
half hour drive back to Leviv so we could catch
our flights to Miami early the next morning. Then about
an hour into the drive, headphones and headphones. Oh the
phone ratting. Hello, Hi, Father, so here, I'm here with

funny Gregory here. You're going to talk to him out Okay, Oh,
thank you so much, Petro Okay, I'm doing him the
funky hello. Hi, Hello, Hello, Father Went. How are you doing.
I'm a little long winded when I'm nervous, and I'm
very I'm nervous and excited to talk to you. I

was so nervous talking to Father Went. I imagined this
moment for years, and we sat anxiously on the side
of a rural Ukrainian road trying to convince him to
give us his side of the story. After almost an
hour on the phone, Father Went made up his mind.
I think it's more, and I think that you have

something that you would like to do and don't stand
it so wrong? What's it? So? Why not a dance?
What we can for you? We set a time to
meet with them at the monastery that evening. In a
few hours we'd be face to face with Father Abbott

Gregory Went. Sacred Scandal is a production of Exile Content
Studio in partnership with I Heart Radios Michael da Podcast Network.

Sacred Scandal was created and produced by Melanie Bartley and
me Paula Barrows. Our senior producer is Dennis Funk of
Written in Air. The executive producers are Rose Red and
Nando Villa. Production mixing and sound design by Helena de Grout.
Our production assistant is Imani Leonard. The show is fact

checked by Kimberly Winston. Original music and final audio mixing
comes from Patrick Hart and special thanks on this episode
to Julia TERASUK, Greta Weber, and Travis Roig. If you'd
like to reach out, email us at hello at Sacred
Scandal podcast dot com, and you can follow us on

Instagram at Sacred Scandal
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