The founders of this parish came from Galicia, a crown land of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, located in the southeastern section of today’s Poland, north of the Carpathian Mountains. Due to economic problems and crop failures, the migration to America began about 1880. Answering the need for cheap labor and the availability of low-cost housing, they settled in the Williamsburg and Greenpoint areas of Brooklyn, and the Blissville and Maspeth sections of Queens.
Liturgical services were first held in the home of Lukas Taras, who lived on North 7th St in Williamsburg. Upon locating more fellow countrymen who wanted to start an Orthodox Church, they collected $160. This was used as a down payment with a mortgage of $16,000 to purchase a vacant wooden Methodist Church located at North 5th St and Bedford Ave. The church was named after St Vladimir. The building was renovated to conform to Orthodox traditions, including a beautiful hand-carved 3-tier oak iconostas constructed by a German firm, Dopple. Various organizations contributed all the necessary liturgical items.
On Saturday, April 5, 1908, the first Vespers service was served and on Sunday, April 6, 1908, the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated. Both services were celebrated by (Saint) Archpriest Alexander Hotovitsky from St. Nicholas Cathedral. The first rector was the Rev. Theophan Buketoff, who came from Montreal, Canada.
As the parish grew, a larger church was needed. A site was found, halfway between Williamsburg and Greenpoint, consisting of 5 building lots on the corner of North 12th St and Driggs Ave. The lots were purchased for $16,000. The architect, Louis Allmendiger, based his design for the new church on the Cathedral of the Dormition within the Moscow Kremlin, having 5 domes supported by four large columns. The Schneider Company was contracted to build it for $117,000. Work began in 1916.
World War I created material shortages and insufficient funds, delaying the church’s completion. Due to the shortage of funds, the N 5th St church was sold in 1919, and church services were conducted in the incomplete building. The Rev. John Krohmalney led a drive to complete the church whose cost had risen by $20,000. Various organizations and individuals donated the stained glass windows, and the Trinity Brotherhood donated a 1002 lb, tone “A” bell.
Two additional altars were added to the N 12th St. Church. The north altar was dedicated to St. Vladimir, the center altar to the Transfiguration of Our Lord, and the south altar was dedicated to the Protection of the Holy Virgin Mary. The altars required two additions to the original iconostas that was transferred from the N 5th St church.
Metropolitan Platon consecrated the Church on September 3, 1922. Patriarch (Saint) Tikhon presented the parish with the revered Holy Icon of the Mother of God of Pochaev, which now hangs in a place of honor over the Royal Doors. The back has an inscription “In blessing to the Russian Orthodox people of Brooklyn.”
The Depression put the parish into financial difficulty. Loans made by individuals and organizations could not be paid, and people were begging for repayment. The Church committee was afraid it might have to close the church.
The V. Rev. Constantine Buketoff arrived in February 1932, from Bayonne, NJ. The slow, painful job of paying off loans was accomplished with the assistance of the Church committee. It is said that through the parishioners’ “nickels and dimes,” the church managed to become debt free.
The Sisterhood of Myrrh-bearing Women was founded in 1932, with the help of Matushka Mallitza Buketoff.
The Transfiguration Church was raised to the rank of Cathedral in 1932, by the Synod of Bishops.
English was introduced into the Divine Liturgy in 1946, with the returning veterans of World War II.
A Cathedral Sunday School was organized in 1949, with the birth of the “Baby Boomers” after the war.
Metropolitan Leonty ceremonially “burned the mortgage” in October 1950.
Fr Constantine was awarded the Mitre by Bishop John in 1952, by a decision of the Bishops’ Sobor, for his many accomplishments in organizing Orthodox churches.
Rev. Nicholas Yuschak was ordained in the Cathedral on November 7, 1953. This began the era of two priests being attached to the Transfiguration Cathedral. English Divine Liturgy was served at 8:30 AM and Slavonic Divine Liturgy was served at 10:00 AM, with Sunday School classes held at 10.
Rev Daniel Hubiak followed as the next second priest. During this period, the Sunday School had over 150 students.
Rev. Alvian Smirensky was ordained on September 14, 1958, replacing Fr. Hubiak. Rev. Innokenty Semoff followed Fr. Alvian in 1961. Rt. Rev. Constantine Buketoff retired in September 1964, having faithfully served Transfiguration Cathedral for 32 years. Due to circumstances at the time, the era of two priests attached to the Cathedral ended.
V. Rev. Igor Tkachuk was appointed Rector on October 1, 1966. Through his guidance and efforts, restoration and beautification of the Cathedral continued. The Cathedral now contains beautiful and irreplaceable Icons, Gospels, and liturgical items. During his tenure, one of our parishioners, John Sokolich was tonsured a Reader, eventually reaching the rank of Protodeacon, the first attached Deacon of the Cathedral. He was later joined by Dn. Alexis Bona. Fr. Igor retired in October 1984, and was made Pastor Emeritus by Archbishop Peter of New York. Fr. Igor fell asleep in the Lord on November 8, 1995.
V. Rev. Anatoly Fiedoruk followed Fr. Tkachuk as Acting Rector. V. Rev. Boris P. Vlasenko arrived in August 1986 and served until his retirement in 1991. Rev. Wiaczeslaw Krawczuk arrived in November 1992 and is the present Rector. In 1993, Peter Andryuk was ordained Sub-Deacon and in 1996, Boris Slootsky was ordained Deacon. In April 1997, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America elevated Father Wiaczeslaw to the rank of Archpriest, and in March 2004, the Holy Synod of Bishops presented the honor of the Jeweled Cross to Father Wiaczeslaw in recognition of his faithfulness and priestly ministry.
The children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of the forebearers of the Transfiguration Cathedral are members and/or founders of Orthodox parishes scattered throughout the United States, especially those organized in the 50’s and 60’s.
The 5 copper cupolas topped with Patriarchal crosses are visible far and wide in the New York area. It is one of the largest churches in the New York Metropolitan area. Its well-known picture has appeared in local, national and international newspapers and magazines. The historic picture taken in 1922 was displayed at the American Exposition in Moscow to show a Russian Orthodox Church in the United States (1954). Viewers have seen it in commercials, on television, and in the movie “House on Carroll Street.”
Stories and pictures of the Cathedral have appeared in various books. Among them are The History of New York City, of Brooklyn, The Architects Guide to New York City, and Landmarks of New York State. On November 19, 1969, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Transfiguration of Our Lord a landmark of New York City. In recognition of its historical and architectural significance, the Cathedral was listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior, April 16, 1980.
In 1996 all of the parishioners decided that our over 80-year-old Cathedral needed general renovation and that our focus should be on the cupolas, windows, and roof. The lowest contract bid in 1999 was $1.4 million; $1.6 million in 2000. Because the parish did not have this amount of money, we tried to get grants from the federal government. After a few years of striving for a grant, we received $350,000 from the Parks Department. Even though we received a grant, galloping inflation raised the cost of the project again. In 2003 a contract was signed to work on the first phase of the project (5 cupolas and windows), which was completed in 2004. Now we are working on collecting funds for the second phase of the restoration project (the roof).
Our Joyous Centennial 2008
From 1908-2008 the parish grew and established itself as a mainstay in the community and in the hearts of its faithful. Through the years the church has been strengthened by many key events, including the renovation of the cupolas and all external renovation, also the donation of a plashchenitza by the Kapura family and a relic holder by the Sulka family, for the relics of St. Maxim Sandowich, brought by Bishop Tikon. St. Maxim Sandowich is the apostle of the Lemkos, the area of Eastern Europe where the founders of our parish originated from.
On Saturday, September 13th the current generation, led by the present pastor the Very Rev. Wiaczeslaw Krawczuk, paid homage to those in the parish who have passed away with a Soul Liturgy and Panikhida, thousands of names were mentioned. We would like to thank Archimandrite Jacob Piruta of the West Pennsylvania Diocese; Very Rev. Daniel Degyansky, Rector of St. John Chrysostom Church, Woodside, NY; Very Rev.Vladimir Alexeev, Rector of Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn and Deacon Nicholas Gulin, also from Holy Trinity, for sharing this deeply poignant time with us.
The Sunday, September 14th, was one of great uplifting joy. The choir beautifully chanted during our Centennial Jubilee services under the direction of Deacon Igor Ksynyuk as they do for every service serve in the Parish. We were grateful to be able to celebrate this day with the Right Reverend Tikhon, Bishop of Philadelphia and East Pennsylvania; Very Rev. Joseph Lickwar, Chancellor of Diocese of Washington and New York; Archimandrite Jacob Piruta of the West Pennsylvania Diocese; Very Rev. Samuel Kedala, Dean of New Jersey; Very Rev. Wiaczeslaw Krawczuk, Dean of New York City; Very Rev. Vladimir Alexeev, Rector of Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn; Very Rev. Basil Summer from Long Island, NY; Rev. John Bartholomew, from Our Lady of Kazan Church of Sea Cliff, New York; Archdeacon. Alexei Klimitchev, and Deacon Nicholas Gulin.
During Hours before the Divine Liturgy, His Grace Bishop Tikhon, tonsured our two dedicated altar boys Eliasz Krawczuk and Jaroslaw Maliniak to the order of reader of the Holy Orthodox Church.
The subsequent banquet was filled with reminiscing stories of ancestors, delightful chatter, good food and dancing with a perspective ahead shown by some of the youth of our Church School. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz gave a Proclamation on the occasion of the 100th Jubilee of our parish. During the banquet a Jubilee book was given out, containing the great history of our parish and the well wishes of a large amount of people. With the momentous event of our 100th Jubilee now behind us, we look to the future to another great celebration and the growth and strengthening of our faithful tree.
May the Lord continue to bless us in all things – to Him be the glory!