Agapius Honcharenko


1832 – 1916

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Who was Agapius Honcharenko?

Reverend Agapius Honcharenko was a Ukrainian patriot and exiled Greek Orthodox priest. He was a prominent scholar, humanitarian, and early champion for human rights.

Born to a prominent Cossack family in Kryva, Tarascha county, in Kiev Oblast, Honcharenko was the first Ukrainian political émigré to arrive in the United States. He graduated from the Kiev Theological Seminary and entered the Kiev Pechersk Lavra. He was sent to Athens in 1857 to serve as deacon at the embassy's church, where he began to contribute anonymous articles to Alexander Herzen's London-based Kolokol that clamored for the emancipation of Russian serfs and denounced his own church for supporting such an unequal system. These articles caused much unrest in Russia, and after months of trying to determine the identity of the mystery writer, Russian authorities discovered and arrested him in 1860. He was able to escape from the Russian prison in Constantinople by disguising himself as a Turk and walking out the front door.

After his escape, he traveled to London to rejoin the Kolokol staff until the newspaper discontinued publication upon the freeing of the serfs, then returned to Athens again. Afterwards, he traveled extensively to Syria, Jerusalem, Egypt and Turkey. While in Alexandria, he served as confessor to Leo Tolstoy. Returning to London, he met Italian patriot Giuseppe Mazzini, who advised him to immigrate to the United States, which he did in 1865. After his arrival, he traveled around the country, first to Philadelphia where he met the woman who would become his wife. In New York City, he established the first Orthodox liturgy in the U.S. outside of Alaska. He also helped establish a Greek Orthodox church in New Orleans and did work in Alaska before finally settling in San Francisco. Before immigrating, he had changed his name to protect his family from persecution for his anti-Russian writings. Through his travels, he became friends with many notable Americans, among them Eugene Schuyler, Horace Greeley, Charles R. Dana, Hamilton Fish, Henry Wager Halleck, William H. Seward and Henry George.

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Aug 31, 1832
  • United States of America
May 5, 1916

on July 23, 2013


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