His Beatitude Vladimir (Sabodan), Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine, was born on 10/23 November 1935 to the family of peasants. When baptised, he was given the name of the Martyr Victor, who suffered for Christ in the II century. Work, terrible years of the World War II, persecution of the Church influenced the character of Metropolitan Vladimir, taught him to stand with fortitude for the Body of Christ and faith.
Metropolitan Vladimir experienced a lot during his ministry. In 1988, on the eve of the celebration of the thousandth anniversary of Kievan Rus Baptism, Metropolitan Vladimir, at that time Metropolitan of Rostov and Novocherkassy, visited an exhibition devoted to Nikita Khruschev and organised by his son. Among many displayed articles and documents he paid attention to a photograph with two clergymen on it. In one of them Metropolitan Vladimir recognised himself. Khruschev’s words were inscribed on it: «I shall show the last priest on the TV screen in 1981.» But governments changed, ideologies and regimes changed two. And the Church lived. Its strengthening, preserving its people, saving the souls of those who searched for God were the particular concern of Metropolitan Vladimir.
After graduation from the secondary school Victor Sabodan enters the Odessa Theological Seminary. Subsequently he studied at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy and graduated from it with the degree of Candidate of Theology. On 14 June 1962 he was ordained to the Holy Diaconate and the following day, on 15 June — to the Holy Priesthood. In August the future hierarch took monastic vows with the name Vladimir in honour of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Great Prince Vladimir, Baptiser of Rus.
In 1962 he was sent to teach at the Odessa Theological Seminary. In 1965 he completed the post-graduate course at the Moscow Theological Academy and was appointed Rector of the Odessa Theological Seminary and elevated to the rank of Archimandrite. In 1966 he was appointed Deputy Head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission to Jerusalem.
On 9 July 1966 Archimandrite Vladimir was consecrated to the episcopacy with the title of Bishop of Zvenigirod by His Eminence Metropolitan Krutitski and Kolomenski Pimen, who later became the Patriarch. A new Bishop was appointed Vicar of Moscow Diocese, representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the World Council of Churches in Geneva, archpriest of the Nativity of the Theotokos parish in Geneva. In 1968 he is appointed Vicar Bishop of the Metropolitan of Kiev and Gallich, Patriarchal Exarch of Ukraine. In 1969 he was nominated Bishop of Chernigov and temporary administrator of Summy Diocese. In 1970 — 1973 he worked as an executive secretary of the Ukrainian Exharchate magazine «The Orthodox Bulletin».
On 18 April 1973 Bishop Vladimir was nominated Bishop Dmitrovski, Vicar of Moscow Diocese and Rector of the Moscow Theological Academy and Seminary. On 9 September he was elevated to the rank of Archbishop. In 1978 Archbishop Vladimir was given the academic status of professor of the Moscow Theological Academy. During nine years of his ministry as Rector of the Moscow Theological Schools he ordained to the priesthood and diaconate more than 500 priests and deacons only for Ukraine, and about 1,500 for the whole Church.
In 1979 he defends his master thesis on «Ecclesiology in the national theology». On 16 July 1982 he is appointed to Rostov-on-Don Diocese and is elevated to the rank of Metropolitan. From 1984 he is Patriarchal Exarch of the Western Europe, and from 1987 — permanent member of the Holy Synod, Chancellor of Moscow Patriarchy.
In 1992 the Kharkiv Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church elects him Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine, Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir received numerous high awards from the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches and international organisations. He is member of the UN Informatization Academy, member of the International Personnel Academy of the Council of Europe and of UNESCO, Honorary Doctor (Honoris Causa) of many prestigious universities, holder of the Yaroslav the Wise (Fifth Class) state order. Metropolitan Vladimir is the author of numerous research papers on theology. Majority of them were included into the six-volume edition of his works published in 1997-1998.
«My parents were a gift of God to me,» — says Metropolitan Vladimir. — «Ever-remembered Markian, who reposed in 1975 at his 84th year, and my mum, Feodosia, who passed away in 1989 at her 86th year. I remember my mum’s prayer: «Merciful God! Do not bereave me of sense, eye-sight and movement.» She used to repeat these words very often. She reposed peacefully, with prayer, surrounded by relatives.
Both father and mother loved labour. They were honest people. They loved people and God. They fostered in me faith in God and kind attitude towards people. I cannot remember them behaving rudely vis-à-vis their children or other children. They had very warm relations with neighbours and with people in general. I love them, pray for them and know that they also pray for me in other world.»
When asked who, except parents, influenced his formation, Metropolitan Vladimir answers immediately: people.
«And today I pray for those, whom I knew from my childhood,» — says Metropolitan Vladimir. — «I ask Lord to grant everlasting rest to dead and health to living. Looking back at my life I become more and more persuaded that our Church is invincible not only because it was founded by God, but also because of wonderful people we have, people that can defend their Church, their faith.»
In his life Metropolitan Vladimir met many ascetics, spiritually experienced monks and holy people. In his youth he visited the Holy Monk Lavrentiy, Schearchimandrite of the Chernigov Holy Trinity Monastery. The Venerable Lavrentiy at first meeting uttered the prophetic words about the future of young Victor. There were many more visits, during which the elderly monk spoke about the future of the Orthodox Church. In the 1950s he foresaw the schism of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine that happened 40 years after, in the beginning of the 1990s.
Once the Holy Elderly Monk Kuksha paid attention to the future Metropolitan. Monk Kuksha was a wonderful person, a devout monk, who lived a life of a martyr for the Orthodox faith. Being persecuted by the authorities he moved from one monastery to another, from one parish to another. Finally, he found shelter in a small cell in the Odessa monastery.
Many years Metropolitan Vladimir kept black beads plaited by the Venerable Father. He only touched them and soul filled with joy, everything went on swimmingly. These beads St. Kuksha presented to him. What Metropolitan Vladimir said about the Saint: «He radiated kindness, love, cordial warmth. Day and night worked the Saint unto salvation of faithful. Crowds of people came from all over the Soviet Union to see the monk, receive blessing, hear his words. The Venerable Kuksha practically could not find himself isolated. Everywhere pilgrims waited for him. The monk was glorified with the gift of foresight. He healed spiritual and corporal ailments.»
Victor was lucky to hear wise words of Saint Luka Voino-Yasenetsky. During studies in the Seminary he met with him in Odessa three times. The Saint spoke about persecutions, about putting of clergy into the concentration camps. Victor was amazed that a prominent surgeon, scientist, arch-pastor had never complained at anybody or anything, had never blamed anybody, had never nursed grievance despite sufferings he experienced. >From the depth of his heart he forgave his enemies.
This is how the spiritual world of Metropolitan Vladimir was formed. The soul prepared for an important ministry that required maximum responsibility and self-discipline.
Today, while listening to the sermons of Metropolitan Vladimir, one clearly sees the strength and clarity of faith. This is a result of many years of work for the Church, deep reflections about the sense of life and tasks of life of the person, who has chosen a thorny path to the Heavenly Kingdom and who is leading the people entrusted to him by God.
His students wrote down the sermons included into the first two volumes of a six-volume edition of works of Metropolitan Vladimir. He always speaks without any papers. He cites a lot from the Holy Scripture and backs his logical reflections by examples and aphorisms. This requires enormous concentration of mind, will and sense.
Metropolitan Vladimir is not a public person. You will never hear from him a phrase like «once an American president asked me...». He will not even find it necessary to mention about meeting him. It has become a public knowledge in 1998 that Metropolitan Vladimir knew St. Luka, Archbishop of Simferopol, when he inaugurated a monument to the Saint. A few knew that the Venerable Lavrentiy of Chernigov was the Metropolitan’s spiritual Father, and the Venerable Kuksha of Odessa was his godfather upon tonsuring into monasticism.
During the visit of His Holiness Patriarch of Constantinople to Odessa journalists paid attention to how warmly he talks with Metropolitan Vladimir. It turned out that they knew each other from the times when Metropolitan Vladimir was an archpriest of the Orthodox church in Geneva and future Ecumenical Patriarch studied in that city and very often visited the archpriest. The Patrons talked about «a nice Geneva». Once newsagencies reported about meeting of Metropolitan Vladimir with the Dutch Queen Beatrix. They are friends and the Queen respects Metropolitan Vladimir. The doors of the monarchical palace are open all the time for him — the only one out of all Ukrainians.
There are many more such examples in the biography of Metropolitan Vladimir. Modern PR technologies may perfectly use them to create an image and influence the public opinion, authorities, competition. There is hardly a person who can call the representative of Holy Orthodoxy «a foe of Ukrainian Orthodoxy» and even an ordinary civil servant will not dare to be rude with, for instance, a friend of the Queen.
However, Metropolitan Vladimir has always rejected the vanity of this world. He never mentions his awards, scientific statuses, and honorary posts in international church organisations. He is simply a Patron of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. He is an embodiment of its dignity and conscience.
This strikingly distinguishes Metropolitan Vladimir from, for example, the leader of the Ukrainian schism, apostate Filaret, who «promotes» himself not worse than a pop-star and calls himself in his epistles «given by God to Ukrainian Orthodoxy».
The example of Metropolitan Vladimir convinces us of love that God reveals to us by giving us pastors ready to sacrifice their souls for the entrusted to them people. He harmoniously combines strictness and decisiveness, adherence to principles and gentleness, kindness, tolerance. His sermons are the example of a conscious and deep-felt faith, clear hope upon God, sincere love to God and a neighbour.