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The Watchtower in Ukrainian has been available to people worldwide for the last 100 years

JANUARY 4, 2024

One Hundred Years of Publishing The Watchtower in Ukrainian

One Hundred Years of Publishing The Watchtower in Ukrainian

The first Ukrainian-language edition of The Watchtower, published in January 1924

January 2024 marks 100 years since The Watchtower was first published in Ukrainian. The good news reached Ukraine as early as 1891, and many responded positively to the Bible’s message. In the decades that followed, many more Ukrainian-speaking people developed a love for Bible truths. However, because of the political climate in Ukraine in the early 20th century, many Ukrainian-speaking people immigrated to other countries, particularly Canada and the United States.

During a visit to Canada in 1923, Brother J. F. Rutherford invited Brother Emil Zarysky, whose parents had emigrated from Ukraine, to assist with translating The Watchtower into the Ukrainian language. Emil had just begun serving as a colporteur (pioneer) and a pilgrim (traveling overseer). Additionally, he and his wife, Mariya, had five children. Nevertheless, he accepted Brother Rutherford’s invitation, and the first Ukrainian-language edition of The Watchtower was published in January 1924. Emil faithfully continued as a translator for 40 years. His daughter Rose recalled: “What I remember the most from those days is the sound of Dad’s typewriter constantly echoing through the house.”

In 1964, Emil trained Brother Maurice Saranchuk and his wife, Anne, to care for translating The Watchtower into Ukrainian. The Saranchuks zealously carried out their assignment, sometimes even working from the back seat of their automobile during breaks in their secular work. Eventually, arrangements were made for the couple to use a small space at a local Kingdom Hall as a translation office. In 1977, the Saranchuks were invited to serve at Canada Bethel. Over time, other brothers at the branch who spoke Ukrainian were trained to accurately translate The Watchtower and other Bible literature.

Left: Emil and Mariya Zarysky, who were the first to translate The Watchtower into Ukrainian in 1924. Right: Maurice and Anne Saranchuk, who helped with the Ukrainian translation of The Watchtower beginning in the 1960’s

During the decades-long ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Soviet Union that began in the late 1940’s, our brothers found innovative ways to get The Watchtower and other Bible literature in Ukrainian into the country. Once the brothers in the Soviet Union received the publications, they would carefully reproduce and distribute them, providing our brothers with much-needed spiritual food. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, our brothers and sisters in Ukraine were able to worship freely. Soon after, a Ukrainian translation team was organized at the branch office in Germany. Later, the team moved to Poland before eventually relocating to the newly completed Ukraine branch in 2001. One sister who has assisted with Ukrainian translation for the last 30 years remarked: “The brothers and sisters who first translated, copied, and distributed The Watchtower in those early years contributed to the growth we see in Jehovah’s organization today. Even as I go about my assignment now, their determination inspires me.”

Today, millions of Ukrainian-speaking people worldwide benefit from having The Watchtower available in their language. Currently, there are 67 Ukrainian-speaking groups and 541 congregations throughout Ukraine. There are also Ukrainian-speaking groups and congregations in Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and the United States.

All thanks goes to Jehovah for providing The Watchtower in Ukrainian as a way to help many more “put their confidence” in him.—Psalm 78:7.