Ukrainian POW Chapel, Hallmuir

Ukranian POW Chapel, Hallmuir

From the outside, this doesn't look like a place of worship. The small, corrugated iron hut is pretty anonymous but the crucifix on the door marks it as special. Inside the drab exterior there is an ornate world of wonder. Simple wooden pews face a beautifully decorated altar. There are religious statues on both sides and numerous brightly-coloured ornaments. If you look closely you can see that they’re hand-made, the best example being the Blue Peter-style chandelier made from tinsel and coathangers, still going strong after 60 years service.

This chapel was built by Ukrainian prisoners of war who were sent here in 1947. Between 420 and 450 men were imprisoned in Rimini and sent to Scotland instead of being sent home where they would have been tried as traitors and faced almost certain death. They arrived in Glasgow wearing German uniforms, and came to Happendon Lodge near Motherwell, then Carstairs before landing up in the camp at Hallmuir, 3 miles outside Lockerbie in the Scottish Borders.

90% of the men were farmers so the Ministry of Agriculture gave them jobs on the local land. One man, Mr Fallat, bought some fruit seeds from Italy and planted an orchard that still stands to this day. Inside the church they were just as creative. The landowner, Sir John Buchanan Jardine gave them this small hut and after humble beginnings they began to decorate it as a home from home. On the high altar is a model of their local Ukranian cathedral, carved with a pen knife. It was made from memory as the Russians destroyed the real one. The candlesticks beside it are made from shell casings and the standards surrounding the arch from a tent brought over from Rimini. For a place decorated in a time of austerity it's wonderfully cheerful.

Ukranian POW Chapel, Hallmuir

The men didn't want to become Catholics and remained Greek Orthodox. They integrated well with the local community and put on plays and dances. Many stayed here and started families. Beside the church, a descendent of one of the POWs and his wife run a small information centre. They are keen to promote this wonderful place and educate others about the part these prisoners played in the war effort. If you visit they will be glad to tell you more about its history.

The chapel is open all year round, and is still in use. Services are held on the first Sunday of every month.

Ukrainian POW Chapel photos

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How to get there

Turn off the M74 at Junction 18, Lockerbie. Turn left at first roundabout (northbound) and take the Dalton Road. The ‘Chapel is signposted so follow the road and look for the turnoff on the left.

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