High in the hills above Hayward in Garin Regional Park is the grave of Agapius Honcharenko, a Ukranian patriot and exiled Orthodox Christian priest who hid out in the area a century ago. Father Honcharenko and his wife Albina lived on the 40-acre farm known as Ukraina from 1873 to 1916. Today it’s a California registered historical landmark and destination for curious hikers.
The graves of the couple are located at the top of the quiet 3,168-acre park that stretches behind Mission Boulevard and the California State University East Bay Hayward campus. Part of the East Bay Regional Park District, Garin is a place of great natural beauty, where towering trees and a bench provide a great spot for visitors to gaze out over the Bay Area.
The Honcharenko graves are surrounded by two wooden fences, which are strewn with blue and yellow fabric representing the colors of the Ukrainian flag. A few painted rocks with googly eyes are on the outer fence.
Several yards away, a sign offers information about their lives. Ukranian-born Father Honcharenko, who graduated from Kyiv Theological Seminary, lived here after escaping from Russia.
Few details are provided about his wife, who died in 1915. According to one account, she was from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“After years as a hunted man, Father Agapius found sanctuary on this beautiful, remote spot,” according to the sign placed by the Park District. “He lived here for 43 years growing fruits and vegetables while continuing to promote social reform through his writings.”
Ukrainians came to establish a commune on his farm from 1900-02; it was named The Ukrainian Brotherhood.
Also nearby, a state historical landmark says political literature Honarchenko produced here was smuggled into czarist Russia. According to a 1916 article in the Oakland Tribune, he “was driven from Russia for championing the cause of freedom of the serf.” An article from the San Francisco Call newspaper in 1911 referred to him as the confessor to “War and Peace” author Leo Tolstoy.
On a more whimsical note, the Park District sign says the priest also was celebrated for growing a squash that weighed 50 pounds and a sunflower 44 inches in diameter.
A 3.2 mile, about 45-minute hike on the Ukraina Loop Trail to the grave site begins at Garin Regional Park’s Carden Lane entrance. Vehicle parking is available near Stonebrae Elementary School.
At Garin’s main entrance, off Mission Boulevard at Garin Road, visitors will find antique agricultural equipment near the roadside. Inside the park, there’s a visitor center in a red barn with agricultural exhibits that’s open Saturdays in the summer. And on Sept. 10, the park’s Apple Festival includes tasting antique apple varieties grown in the park’s orchards as well as folk music and old-fashioned games.
The park has miles of hiking trails, some of which continue to adjacent Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Park, also run by the East Bay Regional Park District. Two other interesting sites are located near the main entrance: a kite field and a fishing pond.
The kite field is a long expanse of grass, flanked by picnic tables and signs explaining kite flying rules. On a recent weekday visit, there was a gentle breeze, but no kites to be seen, not even in nearby trees.
It was also quiet at Jordan Pond, which is home to largemouth bass, bluegill, sunfish and channel catfish. People who are 16 years or older must have a state fishing license and district fishing permit to fish from the shore or a pier at the serene spot. On a spring day, they may have the lake to themselves.
Garin Regional Park opens daily at 8 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. May 22 to Aug. 27, 2023; closing is earlier in fall and winter. The main entrance is at 1320 Garin Ave., Hayward. Parking costs $5 per vehicle. The Visitor Center is open 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays June 18 through Labor Day. For information, call (888) 327-2757, option 3, extension 4530, or visit ebparks.org.