March 14, 2019, marks one year since the day that Vas Pejcinovski’s wife, son, and youngest daughter were murdered. In that year, he learned to cope with his immense grief; consoled Victoria, his eldest child and only surviving family member; became a baptized, born-again Christian. And he forgave the accused killer.
The Ontario, Canada, electrical contractor lost his wife Krissy; his only son, Roy, a 15-year-old star hockey goalkeeper; and his youngest child, 13-year-old Vana.
How did Vas Pejcinovski make the improbable journey from triple bereavement to salvation and forgiveness?
Pot, Parties, and Pride
Pejcinovski’s evolution began with the music, dancing, and drugs common to many youth in Toronto’s Greektown. He was more attracted to partying than to praying. When Krissy Kapanova migrated from Bulgaria, she and Vas found a mutual attraction. They married twice — at City Hall in December 2000 and in church the following month. They had three children, whom they both loved.
Vas emphasizes Krissy was a good woman. She strove to show she loved him and labored to strengthen their marriage. But the fine art of spousal affection escaped him. Even fatherly love did not come easily. The value of reciprocating Krissy’s affection could not compete with his pursuit of the biggest houses, the best cars, the finest wines, and the classiest clothes.
“I led a sinful life,” Vas confesses. “The underlying theme of my life was pride.”
In late 2014, Vas discovered that Krissy was having an affair. His pride was hurt, seemingly beyond repair. He recounts how he spent the next four months in search of opportunities for revenge. He sought every possible way to inflict pain on the woman he had sworn 14 years earlier to love, cherish, and protect.
Learning to Forgive
Then, early 2015, from the recesses of his mind, he heard a voice advising him to look into the mirror and reflect on his own conduct. That very day, he did. By day’s end, he had forgiven his wife, and he told her so. Although not yet a born-again Christian, he recognized, as did Krissy and others familiar with the affair, that such forgiveness, and his overall change in attitude and behavior, could only represent a miracle from a powerful and gracious God.
In the three years after 2015, he became more intentional in his pursuit of spirituality and righteousness.
“Three years after I heard that voice was when I got on fire for the Lord,” Vas says. He listened to sermons on YouTube and borrowed a Bible from a long-time friend and business partner, a Christian of Greek Orthodox persuasion.
He reflected on the true healing that results when one forgives. “When I forgave my wife, I became happy, and I wanted to be healthy. I stopped smoking.” He shows photographs that prove that he lost 60 pounds.
The relationship with his children was transformed. His marriage was not repaired, but, although they lived apart, his relationship with Krissy changed from bitterness to friendship from that day until the day her life was stolen.
A Tragic Day
It was a bleak and chilly spring morning in Ajax, in the Durham region of Ontario, when Vas and his daughter Victoria lost more than half of their family. The night before, Vas had driven Roy to his team’s hockey game. Neither the boy nor his father knew this would be Roy’s last performance as his team’s champion goalkeeper. Near midnight, Vas dropped his son at his mother’s house. It was the last time he would see him alive.
On that same Tuesday night, Vas had summoned a taxi to take Victoria from her mother’s home to spend the night at a friend’s place. That move, ironically, was how Victoria was spared.
Wednesday morning, Victoria called her mother to remind her to pick her up, but she received no answer. In desperation, she called her father. He called Krissy’s phone and also got no answer. He called Roy’s phone. No answer. He tried Vana’s. Again, there was no response.
An uneasy feeling came over him. “I called 911 and started making my way there.” By the time he arrived, police had already installed yellow tape indicating that Krissy’s home had become a crime scene.
Vas declares mournfully, “It was the worst day of my life.” For the next week, he says, he was “asking God, ‘Why?’” After all, he had “taken up the Bible.” In addition, feeling that he had been a bad father, he “had started trying to teach them [his children] the truth about heaven and hell.” He adds, “My boy was the one who was asking questions.”
On the day of the viewing, Vas was “weak and scared.” He recalls, “I did not want to see my boy in a casket. But the strength the Lord gave me that day was the first miracle. I was able to stand for seven, eight hours greeting about 4,000 people. I ran out of tears, and after the first couple of hours, I was the one consoling people.”
The Meaning of Forgiveness
One of the most remarkable outcomes of that tragic event remains the act of forgiving the man who had almost decimated Vas’s family.
How and when did fury give way to forgiveness? “It was not a specific day or time,” says Vas. “I don’t think I was angry ever. I was sad because I missed them. Anger or hate never seeped in.”
Vas has completely forgiven the accused murderer, while holding him responsible for his crime. Sure, he said, “it was a dark day” and “a chunk of me was ripped out” and “nothing can take the pain away.” He still struggles not to think back on that day because the loss and the pain are still real. However, with the help of “a network of friends,” Vas and Victoria are, day by day, finding greater peace in God.
Love, the Adventist Faith, and Baptism
While listening to sermons online, Vas was impressed by preachers who took their teachings directly from the Bible. There was one whose approach was especially biblical.
That preacher offered to provide the addresses of Bible-believing churches to anyone who was interested. Vas provided his coordinates and received a list of churches in his area.
Vas says he chose the Agape Temple church for two reasons. It was the one closest to his home, and, given his familiarity with the Greek language, he knew that the word agape means “love.” So he made contact with the church’ pastor, Jayson Levy.
In December 2018, Vas was baptized by Levy and accepted enthusiastically into fellowship at the Agape Temple Seventh-day Adventist Church in Pickering, Ontario.
Pejcinovski now awaits the first anniversary of the worst day of his life. His burden, while still painful and unfair, is lightened somewhat by the God-given strength to forgive the unforgivable. It’s also mitigated by the assurance of the forgiveness of his sins, by the hope of the resurrection, and by his fellowship in a little church in Pickering that has come to be known as Agape, or the “love church.”
Love, fellowship, and forgiveness are important to Pejcinovski. As he put it so well, “Forgiveness is not an event; it is a state of mind.”
The original story appeared in the February 2019 issue of the Canadian Adventist Messenger.