Personal Stories: I live thanks to the Mother of God


My parents came from Kuban. My father was killed in the wartime, and my mother moved to Transcarpathia, where I was born. Our house stood near the church in honour of the Nativity of Mother of God, at a distance of about four hundred metres. The priest who served there had two children, a boy of my age, and a girl a bit older. So I spent almost all my time in the church. The time was very hard, and the priest had something to eat. We spent nights in the church as wards.

Soon persecutions began. A man who had been an officer of the White Army hid a lot of spiritual books from the Cheka officers under the ground of his house. Such books could hardly be found even in the church. We copied these books into our exercise books secretly. Once, when I was very tired, I took this exercise book in school by mistake. When my teacher saw this exercise book, she took it away from me and sent for the district militia officer. They took me directly from the school and sent me to Saratov oblast into an orphanage. I was ten at that time.


What I experienced in the orphanage cannot be expressed in plain language. It was the time of war and hunger. When they took us to the city, kind people gave us something to wear. Some boys smoked. I was always asked about my parents, whether they were believers or not, although they could read it in my biographical particulars. When there was somebody from a Christian family, life was very difficult for him, he was beaten even by counselors. Thus I had everything beaten out of me in a couple of years; I was scared to death to say that I believe in God. During my last year in the orphanage, when I only had to stay there for half more year, my mother died. We heard then that orphans can enter military institutions. I was one of them.


The school taught students who were to serve the nation beyond its borders. I graduated from this school, had practise at the state border, and then I found myself in special missions military unit. My life went astray after that: Serbia, Bulgaria, five years in Angola. So I completely stopped going to church.


When I was wounded for the first time, I recalled my childhood and our church. I had not prayed throughout all those years, I had forgotten about God. But here I remembered that when I was a young boy during the war, a bullet went one centimetre close to my head and did not hurt me. My mum then said that I was saved by Mother of God.
After I was wounded, I started looking for any literature. At that time there were few churches, one priest for five or six villages. However, some people helped me. I met an old woman who brought me some books and two small icons of the Saviour and of Mother of God of Kazan. This old woman told me that she knew Marshal Zhukov very well. She said that he also had the icon of Mother of God of Kazan in his car, although he was a Marshal!


Finally, I returned to the Soviet Union. I visited some churches in Ukraine, spent some time in Lithuania, and eventually settled in Pskov oblast, where I was in charge of a huge farm. Everything was fine but suddenly an accident changed all my life. I had to leave my house and go to the place where nobody knew me. That was how the Lord brought me to Pskov-Caves monastery.


I stayed in the monastery for more than ten years. At first it was difficult to get rid of my past. First, I had served in the army in the past. Second, I missed the large farm where I had worked because there were about one hundred bulls, eighty pigs, a mill, tractors, and everything worked very well. I had to lose it at a glance. Later I somehow reconciled myself with this fact. Besides, Fr. John (Krestiankin) helped me a lot. He allowed me to come to him anytime to talk. So when I had problems, I went to him. We prayed with him and talked, he anointed me with oil and everything became fine at once.

 

I decently tried to work diligently; I quickly got accustomed to the life of the monastery. I worked in the fields on a tractor and guarded the holy monastery. Later, because I knew foreign languages, I was told to serve as a guide for tourists. The Lord strengthened me, it was easy for me to pray, I could sit in church nights away.


In 1993, I had terrible aches in the throat. I could not understand what was going on with me. So I went to doctors. They said I was contused, and they could not do anything for me. I suffered like this for half a year. No medicine could help me. It was impossible to endure pain, so I began to cry at nights, and I even had thoughts about suicide. All of a sudden, the doctor of our monastery called me. She inspected me carefully and said, “Here is your referral for treatment. Go to Pskov immediately.” There they dragged me through hospitals, when at last, a young doctor said, “You are ill with cancer, but do not be in despair.” He helped me to get into an oncology clinic, where I stayed for six years. They would let me go the monastery for a couple of days, and then they would take me into the hospital again. Finally, I lost fifteen kgs and was carried in a stretcher. The doctors were sincere about my diagnosis. My brothers in the monastery even made a coffin for me. I saw it in my dream, and I did not like it.


It was Christmas eve. The ward assistants brought me to the ward and lay me onto my bed. There happened an event I will never forget. It was not that I fell asleep, but I could dimly see St. Michael Church in Pskov monastery. Light showed in the left choir (where I had never been). Mother of God, clad in red, went out and knelt. I cannot explain what it was but I could walk again in a couple of days. I still live because of Mother of God. God’s Providence led me to Belarus, into St. Elisabeth Convent. Belarus is dear to me because it was in Minsk, in Novinki, that my older brother died. Now I search for the place of his burial. I would like to consecrate this land, and build a chapel. 

That is how I live and work. May the Lord help me to serve Him, His Church and people as much as I can.


CONVERSATION

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