“Babushka Katya” passed away last month in Tbilisi. Everyone who went to the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky knew her. His Holiness Patriarch-Catholicos Ilia II of All Georgia blessed for her to be buried on December 10 in the courtyard of the church.
I remember a lot about Babushka Katya—the blessed Nun Domna. My recollections aren’t in chronological order—they’re all from different years. I experienced a lot, and, unfortunately, I’ve forgotten a lot. But everything Babushka Katya said or did pierced me to the core, like a voice from above and a seal that mysteriologically set itself upon my soul. So, I’ll start.
One day my husband and I went to church. Blessed Babushka Katya came up to him, looked him at affectionately, took a mourning veil out from somewhere, dropped it right in front of him, and suddenly disappeared into the crowd. He picked up the veil and went to look for Babushka Katya. I immediately realized that she meant something by it. Then I received news: My cousin had suddenly died in America, for whom I really did wear a mourning veil then. And my husband’s friend lost his mother that same day.
There was more. I committed a very serious sin before God; it was my personal sin. Time passed, and one day I went to church, where I saw Katya and wanted to give her some alms. She stretched out her hand, and suddenly hit me right in the face as hard as she could, naming this very sin at the same time.
There was more. Before I went abroad, she took me to the church shop and spent a long time choosing something to buy. I waited. Finally, she decided on a small book with prayers of St. Anastasia of Sirmium, the “Deliverer from Potions,” and pointed to a prayer for prisoners, for those in bonds. And later it turned out that I’ve been living far from my homeland for a long time now; we’ve been closed up in a very strict quarantine for a long time, which is all really like being in bonds… I don’t have the chance to go home; only the Lord God knows when I’ll be able to.
There was more. For nine months, I wasn’t allowed to go visit my seriously ill husband, who was being treated abroad. After more rounds of chemotherapy, he beat down doors so they would let me into the country (they are extremely wary of Christians where he is); I had already reconciled myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be able to visit him. So then I went to church again. The church was full of people, and I sat on a bench outside. Babushka Kaya sat down next to me. Knowing that she never did anything for no reason, I decided not to look in her direction, remembering her sad prophecies about us being separated, but she was praying, and I involuntarily looked at her for a moment and saw what she did. She raised and joined her hands and formed her fingers into a ring. The thought struck me: Her hands, from one body, were husband and wife, and her joined fingers were the end of our separation. And literally two days later, I was given an entry visa. It was miracle that I was able to go see my husband. Before that, they’d been blocking me for nearly a year.
One day I took my granddaughter Maria to Communion. For some reason, she started crying bitterly after Communion. Babushka Katya came up to us and in an unusually gentle, slow, penetrating manner said to us: “He misses you, he misses you, but he can’t open it!” I asked her: “What? What Auntie Katya?” but Babushka Katya pretended not to understand anything, and walked away. I understood that it was about my husband, who missed me but couldn’t open the doors of the embassy. The thought seemed to really pierce me. And it was correct. He told me that’s how he felt at that time.
I often heard Babushka Katya scolding people in church with some terrible words, and compared to how she was speaking to us now, I couldn’t believe that it was the same old woman saying such words before. I was pretty sure that the terrible and dirty things that Babushka Katya allowed herself to say during the services were our dirty thoughts, actions, and deeds. And, apparently, she would show all this to those who recognized themselves in these words, so terrible and vile before God. Because we ourselves, the people, are the Church of God.
There was another instance. I knew that everything I saw from Babushka Katya would be concerning me. My husband and I were going abroad, but before that we went to church. We were already leaving the church then when suddenly our attention was drawn by Babushka Katya standing by a bush and somehow strangely eating berries from it. Another parishioner was standing nearby and, seeing it too, said to us: “She’s remembering Sukhumi.1” We left, and that year I was attacked by such a longing and grief for my childhood home in Sukhumi, so unbelievable, so strong that I didn’t know what to do with myself. I started pouring out my soul to God in prayer, crying to Him like a child: “Lord, how I want to go home to Sukhumi!”
And then, quite unexpectedly, quite inconceivably and miraculously, my husband and I went to Egypt, to St. Catherine’s Monastery during Yuletide. The monks received us very warmly and hospitably, like family. This is a place where grace is poured out upon the Earth. It is a place of the presence of God. The cell they put us in was unbelievably similar to my room in my grandparents’ house in Sukhumi in my childhood. The bathroom and kitchen were just like in their house. I was completely shocked; it was like something mystical. Such similarities and consequences don’t just happen in life. I felt like I was staying in some mysteriological space.
There was a huge icon hanging in the cell where the Most Holy Theotokos had eyes that seemed like they were alive. She looked straight into my soul, and I inwardly understood that it was a Christmas gift to me from God, the Theotokos, and His saints in the midst of my suffering. Perhaps it was given to me by the prayers of Blessed Babushka Katya, who already knew about it when I wasn’t even thinking about it. She knew, and entreated it as a comfort for me.
May the Lord remember you, Babushka Katya, in His Kingdom!