Hieromonk Nikolai (Serhii Chebotar) reposes in Ohio, funds being raised to bury him in Pochaev

Cleveland, Ohio, August 16, 2021

It's with a very heavy heart and hope in the resurrection, I sadly report that my dear friend, Hieromonk Nikolai (formerly Priest Serhii Chebotar), the former choir director of the Pochaev Lavra Hierarchical Choir, has reposed in Cleveland, Ohio, after a long battle with cancer.

Fr. Nikolai’s story was amazing, and his life was an inspiration to us all.

He was the choir director at Holy Dormition Pochaev Lavra, and finished the academy at Holy Dormition Kiev Caves Lavra. He came to Cleveland, Ohio, for lung surgery as he suffered from pulmonary hypertension. Upon arriving in America, he faithfully served as choir director of St. Sergius Russian Orthodox Cathedral (ROCOR, Cleveland, Ohio) where he was beloved by all for his love and selflessness.

He would go on to have two double lung transplants at the Cleveland Clinic seven years apart, both falling on Dormition.

Before his death he was tonsured a hieromonk and given the name Nikolai in honor of St. Nicholas. His dear friend, Archimandrite Dosifey, the dean of the academy church of the Kiev Caves Lavra, managed to come to America the day before he passed away, to be with him. He served his funeral together with the clergy of St. Sergius, and guests from around the world including, Fr. Nikolai’s mother.

He reposed on his name’s day, August 11, 2021, the Nativity of St. Nicholas, (which coincidentally is not far from the new calendar Dormition), having received Holy Unction and Holy Communion an hour before his death.

Despite all his sufferings, and he truly was tortured in life, he may very well be the most joyful man I ever knew. His was truly a miracle of joy.

It was his last wish to be buried in Pochaev Lavra, where he began his spiritual journey that culminated in eternity. His parish family at St. Sergius and friends from around the world are working to make that happen, and have set up a GoFundMe campaign to pay for the tremendous funeral costs to send our friend back home one last time on earth.

Donations can also be made directly to St. Sergius Russian Orthodox Cathedral (6520 Broadview Road, Parma OH 44134) via check or cash.

Any contribution is greatly appreciated, and in any case, we ask for your holy prayers for the repose of our dear Fr. Nikolai.

I include below what I always considered to be Fr. Nikolai's tour de force, a hauntingly beautiful performance of the Magnificat (the odes to the Theotokos at Matins, i.e. More Honorable than the Cherubim), in the Fifth Tone, in Bulgarian Chant. His voice is the first, third, and fifth in the recording.

The Hierarchical Choir of Pochaev Lavra, under his direction, can be heard here:

Father Nikolai — Eternal Memory!

Matfey Shaheen

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