“You Gave Me Your Word”, or How to Quit Smoking


How can one quit smoking? So many die-hard smokers are going crazy trying to figure it out, yet they still find no answer. The condition of these unfortunate ones may be described in one word: addiction. What is it other than the absence of freedom, control over yourself, and lack of will?

Tamara smoked so much that two packs a day weren’t enough for her. The question was already not about the quantity but the potency of that poison. For the thrill of getting a maximum dose of nicotine, instead of smoking delicate women’s cigarettes, the thermo-nuclear local “Astra” came into play, and before inhaling, she had to get rid of its filter. Tamara was in the prime of her life but a problem with shortness of breath, akin to the geriatric type, made her life miserable, not to mention her inability to breathe freely. But addiction is called addiction because it is your passion that rules your life, not you!

Tamara smoked so much that two packs a day weren’t enough for her

Tamara didn’t go to church. But she did pray to God and had faith. But as far as going to church… No way! All those services, icons, headscarves are only fit for babushkas. But it just happened that a friend begged her: “Let’s go and visit the monasteries like pilgrims!” Tamara had fun hanging out with Lenka, so she found herself saying, “yes.” Why not? It’s going to be a trip to ancient Pskov with a wealth of all kinds of ancient artifacts and lots of architectural monuments. Or, take even those churches—they are nothing less than the finest examples of ancient Russian art. All in all, it had a lot to gawk at!

The fact that they went on pilgrimage instead of being simply tourists played its part, too. Besides, Tamara befriended a lady named Ludmila during that trip. This woman was a wealth of information about Pskov and its holy relics. It’s no wonder, as it wasn’t her first trip. It seemed she was the one who talked Tamara into taking Communion. It worked! The novice pilgrim diligently read all the required prayers and fasted for a couple of days.

They came to the Pskov Caves Monastery first. Next, they took a boat to the island of Zalit to visit the grave of Elder Nikolai Guryanov. It was here, in a local church, that Tamara received Communion. She wanted to smoke so B-A-D-L-Y! But Ludmila would reason soothingly: “Please, don’t. Just be patient a little bit longer! I’ve got a surprise for you.” What surprise, if she is close to dying… Where should she cop a cigarette? Maybe from those drivers, or the guys who work at the barge or whatever the thing is called that we are taking across the lake…

Ludmila kept dawdling. “Be patient, patience, please…” And, on top of it all, she advised her to ask for help to quit smoking at the elder’s grave. Tamara did ask. Because, why not? She’s dreamed about it for a long time. With this wretched smoking, she couldn’t breathe well! Really nasty stuff, the same as drugs! And those cravings to smoke more and more—they’re like hunger pangs, or sleepiness.

That same morning, they went to the St. Eleazar Monastery of the Savior. That’s where Ludmila revealed her surprise: She invited Tamara to venerate a small icon of Christ, which, in her words, made every wish come true. When Tamara approached the icon, she blurted out the first thing that came to mind: “Give me the strength to quit smoking!” That’s all…

They went to the refectory where, as was the tradition, the hospitable nuns offered them a meal. Later, they took a dip at a holy spring and went on to visit the Kripetsk Monastery where they attended a Vigil. They spent the night right there on the church floor beneath the icons. They were worn out! No, it’s the wrong way to describe how they felt—they were spent! But Tamara caught herself thinking that anywhere she went after her encounter with that icon of the Savior… She felt so good she didn’t even crave another smoke…


Almost a year went by after that fateful trip. All that time, Tamara hadn’t smoked—that means never, not once! She would be in the company of die-hard smokers, but she never had the slightest urge to cop a cigarette, so easily accessible (just stretch out your hand!).

As soon as a thought of smoking struck her, immediately the image of Christ would come back before her eyes

The only temptation left was her dreams. She would wake up ashamed and tell herself, “It’s not me, I couldn’t do that! Lord, forgive me that I smoked!” In general, as soon she caught herself thinking of smoking, immediately the image of Christ on that tiny, but great miracle-working icon would appear before her eyes. It was as if the icon protected her from temptation and reminded her of Himself. She felt ashamed to take a cigarette again, because she would be struck by the thought: But didn’t I ask for strength? And the Savior is looking straight into her soul: “Well, but you gave your word! And I gave Mine…”

About the icon: The miracle-working icon of “The Savior of Eleazar” (Christ the Pantocrator) is a masterpiece of ancient Russian art from the mid-fourteenth century. It was returned to the St. Eleazar Monastery of the Savior in 2010. Presently, the icon is protected by an alarm system and kept in a special icon case with specific temperature-humidity conditions.

Elena Nasledysheva
Translation by Luibov Ambrose



Fr William Bauer9/11/2021 6:20 pm
I quit (1973 when smokes went up to .35 per pack; however being homeless was also a help.
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