A Secret Priest, a True Christian. Part 2

In memory of Archpriest Gleb Kaleda (1921–1994)

Part 1


Once (I think, it was in 1993) Fr. Gleb told Elizaveta Alexandrovna and me that he had been able to familiarize himself with the case of his father-in-law, Archpriest Vladimir Ambartsumov.

All the years after Fr. Vladimir had disappeared the family received the same answer to their inquiries about him: “He was sentenced to ten years without the right to correspond.” It was not until the early 1990s that it became known that on November 5, 1937, by verdict of the troika he was shot at the Butovo Firing Range near Moscow. And he was buried there in an unknown common grave.

Gleb Alexandrovich was agitated by those events. And it seemed he was even depressed. Showing us his photograph, he shared how difficult it was to read the materials of the interrogation of his first spiritual father and father-in-law. Today everyone can read these materials in the Life of Vladimir Ambartsumov. In 2000, he was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church as a new martyr. And we were among the first to learn about that.

The Orthodox world is marvelous and small! In 2007, I happened to visit the Greek Convent of Great-Martyr Parasceva in Corfu, located high in the mountains in the north of the island. At that time the convent was poor (now the situation is different). It was restored with the blessing of Elder Ephraim (Moraitis) of Arizona by Abbess Photine (Marshal). We stayed the night in the only furnished room at that time, where the abbess accommodated pilgrims like us.

One of the icons hung apart from the others. It caught my attention.

“Mother, isn’t it Father Vladimir Ambartsumov?!”

“Yes. But how do you know him?”

It turned out that Abbess Photine was on friendly terms with the abbess of the Moscow Conception Convent, Mother Juliana (Kaleda), Fr. Vladimir’s granddaughter and Gleb Alexandrovich’s daughter. She presented this icon to her. Such was my meeting with Hieromartyr Vladimir fifteen years after I had first heard about him.


Priests from Yaroslavl who served in the 1970s and 1980s remember Gleb Alexandrovich Kaleda well. Bishop Benjamin (Likhomanov) of Rybinsk and Romanovo-Borisoglebsk related how in 1978 Metropolitan John had ordained him, a recent graduate of the Department of Mechanics and Mathematics of Moscow State University:

“My ordination to the deaconate took place at St. Nicholas Church of the Cathedral of the Feodorovskaya Icon on the feast of St. Sergius of Radonezh. Father Boris Stark heard confessions. Archimandrite Mikhei (Kharkharov) and Archpriest Igor Maltsev celebrated. The service was attended by Gleb Alexandrovich Kaleda. I remember this well, because Kaleda and I had earlier met in Moscow. I was surprised to see the people I knew around me.”

While examining Metropolitan John’s archives, I came across letters and telegrams from Gleb Alexandrovich Kaleda. Basically, these are congratulations or small messages about his upcoming visits to Yaroslavl. There was no need to write long and detailed texts because the author often came to Yaroslavl and resolved all the issues on the spot.

Gleb Alexandrovich’s wife, Lidia Vladimirovna, wrote letters to Elizaveta Alexandrovna Alexandrina. Two of them have survived. The first is dated June 28, 1989 (just three months after Metropolitan John’s death). The second is undated—most likely it was from 1990. Gleb Alexandrovich had just begun his ministry openly. We publish them (with the family’s consent) with small abridgements.

The letters mention the names of Gleb Alexandrovich and Lydia Vladimirovna’s children. Kira is Archpriest Kirill Kaleda, rector of the Church of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, built on the site of the Butovo Firing Range. He graduated from the Department of Geology of Moscow State University and when he wrote the letter he was working as a research assistant at the Geological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Their daughter Masha (Maria) is currently the mother-superior of the Conception Convent in Moscow—Abbess Juliana. Vasya (Vasily) is a psychiatrist and doctor of medicine—professor Vasily Kaleda. Vanya (Ivan/John), like Fr. Kirill, became a priest. He is the rector of the Holy Trinity Church in Gryazi by the former Pokrovsky Gate, Moscow.


Dear Elizaveta Alexandrovna!

How are you feeling? How did you visit your sisters? We are all right, thank God, everyone is very busy. GA [Gleb Alexandrovich.—Auth.] is making a report. Kira is going to Washington D.C. for a convention for ten days from July 9 to 20. And he is planning to go to Kazakhstan in August-September.

Masha is taking exams: two with B grades. Now she has gone to Leningrad for a few days. She works in July and has a vacation in August.

Our young people are taking exams too.

A… (illegible) has been printed. How many do you need in Yaroslavl? Maybe Elvira Leonidovna and Tatyana Lvovna need some as well? Until 15 / VII GA is unlikely to find some time to come to you. Maybe Elvira Leonidovna will be in Moscow and come to see us?

GA wrote a detailed obituary [in connection with Metropolitan John’s death.—Auth.], and Father Leonid has had to shorten it. They are meeting today.

How are you feeling? Have you recovered a little?

They say that Fr. Mikhei is on vacation. When will he be back?

We are greeting everybody.

God bless you. With love L.K.

28 / VI-89


Dear Elizaveta Alexandrovna!

How are you feeling?

I hasten to inform you that Fr. Gleb has been assigned for temporary service in the Church of St. Elias at Obydensky Lane...

He submitted a petition in August to His Holiness [Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow and All Russia.—Auth.] asking permission to serve. Then he was summoned by Vladyka Arseny [Yepifanov; then Bishop of Istra, Vicar Bishop of the Moscow diocese.—Auth.], who had received a letter of recommendation from Fr. Boris Balashov [archpriest; rector of the Church of the Joy of All Who Sorrow Icon in Klin; ordained by Metropolitan John.—Auth.] and Fr. Alexander [from the church at Obydensky Lane) concerning Fr. Gleb’s priesthood.

The Patriarch reacted very favorably and received him. On Friday Fr. Gleb served the Akathist before the miracle-working icon, the ‘Unexpected Joy’, and thus began to serve the Church ‘openly’. He has not quit his job yet—he is finishing something there and, I think, will leave it in a month.


Vladyka Arseny received Fr. Gleb on the feast of the saints of Yaroslavl: Princes Theodore, David and Constantine.

Everything is wonderful and providential. When he despaired of his attempts to embark on his open ministry, they served a panikhida for our Vladyka, and immediately ways to gain access to the Patriarch were found. They personally submitted Fr. Gleb’s petition to him with an oral reference.

Fr. Gleb wrote a letter to Fr. Mikhei. We are all fine, except for Fr. Alexander, who was admitted to the hospital with ischemia.

Vasya and his wife are studying—I am sitting with their Varenka.1 Kirill was in Cyprus (for fifty days) and is now working.

Vanya will be given a cooperative apartment by the end of the year. For the time being he helps Fr. Theodore Sokolov in the new Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord. He helped open the church, and now he is a reader and acolyte. Apparently, he will leave secular work and remain in the Church.

Our Masha works, travels to holy places, sews vestments for the opening of churches, and helps in the St. Elias Church at Obydensky Lane.

Seryozha2 is going to Guinea.

Our grandchildren are mostly happy, of course. Occasionally they get sick.

We are all glad for Fr. Gleb. He reads catechetical lectures at the Railwaymen’s House, organized by the Moscow clergy (500-700 listeners). He read chapter 1 of Genesis very successfully.

Greetings to you and everyone who knows us. We remember you and your sisters and pray for you.

I kiss you.


Our folks all greet you.

Sasha and her children spent the summer in Tutayev,3 and on the way back Kirill took them to the cathedral, to Vladyka’s grave. And Seryozha was there with the children.


It is said that it is hard to become a Christian if you have not met real Christians in your life. The Lord allowed us to see them in Metropolitan John’s apartment on Doronin Street.

Those whom we met at Vladyka’s—Vladyka himself, Elizaveta Alexandrovna, Gleb Alexandrovich Kaleda—never tried to convince, reproach or pull us up. They were always calm and laconic in their faith. They influenced us by their examples.

Of course, I did not have the experience of communicating with Gleb Alexandrovich that many who remember him today had. I never attended his services, never listened to his sermons, nor worked under his direction as did others. But I saw a true Christian in him. This was the most precious thing.

Fr. Gleb knew how to stir up your enthusiasm. When we met, he was captivated by the theme of the Turin Shroud and its significance for the Christian consciousness and spiritual life. He wrote very well, figuratively and with enthusiasm. I re-read all of his wonderful books.

He wrote and spoke very weightily and, as I now understand, had all the skills of a scientist to convey his position. He quoted the words of Mikhail Lomonosov:

“Truth and faith ..., the daughters of one Supreme Parent, can never conflict with each other unless someone, out of vanity and to show off his sophism, stirs up enmity against them.”

In 1992, a Moscow Orthodox magazine published his article on the Magi. Elizaveta Alexandrovna gave the article to “especially clever” intellectuals to read—those who had already taken the first steps towards God, but were looking for confirmation of His existence from the lips of generally recognized authorities.

In his article Fr. Gleb, as it were, turned to the three Wise Men—Melchior, Balthasar and Caspar—asking them to pray for the scientists who believed in God and recognized Him. For the geochemist Alexander Fersman, who saw harmony in nature; for Albert Einstein, who admired the great book of the universe; for the mineralogist Vladimir Vernadsky, who reached the point of admitting that there is a certain Reasonable Power in the world; for Isaac Newton, who took off his hat at the word “God”; for Blaise Pascal, who spoke about the Almighty in both his scientific and spiritual writings:

“Thinking about the Magi, I want to pray for the geologist and apologist Metropolitan John (Wendland); for the repose of the soul of the martyred priest, physicist, art critic, mathematician and inventor Pavel Florensky; and for many, many others... I believe that they are now at the Throne of God.”

Archpriest Gleb Kaleda, no doubt, has joined this wonderful list.

I also have personal gratitude to Gleb Alexandrovich. After Metropolitan John’s death, all his friends were asked to take from his apartment whatever they wanted. Having put his books and papers into a weighty backpack, Fr. Gleb asked me to keep it so he could later take it to Moscow. But he never took it. When after his death I opened the backpack, I discovered (in addition to books on geology, which I donated to a library) a priceless treasure: letters from Vladyka John to his spiritual father, Metropolitan Gury (Yegorov) from the Middle East, Europe and America. To date, I have published almost all of them.

Thank you, Gleb Alexandrovich, for your trust!

Elvira Mezhennaya
Translated by Dmitry Lapa



1 A diminutive form of the name Barbara.—Trans.

2 A diminutive form of the name Sergei.—Trans.

3 A picturesque town on the Volga River.—OC.

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