The early Georgian morning of October 13 was magnificent. It was something special. Nature clothed in bright colors, the cold wind hadn’t moved in yet, and as usual, the warm gaze of our dear elders—Seraphim of Sarov and Gabriel (Urgebadze) accompanied us on a big trip to Belarus. The eyes of many were turned towards the image of the elders at the Tbilisi airport. They would come up, venerate the icon, and ask where we were taking it, blessing our way. From the very beginning of the journey, we felt the presence of Elder Gabriel and his love, directed at every person, regardless of creed or nationality. Having seen the icon of Elder Gabriel, the flight attendant informed the captain, and two minutes later, we ended up in business class with the Elders.
“It’s not right for such guests to be in economy,” the captain said.
So, our Elders and we, the team behind the films about Elder Gabriel—three Georges, an Otar, and Constantine, flew to Minsk. While we were on the plane, one of the crew members asked us all about the film and our group, about the veneration of Elder Gabriel in Holy Rus’, and it was clear from his eyes that he was incredibly happy hearing our stories about how they love Elder Gabriel in Rus’.
“How many of you are flying to Minsk?”
“Five: Three Georges, one Otar, and one Constantine.”
“No,” the flight attendant said, correcting me with a smile, “there are seven… Seven: Mama Gabrieli1 and Seraphim of Sarov.”
There was nothing I could do but blush and answer, “Indeed…”
From Minsk, with the blessing of Archbishop Dimitry of Vitebsk and Orsha, we headed for the Holy Protection Monastery in Tolochin. Abbess Anfisa and the sisters were eagerly awaiting our arrival at the monastery, as were we—after all, a large icon of our Elders awaited us there, which we had temporarily left at the monastery, never thinking this “temporarily” would turn into a year and a half. So it pleased God; and apparently, so desired Elder Gabriel. Surprisingly, the icon hadn’t left Belarus since January 27, 2020. And then, in 2020, how miraculously we brought the icon and relics to Belarus! The incorrect location entered into the GPS, crossing the “wrong” border by mistake, the inspection of our car and our documents, and finally, the glory of Mama Gabrieli. Everyone, all the border guards recognized the icon of Elder Gabriel and helped us however they could. And when we finally arrived at the right border, how the head of the Three Sisters checkpoint helped us!
“I know your Mama Gabrieli. He’s a great saint, whom we love. My family and I watched the new film about him two days ago.”
Having learned that I had written the film, the head of the checkpoint told us:
“Guys, I see that you’re very tired and nervous. All your documents are in order, you just need to get everything done in half an hour. Here’s my advice. Leave your van in the parking lot—I’ll allow it, and quickly walk on foot into Russia, then then come back to us slowly. If you go in the van now, you’ll never get through the checkpoint and get the Belarusian customs declaration in half an hour.”
We obeyed and went to Russia on foot…
At one point, we came close to the Three Sisters memorial, and only then did we understand why the checkpoint and memorial had this name. We were standing across from the memorial. To our left was Russia, to the right—Ukraine, and behind us—Belarus… We were stunned, and all four of us at the same time said the phrase of Elder Gabriel:
“My cross is Georgia and half of Orthodox Rus’…”
In Tolochin, Abbess Anfisa told us that there had been numerous miracles, with healings by the prayers of the saints while the icon was in the monastery. One woman from Orsha who came to the icon several times received instantaneous healing. She had an injured leg, with damage to her knee cartilage. The doctors insisted on surgery, saying she had no chance without it. One time when she came to pray to Elder Gabriel and Seraphim of Sarov and venerate the icon, she knelt down before the icon—and froze in surprise. Her leg instantly stopped hurting. “I stood on my leg, it didn’t hurt… I started jumping around, it didn’t hurt… I walked around the icon, it didn’t hurt…” The surgery was no longer needed. Great is our Lord Jesus Christ!
After visiting the Vitebsk Diocese, we headed for Bobruisk, to Tugolitsa. Words can’t describe the feelings we experienced when we approached the church and saw people lined up in a row with icons and photos of Elder Gabriel. The church rector Fr. Fyodor served a moleben before the wonderworking icon. The most amazing thing for us is that the people asked Fr. Fyodor to celebrate a nighttime service, which he did. From the church filled with parishioners, chants and praises were heard in both Russian and Georgian.
Fr. Gabriel and Emperor Nicholas II We also brought a newly painted icon of St. Gabriel and the holy Emperor Nicholas II. This icon was sent to our group by an iconographer, the handmaiden of God Maria from St. Petersburg. Having heard how St. Gabriel venerated the Passion-Bearer and Emperor Nicholas II already back in the early 1960s, she was struck with great love and painted such a wonderful icon. Miracles have also happened with this icon. The handmaiden of God Irina testifies:
We really wanted to go to Georgia to venerate the holy relics of Elder Gabriel. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, our family trip didn’t work out. I prayed to Elder Gabriel and apologized that I couldn’t visit his relics. Two days later, my seven-year-old son told me about a dream he had. He saw some old non-Russian man in a dream, holding a portrait of some tsar and singing in an unknown language. I immediately realized it was Elder Gabriel. I heard in a movie how his sister Julietta told about his veneration of Nicholas II.
I decided to find an akathist online to Elder Gabriel and Nicholas II, and then I saw that the icon of Elder Gabriel and Seraphim of Sarov was traveling around Belarus. My wife and son and I immediately went to Tugolitsa from Minsk to venerate the relics from Elder Gabriel and the icon. Suddenly my son pointed at the icon and said: “They were in my dream… I saw this grandad… Who are they?!” We were dumbfounded and venerated the icon, and we prayed and read an akathist. My son hugged the icon tightly and kissed the frame. We thanked God, left the church, and went back to Minsk. It was only on the way home that we realized what a miracle had occurred. Our son stopped stuttering. For three years, after suffering a fright, my son Vladimir had a strong stutter. By the prayers of Elder Gabriel, we went to the icon, venerated it, and the Lord worked such a miracle. My son hasn’t stuttered for more than six months now and talks normally, without any problems!
After visiting the Bobruisk Diocese, with the blessing of Metropolitan Benjamin of Minsk and Zalslavl, we headed to Minsk, to the Holy Spirit Cathedral. Crowds of people came to the icon and the relics from Elder Gabriel. Many received consolation, healing, and joy.
One day a young woman came up to me and handed me a small package with some goodies: “This is for you from the handmaiden of God Nadezhda from St. Petersburg.” When she explained who that was, I immediately realized who was sending me gifts. It’s a woman, thirty-five years old, who shared with me three years ago a miracle that happened by the prayers of Elder Gabriel. In 2018, with the blessing of Metropolitan Barsanuphius of St. Petersburg and Ladoga, our group was invited to an Orthodox public forum in St. Petersburg. We presented the audio book, Elder Gabriel’s Diadem, and showed our film about Elder Gabriel. After the film as usual, I spoke and told various stories from the life of our beloved Elder Gabriel. I never prepare what I’m going to say in advance, because I realized it’s necessary to tell the stories that Elder Gabriel himself wants to tell, that come to mind in the moment. One fine day, after showing the film, I told the following story about Elder Gabriel, which Batiushka himself told during his lifetime:
I served a moleben for the multiplication of the Georgian people. That night I had a vision: Several men came and took me somewhere. We went into a white building. The room was shrouded in darkness; you couldn’t even see the walls. When my eyes got used to the darkness, then I saw a multitude of small children, stained with blood! They were sprawled out on the floor. I was standing on tiptoes. Soon a thunderous voice rang out: “Get ready, get ready.” I thought perhaps the commander of the people who brought me here was coming. A door opened, and I saw the Most Holy Theotokos with angels! She drew near to me and said: “Is it you asking for the Georgian people to be multiplied?” Then she pointed to the floor and said to me in a stern voice: “Gabriel! Do you think the Georgian people can be multiplied this way?” Then she left!
After that, Elder Gabriel would walk the main streets of Tbilisi preaching: “Women, don’t do it! Don’t have an abortion!”
As the handmaiden of God Nadezhda told me, she stopped by the forum to buy an Orthodox calendar as a gift for her mother when the beautiful chanting accompanying the credits of some film grabbed her attention. Of course, it was our film, The Elder’s Diadem. Immediately after the credits I started talking about Elder Gabriel, and Nadezhda decided to listen to me talk “with a Georgian accent.” And she heard the story of Elder Gabriel’s vision. Everything within her turned upside down. She testifies:
I had just found out the day before that I was pregnant, and to my shame, unfortunately I had decided to have an abortion. When I heard this story to the end, I jumped up and quickly headed for the exit. I don’t even remember who, but when I was leaving, some stranger handed me an icon. I took the icon and left. It was an icon of Elder Gabriel. He looked at me from the icon with his kind eyes, and I had the feeling that he was blessing me. I got home and I watched a film about him, bought some books and the life of the Elder, and of course, firmly decided not to have an abortion. So, now I have a son, who really loves Elder Gabriel and the icon given us by someone. There’s no doubt that Constantine’s words were given to him for me, and maybe Elder Gabriel himself gave the icon to me, sinful and unworthy. Who knows?! Besides Elder Gabriel and the Lord, of course. Glory to Him forever, amen!
After visiting Minsk, with the blessing of Archbishop John of Brest and Kobryn, we headed for Brest, to the Church of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God. The rector of the church, Archpriest Andrei, and the parishioners met us with great love. Every day they served molebens to St. Seraphim of Sarov and Elder Gabriel. You couldn’t count the number of people who came from Brest itself and various other cities to venerate the relics from Elder Gabriel.
A few weeks after arriving in Brest, a man came up to us one day, and it was obvious that he was very agitated. His name was Mikhail. I calmed him down as best I could; I gave him some holy water, and having calmed down a bit, he told his story.
My wife and I have been married for nine years already. We don’t have any children. My wife had some problems and she underwent a lengthy treatment, trying different methods. We even went abroad. And literally a few weeks ago, we found out she was pregnant. We prayed to St. Seraphim. We know about Elder Gabriel and read his akathist, and we often read the akathist to Blessed Ksenia and St. Barbara. Examinations showed that my wife had an ectopic pregnancy, that we needed to act quickly to remove the fetus. Otherwise, there’d be a big risk of internal bleeding. We were horrified. We’d been waiting so long for our first child, and now such terrible news. We double-checked at several clinics, but all the doctors said the same thing. We found out that the icon of Elder Gabriel and Seraphim of Sarov and Batiushka’s relics were in Brest. We’re from Grodno. A few days ago, my wife and I came to venerate the icon. When we got to the church, they had just opened the reliquary and were putting the Elder’s hat on the parishioners’ heads. My wife and I venerated it and asked Batiushka to pray to the Lord to help us, that the fetal removal operation would go without complications, and that the Lord would soon give us our long-awaited child. When they put the hat on us, my wife and I both felt a sweet fragrance. We returned home, and at my wife’s request, we went to Minsk for another examination. And what do you think! She didn’t have an ectopic pregnancy! How it turned into a normal pregnancy, no one knows. Those same doctors who had done the earlier examinations and urged us to get the surgery couldn’t explain it. No one could explain it. And anyways, why explain a miracle at all?! They really happen, according to our faith. And all of this is due to the prayers of our beloved Mama Gabrieli!
His wife came up then, tearfully smiling and thanking the Lord for such a miracle!
When they put Elder Gabriel’s hat on me, I felt that he was standing over me and blessing me. I prayerfully asked for help with the surgery, although deep down, I wanted him to help me otherwise. Although I didn’t presume, at one point I said: “Dear Batiushka, let it be as the Lord decides! As the Lord wills…” And, the prayers of Elder Gabriel worked a miracle. I doubt there’s anyone who’s happier than us now. Glory and thanksgiving to God for all things!
Having heard this story and seeing how joyful this faithful couple was, I couldn’t utter a word, but only said inwardly: “Wondrous is God in His saints!”
Appeal to the readers of OrthoChristian.com
Dear brothers and sisters!
The authors and creative team of the films The Elder’s Diadem and I’m Waiting for You in Samtavro are now working on a third documentary about St. Gabriel entitled Mama Gabrieli. With God’s help, and thanks to your support, shooting has already been carried out in different parts of Georgia, and in Moscow, Izhevsk, Kirov, Vitebsk, and Kiev. The soundtrack has also been recorded, although there is still a lot of work ahead of us.
We appeal to you to offer your mite towards the making of the film—even the smallest amount is often decisive in such great works.
Donations can be sent via PayPal to email@example.com.
When donating funds, please indicate your names in Holy Baptism, and also the names of your departed relatives. All names will be commemorated on the day of the Elder, at the moleben at the relics of St. Gabriel (Urgebadze) at Samtavro Monastery, and also at the relics and wonderworking icon of Sts. Gabriel and Seraphim of Sarov.
Names can be sent in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.