A Life-Changing Journey in the Nativity Fast

Christmas Stories from the Sisters of the Kazan-St. Tryphon Hermitage, Part 1

At the Kazan-St. Tryphon Hermitage At the Kazan-St. Tryphon Hermitage   

From the author: Many of my stories (“Encounter With the Invisible World,” “Athonite Stories From Fr. Savvaty,” “A Short Story about the Short Life of Slava the Czech,” and others) were written based on the stories from the sisters of the Kazan-St. Tryphon Hermitage and its spiritual father Igumen Savvaty (Rudakov). Today I’d like to acquaint you, dear readers, with the Nativity stories of the sisters of this monastery.

How I took a journey during the Nativity Fast that changed my life

Stories of Nun Tamara (Povarnitsyna)

​Mother Tamara ​Mother Tamara     

I was born in 1961, and in my youth I was a parishioner of Holy Trinity Church in the village of Troitsa in the Perm Province. In 1988, I heard about the Church of All Saints in Verkhnechusovskie Gorodki, forty-five miles from Perm, on the shore of the Chusovaya River, where Archpriest Nikolai Rogozin, a man of prayer well-known in the Urals, served for nearly a quarter of a century, from 1957 to 1981. I also heard there was a holy spring there.

For some reason, I really wanted to go there, and then an old infirm woman from our church, having heard me talking about it, told me:

“It’s a very poor parish. How nice it would be if you went there and took them some groceries…”

It was the Nativity Fast then. And so, during the Fast I went on a journey that proved to be quite fateful for me and changed my whole life.

I took a train to Verkhnechusovskie Gorodki, then got on a ferry that took me across the river. So, for the first time, I climbed the Holy (or Miteina) Mount, not yet knowing that I would spend my life on this mountain and take monastic vows there.

​Archpriest Nikolai with Matushka Anna ​Archpriest Nikolai with Matushka Anna     

Finding a spiritual father

I entered the All Saints Church—it was small, but cozy and full of prayer. I saw the Kazan Icon—it was very dark. There were just some elderly women working at the parish. I had to spend the night in the church. In the evening, the strict warden Anna Dmitrievna spent a long time reading some instructional writings: “You didn’t come here to sleep, after all!” she said, and at five in the morning, the chanter Thekla Ivanovna already started singing some spiritual canticles.

I was preparing for Communion, and when I went for Confession, I was surprised: The young priest listened to me very attentively. In the 1980s, there were few active churches and priests in Perm, but many people who wanted to commune. Therefore, they practiced General Confession, but I was already going to monasteries and knew that there was individual Confession.

And here, in Gorodki, in the church on Holy (Miteina) Mount, I found a batiushka who listened to me so attentively and with such pastoral love. I communed and went home—and sometime later I set off again… Where to? To where they LISTENED to me!

Soon I started going to Gorodki all the time, and that young priest, Fr. Sergei Rudakov, became my spiritual father. He himself was guided by and studied pastoral ministry with Elder John (Krestiankin). The love for people of such a great elder as Fr. John was mystically transmitted to his faithful spiritual children, and we could feel this love through Fr. Sergei.

On Mount Miteina, I met Agrippina Matveevna, who came here from the city of Perm. Gradually, the babushkas who helped Fr. Sergei at the parish began to depart for the other world, one after the other. And then Agripinna and I offered to help Batiushka, and I started going to Mount Miteina more and more often.

Batiushka with a lamb Batiushka with a lamb     

How I decided to go to the monastery

Monasteries started opening in Russia in the late 1980s, and in the winter of 1990, again during the Nativity Fast, I got the desire to join one. I decided to go to Tolga. But then I thought there wouldn’t be so many winter obediences in the monastery, but if I went in spring, they’d receive me with joy, because they’d need help and working hands. I decided for the time being, to keep working at the parish on Mount Miteina, so I went to Gorodki.

When I started to have doubts about the fact that I’d gone to work at the parish and not in a monastery, and maybe I should stay at home for now, I came across a few lines in the Gospel that struck me to the depths of my soul: No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God (Lk. 9:62).

So, again during the Nativity Fast, I started working at the parish with Fr. Sergei. One day I told him about my desire to become a nun. Batiushka was unexpectedly delighted and told me that our psalmist Valentina Nikolaevna also wanted to get tonsured.

The Church of All Saints in the 1980s The Church of All Saints in the 1980s     

Elder Nikolai Rogozin’s prediction about the monastery

I also found out that the elder, Archpriest Nikolai Rogozin, who served in this church, foretold that a monastery would grow up on Mount Miteina.

It was like this. By the end of the old priest’s life, his hut was full of holes. His spiritual children started offering to build a new one, but he replied that his life was ending and that nothing would be built on Mount Miteina during his lifetime. But after his death, there would be a monastery.

And Fr. Nikolai told his spiritual children about the future, showing them where everything would be built. He even described the appearance of his successor, Fr. Sergei, the future spiritual father of the monastery, who in time, with the blessing of Elder John (Krestiankin), was tonsured into monasticism and became Igumen Savvaty. Fr. Savvaty later marveled at the clairvoyance of Fr. Nikolai, telling us: “I was still in school, and he already saw me in the spirit.”

And now, when two sisters at the parish had decided to be tonsured, Fr. Nikolai’s prediction began to come true. Elder John (Krestiankin) blessed Fr. Sergei to build a convent in Verkhnechusovskie Gorodki.

The first inhabitants of the Kazan-St. Tryphon Hermitage The first inhabitants of the Kazan-St. Tryphon Hermitage     

Introduction to the monastic life

Since none of us had any monastic experience, Fr. Sergei sent me to the Holy Trinity-Golutvin Convent in Kolomna to get acquainted with the monastic life. I was sent to gain experience and labor at various obediences. I was twenty-nine then.

We took a blessing from Abbess Xenia (Zaitseva) and they let me stay in the monastery for three months. With the Divine services and obediences, the days flew by unnoticed. I’m very grateful to Mother Abbess and the sisters of the monastery for this time.

In the evenings in my cell, I always remembered our Holy Mount and All Saints Church. But, on the other hand, I had the chance to stay in a well-maintained monastery. Doubts arose in my soul, and I began to pray.

​Verkhnechusovskie Gorodki with a view of the monastery across the river ​Verkhnechusovskie Gorodki with a view of the monastery across the river     

We need her”

As if in response to my prayer, Fr. Sergei came and took me. The abbess wanted to leave me in Kolomna, but Batiushka said: “But we need her.”

With the blessing of His Grace Bishop Afanasy of Perm and Solikamsk (1927-2002), Valentina Nikolaevna and I were tonsured into the mantia in Verkhoture, Sverdlovsk Province—she in the summer of 1990, and me—again during the Nativity Fast, in late 1991. So, the Nativity marks the thirtieth anniversary of my monastic tonsure. Thus we got our first inhabitants.

The first meal at the Kazan-St. Tryphon Hermitage The first meal at the Kazan-St. Tryphon Hermitage     

How the Mother of God comforted me

While I was away, a small horse stable was built on the Holy Mount, and a simple farm was started: two goats and a horse named Berry. My first obedience was taking care of the animals.

And a couple of years later, Abbot Varlaam (Peredernin) (1928-1995) brought us a cow and a sheep from Belaya Gora [White Mountain]. In his youth, Fr. Varlaam worked as the security guard at our All Saints Church and was spiritually guided by the rector—our dear Elder Nikolai Rogozin.

​Shepherds at their obedience ​Shepherds at their obedience     

The herd increased, and it became very hard for me, young and inexperienced, to take them out to pasture. Once, when I was taking the flock out to the field, I suddenly burst into tears from the heaviness in my soul. I was walking and crying, and there was a bitterness in my soul. Then suddenly I saw something shining in the grass. I bent down and picked up a metal icon of the Kazan Mother of God. And suddenly, such silence descended into my soul that I understood that it was the Mother of God comforting and strengthening me.

​The Kazan Mother of God ​The Kazan Mother of God     

And so it happened that I have been constantly bearing this obedience in the barnyard to this day, for thirty years now.

I didn’t have time to fulfil the cell rule of prayer in my cell, but I read it while grazing the cattle. We had a lamb. He became very attached to me. I started doing prostrations one day, and the lamb was apparently bewildered, and started nudging me, trying to figure out what happened to me. Since then, I’ve been afraid to do prostrations in front of him. When I see him off somewhere nipping at grass, then I have time to pray.

Mother Tamara’s obedience Mother Tamara’s obedience     

How our prayer held back a thunderstorm

Cutting the grass was a bright page in the life of our stable. At first, we cut the grass around the monastery with scythes, raking and piling it into big piles. Even Batiushka cut the grass. And later, when younger sisters started to come, we were given some fields, and we drove there by car. These common obediences have left indelible memories!

One time we were raking hay, and we only had one pile left to make when suddenly a black cloud appeared and it began to thunder. We decided to say a prayer to withhold the rain. And as we were reading the prayer, the cloud thundered, but it didn’t rain. It was only when we had tossed the last bit of hay and finished our prayer that the rain began to pour and we all got soaking wet.

When we returned from cutting the grass, we always sang “It is Truly Meet” together.

Cutting the grass Cutting the grass     

To be continued…

Olga Rozhneva
Translation by Jesse Dominick



See also
Abbess Anastasia (Ivanchenko): “Everything Here Calls Us to Labor, Courage, and Struggle” Abbess Anastasia (Ivanchenko): “Everything Here Calls Us to Labor, Courage, and Struggle”
St. Innocent’s convent in the Russian Far East
Abbess Anastasia (Ivanchenko): “Everything Here Calls Us to Labor, Courage, and Struggle” Abbess Anastasia (Ivanchenko): “Everything Here Calls Us to Labor, Courage, and Struggle”
St. Innocent’s convent in the Russian Far East
Abbess Anastasia (Ivanchenko)
“This is a place where the soul meets God. Here the Lord speaks in a still, small voice.” This is how pilgrims poetically describe their impressions after visiting St. Innocent’s Convent in the village of Razdolnoe.
Encounter With the Invisible World Encounter With the Invisible World
Olga Rozhneva
Encounter With the Invisible World Encounter With the Invisible World
Stories from Abbess Xenia (Oschepkova) of the Kazan-St. Tryphon Hermitage
Olga Rozhneva
If you try to please God, He will always miraculously help you. The providence of God will be present in your life, and you will see it and be conscious of it.
About Monasticism Without Embellishment: The Story of the Oldest Sister of Dormition-Sharovkin Monastery, Nun Elizabeth About Monasticism Without Embellishment: The Story of the Oldest Sister of Dormition-Sharovkin Monastery, Nun Elizabeth About Monasticism Without Embellishment: The Story of the Oldest Sister of Dormition-Sharovkin Monastery, Nun Elizabeth About Monasticism Without Embellishment
The Story of the Oldest Sister of Dormition-Sharovkin Monastery, Nun Elizabeth
Olga Rozhneva
In those years, the now-departed elders Archimandrite John (Krestiankin) and Archimandrite Adrian (Kirsanov) were still laboring in the monastery. It didn’t work out for me, a child, to meet with them of course; I didn’t even know they existed, but the whole monastery atmosphere was filled with prayer and grace. Again, I said nothing to my parents, but the thought of going to a monastery tightly fused itself to my soul. To me it seems like my coming to God and entrance into Church life was a real miracle and the mercy of God towards me.
Sudhanshu Kumar 1/23/2023 9:53 am
Recently found about your channel on telegram and got the link . Read the story about sister of kazan (nativity feast)and it was so touching and inspiring . For us it's a guidelines from our elders who are in spiritual path . Lord have mercy on us and my good wishes . Please post more. Thanks a lot Regards , Sudhanshu Kumar +918750362893( India)
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