Built with the Blessing of Fr. John of Kronstadt, and the Help of Tsar Nicholas II

Hieromonk Theodosy (Khomenia) on the construction and restoration of the Archangel Michael Church in Zarubinki. Part 2

Part 1


You mentioned that the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas and Righteous John of Kronstadt participated in the construction of the Archangel Michael Church. Please tell us about it.

—Our church was built in the early twentieth century in 1905-1913, so it will soon celebrate its one hundred-twentieth anniversary. Before that, there was no church in Zarubinki and the nearest one was in the village of In’kovo. It was an old, seventeenth-century wooden church. It became dilapidated and was dismantled. Zarubinki was a more developed settlement at that time, so a decision was made to build a new church here. The icons, utensils, and the shroud were moved from the old church. The church building was planned to be big--forty-two meters long and twenty-two wide. Its central dome is thirty-five meters high and there was also a five-tiered bell tower, also standing forty-two meters high.

The church rector traveled to see the Holy Righteous John of Kronstadt to receive his blessing for the construction

For a blessing to start the church construction, the rector, Fr. John, went to see the Holy Righteous John of Kronstadt. The “Batiushka of All Russia” not only blessed it, but also gave money to lay the foundation and his donation became the first contribution to the construction. The Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich II also contributed much. There are historical records that he granted one thousand gold rubles, not just for the church, but also for building a brick factory in Zarubinki, considering that this area is known for really good clay deposits. A picturesque lake now stands in place of a former quarry. Our church was built using local bricks, in as was another church, of the Kazan Icon, in the village of Kasplia. Actually, Kasplia was known for its granite quarry, and huge foundation stones were taken out of it—our church’s foundation is also from that local granite. I haven’t seen another example of it anywhere else. That’s how our ancestors dealt with the construction: practically and thoroughly. The local residents also took the most active part collecting money: at their general meeting, they decided to donate a ruble from each household per year—a substantial amount collected over the time the church was being built. Of course, the more affluent peasants donated greater sums. Overall, the church was laid using 600,000 bricks.

The bricks to build the church were produced locally at a brickyard built especially for it The bricks to build the church were produced locally at a brickyard built especially for it What happened with the church’s beautiful old decoration?

—When it was left standing without a priest, everything was plundered. Matushka, the wife of its last rector, said that in 1987 the church was robbed seven times. The thieves would run in, grab an icon and run away. An old and sick lady herself, she couldn’t do anything to stop it, while the rector lay bed-ridden, paralyzed after a stroke. He remained immobile for two years and passed away in 1989. They lived in a house near the church. Many local old-timers still remember them. When I arrived in 2018, the church was in a deplorable state: it was standing completely empty. No icons or church utensils, nothing but trash accumulated over many years.

I see the walls of the church have smudges of cement—as if some dents had been patched. Why is that?

—These are traces from bullets and shells. This area saw fierce fighting during World War II. Since the Archangel Michael Church sits atop a hill or, in military terms—it occupies the heights, was at the center of the fighting. We found bullet cases here, and even German coins minted in 1941.

The church was in a deplorable state: there were no icons or utensils, nothing but trash accumulated over the years

The marks from shelling are quite large in some places and these “wounds” were patched up with cement. Incidentally, it’s quite possible that the church was saved by the fact that it lost its bell tower before war. Had it stayed, it would have certainly become a firing point, a convenient location to shell the neighborhood. And that would have resulted in the destruction of church building. This area was soaked with the blood of our soldiers in both 1941 and 1812. Not far from us there is a monument to the heroes of the war with the French. We plan to put a cross next to it.

What would you say to those who doubt it is a worthwhile endeavor to restore churches in remote villages?

—Every church has its altar and the mystery of Holy Eucharist, the greatest Mystery on Earth, was performed there. According to tradition, the church’s guardian angel stands at the altar grieving if there is no Liturgy served there. Therefore, I wish that services were held at least once a year at destroyed and desecrated churches, so that their guardian angels could rejoice with us. The restoration of shrines is the same as the revival of our souls, our country, and our lives. Let there be as few as a couple of people praying in the church. The Lord said: Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20). Fortunately, we already hold regular services and there are more than a couple of people praying here.

The monastery prays for the whole world, night and day. Prayers here are lifted for our soldiers, for peace, for our benefactors, and for the deceased

Most importantly, the monastery keeps praying for the whole world, night and day. We raise our prayers for soldiers, for peace, for benefactors, and for those who departed before us... No one is dead with God and in Him everyone is alive. Through prayer, we are united with those generations of people who lived in those villages that stand empty today—maybe empty now, but not later? When we restore a church, we restore ourselves. The Divine Liturgy pieces the world together. As long as the liturgy is celebrated, the world will keep standing. But here, on the western frontier of Russia in our difficult time, we need prayers more than ever before.

Have you seen any miracles?

—The first miracle was when we had to buy plaster and spackle for repairs in the Holy Hodegetria side chapel, but there was no money even to buy gas. I was sitting on this bench pondering what to do. I prayed: “Lord, I need this so much, what do I have to do?” And literally the next day a woman from Smolensk visited us and asked, “Father, how can I help you?” I asked her to get us plastering supplies. She went to the city herself and brought us what we needed. I was overjoyed. “Lord, You have heard me!” Then, there were the windows--thirty-two of them, three meters high each. I calculated that if we replace a window every six months, it will take us sixteen years to replace all of them. But we found people who made it happen in two years. Isn’t that a miracle? The last miracle was when, thanks to the Archangel Michael Foundation, we purchased the crosses for the domes. We didn’t know how to apply for help. The Foundation took up the task of helping us, shared information about us and the people from all over Russia sent their donations—so, half a year later, we collected the funds we needed. And right now we are slowly building new domes for the church and the Foundation collects donations to restore the roof above the quadrangle, the central part of the church. It is imperative to replace the roof there as it deteriorated quite badly. So, whenever we have strong winds, it picks it up and there is an impending danger it will blow it away… We’ve seen a lot of miracles, and the fact that we are living is already a miracle! I heartily thank everyone who helped our church, and who will help it in the future!

Nun Mikhaila: “I achieved everything I ever wanted as a woman, so now the Lord sent me to live in the monastery”

Nun Mikhaila Nun Mikhaila We also talked to Nun Mikhaila, the senior sister of the community. An elderly lady smiles a quiet, kind smile. I asked her how she became a nun.

—Everything happened gradually. I never thought about becoming a nun, but when my husband died, I became a practicing Christian and I also went on a pilgrimage to Solovki. I simply walked around the island and had a feeling I never experienced before. Then I started to help at the candle corner in the church in the town of Rudnya where I lived. I felt the desire to enter a monastery, but I thought that at my age I’d hardly be accepted. I decided I would live in the world near the church that God has provided for me. But then the Lord sent me to the monastery! I led a happy life in the world: I worked all my life as a kindergarten teacher, and it was just what I wanted. I have a son and a granddaughter, and they often visit me here. I had everything a woman could ever wish to have, but now the Lord has brought me to the monastery.

Did you have any connection with Zarubinki before you became a nun?

—My mother came from a village four kilometers away from Zarubinki. When I was six years old, I had my first communion in this church. We used to come to spend the summer in the village and my great-grandmother would take us to church, so we attended services here with her. I remember that as we walked to church, we had to cross the river. We carried our shoes and Sunday clothes with us, so we washed our feet in the river and got dressed, and only then entered the church. It had the icon of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist. For some reason I chose to stand beside it all the time, and it seemingly drew me close. I remember the kneeling prayers on the feast of the Holy Trinity. As children, we used to get distracted and look around and at each other, but my great-grandmother forced us to bend to the ground left and right. This church used to hold country fairs on major feasts and they would attract a lot of people, both adults and children. On Pascha, we played with painted eggs and it was great fun. No one prohibited us from attending church in our collective farm and everyone openly attended services, including both of my grandparents. This was in the 1980s. The church was well maintained, its icons were covered with decorated sashes, and it was filled with people.

Alina Sergeichuk
spoke with Hieromonk Theodosy (Khamenia)
Translation by Liubov Ambrose



Panagiotis4/17/2024 3:13 am
God Bless you Father Theodosy, Nun Mikhaila, Alina, and all others. You are doing God's work. All of our Churches must be rebuilt. We owe this to the Martyrs. Every Church must be rebuilt, in every village and every town and every city. This article also documents, like many other articles on this accurate website, that the Royal Family were pious good-hearted Orthodox Christians who donated vast amounts of money to build Churches and Monasteries and Schools and to help the people. They were honorable, and they could not be bribed by the wealthy internationalists, who were responsible for the murder of Holy Tzar Martyr Nicholas II and the Royal Martyr Family. The sinister internationalists used communism as a tool to overthrow the Orthodox Monarchies and to take over the countries of Eastern Europe. The masters of lies and deceit, who use the mass media, educational institutions, etc to demonize our Orthodox Monarchies. The same devious internationalists who are now brainwashing people to hate Orthodox Russia. They have their eyes once again on the vast natural resources of Russia, and they want to destroy the Orthodox Church before the arrival of their false Messiah, who will be the Antichrist. But God is with the Orthodox as we are His People. Let us pray to our Almighty God Jesus Christ and the Panagia to give knowledge to all Orthodox so that they WAKE UP. Fear God. Just my humble opinion.
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