“You are transformed as you help others”

Stories shared by the volunteers of the “Miloserdie” mercy service

On February 3, 2021, a solemn award ceremony took place in the Transfiguration Church in Moscow, when the volunteers of the “Miloserdie” (“Charity”) mercy service who volunteered at the time of the pandemic were presented thank you letters from the City of Moscow’s labor and social security department.

We were able to talk to a few of them:


Julia, a volunteer (since a few months ago):

“I’m a new volunteer who started as recently as March of last year. Volunteering has always been a part of me, but I guess everything comes when the time is right.

It just so happened that my aunt fell seriously ill and we kept visiting her in the hospital. I noticed there were lonely patients there who never received any visitors. So, I think, it was then when I already began to think about the ways to help the lonely hospital patients.

Then I stumbled upon a free newspaper where I read an article written by a sister of mercy from the St. Dimitry Sisterhood. She spoke about volunteering in hospitals and concluded by inviting anyone interested to receive training in the School of Mercy at the Church of the Holy Blessed Tsarevich Dimitry.

In actual practice, not everyone can join the volunteeri force, as you must have the ability and free time to do this. With God’s help, everything worked out for me. When my children started school, I had more time and my husband enthusiastically supported my desire to become a volunteer.

My day goes like this: I take the children to school and rush happily to the hospital to get there in time for the breakfast routine.

When I became a volunteer, it somehow changed me from within and I had a huge sudden increase in motivation and spiritual joy. Even my husband noticed it as he kept saying: “You should go there more often!” (she laughs).

Then suddenly the pandemic started. So, we couldn’t visit hospitals as easily as before... But how could we leave our sisters, our angels, behind?! I learned from them by observing how lovingly and attentively they treated patients; it was their main lesson. They always stayed so calm and never panicked, but at the same time they used all possible precautionary measures. We had been given gloves, masks, special goggles and gowns. So, there was more danger of getting sick outside the hospital.

Every day our coordinator Natalia would call us to check about our health. I felt such care and love from the sisters and it energized me to help even more as a volunteer.

When the Lord allows at least one member of a family to work as a volunteer, it is beneficial for the family as a whole

I think when the Lord gives time and opportunity to at least one family member to work as a volunteer, it benefits the whole family.

When I found out that we are to be rewarded, I can say in all honesty: I was really surprised! Our award awaits us in heaven, and all believers know that. As for something like this, an earthly reward... Sure, you don’t expect it, you aren’t seeking material awards. Because it can actually cause you harm. But then I thought that it still comes from the Lord, I accepted it with gratitude.”

Oleg, a volunteer (has been volunteering for twelve years):

“I was baptized fourteen years ago and it was then I realized that I needed to make a radical change in my life. In the Old Testament, Moses says that we should work for ourselves for six days a week and dedicate one day to the Lord. And so, I began to look for such an opportunity. Probably, when we already feel the urge to give ourselves to others, the Lord Himself directs us where we need to be.

One day I struck up a conversation with a man who lives in the same block of flats as me. It often happens this way—people live next to each other, but they barely if ever speak with one another. But for some reason we did have a conversation and I learned from him about the Church of Tsarevich Dimitry at the First Municipal Hospital.

We used to attend another church, but most of its parishioners were elderly people, the so-called grannies, who were always willing to help us with our children, which was quite nice. But when we came to the Church of Tsarevich Dimitry, I was struck by the fact that it had a really immense number of young people and that everyone interested could come together for a common meal, and socialize after liturgy. It was exactly what I was looking for. We became regular parishioners of this church and that’s where I learned that they have a group of people who go and assist the sisters in the hospital’s neurology department. That’s how I became a volunteer for the “Miloserdie” mercy service.

At first, we helped them to do the cleaning, dusting the bedside stands, and later, when we were deemed sufficiently prepared, we were allowed to change diapers. It is often very important when a male patient gets his diaper changed by a male assistant. A patient may become embarrassed if a woman does it. And as for the Muslims, it is a prerequisite.

Julia, Alexey, Svetlana, Oleg. Photo by: Pelagia Zamiatina Julia, Alexey, Svetlana, Oleg. Photo by: Pelagia Zamiatina   

By the way, not all of our volunteers are Orthodox, as there is one Muslim in our midst.

In fact, not everyone can afford to come and volunteer. Some have to work a lot and he don’t have any extra time at all. I always inform Natalia, our coordinator, what day and what time I am available and she adjusts the schedule so that it is convenient for me. Of course, it is a great joy to have such an opportunity to volunteer.

When you have such a circle of people around you—extraordinary people—you begin to see changes inside you, too. As for our sisters, they are in a league of their own! We are simply amazed at the level of spirituality, patience and love they display while they care for the sick. You are immersed in a different world, full of good stories and good people, and it simply cannot but transform you as well!

You are immersed in a world full of good stories and good people, and it just cannot but change you as well

For example, one case registered in my mind, and it has to do with a canteen worker named Valentina. She is a woman of exceptional kindness who always helps everyone. We had at the time one young, strong patient who was recovering after a stroke. His body was paralyzed on one side. Using his opposite, healthy hand and foot, he desperately resisted every attempt to care for him and he could actually hit someone with his healthy hand. Besides, he was muscular, strong-bodied, and very healthy-looking guy. But, after the stroke he became delusional. No one could change his diaper and he didn’t want to let anyone near him.

Then Valentina, the canteen worker, comes up to him and tells him ever so tenderly and sweetly: “Oh, honey, what is it with you? Just hold on for a little while!” The guy froze once he saw her loving eyes fixed at him. And so, saying all those affectionate words, she calmly continued to change his diaper, and he let her do it. When you see people like her, you start seeing the world outside quite differently. It sobers you up, and you suddenly begin to find joy in ordinary things. Like in the fact that you’re healthy and you can take care of yourself.

When the pandemic came, I had no fear of getting infected. You know, it’s much better to have COVID-19 and Christ than to have neither COVID-19 nor Christ. (he laughs).

But speaking seriously, we had to wear such protective gear and there were so many security measures in the hospital that it was impossible to get infected in the hospital. I take the bus on my way home daily, and I think it’s much more dangerous there than in our hospital.

Of course, none of us expected to get any awards. We, as believers, know that material awards can only feed our vanity and we should try to avoid it... But, if a decision was made like that, it was meant to be then. We’re grateful for everything!”

Tatiana, the volunteer (has been volunteering for three years):

“I’ve been a practicing Christian for a very long time and so I was looking for opportunities to do some good deeds. One day I just searched online for “Orthodox Volunteers”, and the first link that came out was the “Miloserdie” mercy service. That’s how I became a volunteer.

I work in commerce, but on weekends I come to assist at the hospital. When I first started I wasn’t married, and had a lot of free time on my hands. But now I have a husband—and he was very happy when he found out I was a volunteer. Perhaps when we have children, I can’t rule out that I am going to have less time to do this.

My biggest worry is when I feel that the sick people we care for are prone to depression and despondency. You attempt to speak to them, but they want nothing, they don’t even want to eat. Then it becomes really scary, because—what if they never grow interested in life again?!

At the same time, it is such joy to observe the patients helping each other. Those who can walk give a hand to those who are bedridden. It is really exciting to see this, and it does happen often.

I decided to take the fact that we were rewarded as true volunteers. I was told to go and receive the award, and that means I should go and receive it.”

Lolita Naranovich
spoke with the volunteers
Translation by Liubov Ambrose



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