Righteous Nun Anania

On Moscow’s St. Alexei Convent, Part 2

Part 1

Photo: radiovera.ru Photo: radiovera.ru     

The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance…”

Mother Anania (Ritova, 1911–2008) was the very first to move into the Tsarevich Alexei Home in 1996. By that time, she was almost blind (she had no vision in one eye, and only ten percent in the other), and she could no longer continue her ascetic life alone due to poor health. It would be no exaggeration to say that Mother Anania’s entire life was a prayerful labor of service to the Lord and for the salvation of the souls of others.

She was born into a peasant family in the village of Teknovka, Tagay District, Ulyanovsk Province. Unlike her relatives, who were influenced by the godless times, Anastasia, as she was known in the world, preserved deep faith in her soul. And apparently God’s providence was already then preparing her to be a bride of Christ. When she fell in love with a good, kind man, she was unable to marry him because of the terrible poverty and hunger in the village; and so as not to be a burden to her family, she soon left for Moscow. There she became a welder at the Electrosvet plant, where she worked for many years, from 1937 to 1962 (it was probably because of this work that she lost her sight in old age). Mother Anania was always hardworking and conscientious, and she worked very well at the factory. She was awarded twice for her valiant work. In 1942, Anastasia Mikhailovna was thanked and awarded a prize of 100 rubles “For Stakhanovite Work1 in Helping the Front,” and in 1946 she received the medal “For Valiant Labor in the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945.”

“In the dormitory for workers at the Red Rose Factory,” 1920s “In the dormitory for workers at the Red Rose Factory,” 1920s     

Before the war, Anastasia invited her sister to come live in Moscow. She got a job at the Red Rose textile factory in the Khamovniki District and was given a room in the dormitory. They both started living there, although Mother may have settled in with her sister later. But there’s no doubt that they started going to church together.

After the war, one priest advised them: “It’s better to go to the Lavra.” The Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery opened in 1946, so they started going to services there every Sunday. There they met the archpriest who became their spiritual guide. Mother said that he taught them strictly, and they lived very secluded lives, constantly practicing the Jesus Prayer. The sisters were tonsured somewhere in the 1940s. They lived in terrible poverty, and Mother spoke about how for their tonsure they sewed monastic habits out of gauze and painted them black. She also said that the priest foretold to them everything they would go through: the collapse of the country that occurred in the late twentieth century and “democracy” with its consequences, the food shortage, the opening of churches and monasteries, and that new young priests would trim their beards.

In the 1960s, Mother was blessed to care for the sick. She got a job as a nurse at Children’s Hospital No. 14. She did a lot to care for the sick even outside of her job, but no one knew about this.

Valentina Nikolaevna Pronko met Mother Anania in 1986, when she started working in the prosphora bakery at the Church of St. Nicholas in Khamovniki. Mother Anania was seventy then, and she would help make prosphora. There was a lot of work. On feast days, they would bake thousands of prosphora. Valentina recalls: “From the second she showed up, I was struck by how small she was, and with how pure and bright her face was. I don’t think I’d ever met someone like that before. Her clothes were worn out, but she exuded cleanness.”

Mother worked in the prosphora bakery, standing on her feet for five hours at a time. At the end of the day, she’d take any lopsided prosphora and go home to rest. “She always kept a low profile. She never imposed her views on anyone, never tried to teach anyone. She would quietly suggest what needed to be done, and… again her lips would be moving slightly. She was beseeching mercy for us all, and we never even knew it. If we were making a lot of noise or talking loudly, Mother would come out, look at us, and only quietly say: ‘Well, I’m off. Help them, Lord!’ and she’d leave. And silence would fall upon us and we’d quickly gather to go home,” recalls Valentina.

Mother lived next to the Church of St. Nicholas in the seamstress’ dormitory, in a long hallway with many, many rooms. There was one large communal kitchen where there were a large number of gas stoves and tables. While the food was being cooked, everyone stood by their pots and then would take them to their rooms. “I grew up in a factory communal apartment myself, but I’d never seen such hard faces. Most of them didn’t have families. Mother was the black sheep there. When Mother would come in, greet everyone, light her burner, put on the tea kettle and go back to her room, the women would go silent and look at her as if they were seeing some fanciful bird flying through the window. Mother never said anything about it. She was generally laconic, teaching by her own example,” Valentina recalls.

A few years later, Mother Anania, who didn’t particularly like to speak about her life, nevertheless spoke about how in the dormitory the women in the communal kitchen were so against her that it sometimes even reached the point of open hatred. It seems it’s because Mother wasn’t like the rest of them. She was quiet, would go to work or church, never discussed anyone or anything with them, and she never responded to their machinations. One of her neighbors sadistically bullied her, but she endured everything silently, and from her humility, this woman’s conscience suddenly began to speak in her soul. Apparently, this woman began to feel uneasy about her cruelty, and one day she went to Mother and asked for forgiveness.

Mother Anania’s room in the dormitory was tiny, just 33 feet. She had hardly any furniture: a short and narrow bed, a table, and a wardrobe. On the other hand, she had many icons in her prayer corner, both painted and photographic, but only two or three older ones, no more. Under them she had a lampada and holy items from Jerusalem and Mt. Athos.

Mother was always quiet and calm, always silent. But one day, apparently for edification, she told a story in the prosphora bakery about one incident from her life. She and her sister had prayed for twenty years that when the first of them would depart for the other world, the Lord would reveal her fate to the one who remained on earth. And then, when her sister was dying, Mother Anania began praying for her fervently. On the fortieth day, her sister appeared to her in a dream and told her that out of all the services she went to (after retiring, the sisters went to church every day), only one was barely counted in her favor. But she was saved by something that she hadn’t even paid any attention to: She had comforted a crying woman. One day, Mother Anania’s sister was rushing to work. At that time, being late meant being fired, but suddenly she saw a woman sobbing bitterly on the street and stopped to comfort and calm her. They stood together for a long time until the woman stopped crying. Her sister remembered this story only because she got to work on time, although she knew for sure she was late. But then she thought about how the Lord could constrict and expand time. And in the next world, they showed her all this, like in a movie, and she heard that this woman had three children and her husband had died. And if Mother Anania’s sister hadn’t comforted this woman, she would have had a heart attack and died, leaving her children orphaned. And through this work of mercy, her sister arrived at the Heavenly abodes. Mother’s story made everyone think about their salvation.

In the early 1990s, a rich man bought the house where Mother Anania lived, so everyone had to resettle. Mother received an apartment not far from the Scholkovo metro station, and there she also strictly observed the monastic vow of non-acquisitiveness. She lived, you might say, in complete poverty. There was almost no furniture in the apartment, and the other items were probably bought before the war, because the bed linen was literally translucent, already worn out. By that time, Mother Anania was almost completely blind, but as always, she kept going to church, morning and evening, at any time of year and in any weather. She walked to the Church of the Prophet Elijah in Cherkizovo. She had to cross the noisy Scholkovo Highway and tram tracks. A nurse-sister asked her, “Mother, how do you cross the road?” And she said, “The tram goes by my building, and I hear it and walk after it…” But it was hard for her, and towards the end, when she was completely blind, it even became dangerous for her to walk; so, when Mother was getting ready to settle into the old folks’ home, she moved before it was even opened. At that time, there was no trapeza, the heating wasn’t working well, and Mother’s food was cooked on an electric stove. She ate the simplest food: rye bread, potatoes, cabbage, and on big feasts, she had mint gingerbread—she never had any candy or anything sweet.


As the employees of the old folks’ home recall about her: “Mother was always content with everything. Sometimes we’d ask her, ‘Mother, how do you feel? Nothing hurts?’ And she’d respond almost tearfully, lamenting that nothing hurt. It was uncharacteristic that she was healthy and living, as it seemed to her, in bliss, and Mother considered this state of affairs abnormal. No one ever heard a single word of discontent or complaining from her. Only occasionally, as the sisters recall, she would go out into the hallway and suddenly say, “Oh, how well I live here; the Lord has forgotten me. When I lived in a communal apartment, the Lord was with me. My neighbors would lock me in the bathroom and pour potassium into my pasta. But here, everyone loves me; no one offends me. How am I to be saved? The Lord has forsaken me…’”

In fact, everyone—both parishioners and employees at the home—loved Mother. People are always drawn to a man of God, as St. Seraphim of Sarov said: “Acquire peace of soul within yourself, and thousands around you will be saved.” And Mother told Valentina Nikolaevna, who was visiting her in the home: “I live in Paradise, but where are the labors? What will I tell the Lord?” In a word, true ascetics of piety have a different outlook on life than us worldly people.

Fr. Artemy Vladimirov with Mother Anania, holding her prayer rope Fr. Artemy Vladimirov with Mother Anania, holding her prayer rope And Mother tried as best she could to “constrain” her life; she put some rags on her bed instead of a sheet, or would just sleep right on the mattress, and severely limited herself in food. They tried to persuade her to put on good bed sheets, as is customary in a public institution: “What if the committee suddenly shows up, and what will they say when they see what our babushkas are sleeping on?” But none of these arguments helped. Mother allowed them to put on good bedding only just before the doctor would come, and then she’d take it off.

She went to church to pray every day, as was her custom, and she said a thousand Jesus Prayers on her prayer rope in her cell. Her prayer rope was so long that it even lay on the floor.

Mother had a huge commemoration book: She prayed for very many people, and especially for her village relatives, to whom she sent her pension and the humanitarian aid that Valentina Nikolaevna would deliver to her. Mother also deeply revered His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II. She would pray for him and say, “Poor man, how much has fallen on him. May the Lord help him!”

At the very end of her life, Mother Anania, in order to strengthen her asceticism, started sleeping on chairs, and even in the bathroom. And there was nothing the employees of the home could do about it.

When Mother began to feel unwell, she was taken to the hospital. They wanted to treat her and extend the life of their dear resident at least a little bit. But the time allotted her by God was already coming to an end. The sisters from the home kept watch over her at the hospital. When they noticed that Mother had become very weak and was breathing heavily, they called the rector Fr. Artemy Vladimirov in the morning and asked him to pray that Mother would live to receive Communion. Then they invited Fr. Artemy Sakharov from their church to come and commune her. Then they told Mother not to die, because Batiushka was coming with the Holy Gifts. Mother Anania grew quiet, waiting for him. Fr. Artemy arrived, communed her, and she was even able to cross herself. When the women escorted Father out, Mother was still breathing. But as soon as they turned away to take care of something, it suddenly seemed that she let out a heavy sigh. And when they turned back, she had already peacefully departed to the Lord, literally fifteen minutes after communing of the Holy Mysteries. This was July 27, 2008.

Valentine Nikolaevna, who greatly revered Mother Anania, was living in a village under obedience at that time, restoring a church there, and she learned about Mother’s repose only a year later. On the exact day, she arrived in Moscow, turned on Radio Radonezh in the evening and heard Batiushka Artemy Vladimirov asking for prayers for the newly reposed Nun Anania. The next day, Valentina went to Kresnoe Selo, to the All Saints Church, but they told her that Mother had died a year ago, that she had been listening to a rerun of a radio show from last year. Valentina was worried: Why didn’t she get to go to the funeral, and why didn’t Mother let her know about it? But then she realized that a year prior, at that moment, she was dealing with a very serious issue, and she couldn’t have gotten away. Therefore, Mother didn’t pull her away from the construction of the church. And when all of Valentina’s work was done, she learned about Mother’s repose. After all, Mother herself answered Valentina’s question: “How will I know if something happens?”—“You’ll hear everything…”

The parishioners at All Saints Church who knew Mother Anania preserve her warm and prayerful memory.

Svetlana Rybakova
Translation by Jesse Dominick

Sretensky Monastery


1 This term originated from Alexei Stakhanov, a coal miner who in 1935 was reported to have mined fourteen times his quota in a single shift. The Soviet government used his example to launch a nationwide campaign encouraging workers to increase their productivity.—Trans.

Mother Elizabeth Bacha7/6/2024 10:31 am
Thank you for sharing this story of the Righteous Mother Anania.
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