An honored grave
Lesnoe cemetery came into being during the 1960’s, when Abbess Antonia of the Florov Ascension Monastery brought money to the city’s executive committee to purchase eight cemetery plots. The Abbess could not have guessed, of course, that this place would in time attract pilgrims from all corners of the Ukraine, Belorussia, Russia, and even from across the ocean. In the fall of 1988, the blessed nun Alypia (Avdeeva) was buried here. She was known to the world as a fool-for-Christ and clairvoyant eldress. Now the honor shown her by the people of Kiev can only be compared to that of St. Matrona of Moscow, although Blessed Alypia is not yet canonized as a saint. Documentation is only now being gathered and studied, but in the opinion of the Abbot of the Pokrov Goloseyevsky Hermitage, Archimandrite Isaac (Andronik), who headed the restoration of that monastery in the 1990’s, the blessed nun will soon be canonized. As an aside, Blessed Alypia labored in asceticism at the ruins of the Goloseyevsky Hermitage, and prayed to the God-pleasers who lived there during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, some of whom were also buried there: Metropolitan Philaret (Amphiteatrov †1857) of Kiev, whose relics are now in the Kiev-Caves Lavra, and his spiritual father, Hieroschemamonk Parthenius (†1855); Hieroschemamonk Theofile the fool-for-Christ (†1853) and monk Paisius (†1893); and the elder, Hieromonk Alexy (Shepelev †1917). Blessed Alypia as if received the spiritual baton that the Goloseyevsky ascetics handed on, and prayed many years for the renewal of that monastery. She told her spiritual children that she would abide there “forever, but not right away.”
But let us return to the Lesnoe cemetery. I first visited the Florov plot in the 1990’s, before the breakup of the Soviet Union, when only matushka Alypia’s spiritual children knew about her grave. This included several Florov nuns, who led me to the blessed one’s grave. On the way there, they told me about the eldress, how she lived in the hollow of a huge Linden tree on the territory of the Kiev-Caves Lavra until it was closed in 1961, how prayers brought miracles of healing and divine help, and how she could read the hearts of those who came to see her like an open book. She blessed many for the priesthood and monasticism, tore many from the cold claws of fatal illnesses, and saved many from poverty and crushing failure in life.
From notes on Blessed Alypia’s life
As often happens when collecting and compiling material for saints’ lives and biographies of God-pleasers, facts sometimes creep in that cause doubt, especially when they are about people who bore the podvig of foolishness-for-Christ. We know that matushka was of Mordovian nationality and spoke Russian imperfectly; furthermore, like all blessed ones, she talked about herself sporadically and out of chronological order, often in a hidden way and without commentary. Nevertheless, her closest cell attendants, or as they called them, “caretakers,” as well as certain spiritual children—linguists and journalist—were able to narrate the blessed one’s life path on the pages of books, periodicals, and electronic sites. Here is what we can read about her childhood on the Kiev site, Blessed Alypia:
“Blessed Alypia (Agapia Tikhonovna Avdeyeva) was born in around 1910 in Penza Province to the pious family of Tikhon and Vassa Avdeyev. The blessed eldress related how her father was strict, but her mother was very kind, hardworking, and orderly. Sometimes she would roll up various treats in an apron and have Agapia take them to the poor people of their village; she distributed an especially large amount of treats on feast days. When the time came for learning, Agapia was sent to school. She was lively, quick, and sharp-witted, and could not refrain herself from giving hints to the other children. The girl was transferred to another class, and even amongst children a year older than her she stood out by her intelligence and quick-wittedness. In 1918, Agapia’s parents were shot. The eight-year-old girl read the Psalter over them all night for the repose of their souls. Agapia lived for a time with her uncle. Having completed only two years of school, she set out on a long pilgrimage to holy places… During the time of militant atheism she spent ten years in prison; despite the great lack of sustenance there, she kept the fasts as best she could, praying ceaselessly.”
Further on in her life we read how she was miraculously freed from prison, and how the Apostle Peter appeared to her. In light of this fact and her later life of prayer, it becomes clear why she prayed so many years directly in front of the large icon of the Apostles Peter and Paul located in the right side-altar of the Demeyevsky Church in Kiev. Also mentioned in her life is Agapia’s meeting during her years of wandering with the clairvoyant Hieroschemamonk Theodosius, who lived during the post-war years near Novorossisk, in the village of Gorny (formerly a Cossack settlement called Krymskaya), and who blessed her for the podvig of foolishness-for-Christ. Matushka herself spoke about this: “I was with Theodosius, I saw Theodosius, I know Theodosius.”
But more is written about her time in Kiev, from the 1960’s to 1988, for there are documented, attested facts, and many testimonies of her spiritual children and others who associated with her. Matushka wore chains in the form of a huge bundle of keys, and on her chest, under her clothing, she wore an icon. Nearly every day she brought to church bags of bread that people had given her, bought a large number of candles, and placed them before the icons herself. As another aside—long before the former Metropolitan Philaret (Denisensko) led the schism [in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church], she rebuked him one day right during services, and was consequently expelled from the church. It is also known that on the eve of 1986, the year of the Chernobyl explosion, matushka was very troubled, and kept talking about “terrible fires”. They say that at the beginning of April, 1986, she left her shack in the Goloseyevsky forest and walked around the entire city with her staff, praying for its salvation.
I learned much that was miraculous about the blessed one’s life. But at that time, at her grave, it all seemed like a fairy tale.
Finally I believed
I regarded the nuns’ stories with the doubt of an “educated Soviet journalist”, who was raised in an atheistic environment, although I did go to church. As the Litia for the reposed was being served I looked at the oval photograph of the blessed one on the grave cross, bearing the inscription, “Fear God!” As I learned later, one demonically possessed man had been here a number of times, twisted out the cross and thrown it aside. Apparently this inscription was intended for him, to bring him to reason. The penetrating gaze of the fool-for-Christ reached straight to the heart, and a peaceful calm descended into the soul.
“Ask matushka for help, if you have any problems in life,” the nuns advised me. “She helps everyone.”
I did not know what to ask, except perhaps that the film studio “Nauchfilm” would accept my scenario about Fr. Mikhail Boiko, the well-known Kiev spiritual father and son of a repressed priest, who had served throughout World War II as a mortar man. As I later learned, Fr. Mikhail himself regarded blessed Alypia with great mistrust, considering her to be no more than mentally ill. He had once served in the Demeyevka Ascension Church, where the fool-for-Christ prayed for many years. Nevertheless, I prayerfully addressed matuskha Alypia, saying, “Please pray, blessed matushka, that my scenario would be accepted, so that people would know about the persecutions against the Church and her servants.” My surprise knew no bounds when literally a few days later the editor of the film studio called me and told me that my scenarios had been accepted. Furthermore, the director who shot the film about Fr. Mikhail found footage in the archives showing the funeral services for peasants who had died from the famine in Poltava province. But most amazing was that the father of Archpriest Mikhail Boiko, Priest Paul Boiko, was shown in the footage serving with his little son Mikhail, an acolyte. The director himself did not even comprehend that the future Fr. Mikhail had happened into his film. At the preview, the hero of the film suddenly exclaimed, “That’s my father! And there I am—next to him, barefoot!”
After the preview I told Fr. Mikhail about my prayer at the blessed one’s grave, how for a long time no one had accepted my scenario, but that after this it was suddenly accepted. I also noted that such a find in the archive footage was also the result of the blessed one’s prayers. At that the elder shook his head with amazement and uttered after a pause, “Wondrous is God in His saints!...”
Later, while visiting my parents’ grave I went also to matushka’s, where I met Vera Feodorovna Udovichenko, the compiler of a book on Blessed Alypia containing scores of accounts by clergymen, monks, and laypeople—those who knew matushka when she was alive, and those who had been helped by her prayers after her repose.
“Their remembrance is from generation to generation…”
I knew many of the clergy personally, and after reading the book, She Who Acquired Love, published with the blessing of Metropolitan Vladimir [of Kiev] in 2005, I talked with them, asking them about the nun Alypia. The former rector of the Demeyevka Ascension Church, Fr. Methodius Finkevich (who received the monastic tonsure in his old age at Pochaev Lavra), had a great veneration for matushka, and told me how he had visited her at her little house in Goloseyevsky forest when she was living there. At that time, Fr. Methodius, still a young priest, served in the St. Vladimir Cathedral, and matushka would ask him repeatedly, “Do you serve in Demeyevka?”
“No, matushka, I am from the Cathedral…”
“A-ah, from the Cathdral…”
Thus it would go, every time. “Yes, the eldress is losing her memory,” thought Fr. Methodius. But soon he was appointed rector of the Demeyevka church, where he has served for over twenty years now. When I told Fr. Methodius about the incident with the film studio, he remarked, “She was the embodiment of meekness and gentleness. I pray to her even about trifles.”
In the book on matushka Alypia are stories of how she helped people in serious life situations—people with one foot in the grave, others who were perishing from drunkenness, yet others who were caught in the nets of sectarianism, had lost children, husbands or wives, or who were facing a complicated life decision and did not know which way to go.
Amongst her spiritual children was the former bishop of Tylchinsk and Bratslav, Ippolit (Khilko), now retired. In his recollections of the eldress, Vladyka related how she had foretold that he would become a bishop. She also told him about the fire that later broke out at the Moscow Theological Academy where he was studying. It happened in 1986, just before the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and five students gave up their souls to Christ as a result.
“Matushka Alypia told my sister about the fire before she had learned of it herself. ‘There has been a fire! But he was not sle-eping! He was walking here and there!’ By matushka’s prayers I escaped the fire—I really was not sleeping that night.”
The bishop also recounted several other amazing incidents in his life, when by the blessed one’s prayers he was able to save his finger after nearly losing it while using a power saw—it was revealed to her; how she had helped him in his flight to Jerusalem, where he had an obedience in the Russian Orthodox Mission, and many other things. I will relate an episode from their final meeting. This was before his departure to Jerusalem. Matushka loved flowers, and Vladyka had brought her a bouquet.
“Matushka, take these flowers. They say that they are a symbol of life.”
“Life, you say? Then put them in the vase yourself.”
This was their final meeting on earth.
God revealed to the blessed one the time of her imminent repose. Matushka departed to the Lord on October 30, 1988. She asked, “What day of the week is October 30?” She also said that snow would fall at her burial, which did happen.
* * *
She lives on in the people’s memory. Her name can be heard at the commemorations in all the churches of Kiev, and beyond. An icon has long been painted of the blessed one by those who honor her, and an Akathist has been written to her. But apparently the “fullness of time” unknown to us must first come before her heavenly glorification resounds beneath the arches of our churches.
Now the blessed one rests in the lower level of the Protection Church of Goloseyevsky Monastery—her relics were translated there five years ago, in October of 2006, and endless streams of people go there to pray. The monastery is especially filled with people on the day of Mother Alypia’s repose—October 30.