Volokolamsky American

Опубликовано: 29-09-2008, 18:03
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Журнал "Переправа"


№ 1. 2007

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In the town church of The Marpho-Marijinsky Cloister of mercy in the village Kamenki of Volokolamsky area already forth year running every summer you can see a tall American in years dressed in loose checkered shirt and light trousers. He looks like a typical representative of capitalistic world. Only put on him a top hat, tail-coat and shirt front - and in front of us living “Mister Twister–millionaire – the owner of factories, newspapers and steamships” from a well-known ideological work of Samuil Marshak. But who knows who we will resemble if we are dressed up in a proper way... Human deeds are the main. He actively takes part in building works, all the time he planes and saws, communicates with local men in English-American slang, and they in response tell him something in mere Russian, and by their reaction it is possible to see that the foreigner has authority over them.

-     Garold, look, friend, I think this thing should be shortened here! – with these words electrician in years is trying to explain something to the American but he just smiles and waves his arm.


-     No, no! Look! It is something like this. I mean the system of self-protection…


How do they understand each other? Absolutely not clear, but in a while the work continues and again you can hear scraps of Russian and American  remarks, laughter, claps on the back and cheerful sound of electric drill. Everybody has a wonderful mood.


Here Garold sits at common monastic table. Young novice preaches a sermon from works of  Pheophan Zatvornik, the others eat silently and listen to it. That is real Orthodoxy in life, the triumph of its traditions and the way of life. In the state of Carolina, where he lives, the American used to communicate while eating, animatedly discuss urgent problems of the day. Here everything is absolutely different. The prayer is on, dead silence. Garold watches Orthodox believers and keeps silence as well. He clearly understands the situation, intently eats and attentively listens to the sound of  incomprehensible Russian speech. Other culture, other spirituality, nothing can be done. Two girls from cloister sit next to him. They come here every summer and help with household, sing in the choir…


After dinner everybody crosses and the American crosses himself, but as Catholics do - from left to right. Garold is a classic Catholic, calm and balanced. He is more than seventy. His generation saw The Great Depression, Second World war and arms race.


 * * *


In the evenings the American becomes like Little Prince from the novel of the same name by Exupery. He sits pensively on the bench by the road looks at the sunset, and thinks of something. Rare passer-by looks in his side and can not tell whether he is inhabitant or summer resident - pensioner from Moscow. Definitely not American. What can Yankee do in this small orthodox church forgotten in forests of Volokolamsk? America “protects” Iraq, meets strategical challenges of globalism and its attitude to Russia is ambiguous. From the ocean all the time we can hear sabre-rattling.


Confident voices from the bank of Potomac powerfully demand to change the course of Russian politics and knuckle under a new world order. Whereas Garold sits on the bench, lets the sun hide behind the edge of green forest and helps Orthodox church rise to its feet, what is inadmissible from the point of view of bellicose senators. Russian Orthodoxy is the main danger for the USA, as used to say American sovietologist Zbigniew Brzezinski famous for his zoological enmity towards Russia. It is the source of “totalitarianism”, “obscurantism” and “chauvinism”. Garold thinks in a different way, that is why he ruins everything, all secret taboo and strict political prescriptions – and simply goes with Mother to examine sewer system of the church to repair one more part and contribute his mite to spiritual consolidation of “hostile” positions of the country: “white bear, cap with ear-flaps, kalinka-malinka and Russian vodka”.


* * *


It is not easy for him to come to Russia. He has a lot to do in the United States, he is not young, and his strength is not the same as many years ago. Moreover, it is quite expensive. But he comes. Why?  It is not typical for western capitalistic person. Since the epoch of Marshak and Kukriniks we know that the western person, first of all, is looking for benefits everywhere. But, apparently, Garold represents another real America that found its fame not in Vietnam, not with napalm, and not with Iraqi apocalypses but with Salinger, Ray Bradbury, John Kennedy, Harper Lee, Frank Sinatra and mere Americans that are famous all over around the world for their sincerity, hospitality, really great optimism and childlike dazzling smile.


How happy can it be at heart when there are people on the earth who are moved not only by mammon or by thirst of fame, but by unselfish love. Love and only love is capable to overcome borders and language barriers, destroy awkward stereotypes and ugly stagnant conceptions formed in public consciousness by engaged politicians and their obscure ideas.


The nun Ioanna erom the Marpho-Marijinsky Cloister of merci tells about Garold and other volunteers:

-      Our church was formed by the decree of Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and all Russia in 2002. There was lots of work and they needed urgent help. We found some  organizations and told them what we needed. Most of requests remained without answers until we found the fund “World for you”. It collected data on those organizations where assistance was required and involved young volunteers for realization of this purpose. We produced information about the church in English and German. We issued the application. After that children from different countries came to us. From France, Canada, Korea, Norway, Czechia, Portugal, Japan and Russia. Some of them were believers the others were not. Last time they came twice. Each time there were ten people for two weeks. Their help was rather appreciable. But the purposes of coming were different. Some of them wanted to see Russia with their own eyes. Others wanted to learn the Russian language. Someone wanted to communicate with local population and look at their life. A girl-volunteer from Norway was in Russia in 2006. She told me literally the following: “Since childhood I know USSR as a country with powerful military potential. Always I was afraid of it. So, not without fear, I have decided to come here and see what you really are? If is it true that you are such an aggressive nation?”


We tried to tell them about us, our history, showed them video films about sacred places of Russia, France and other European countries. We managed to build mutual dialog though small. We could feel that volunteers looked closely at us, nuns and tried to understand what we really are. Their imaginations about our way of life, Orthodoxy were quite poor. But they wanted to help, be useful. By the way, they spent their own money to come here. The fund paid only for living and food. It is interesting that through this Fund we had Russian children coming here last year. There was a student from ninth grade.


Voluteer’s help was rather appreciable. Everything that was planned to do was done. Volunteers worked enthusiastically. They enclosed the church with a fence, painted an iron fence surrounding the temple, covered the house of the priest with lining, made scaffolding and many other things. There were professionals among volunteers we let them use especially complex electric tools. We are so grateful to this fund and to those people that adequately represented it every time. This year the representative of the Fund has come here from England to check what was done and she was really pleased. When she saw how much was done with the help of volunteers she was surprised with their productivity.


* * *


- As for American Garold, I had met him before I was admitted to the veil. I know English and I used to work at exhibitions. And there we got acquainted. He was a representative of the firm that was engaged in aircraft construction. Periodically I had work contacts with him. I can say we worked well together. However, in a while after the next business trip to desert Optina I called the company and told them that I made up my mind to take the veil. That time Garold, apparently, did not understand anything and our communication stopped for some years. But when I became the nun of Marpho-Marijinsky Cloister I had to visit Moscow quite often  because of obedience and from there I called him to ask about his health and ask for help within his powers. He was glad about the call, and he helped financially and then he expressed his desire to come and see what I am doing and how his means was used. And can you imagine, he came here. It was in 2003. He saw wooden houses near the church that were built on his money and stayed pleased. Since then he began to send us some money from time to time. He found the business for his soul in this. He is a versatile person, the militarian in the past who got a high rank, the engineer of aircraft construction, excellent carpenter, the builder, the electrician. Whatever he touches, it begins to play in his hands. Now he is retired and has more free time. He lives in the state of North Carolina, next to the city of Sherlot, in suburb of Belmont. Garold and his friends, as engaged as he is, rent a big hangar  where they with joint efforts restore the written off civil helicopters. The local museum of aircraft buys repaired exhibits from them.


From all things made by Garold in the church we can mark out benches of good quality for the temple where old people can sit, scaffolding in the kitchen in dining place, elegant supports for diaconal candles in the altar, a strong beautiful hanger for canonicals. And - uncountable repair works.


Local men that come to help with household from time to time respect him.  In the beginning there was some vigilance from their side but then he just subdued their hearts with his skills. They are able to do a lot as well so they could appreciate his work adequately and professionally. He is a serious person. He has kind light soul and magical hands. Such people are required everywhere. They will not be lost. And even language is not a problem.


Garold was so involved in what he was doing that he refused to go with me to Moscow and see Red Square: “I saw it before.” Implied text was following: “Do not prevent me from working and doing my business.” Every year he comes here for three months and everything here  is changing and improving. Actually, he spends the part of his life, that is promptly goes to the terrestrial end, on the arrangement of our place which is on  the other end of the world from North Carolina!..


* * *


-  I must say that everything goes through the heart of our benefactor and he deeply cares for us. When he knew that one of the girls did not live in our orphanage, he got sad and told me: “Imagine, she lives now in a new place and thinks that nobody loves her. If you meet her, say to her Hi from me. Is it possible to take her back to our church?” He is so kind, our Garold. And when one of our nuns left us he took it hard: “How difficult it is going to be for you without her… And for her without you…”


Couple days ago I was talking to him on the phone and he asked me about everybody, he forgot nobody. What are they doing?  What have they done? How is everybody doing? His questions were not just questions. Garold is a very tactful man. All the time he is trying to understand everything correctly. It is a good strain. There is no arrogance, pride in him. I mean some arrogant attitude of middle foreigner to local Russian “aborigines”. He always treated us equally and with respect. He knows how to keep silence, say necessary word when needed, keep himself busy. Desirable qualities. The person, who could be our father, always politely stopped speaking when we began talking about something and he certainly made way for everybody. And what is the main -  he unselfishly helped and saw in this great concealed meaning, so important for the state of his soul.


His religion is Catholicism, but he is calm, he never propagandized that in the midst of us,  he did not preach “advantages” of Catholicism over Orthodoxy. I want to say about it evangelically -  here is the person that does not have any slyness. Back home he regularly goes to temple and renders assistance to local catholic church, he is in charge for financial department. In connection with this he asks me to use means that he gives only for building houses in the church not for temple needs. If his priest, he says, thinks that parishioner Garold’s money goes to the building of Orthodox temple, he will not understand this and ask: “Garold, there is catholic temple. Why do you spend money on the Orthodox church, not on this one?” Garold several times asked about it, because he is sure that if his local priest asks him about it, then in the case of helping Orthodox temple he, Garold, will not be able to hide the truth and tell everything.


Certainly, it sounds a little bit naïve. In the houses of the temple there are going to live Orthodox believers – and they are going to follow their praying rule. The support of Orthodoxy is possible to see with naked eye and senior priest of Catholic temple should understand it. Nevertheless, the question is really delicate. And the fact that  Garold still keeps helping us means it is a real humane exploit for him. He definitely understands the amiguity of the situation but he still comes here, under Volokolamsk, from the ocean, because you can not order your heart what to do. Here in Russia he found something that is so close to him. Importance and real need in him. It says about his strong personality. I wish there were more such Americans. And probably the world would change for better.


Next time he promised to bring with him some young volunteers from his church. He already gave vast information about us. I hope his pastor is not going to be against of this. Children just want to know Russia.


Archpriest Michael Khodanov

Editor in chief of the magazine “Sixth Sense”

Moscow, Russia

перевод на англ. Марии Просвиряковой


Метки к статье: Переправа, Протоиерей Михаил Ходанов, на английском
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