Devoted to Hieromonk Michael (Chapel)
without whom this book wouldn`t have been
When meeting with a new story of Alexei Alexandrovich Fedotov, the reader may have a variety of impressions — from enthusiastic feelings of thanksgiving for piercingly honest, unvarnished description of the dramatic fate of the believing women in the years of state atheism till the quite justified misunderstandings related to the question, whom this story is addressed to? Indeed, it may appear the impression that the «stories» of Anna`s grandmother intended for her granddaughter — a girl of seven years- are too complicated. However, by reading it becomes clear that this is a formal method: stories and «fairy tales» are addressed to all of us, and mostly – to the people who are hesitant, uncertain, not rooted in faith. A weak human faith causes perplexities and doubts in the justice of God: a clear evil in the worldly life is not punished, and good is «under wraps» and unnoticed. But” there are the eyes of the Lord in every place: they see the evil and the good,» –it is said so in the Bible book of Solomon`s Proverbs (15, 3), and these wise words must be consolation for those people who are weak in the faith.
The main heroine of the novel Anna comes to humility and faith throughout her whole hard life. Condemning herself for failure to fulfill a vow (which was given out of the church blessing), Anna carries deserved and undeserved trials that over the years turn a young, beautiful and attractive girl into an old penetrating woman. In the Mountain Sermon Jesus Christ forbade the believers to take an oath: «But I say to you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King; nor thy head, Do not swear, because you can`t make one hair white or black. But let your communication be: yes, yes; no, no; something more than this comes from evil «(Matt. 5, 33-37). Anna, giving a personal promise to dedicate herself to God, acts willfully,that is literally «on her own» — without the spiritual conversation, that is necessary in this case, with ministers experienced in the spiritual life of God — priests and elders. A failed attempt to define God’s Providence about herself leads to unpredictable difficult life path — with dreams, with ordeals, that the Lord sends to gain experience of Christian humility. But «…those, who trust in the Lord, are surrounded by mercy» (Ps. 31:10). Divine help comes only to the man, who fully entrusts his trust in God. We, as readers, approach such a sense when we read the narration of A. Fedotov, which is highly artistic and poignant at the same time. Excursions in the country’s history and the history of Christianity, which the author -commentator makes, are justified on the background of general amateurism (even among the current «inchurched» people).
Christian life is an inexhaustible sea of miracles, and miracles begin to happen in the fate of Annushka . With increasing humble feelings, her gratitude to the people increases — to the good and the evil people – through whom the will of God operates. Genuine happiness comes to Anna in wisdom and love, which she gives to her beloved granddaughter, taking care of her and telling her the story of her own destiny.
The heartfelt story of A.A .Fedotov is about humility — the Christian sense, which all of us are lacking.
Doctor of philology, lecturer
Professor of the Department of Cultural Studies and Literature
Shuya`s branch of Ivanovo State University
The righteous has many afflictions
And the Lord will deliver them out of them all.
Ps. 33, 20
Grandmother and granddaughter
A warm summer breeze, flown through the open window, filled with freshness a small room, as though it gave to understand its inhabitants that life, in fact, was very good.
— What are you so restless? -asked Anna the seven years Lena with smile lovingly seating her granddaughter on the chair, who was trying to climb the windowsill.
— Well, Grandma! — he said with displeasure. — I want to sit on the window!
— It is open, and it is the second floor. And what it`ll be if you fall?
— I don`t fall!
But Anna looked sternly at her granddaughter, and she grew quiet under her eyes: in fact she was very fond of her grandmother, she just wanted to be mischievous after all.
— Well, that’s better- the older woman smiled, watching with interest how an internal struggle between «want» and «how it must be» occurs in the child. – Do you remember, you were only four years old, as you scared us?
Lena remembered everything perfectly, but she liked it when her grandmother told this, so she frowned her brows and shook her head:
— Well, of course! Then you gathered the children from the street and took them to the other end of the city. Well, that good people have stopped such a campaign, returned them home. I did not know how to scold myself! And the neighbor Sasha was punished, because he was the oldest: six years old!
— That’s right, there is not worth to listen to the small fry, Sasha was already big!
— Now you are a year older than he. And are you big?
— Of course!
Anna laughed. It was so good, when her daughter brought home the eldest granddaughter to her. . Tiny room in a communal became larger those days; everyday difficulties — her neighbor, a rowdy, when he was drunk, ran around the apartment with an axe, so that she usually had even to cook not in their shared kitchen, but on the tile in her room; a small pension; sores, accumulated over the life, — all this did not disappear, though, but faded into the background. Lenochka became her main sense- in Anna`s life came with her joy that was so little in her long life. The woman was sure that the Lord would save her little girl; that the difficulties that were inevitable would recede for that time, when her beloved granddaughter was near her. And strangely it coincided that when Lena was visiting her grandmother, the neighbor did not drink and was calm, or got fifteen days prison; her granddaughter liked the most simple food that could afford to buy Anna ; even the room itself became larger, so they were together and it wasn`t even close to the both…
— Grandma, tell me something…
Lena was very fond of listening to fairy tales and songs, she liked to watch how the old woman skillfully drew wonderful patterns like those «in the Garden of Eden.» But especially she liked how her grandmother told her about «the Divine.»
— Well, what can I tell you about? Do you remember to whose honor you were named?
The girl remembered it: in honor of the Queen of St. Helen. Lena`s mother, shortly before delivery in May, asked her mother, respectively, Lena`s grandmother, how it is better to name the child. She said unequivocally that if it were a boy, then you would call him Nicolas, and if it was a girl, then — Helen, because June 3rd was the day of her church worship. And the girl was born just on the third of June … She was naughty, did not obey her grandmother when she was sitting with her, ran away. But the older she was, the more those stories that Anna told her found response in her soul. Her inner desire to run away, her defiance became smaller, peace came in her soul.
— Tell me about David and Goliath! – asked Lena, sitting down on a chair in front of the old woman.
— Goliath was a giant, no one could cope with him. And David was an ordinary young man, a shepherd. And the weapon he had was just a sling with stones. But he had a more powerful weapon — a firm belief in God. By faith he did not only fear this terrible giant, but he defeated him…
— What does it mean «defeated»?
— He killed him.
— And wasn`t he sorry for him?
— It’s hard to say,- thought Anna. –It is easy to be sorry when you read a book about something that does not concern you directly, or hear about it from someone else. And this giant killed those who were dear to David, he was a threat to all of his people. It was a war, he couldn`t think about the pity.
Lena frowned and nodded.
— And then King David had lived before Christ the Savior came to earth. People were more brutal then…
— And are all people good now? – asked Lena incredulously, who already knew, being seven years old, that it was not so. For example, the grandmother’s neighbor uncle Tolya, who used to run after his wife with an ax, and once when she was hiding by Anna, he threatened to kill the neighbor.
— Now they can be good if they really want it and really try it!
— And what is worse: when one person does one big bad thing, or a lot of wrong things, but they would be small?
— What do you mean?
— Well, I mean to kill Goliath as David, or to do nothing essentially wrong, just to take a girlfriend`s candy and to pull her braids, or to run away from the grandmother, and to upset her, or to be rude to the mother?
— You know, there is a parable,- hiding a smile, said Anna. –Two men came to one elder. One had a grave sin, which constantly burdened his heart. And the other, as you say, had a lot of sins, but «nothing special.» And the old man told to the first man to take on the river bank one large stone, such one that was barely to lift, and to the other man — hundred small stones, which were not difficult to bear. And when they came to him with these stones, the wise man told to put them where they were before. The first man did it easy, as the trace of the stone was deep in the ground. But the second man did not know where the stones, that he collected, had been before. And the old man said to them, that it was easier to remove a great sin from your soul, than a lot of «small» sins! Did you understand?
— Yes, I did! — Lena did not like the story about the stones: it turns out that she, such a good girl, was not so good… So she decided to change the subject: — And tell me how it was when you were a little child…
— A little child? — The old woman’s face became sad. — Well, listen to me.
By a country doctor
The country Doctor, Nikolai Petrovich, a graying man in his forties with «Chekhov» goatee looked at Anna with a grin, who was seven years old, whom her father brought, a wealthy farmer, but not much younger than the doctor.
— Well, Roman, have I cured your daughter?
— Yes you have, Nikolai Petrovich.
— And you say the country medicine is bad!
— Nobody says it, tried to interrupt him the farmer, but the doctor waved his hand angrily:
— Leave it at that! Remember what you were talking during the revolution about? Country doctors were circulators of the revolutionary contagion!
— So in fact, there was a threat to the country then, Nikolai Petrovich… And it was long ago…
— Long ago? — smiled the doctor. — For somebody it may be long ago, for example, for her… She was born precisely in 1907, when the revolution began…
— Well, it was over, why have I to remember it? Roman tried to stop the unpleasant conversation, but it was not so easy to make the doctor to become silent.
— Oh, no! A spark will kindle the flame… Great things lie ahead! — He poured himself alcohol into a faceted glass, diluted it with water and drank it without eating. — Here you have eleven children. And they are all alive! And why is it so?
Did God give them health?
— You are a silly man! Thanks to the country medicine! I agree that God gives health to someone, but not to all people! In former times, the weak died. Therefore the cranks say that earlier people were healthier. Of course, it was so, the sick died in infancy, because they had not been treated. But wait, the medicine will make another step forward, and patients will be more tenacious of life than the healthy!
Anya looked at the doctor fearfully. He was not clear to her: on the one hand he seemed to be good, and he had cured her and many of her brothers and sisters too. On the other hand he was talking about some things that were not clear, but they scratched the heart like sandpaper … The girl was very impressed when her father told her that their country doctor easily could cut off a man’s arm or leg, or even rip the belly and pull out the sick inside.
— Why? — She asked him with fear then.
— Sometimes there is such a need: the man must lose something important to live farther –the farmer, used to the pain and death, answered thoughtfully to the little girl.- For example, his arm or leg have rotted, if they are not cut, then infection goes further, and he dies. And so he will live, though it is difficult, especially in our rural conditions…
— And the insides? — asked Anya with a shudder.
— What? And they also rot. And if you delete something, the man will be not that as good as new, but he will be able to live.
— Isn`t the doctor scary to cut living people?
— No, — smiled the man. – Those, who are afraid of it, do not go into medicine. But another thing is important here: it is necessary, to cut off exactly what you need and so as it should be, this is the most difficult. And then it can be so that it is no need to cut, it can be cured. And here is our country doctor, honor and praise to him, he always tries to do his best for the patient.
Since then, the girl was afraid of the doctor, but she also was imbued with respect to him. When she had a stomachache, and her father brought her to treatment, she grew quiet and thought all the way about something strenuously.
— And will you rip my stomach? — she asked the doctor first of all, because this question troubled her.
— Why? -he laughed, immediately seeing by the experienced eye that the treatment wouldn`t be difficult.
— Daddy said you rip stomachs of people when they have something hurts.
— By all people? — Nikolai Petrovich looked at her slyly.
— I do not know, -retired Anna to the background.
— Well, then: as an exception, I will not rip anything by you. Drink this mixture one week, and I think that all will be well.
And now, a week later, when everything was gone, and the threat of ripping the belly of the girl began to seem something of science fiction, she was still anxious to leave the uncomfortable room of the country doctor, where there were some scary medical instruments resembling the instruments of torture in a glass cabinet; there was unpleasant smell of some nasty medicine, and moreover there was a crowd of waiting patients in the reception-room, whose appearance could unbalance not only a child but also an adult. Anna did not listen to what the doctor said to her father; finally, she realized that their conversation came to an end.
— Well, we`ll go, Nikolai Petrovich, said Roman conciliatory.
— Yes, go!… -waved the doctor. –You`re darkness!
Suddenly Stepan flew into the room, the boy of fifteen.
— What are you doing? — asked the doctor strictly…
— Trouble! The war has begun! With the Germans!
— Now then! — Nikolai Petrovich said thoughtfully, he took out a cigarette and started smoking spasmodically. — Well, the war between the nations goes to the war between the classes. It`ll be the second Russian revolution!
In his look there was something frightening and triumphant. He breathed deep and then began to cough strongly: the doctor had consumption, that he couldn`t cure.
— Go! — he waved to shocked Roman.
Roman, fallen into tetanus from this terrible news, crossed mechanically, and, pushing back Anna, who herself didn`t understand why she wept, left the house of the doctor.
Annushka was the sixth child in the family of a «wealthy» peasant, as it was considered. Although what «prosperity» can be with eleven children? But at that time there were those people in Russia, who knew how to appreciate what they had, even if it was not very much. They lived in a village of the large Nizhny Novgorod region.
The mother called Anya «Annushka”. The girl had white, curly hair- well, a pure angel, as they were drawn on the cards. She was modest, obedient, quiet, what else was to demand? But her parents, Roman and Pelagia, were irritated by the fact that their daughter was strange as though she was «not of this world.» She always plays alone, shies away from compaigns, she doesn`t play pranks, loves to go to church to pray.
And she had a lot of talents — she could sing and draw, and had the ability to learn good, but it happened so that she could learn in the churchy school only one winter: in the family two children were born and she had to nurse them, helping her mother .
The Father was very sorry that Anna had left the school: he came to them home, persuaded Pelagia to let her daughter go to school. But that didn`t agree with him: Who will help me at home? After all, the other children helped their father in his hard peasant labor: «prosperity» was built on a huge work of all members of this large family from the early age. They had a horse, a cow, the other living creatures, all of them needed care. Land should be cultivated. They have never had laborers. So it was not possible to Anya to learn, although she was the most diligent pupil.
The peasant children understood the law of God poorly, maybe they hadn`t ability, or interest in it, and maybe the priest could not really explain it to them. He told them about the Trinity, about the two natures in Christ — divine and human, and how did he tell it? He read from the «Catechism» Metropolitan Filaret, whom not every adult will understand the first time, and then he asked, «How many Gods do we have? Somebody says – three, the others — two. Only Anya squeaks with her thin voice: «One!» The priest praised her; but, however, the girl had the understanding of theology through the prayers than through a brief study, as it was written in the Gospel «The pure in heart are blessed, for they shall see God.»
The war burst out, the life became more difficult. And after the revolution it became worse. Even there was no bread until satiated. Once Anna sits in the street, plays, and suddenly she sees that a carriage rides. It is gilded and horses are beautiful like it, they are well-groomed, one can`t see such a carriage in the village. «Why is this coach in our village?» — thought the little girl and the carriage stopped beside her. A majestic woman of an extraordinary beauty comes out of the carriage, probably, the Queen. She comes to Anya and asks:
— Annushka, do you want to eat?
And she was always hungry. In a large family is often so. Who was in luck, that ate, and in the hungry times the girl did not have to eat her fill.
— Yes, I do – says Annushka.
And the Queen gave her a loaf of bread, white and ruddy.
— Eat, Annushka.
She sat in the carriage and drove away. Only there was no such a thought by Anya, to eat something stealthily from the others. She brought the loaf her mother.
— Where did you get it? -scared Pelagia.
— The Queen gave…
The girl’s mother didn`t really believe it, but she took bread, said sternly not to tell anyone about it and shared the loaf among all children.
It seemed that the most difficult thing was to go through years of the civil war, but then it didn`t become easier to peasants. It began collectivization, Roman was dispossessed.
— If I am a rich peasant? — cried the man, whom all the cattle were taken away, their belongings, that was gained by overwork of the big family, was taken away. — We have never had any laborers, we all work from morning until late evening and hardly make both ends meet, we can`t even feed children to repletion!
But who will listen to the peasant? Children lived starving. Annushka nurses the younger sister and sings her the song she composed herself:
Eat, Dunya, gruel,
There is no milk:
They took away the cow,
They took away it at dawn.
It has been very hard for them, but they all have survived. And Annushka has grown up among all these tests. It was time for her to get married.
Annushka`s way to the marriage was long. Her soul resisted it. Since childhood she dreamed of monastic life. She was especially fond of Seraphim-Diveevo monastery. But she could visit it not very often: there were a hundred miles from her home and it was not so easy for a peasant girl to overcome such a long way at that time. But Anna went several times with other pilgrims to Diveevo in Sarov. She was impressed by the majestic temples, softened singing of the choir, she passed along the groove of St. Seraphim by reading the Jesus Prayer. Once, as she walked along the groove, the idea flashed through her mind, the idea to approach the abbess, to ask her to become one of the sisters, but Anna turned away this thought — and without the village girls there were enough girls to come to the monastery.
She thought about the monastery that was somewhat more ordinary, but the parents were against it. «Help me to raise two younger children, and then it will be your will, so help me now, the father is very ill!» — said Pelagia sternly, and daughter felt that the mother was right. And Roman died in a few years. But as Anna became older, they began to close monasteries. At heart Anna decided to bring a vow of virginity and to keep it forever. «Maybe I`ll become a nun eventually,» — she thought. And here Pelagia began to ache. Anna had to take care of her. They prayed together, their life was quiet.
Many men began to woo Anna. She was a beautiful girl: blonde hair, blue eyes, slim, tall, rosy-cheeked, black-browed. But she denied all of them: she remembered that she had promised to God .
Pelagia was getting worse. Once she lay on the bed, and suddenly said to her daughter:
— Come to me!
— What is, Mother? — she asks.
— I`ll die soon, I`ll would live not long.
— What do you say, you will live a long time! -replied Annushka, she felt that her mother would die today. It stabbed the heart, the tears welled up in her eyes, but apparently she didn`t show it: she didn`t want the patient to be harder.
— You have understood, I see, — Pelagia was not to deceive. — Just listen to what I tell you: fulfill my mother’s last request, or a blessing, if it is to you so clearly.
— And what, Mom? — asks the daughter.
— Promise me you will marry, when I die! — And getting ahead of possible objections, Pelagia pattered: — Our house will be passed over by inheritance to your older brother Timothy; you don`t get along with his wife. And is it good to live as dependant? I know all about your childhood fantasies about a nun, but monasteries were all closed, and it is necessary to live somehow. And how will you live? What can you do?
Anna lowered her head: as it turned out she couldn`t live on her own, — all the time she has been living with the parents.
— That’s just so! — continued the mother, seeing that her words had the planned impact. — And what can you contradict me?
Anna wanted to say about her vow; she thought that the mother wouldn`t ask her to marry, but she was afraid and she did not know why she was afraid: a false fear overcame her. And then, when Pelagia died, her brothers and sisters began to tell her that she should get married, it was a shame for a country girl to be alone and she couldn`t go to the monastery, because all monasteries were closed; Anna could not argue with them. And she married the man who wooed her.
When Pelagia died, Anna was twenty-seven years. As it was considered at that time she was too old. But her beauty attracted many men.
There lived three brothers — Michael, Peter and Fyodor in the nearby village. Usually the elder brother is the smartest, and the younger is a «fool» in Russian folk tales. In this family it was on the contrary: the elder Michael loved women and wine. He had hot blood: he was easily eager for the fray. For this he used to serve his sentence for some times. The younger Fyodor, on the contrary, studied in Moscow, sought to something. He was a convinced atheist. And Annushka attracted the middle Peter, who, as the middle expected to be, was»neither fish, flesh nor fowl.»
Though he had not such a range as his older brother had, but blood was still very hot. Anna married him a year after the mother’s death, and a year later gave birth to the daughter Sasha. Peter, though he was younger than his wife, but he was jealous of her because of each stump, although she did not give a reason. And what was very bad – he beat her.
His younger brother scolded him for it, when he came:
— What kind of man you are, if you raise hand at the woman?
— A !!! So she took the fancy of you! – boiled the jealous man and rushed at him.
Fyodor and Anna talked a lot, but nothing about that they could not say in the presence of Peter, but it was impossible to explain it to a person whom jealousy has covered all intelligence? So over time the younger brother came to the family home very seldom, but he kept good relations with Anna, although not all of her he liked.
— Why do you pray all the time? — asked Fyodor irritably.
— So how can I not pray, it is for me as natural as breathing… — What nonsense did you invent? All your faith is from ignorance! You’ve learnt only six months, so the priest’s dope sits down in your head so firmly. And you must learn in school, especially at the institute – they will have knocked all out of you, because you’re a clever woman!
-Then it is good that I did not study more, replied Anna simply.
— There are such birds — ostriches. They hide the head in the sand and think that if they don`t see anyone, so no one sees them. And you’re trying to hide from life. My elder brother fills the void with booze, and you – with the spiritual booze. As Karl Marx wrote, religion was the opium for the people.
— So what emptiness do you mean, Fyodor? – surprised the woman. — I do not have any emptiness.
— It seems only to you! You live in the Soviet country, where everybody can do great things, and your life is as under the old regime. Well, what kind of life is it? No education, no real interests, the husband is a bully…
— Peter is good, he is just very jealous, replied Anna. — And why is it so?
— From self-doubt. A lack of confidence comes from a lack of education, but, first of all, from a lack of class consciousness. However, the peasant is not a proletarian. He has no real understanding of what the real Soviet working man is, and what is his great calling. No wonder our first Constitution gave for one voice of the worker four peasant voices!
— And why did you not become a worker but an engineer? — asked the woman gently.
— Because it has been erased the line between workers and intellectuals, who are the same part of the working class, as they came out of it and were nourished by its life-giving force. Our Stalin Constitution of 1936 is the most democratic in the world: it gave not only peasants the equal rights with the workers, but also the outcast, who at the dawn of the Soviet state had been deprived of voting rights — the former exploiting classes. Now they can not cause any harm to our great country! But still the highest good — is involvement in the working class!
— So you’ve worked only a year as a worker?
— Two. And it was enough for me to absorb all necessary for life that could give only the hegemon — the working class!
Such talks were too heavy for Anna, she did not understand all of them. In the Gospel she read that the hegemon (egemon was written there) was Pontius Pilate, and it turned out that it was the working class. If she were more educated, she would formulate the images, raced through her head, as a question – has a new collective hegemon washed his hands, because it became worse in the country than under the «old regime» that everybody cursed? But the woman felt that Fyodor was good, truly believed in what he says. But he doesn`t believe what you need to believe in, therefore we must pray for him. But this prayer was difficult: Peter suddenly started to be jealous of her to Fyodor, and it was so, that it happened, he again raised his hand to his wife. «Maybe it’s because I’ve broken the vow, so I have to humble myself,» thought Anna.
And when they have lived with her husband for three years, their son was born.
Annushka revered St. Nicholas very much. She prayed to him since her childhood.
One day, being quite a little girl, she went to the river. Pelagia was on the shore, she was distracted by something, then she looked and the daughter was drowning. She already swam far away, and the mother herself can`t swim. She rushes along the shore, shouting, and the help is to wait from nowhere for. Then Pelagia stood on her knees and began with tears in her eyes to pray to St. Nicholas.
And Anna feels in the water that it covers her and pulls her in depth. She is very small though, but realizes that if she falls asleep now, she will never wake up. And she sees as a holy of the icon, which hangs in the house, he asks her so tenderly: «Well, Anna, do you want to go to God?”. And she, a little girl, realizes that if she dies, her parents will grieve. She didn`t say anything to the saint, but he understood her. «Well, he says. — There’s your mother on the shore praying for you. Ask too! «. And Anna said only one word «Help» and some force pushed her directly on the beach.
She remembered her wonderful salvation all her life and prayed always to St. Nikolaus. Therefore, when her son was born, she named him Kolenka, though Fyodor, with his class consciousness, suggested her with her husband more contemporaneous names – Wilenin, or even though Traktor. But Peter maintained her in this case. “Call your own children so, if you have them.”
He seemed to be glad that the son was born, but some doubts began to torment him often, he didn`t believe his wife. He listens to her, it seems to him there are no reasons to be jealous of her, but when he stays alone, the thoughts torment him again. He didn`t say it directly, but, apparently, he doubted, that the son was his. When he drank, he began to beat Anna so, that she, by all her patience, decided to leave for the city to her sister. The sister, the bruises on her body seeing, said at once:”Come to me”, though her life with the family was not easy in the city. Annushka came to her with Kolenka — the grandparents, Peter`s parents didn`t give Schura – they loved their granddaughter very much, put their whole soul into her. And she wouldn`t master in the city with two children.
In the first months there was everything good — Kolya grew healthy, pleased the mother. But he lived only a short time: he died of pneumonia when he was six months.
Shortly before that, a neighbor came to them, about which they chatted that she had the evil eye. She looked at Anna`s son and said:
— What a good boy! How old is he?
— Six months, answers Anna.
— Bah! I thought two! And she began to wonder at him.
And the child became capricious, fell ill and died. Beside herself from grief, Anna thought that the neighbor had hoodooed her son until many years later the priest said her during the confession that no one hair fell from the human head without the will of God. Maybe the Lord took her son, because otherwise his life’s trials would be too serious. Later, among the sorrows, Anna always remembered those words, knowing that now her boy could be badly. «But all the same, she had an evil eye!» — she thought at the same time.
Anna decided to find a confessor in the city. She worried very much that she had violated her vow, and she connected everything bad with this, and needed an advice of an experienced pastor who’d explain to her how she had to live further. She shared these thoughts with her neighbor aunt Shura. That was a very active parishioner –she knew all about not only all the priests of the city, but also about the whole church clergy, and about the singers, and a lot more about someone. And she had her own judgment on everything.
— I promised the Lord, said Anna quietly.
— What did you promise? — asked aunt Shura busily, husking sunflower seed.
-To keep my virginity.
— Well, you promised, because you were foolish, because of misunderstanding. You saw the nuns in beautiful black clothes that hid all their shortcomings, they did not live in shacks, but in rich monasteries, that’s why you imaged different things. And it’s all just a fantasy, fiction for children!
— But what?
— I would like to speak with the priest…
— Let’s go to my Father Isidore, he is the most competent priest of those I’ve seen in my life. He will guide you.
The women came to the Father Isidore. He was really very educated with advanced views. He graduated from the university. He told the parishioners that they had not an ordinary church, but a living church, and the people of this town did not really understand what he meant. If he explains it to them even half a day they won`t understand who the renovationists are. And so the church they had was not closed, the government did not touch the new priest, unlike the old one. And the priest is good: he says sermons better than another speaker at the rally, and he knows the service well, but did it two times shorter, he says that this is not important. And he is not just any shaggy: short hair, a look of steel, one can say that there is not at all beard and mustache. And he is able to say something about every life situation, both from Scripture and from himself. When the godless five-year plan was announced, he was raised: he was taken to work in the NKVD (Committee of Internal Affairs), in spite of his dark religious past. So he was an undoubted authority!
— Oh, Father Isidore, how glad I am to see you! It is always nice to meet such a man! — flattered aunt Shura.
— Well, he stopped her, smirking. –Whom did you bring to me?
— That’s my neighbor, Anna, she is looking for a confessor. She gave to God a vow of virginity, but she listened for her mother and relatives and got married. This torments her soul.
— Were you a nun? – looked Father Isidore at the girl with a grin.
— No, I wasn`t, father.
— So, what vow did you give? Whom?
— To God. The vow of virginity…
-You are a silly girl! — said the priest mocking. – Why do you torture yourself? What was, — that had passed. Judge yourself, why does Cod need your virginity? Doesn`t He need it? – It was so much cynical confidence in his tone, with which he pronounced it, that Anna hesitated: if she really does not understand anything? And her companion, watching her reaction, continued more confidently: — Hundreds years ago a Christian, a pure man, Martin Luther lived in Europe. He fought with the Catholic heresy and won it in a single country. It was a man of great strength of mind. So he was a monk and married a nun. Would he have done so, if it were impossible to do?
Anna had not heard about Luther, and his name was unorthodox, but she protested uncertainly:
— Maybe he was a good man, but stumbled, all of us are weak. Did God forgive him?
— Forgiven, mimicked her tempter. — He got not married when he was twenty years, but when he was much older –forty years. The nun was twenty-six then… How old were you when you got married?
— Twenty-eight … murmured Anna.
— Well, you see, extra two years have you been unmarried. And did you get married not an old monk, I hope? -laughed Father Isidore.
— No, he was an ordinary country boy…
— And what do you not like?
— The life became very difficult then. Maybe I suffer because I broke the vow?
— Why? You would suffer and without it. Or you`d not suffer. The one is not connected with the other. The same Martin Luther, by the way, had six children, and he died in old age.
— And his wife?
— She has lived more than a half of the century too, it was very well for the sixteenth century!
— But you did not give any official vows, said the priest softly and took her hand. –It is your invention. Do not torture yourself…
— Well, if it’s true, so…
— Truth, truth, nodded Father Isidore. — Go, I must confess Alexandra.
— Here, Father Isidore, how correctly you have outlined all, and you have mentioned Katharina von Bork as an example too! –said Alexandra with an admiring smile, kissing the priest’s hand.
— Where do you know the name of Luther`s wife from? — he asked suspiciously.
— So I have studied at the gymnasium, offended Alexanra.
— You were a good student. I think that this is our common business, not to stop people from going to a light future! – he answered her gladly. And then he exclaimed: — How I want to smoke, she has got on my nerves! Well, what sins have you got?
— I don`t remember anything: I haven`t killed anybody, was true to my husband, didn`t steal anything…
— Well, that’s fine, we can say you are almost a saint! And now you have pointed to one lost sheep the right path! -exclaimed the priest cheerfully, quickly threw on Alexandra`s head the stole, read a prayer hurriedly, and throwing off his robe, ran out of the temple to smoke.
The price of loaf bread and a quarter of an hour
The Great Patriotic War began. Peter went to the front, and soon disappeared. He did not return from the war. The sister arranged Annushka to work at the plant. It was out of the question to take the daughter to herself: it was a hard, hungry time, in the village there was still easier. But every weekend the woman went to her daughter.
Anna seemed to become free; the men who did not go to war, even among the abundance of single women, paid attention to her — after thirty her beauty flourished even more. Only she was a sensitive person; she thought that now there would be certainly no man in her life.
Women didn`t did like her.»Her beauty isn`t real! -they gossiped among themselves. – Probably she paints. Where does she get the paint in such a hard time?”. One day they decided to see what she really was. They took a tub of cold water, and poured over her right in the plant`s yard. Only Anna became even better — because she didn`t use cosmetic, it was her own beauty. The women were upset, one woman even cried with resentment.
And here the plant director was walking past — Amir Bekhanovich. He was a Chechen. His name meant “ a ruler» and his father`s name -» a chief prince». Though there were not any princes in the country of the socialism, Amir Bekhanovich felt himself completely like a prince — many workers were in his full power. He was stern, proud, revengeful. He was not young, of course, but he kept up well, the women of the factory considered him to be handsome. And he saw Anna when the water flowed from her, and he fell in love with her.
He loved her so much, that he hid his pride for the time; he began to cajole her and to give gifts. Once he gave a shawl, another time — candies that Anna brought to the daughter to the village. She thought, whether to take gifts; on the other hand, he didn`t give her anything particular…
And Amir fell even more in love. He stopped Anna in the yard and said:
— I like you. I want to take you to wife!
She was confused and replied:
— I cannot, I have a Bridegroom.
— How? I learned: your husband was lost. He died, he won`t come back.
— So what, then it must be so. And I gave a vow to God. He is my Bridegroom till the end of my days!
Amir Bekhanovich didn`t answer her anything, just flushed, turned and walked away. For the first time in his life the woman refused him and when?!! When he offered his hand and heart! The director could not forgive this.
But a few days later, he, as if it nothing had happened, came up to her and gave a loaf of bread:
— Take for the daughter.
It was a hungry time, Annushka would refuse to take it for herself, but she couldn`t refuse it for the sake of her daughter. She did not know that now every her step was under special control, her fate hung in the balance.
Then one day she went to the village to help to dig potatoes. She was very tired. She thought: I’ll go by the morning train and be in time! But the train delayed. And Anna was fifteen minutes late to work.
It was a time of war. The Security stopped her, they interrogated her. And then someone casually remembered that she had taken away a loaf from the territory: so she was not only a saboteur, but she also proved to be a thief. And Amir Bekhanovich, sadly shaking his head, confirmed that it was so, though he himself had given her bread.
Earlier Fyodor told Anna about the most democratic in the world Stalin Constitution. But in reality, the Constitution of the USSR at that time meant less than the closed decrees; the extra-judicial organs determined the death penalty, the official laws could be infringed easily by the will of those, who could do it before to become a victim of the same machine of repressions; and lies and betrayal were unspoken virtues.
The peculiarity of the Soviet legal system was the existence of the Special Council of the NKVD of the U.S.S.R. (it was called in different years in different ways, and it operated in different forms from 1922 till 1953). It was a non-judicial organ, which had the authority to hear criminal cases on charges with socially dangerous crimes and to pass sentences according the results of the investigation. A Special Council was not a part of the judicial system. The Special Council passed sentences in a simplified manner. The trial and passing a sentence was made in the absence of an accused and without a lawyer. The analogues of such an organ existed in the Russian Empire under Peter I and Alexander III, but only in the Soviet Union, the opportunity, speaking the language of the Peter`s era ,»to judge according to common sense and justice» (i.e., without requiring to keep the law and judicial formalities) has been used so widely.
And such a Council condemned Anna for a loaf of bread, which was given to her as a present, and for a quarter of an hour of delay for work for ten years in a colony where she was to raft wood.
Lack of freedom
If one thinks it through, Anna has never been free in her life: she depended on her parents, then- on her husband and her superiors in the factory. But it was nowhere as bad as in the colony. Thieves disliked her, mocked, tormented her, took away her scarce food. During the year she aged more than ten years.
One day, when they were rafting trees on the river, Lyuska that was condemned, because she had prostituted and killed her clients to rob them, came up to Anna.
— Well, hypocrite, she says — it’s time to you to go to your Creator.
And suddenly she pushed her into the water. A big log was floating past her at that moment, it nearly killed Annushka. And she did not expect this, only one thought flashed in her mind: «Saint Nicolas, help me!”. And some force threw her to the shore. No one understood how she managed to escape, but Lyuska began to be afraid of Anna from this time: «Well, this Nyurka, who knows what she is!».
The only consolation of Anna was in custody her prayer. She prayed constantly, asking for help from the Blessed Virgin Maria, St. Nicholas. Sometimes doubt fettered her soul with an iron hoop. The woman recalled how Amir told her, flashing angrily with his eyes, «What is your God? Won`t he help you? But I`ll make you rich! You and your daughter will not need anything! «. Annushka missed her daughter very much: «How is Shuronka? Was I right that I refused to Amir? He wanted to be honest with me”. But then she remembered a loaf of bread and fifteen minutes, and understood that it was not in vain, she did everything right — he did not like her, just felt a strong passion. If he loved, would he act so?
Once, when the neighbors, thieves, stole all her food, and Anna had headache from hunger, the Saint Nicolas came to her at night. He gave her a pie, the woman ate it, and felt that hunger was away, there were the strengths to live on. The next day the condemned again took away her meal. «Let us starve the Hypocrites, if she doesn`t sink in the water!» — suggested Lyuska`s girlfriend Julia. «Let her», she replied. But Julia decided to bring this to the end. And then some days in a row she took away Annushka`s food, and that night the Saint brought a patty to her.
Julia became afraid that Nyurka lived without food, but Anna seemed to get more forces.
— Hey, Lyuska, she says — let’s watch the Hypocrites at night, maybe she steal anywhere food secretly?
— Come on, she agreed.
And they look at night Anna is talking with someone, but there is nobody in the room.
— Nyurka, whom are you chatting with? – asked Julia fearfully.
— With the Saint Nicolas, she answers.
The women became frightened. They told the authorities that Nyurka had crazed. Those called a doctor.
A doctor was a believer. He felt sorry for Annushka, sent her to the hospital. So she spent a year instead of ten years in the colony, and then another year in a psychiatric hospital. It was to her not bad there: it was such a hospital, where faithful doctors hid people who could not survive in a socialist reality, because if it were a real hospital, it would be worse there. Anna gathered mushrooms, berries together with other patients very much. She had a complete nervous breakdown. The prayer, the forest, privacy restored her health. And then it turned out somehow that she was released. When she came to the village, the neighbors did not recognize her: Beauty became an old woman.
Return to the city
One of her sisters, who remained in the village, let Anna live with her.
— Gather strength! , she says.
Every day Anna went to the forest to gather mushrooms and berries. She wanted to please her sister and her family, giving them something, and not to be a burden. So she was walkingin the forest the whole day.
Once she wanted to drink there so much that the dark circles went before her eyes, it was dry not only in the mouth, but the body itself was not as usual… And she didn`t take any water with her! She only prayed: «Lord, give me, a great sinner, if only a drop of water!» She took another half a hundred steps forward, and then saw a well … The woman drank, strength came back to her; she thanked God and went on.
On another occasion, she left home early. She didn`t take bread: it was not enough, let the kids eat it better, and she got used to it .She went through the forest, and it was autumn, berries were gone, and there were few mushrooms. Suddenly, some man rode by a cart passing by her, it was strange, because usually nobody came across. And he stopped and said:
— What, grandma, are you hungry?
Yes, I`m, dear! – And she thinks to herself: «lo, I`ve already become a grandmother!»
— Well, take it, and he gives a loaf of white bread.
— God bless you! – said Anna. — What is your name?
And he left.
The woman thanked the Saint Nicolas for help and went on.
Anna always wanted to please her sister very much. Once on the feast of the Kazan Icon of Our Lady she went to the river to rinse the linen, stumbled and broke her leg. Maybe it was a coincidence, or she had to pass this trial, but Annushka rebuked herself the whole life that she had decided to work on the feast, and then she used to tell about it her granddaughters.
When the war was over, Anna returned to the city, but she didn`t go to work to the plant: she was in bad health, and the leg began to improve. She began to work at a canteen. She was given the room in a wooden house, the kitchen was common, all facilities were in the yard. Her neighbor was a man with his wife. Her neighbor, also Anna, was a good woman, but her husband, Anatoly, when he was drunk, beat his wife. When the woman was hiding from him in Annushka`s room and he grabbed the ax and shouted: «Nyurka! Nyurka! Come out! I`ll kill you both! «. One day the neighbors surrendered him to the police, so he quieted down for a while, and then watching that they didn`t done anything to him, he began again his old tricks. He didn`t let Anna to the kitchen, she cooked in her room on her little cooker. At that time Shura grew up and got married.
Joy among the sorrows
Not everything was so cheerlessly in Anna`s life. She was very fond of going to church. It was the only church in that city, it was old, wooden. Anna comes to the service, stands near the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, and so she stands like a candle next to it until the end of the service. The rector noticed her, blessed her to sing on the chancel. She had a wonderful voice, everybody liked it. The archpriest Nikolay became her spiritual father then: after the Father Isidore the woman feared for a long time to come to the priests, but finally found such a shepherd, whom she was looking for.
Once Anna goes to the church in the morning and there is some woman in the church yard.
— What’s wrong? — asks Anna her.
— Here I want to enter the church, but something doesn`t let me go, she answers.
And it is clear that something breaks her all. Her flushed face was all of a sweat, she had bulging eyes, the pupils rotated, breathing was heavy, the whole body was shaking and bending.
«She is corrupted», thought Anna to herself and said aloud: — Let’s pray!
She read a prayer, crossed the sick woman, she calmed down and was able to enter the church.
Rumor about this circulated very quickly, church people like such stories, and then all asked to pray for them. She was modest, she didn`t like such attention, but she denied no one, prayed for all, who asked.
One time some aunt comes and says:
— Pray for my dead husband!
Something in her let Anna to be her guard, she asked:
— And are you Orthodox?
— No, I`m not, she responds. – I`m Molokan.
Molokans are a rationalist sect, which appeared in Russia in the 60s of the 18th century. They called their doctrine «pure spiritual milk»; they do not recognize the Orthodox Church hierarchy, monasticism, icons, relics, saints. In contrast to the Doukhobors, the Molokans recognize the Bible. They consider it as the only source of the truth, they interpret it in an ethical sense, and consider it to be a major leadership in the everyday social and personal life. There are not clergy by the Molokans, their role is performed by “the elders». The religious cult consists of prayers, meetings, preaching and singing spiritual songs. Apparently, «Molokans» is a nickname that was given to them by Orthodox. There are several theories about the origin of the name «Molokans». According to one of them, Molokans drank milk on fast days when receiving «fast» food was forbidden by Orthodox canons, for which they were nicknamed Molokans. Some people attribute the name «Molokans» to the river Molochnaya in the Melitopol district, where Molokans were exiled. A version is also spread, it is associated with a preference to eat dairy foods in prisons and the army, as this food couldn`t be cooked by using pork, which Molokans do not eat. Molokans themselves prefer to refer to the metaphor of “spiritual milk”, mentioned in the Bible. Molokans are not a single unity, but an eclectic religious movement with a common root, but with significant differences in their views, hymns, teaching, holidays.
Anna did not know it, of course, but she realized that the woman wasn`t Orthodox.
— Why don`t you pray? — she asks.
— We believe that after the death the physical and spiritual life stops. The man finds consciousness of immortality only after the resurrection from the dead, that will be at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, answers the Molokan.
-You speak very wise, but something is wrong with you, sighed Anna. — It seems there is no need to pray, and at the same time you have to pray… I`ll pray, what is to do…
Meanwhile, it was time for Alexandra to give birth. She asked the mother for advice how she would name the child. «I`ve already realized that you`d name the son Nicolas, and if it is the daughter? »
It was the end of spring. Anna thought for a moment and said:
— Why? -surprised Shura. — It seems we did not have Helens…
-There will be the Feast of her soon. June 3 is the day of the memory of the Emperor Constantine and Empress Helen.
And the granddaughter was born just on that day. The grandmother was happy, thanked God. And the older Lena became, the more they loved each other.
— Why did you stop talking? – pouted Helen with displeasure.
— And what is to tell, everything is told, smiled Anna. – Now I am sitting with you here. I thank God that I have in my life such a joy as you. Only it is scary to get attached to someone on our earth…
— Grandma, Mom says we’re leaving for Ukraine … Is it far?
— What do you mean! — gasped Anna. — And she didn`t say me anything!
— She says that she and dad were abridged, and there is no other work here. The relatives called them to come to some district … — Lena frowned and remembered: — to Donetsk district. And is it good there?
— Everywhere is well, when you are with God, said Anna sadly.
Anna stayed alone in the city. And after a while her spiritual Father the Archpriest Nikolay died. Her soul grieved for the loss. She left her work: people in the canteen began to laugh at her because she was a believer. The anti-clerical repressions, initiated by N.S. Khrushchev in 1958-1964, were accompanied by intensification of the atheistic propaganda. In general, its forms and methods have been kept in a somewhat softened version until the end of the 1980s. It had both the ideological and formal, but more often primitive character. The teaching of scientific atheism was introduced in the higher education, the courses for the future lecturers of the scientific atheism were organized. The resolutions of the Party and Komsomol conferences and meetings were accepted .One can see in the publications the main trends of the atheist propaganda of that time period in the publications of the Party and Komsomol newspapers. These were the requirements for individual «work» with the believers, but in reality – for the hard psychological and administrative pressure, as a result of it, many people «refused» their views.
There is a representation of the faithful people as a «second class», the statement that the mother, who is a believer, causes an irreparable harm to her children, inciting hatred and misunderstanding between parents and children on the basis of the religion. It is also active seeking out various kinds of negativity in the activities of the religious organizations with the main emphasis on the misbehavior of priests and parishioners, and moreover, that they are interested to get the «money» for “doing nothing”.
It was being formed agiotage around, perhaps, really unhealthy mystical manifestations of the religious life of some mentally ill people. It was being demanded to do everything for isolation children under 18 years from religion. Attempts were made to create the own «communist», «anti-religious» cult, that in fact, was the revival of the primitive forms of the pagan religion.
It was being said that freedom of conscience was not an end in itself, it was actually only a transitional stage in the process of complete eradication of the religious prejudices. The views of the propagandists about religion were often perfunctory, suffered gross distortions. However, the religious had no right to controversy in response to it, even the freedom of the Church’s preaching was strictly limited. After the resignation of Khrushchev the glow of the atheistic propaganda abated, but it continued to occupy a significant place in the ideological politics of the state until the early 1990s.
These anti-religious persecutions got even to the illiterate grandmother, who had to leave work as soon as she was pensioned.
The pension was given in «new» forty-five rubles, it was a little, of course, but Anna did not grieve. She spent a little, trying to save up something to send her daughter, who was saving up money with her husband for a house. She ate and drank only bread and water during the Lent.
Sometimes loneliness and malnutrition sometimes drove to gloom. Once Anna prayed in tears, complaining that she was alone, no one wanted her.
And suddenly she sees that the walls of her little room opened, the room itself seemed to become larger. Beautiful light illuminated everything in it. And the Mother of God, St. Nicolas, St. Catherine, Barbara and Paraskeva entered the room. Although they did not introduced themselves, but Anna knew immediately who had come in.
The woman hears a wonderful voice:
— Why are you crying, Anna, the servant of God? Aren`t you alone? Do you want to go with us? And they will wash, dress your body, and in the morning it`ll be found ready for burial.
And one thought flashed in her mind: «What about Shura?» And they all disappeared. Annushka remembered that vision for a long time. But she has never lost her heart.
In the Ukraine
Once Anna stood praying at night and tearfully asked: «Lord, forgive me, a great sinner!».
And she heard a soft calm male voice: «What are you talking about! What sinner are you?: you live alone, piously, quietly, calmly. I see everything, know everything about everybody! «.
Anna was frightened and said:
— No, I sin. God alone is without sin!
And the voice was gone.
Annaushka thought that the visions would exhaust her, she had not to stay alone any more. She decided to go to her daughter to the Ukraine. She thought about it and instantly received a letter from her daughter with the request to come to christen Lyudochka, and, generally, to stay by her, they hadn`t seen for a long time, she had missed her. So it coincided all. She came.
It was not so easy to Alexandra in the Ukraine as it seemed to her, when she had decided to go there from Russia. First they bought quite a small house –a hut as it was called. It was place enough for three persons, but the family added: another daughter was born — Lyudmila. And then the husband of Alexandra, Alexey, brought his mother Elizabeth. The state Farm in the Vladimir region, where she lived, broke up, and all people fled from the village. And her daughter in law needed help: to nurse the granddaughter, so she didn`t come as a dependant to the son.
Five persons couldn`t turn in the hut, but then the opportunity turned up to buy a cheap large brick house after a fire. It was terrible, there were only walls. But Alexey was not afraid of work, he finished it like a toy. She liked everything there. The house had many rooms, there was a huge garden, where there were many fruit which she had never eaten. Walnuts, apricots were under foot. Anna lived in a room with her matchmaker Elizabeth.
At first Annushka liked everything. She was glad to have the opportunity to spend time with her granddaughter. Lyudochka loved to listen to her songs, and Lenochka — tales; together they drew birds of paradise in gardens, sang .They rode on the swing in the garden, gathered walnuts, and then split them together.
But both Anna and Alexandra missed something. And they missed such strange things that seemed not to be necessary for. – There were birch trees outside the window, a biting frost.
Annushka missed the native church of St. Nicolas. Anyway the temple was very far here: they got there with the mother-in-law once. Anna did not remember the way there, and the second time Elizabeth did not go. And she became jealous: «Why do we need two grandmothers in the house? Don`t I master? I cook and look after children. «Shura persuaded her that it was together easier, but it was useless. The mother- in — law frowned, and became darker. She even began to grumble at the children when they asked her to tell the tale: «Let your granny Nyura tell you the tale, she is master of chatting, but not of doing things!”.
Anna listened, listened, and decided to return home. After all, she has a room in a communal apartment in the city, and Lisa has no one left in the village, let her live with the children.
And Elizabeth began to torment nostalgia after her departure too: «How will I die here in a foreign land? My brother Kostya stayed in the native village, and I`ll go home! «She packed up and left.
Alexey pondered: «How is it? Our mothers are far, they are already old, and we are in another country. They can suddenly get ill, and we will not be able to come «.
He advised with Alexandra, and she also wanted to go back to Russia. Only she was afraid to say about it to her husband: he had put so many efforts into the house: he rebuilt it after a fire, he began to build a summer kitchen, planted grapes. She was so sorry for the house, but more – for their mothers.
And they went away from the Ukrainian Artemovsk to the ancient Russian city Murom, near to the village where Elizabeth lived in order to go to her to help every weekend. Only the accommodation was more expensive here: they could buy only a half of a house for the money they had got by selling a house in the Ukraine. But Alexey has built it, warmed the kitchen, it became more place.
Anna often came to Murom, and then Lena grew up and she began to come to her grandmother for a short time: couldn`t she stay longer with the neighbor uncle Tolya?
Anna arrives on a visit to Murom and only Lena is at home: the parents are at work, Lyudochka is in the kindergarten. No one disturbed them, there was time to talk about everything. Lena loved to listen to granny`s “tales «, she didn`t think then that these were not fairy tales… And the grandmother recounted her all that she had remembered from the Bible, from the lives of the Saints.
— Lord loves us so, that He Himself became a man, said Anna thoughtfully…
— How is it? -asked Lena curiously.
— How? Not only me, but also the most literate person, I think, cannot explain it, said her grandmother thoughtfully. – So it is the secret … but it is important for us to understand the other: that God loves us, that we are never alone. He always sees everything we do!
— And does He also see how I ate Luda `s candy yesterday, and said to my mother that she had eaten them for herself? — frowned the girl.
— Yes, smiled the grandmother.
— This is bad, sighed Lena.
— Because you cannot do anything bad, as it turns out! It is a shame before God!
— So it’s good! – laughed Anna.
— That you are ashamed.
Then, years later, Helena, reading the Orthodox books, wondered how Grandma could explain everything, as it was written in them, with simple and uncomplicated words. She herself was not even able to remember her grandmother’s formulas, but the essence was this: that the scripture said: «Great is the mystery of godliness: God has manifested in the flesh.»
God has arranged the whole world very reasonably, every creature gets the share of happiness, which can be accommodated. But he receives it only if he lives according to God’s laws. And it is unwise to be indignant: it does not disturb us the fact that the fire when we touch it with the hand, burns us; that jumping from a height, we break our bones. And it is natural too that a human, not living according to God’s commandments, cannot be happy. He’s chasing of ghosts and gets a ravaged soul and eternal torments.
The man was created as a creature with mind, free will, not knowing death and suffering. It reigned prosperity in nature too, as happiness of the whole nature, flora and fauna depended on whether a person lives according to the laws of his God. The human, one of the whole nature is endowed with mind, freedom of choice and an immortal soul, and the animals and plants bowed to the man, recognized him as their king, their well-being depended on his choice.
God gave the first humans Adam and Eve only one commandment: not to eat fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And He explained why they could not: «When you taste it, you will die by death.» But the man did not fulfill this commandment. In addition to people in the universe, there is another kind of beings who have intelligence, free will. They are angels, whose nature is different from the man; they are immortal and simple: when choosing once, they do it forever. One of the angels, Lucifer, wanted to be equal with God, rebelled against him, and drew away the part of the angels. Lucifer did not become equal with God, he came down from the sky, carrying away his henchmen, and turned into Satan — the evil spirit, doomed to eternal torment, and his henchmen became like him evil spirits — demons, also doomed to suffer eternally. When the man was created, Satan did not want anyone to get benefits which he had lost. Appearing as a serpent to Eve, he tempted her, saying that she and Adam, if they eat the fruit, would not die, but would be equal to God. And Eve and Adam became like Satan in their desire to get equal to the Creator. They have broken a single commandment given to them by God, they have eaten fruit.
People did not become equal to God. They have known illnesses, suffering and death. The nature has changed too. The man turned from its King in its enemy, because it was suffering through his fault. Adam and Eve had to hide from animals which became beasts of prey. Now Adam had to sweat to forage, Eve had to give birth to the children in the throes. However, banishing people out of heaven, God told them that the «seed of the woman would erase the serpent’s head,» that is, He gave the promise of the coming deliverance.
God did not immediately fulfill His promise: Millenniums of gloomy suffering came to mankind. People lived at that time long, the birth-rate was high. And gradually the descendants of Adam and Eve inhabited the whole earth. But in whatever corner of the globe the man was, he remained involved in the sin of his grandparents, endured suffering, sickness, and death. The hope for the Savior, who gave a happy life, faded away more and more. Sin closed for a person an opportunity to communion with God. If Adam and Eve had the experience of direct communion with God, He opened to their descendants as a Rigorous Judge. Stories of Adam and Eve about God were handed down from generation to generation, each new narrator inserted something different. People settled on the face of the earth, nations appeared. And each of them had the own religion, that is, the own doctrine of God. But the truth may be only one of many religions — for God is One, One in Trinity. And God has chosen for the role of the media of the only true religion the Jewish people.
Through the prophet Moses, God gave His chosen people the Ten Commandments, which cut baser instincts, called the man to righteous living. And it is not surprising that the Messiah — the person who will deliver the whole human race from the curse of sin and death had to originate from the Jewish people. But could a man be the redeemer of sin, because he was subject to sin? And therefore the Messiah was to be the new Adam, the new man like us in everything, except sin. All was in this new Adam — Christ (Christ is the Savior) extraordinary. Unusually his birth is, for he was born, only one of people, against all the laws of nature, from The Virgin. But the apparent ambiguity ceases to be as such one for us, if we learn that Christ was not only a man: in Him are combined two natures — Divine and Human. The Word of God — the Second Divine Person of the Holy Trinity came into the Virgin Maia and the Holy Spirit created in her a new man, free from sin, connected with Him. God was not united with one particular person; He united in Christ with all human nature, all humanity. Having two natures — Divine and Human, He has one Divine Person. The Virgin Maria was extra chosen by God before for her upcoming high mission. When she was three years old, she was brought to the Temple, where the Virgin Maria remained until the age of fourteen, after that, according to the laws of that time, her parents had to take her, or she was to get married… Her parents had died by that time, and she was betrothed to Joseph, her elderly relative who was to keep her virginity. The Church strongly believes that the Virgin Maria has kept her virginity before Christmas and in Christmas and after Christmas, that`s why She is called The Ever Virgin (ever, prisno is Slavonic, means «always»). The Church also calls the Virgin Maria the Mother of God.
The Savior came to preach at the age of thirty years. He taught what was unlike anything that they had taught on the earth before. Christ says in the harsh world, where everyone thinks only of himself, where there is almost no place for love, loyalty and forgiveness: «Love your enemies, bless those who curse you.» God teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves and to love God more than ourselves. And how difficult it is, if we remember that the neighbor, by the word of Christ, is each person whom we meet on the path of life. Christ loves all people without alienating any righteous or sinful from Himself. To despair no one of the possibility of his salvation, He often spoke in the days of His earthly life, that He had come to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Everyone, no matter what righteous life he has, in our opinion, remains a sinner before God, because the human nature is so that he cannot be sinless. To understand and forgive each of us it is necessary a gulf of love and mercy of God. And Christ opened to people this abyss of love. He healed the sick, raised the dead, mercifully consoled the penitents, sternly rebuked those who persisted in their sins. Christ loved everyone, and it was his love that was the reason that He became hateful to many who did not have love in their souls. Christ was crucified on the Cross for His love to people. He was crucified by Roman soldiers. But the execution of Christ was demanded by those, who would have to wait for Him — the Jewish priests and people, who just a week before the crucifixion had shouted to Him «Hosanna!”. Any earthly glory is the same: those, who shout to you «Hosanna», less than a week later may shout with the same gusto «Crucify him!». There are people who are outwardly correct, can talk about everything very well -about God, and love, and faith. But their actions are quite different. As it is written in the Psalms «soft words of them are better than the oil, but the essence of them is arrows.» And they have no shame. They crucified the Lord. Helena was scary when she was adult representing respectable, very solid and seemingly friendly people, who were crucifying God.
Initially the man was destined by God to immortality and happiness. But sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, and with sin — death. (Death is the separation of body and soul). Adam and Eve estranged mankind from God by their fall, and the souls of all men went to hell after death. Even the righteous could not rejoice and exult at God at that time, although they had avoided suffering in hell.
Could there be a place remote from God, if God is omnipresent? The fact is that not the place is removed from God, but the people, who are on it, are not able to feel the presence of God, it is a reason that they suffer and suffer. Therefore all ancient religions tell us about the afterlife, as something terrible and hopeless. But the closer the time of coming of Jesus Christ was approaching who freed mankind from the curse of sin and death, the less hopelessness sounded in the words of the Old Testament`s biblical writers, when they talked about what awaits us at the end of life on earth. So it is said in the book of Wisdom of Solomon I: «The righteous` souls are in the hands (hand) of God and anguish will not touch them.»
Christ descended into hell after the crucifixion and death on the cross. But hell could not hold Him. Savior, coming from hell, brought out not only all the Old Testament`s saints, but He also gave the opportunity to escape hell and death to all those, who followed him.
God is a Higher Justice. And by doing something for other people, we do it for ourselves. If we have offended someone, we have to expect that they will offend us; if we have killed someone, we`ll have to be prepared for the fact that our lives will end violently. And it is good for the man, if the wage for sin can find him in the days of the earthly life, because by entering the eternity with his sins, he will suffer much worse than if he answered for them on the earth.
Anna talked her granddaughter about martyrs. In the first centuries of Christianity Christians were persecuted, and also for their unwillingness to worship idols, which were bowed by the outside world. It was time of religious decadence, no one believed in the Roman Empire that Jupiter or Venus were the gods. But the religious decline coincided with the decline of the power of the emperor. The Roman Empire has gathered a lot of states, nations and religions. They needed an unifying principle. Such beginning was the cult of deification of the emperor: every citizen of the Empire was free to profess the religion which he wished, but once a year, he should worship the image of the emperor and to burn a pinch of incense before the statues of Jupiter, Apollo or some other idol. This action has become over time a mechanical rite, but Christians, who didn`t want to bow to idols, refused to comply it. They remembered the words of the Scripture: » Bow to thy God, and serve Him the One.» Christians recognized the authority of the emperor and were good citizens, but they refused to recognize him as God. This, as well as the refusal of Christians to include Christ in the Roman Pantheon, where the Romans had collected all the deities of the conquered peoples, caused accusations of them of atheism and political unreliability. Christians were persecuted, it lasted for several centuries. They had to be consoled by the words of Christ: «The world will be sorrowful, but don`t venture, because I have overcome the world.» After a few centuries Christianity triumphed, Emperor Constantine declared it the state religion. But how many hundreds of thousands of Christians were killed in the persecution during these centuries!
The most memorable story, which the grandmother told to Lena, was the story about 40 Martyrs of Sebaste: it was about one of them ,who denied for fear of torture, and a Roman soldier immediately stood on his place, though he wasn`t a Christian before…
— How is it so? — she wondered then. – Can`t everything of a person change in one minute?
— It can be, dear. Lord can give us all: courage and vigor, and strength, and love, and faith, and happiness…
— Then let Him give me better love and happiness! – said the girl immediately.
— I, at least, sincerely wish you that! St. Nicolas helped me always. Pray to him, and he will not forsake you. I asked him about your prosperous birth.
It happened that they were talking before dark and they didn`t even switch on the light. Only Lena`s parents, returning home with Luda, stopped them: «Why are you sitting at dark?».
— And it is so better to us!
Alexandra began to swear:
— You do not do tasks again, you only listens to the stories! And you, mother, are illiterate and do not give Lena to learn!
Anna did not argue, she simply went home. And the granddaughter was looking forward to her grandmother to listen to her stories again with bated breath.
Alexandra grieved because of her husband`s treason. As they say: gray in his beard and devil in the rib. And she didn`t think that it could happen to her…
She ran to his mother:
— Mom, what have I to do?
And what Anna will Anna tell? Does she understand something in men? Her family`s experience includes a few years, and she went away from her husband…
Alexey`s cousins lived in Murom. They loved him because he was infallible, that whatever they ask him, he immediately did. He had “gold” hands. He helped everybody, especially his older sister Nyura. She often brought gifts to him from the mother from the village. People disliked Nyura because she was engaged in witchcraft. She has come to it not from a good life: her husband left her with a little daughter, she wanted to take revenge, to learn to do «black things”, so they implicated her: it’s easy to stop doing good things, but try to get rid of the filth! However, everyone will find justify for himself, there is no sense in it; you have to stop doing bad things, which do the life senseless. Only Alexey`s cousin did not think to give up witchcraft. Her name was in the village Nyurka Burda — not because of a fashion magazine, it didn`t get to such wilderness,- but because of her murky affairs. Only Alyosha, like a fool, called her Anechka and then he become to pine for her, though she was his sister and much older than he.
And Nyurka was insolent, she decided to make friends with Shura. She began to teach her witchcraft. Alexandra was sick at that time, and maybe it wasn`t without her help, too: and here the uninvited friend began to explain how to wash herself and to pour water in the neighbor’s garden, what words to say.
But Shura did not do anything, frightened and said all her mother. Anna at once sprinkled all with holy water, went with the daughter to the temple. And she felt herself better, recovered as suddenly as she got ill. But the cat, which Nyurka Burda stroked, died.
And Alexey does not see anything, runs to his beloved Anya. Maybe she has bewitched him? And he stopped to stay the night. And his wife was very jealous. Once she decided to track down where he spent the night, went alone one night, and she was attacked by a bandit. Shura scared very much, shouted, «Lord, do not leave children orphaned! Help! «. Maybe the assailant became frightened of her cry, or of something else, but the woman escaped and ran away.
After that Alexey was ashamed, but he couldn`t live without his Anya. He contrived nothing better than to climb into the loop, the daughter, luckily, noticed and did not let misfortune happen.
Anna says to her son-in -law and her daughter:
— You have to get married. I’m told you long ago that there is no family without a crown. Only God can help in such your grief!
Alexandra is ready to grasp at any idea as at a straw; she even wants to get married, if only her Alexey stayed with her. And he feels guilty for him, the guy has a conscience. Do you want to get married? Come on, it won`t be worse to us from it, we are not young, we`ll not be pursued at work for it. Anna took them to the village Dedovo to the familiar priest. He confessed them there, fulfilled the rite of Communion, and then married them.
Anna advised them to read the Psalter together. They tried to read. Only Shura was afraid to stay in the city where Nyrka lived. And she could not forgive her husband until the end, when everything recalled the witch, the suffering, caused by her. Alexandra goes along the street, and it seems to her that now the bandit will pop up, and in each woman she sees Burda.
She persuaded her husband to go to Ivanovo brother: her cousin lived there with his family. He, as their relative, helped them to settle down, to buy a house. At first all went well: Alexey repaired the house, built the bath. Only Elizabeth`s brother died in the village and there was no one left. All the houses were transferred to a nearby farm.
Alyosha took his mother to him. And she used to live in the village in silence alone, there was a forest around, and here is the city and the children are noisy in the house. It was boring. She used to sit at the window and to keep quiet. Shura became irritable after she had been attached by the bandit; once she could not hold back: «Well, Mom, you don`t like this again». And that seemed just to be waiting for it. She says to the son: «Take me home, your wife is driving me away!» He started to protest: «Where I’ll take you? There isn`t your village anymore! «. «My house is still intact, take me to a nearby farm, where I’ll live!».
Alexey took his mother back, and did not return. He filed to divorce: he could not forgive that his wife kicked the mother out of the house. And soon he married; one consoled his ex-wife that it was not “Anya.»
And Alexandra began to live with her daughters and Anna, who could not leave her alone in such trouble. When Shura was married, she never reproached her mother, but now she even remembered all her child grievances:
— I’ll never forgive you that you have left me, a little child, with my grandparents in the village!
— If I didn`t leave you, you wouldn`t be alive… tried to object Anna.
— Well, it would be better! — snapped daughter. — In general, your place is in the room, go and pray there, don`t interfere in my life!
It is bitterly to Anna to hear that, and she cannot hear through the words that hurt of the daughter is not because of her, otherwise it wasn`t so good many years with her together; it was hurt, because her husband had left her. Only the husband is far away, could she say to him she wanted? And the mother is near here, she can say all to her.
The years passed. Already great-grandchildren appeared by Anna — two daughters of the eldest granddaughter and a son of the younger. And then Alexandra got ill seriously — oncology. It was one operation, a year later a second one and then she took to her bed. The daughters cared about her as they only could, did their best. They hoped that the mother would leave her bed and they didn`t want to believe that the mother was dying.
Anna prayed day and night. Once she was praying near the bed and Helen was sitting next to her, who saw the light above the grandmother`s head. She didn`t say nothing to her, but realized that she prayed with all her heart. At that time she already began to go to the temple, read prayers. And Anna felt that Lena had noticed something. She says:
— Do you hear? Angels sing in every corner!
— No, I do not hear anything, frightened the granddaughter.
— Oh, you… sighed the grandmother.
Alexandra went to the temple a year before her death,she confessed and received communion a month before death. The second time Anna had to bury her child. It was hard to look at it. She was 86 years old and the daughter — 56. But she sat tight, prayed, supported her granddaughters. When they went to the cemetery, she said:
— That’s all, do not cry, now each of your tears is a stumbling block in the ordeal, pray!
And tightly clenching hands she looked up to the sky.
Anna said to Helen once: «Do you see I have wrinkles on the forehead in the shape of the cross? — It is a mark of God. And you have them toot. You`ll be like me. »
And that was still very young, was offended: «I don`t have any wrinkles!»And she quickly looked in the mirror: what does the grandmother slander at her?
In the nineties it collapsed in Russia what people believed for decades — a hope for a communist paradise on the earth. The void had to be filled with something. Indifferent mass of those who believe like «make-believe» — in omens, divination, rituals, etc. — first poured into the opened Orthodox churches, and then also easily many of them moved in various sects. These people did not have a clear position, solid worldviews and therefore it was easy to persuade them to another faith, as they easy agreed on ideological concessions.
Lena came to the church not immediately: first she was fond of mysticism, occult; she did not want «freedom» of the nineties to go past her. She read Blavatskaya, Roerich, Lazarev, but she didn`t reject what her grandmother believed in. Anna prayed for her, and the granddaughter overcame it all and became Orthodox.
But Lyudmila came to Jehovah’s Witnesses. And all Orthodox angered her very much. When her mother wanted to confess and receive Holy Communion before her death, Luda didn`t want it very much.
And for the first time in the temple a note with the address disappeared somewhere, they had to go for the second time to negotiate. And the second time the priest walked past their house, but, luckily, Helen was standing at the window, saw him, ran after him, caught him up. Lyudmila was very surprised that the priest had come, she herself worked at this time, but for some reason she was completely sure that the priest wouldn`t come to her mother.
Luda was good, but in the 1990s many people got in many different sects. After all, Helen was fond of the occult. The twentieth century was full of crises and disasters: two world wars, revolutions and civil wars, local military conflicts, economic crises, including those on such a large scale as the Great Depression, the destruction of the traditional society, the erasing the lines between good and evil in the public mind. Not surprisingly, that many people lived in anticipation of the latest crisis — the end of world history.
Evidence of this are regularly declared and then «portable» date of «doomsday» of various religious sects, both near Orthodoxy and religions, drawing their revelations in the prophecies of Nostradamus and in the Mayan calendar.
For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses, to whom Lyudmila had got, arranged mass propaganda campaigns dedicated to the coming «end of the world» on the eve of 1914, 1925 and 1975, specifically predicted it in 1915, 1918, 1920, 1958, 1960, 1961, 1972, and some indefinitely,- in the mid 30’s and early 40’s and 80’s of the 20th century. And a well-known Adventist preacher Dr. Mark Finley wrote in the early 1990s: «It is the present generation, who will look up and see the coming of Christ. God is going to intervene in history and correct the situation. The curtain will close for planet Earth. »
However, men waiting for the «universal doomsday» often do not think that it is taking place in their souls. In this regard, we can recall the words of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill: «Horror and cold of the Apocalypse touch first of all our hearts — the tragedy begins there. But if we are able to resist the evil within ourselves and around us, the Lord will incline His mercy to us again, as he has been inclined it throughout the history of the human race, giving people the opportunity to change ourselves and the world for the better. «Though some men try to deny it, but it largely depends on each person in what state we live, what world is around us.
But it is difficult to confess that in order to understand who is to blame for all of your troubles it is enough just to look in the mirror. It is easier to look for the guilty around, and consider yourself the «chosen.» And many sects give this false sense of chosenness.
After Alexandra’s death Anna began to live with Lyudmila and her family. She had her private room. Nobody offended her. But her grandmother`s icons annoyed Lyuda very much: Jehovah’s Witnesses considered them to be idols.
— Take them out! -asked Annushka Lena, but she took only two icons and the cross: she didn`t want her grandmother to live without what she was used to.
— It’s your icons, how will you live without them? And you’ll still live, we need you! — She said.
But Anna just shook her head: she felt bad. And once Helen did not come to her long: the children were sick. And she dreamt that she came to the grandmother, and there were no icons in the room, there were only some magazines «Watchtower». «We should see her!»- she thinks.
Well, what of it? Indeed, all the icons were burned by Lyudmila`s fellows, they had decided to help her and her relative to get rid of idols. They distracted Anna by talking, they can speak well. She did not understand why they put away the icons, she thought of her being moved somewhere. After that her sorrow did not pass, the pain was clearly read in her eyes: «They have taken away the Mother of God!».
Lyudmila regretted then that she had acted so with her grandmother: «As if I was dizzy!».
After that Anna hid under the mattress the paper icons that Helen brought her.
Before the death she got the extreme unction and the Holy sacrament. The grandmother was very grateful to the eldest granddaughter who had invited the priest.
Anushka has survived her daughter not for many years. Her death was surprisingly peaceful. When Helen was reading Psalm at the coffin, it was very quiet and peaceful. It seemed to the woman that the angels were singing in all the corners, as her grandmother had told to her, but she didn`t hear anything. Her funeral service was on the first Sunday of Lent – the celebration of Orthodoxy. And during the funeral the priest said that God’s power occured in weakness that those people, who were not visible in the world, whom we did not know, sometimes were more significant in the eyes of God than the strong and glorious of this world. It stands actually on those, whom the world despises, and two mites of the widow were much valuable than many treasures. He called the deceased «mother Anna,» said that she had a pious life. Neighbors decided that she had been a nun: she never chatted on the bench, and nobody knew her.
It wasn`t not meant to Anna to take the vow, but her granddaughter became a nun. Helen made this decision after a divorce with her husband, when the daughters grew up. When it was already assigned, when she would take the vow, on the eve of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land, Helen had a dream: a woman’s voice said: «It will be the vow, call the nun Anna, in honor of her grandmother.» The priest, who was to make the vow, had his own plans about the name, he didn`t believe in dreams. He blessed to cast lots, it fell «Anna». So the dream of her grandmother was fulfilled by the granddaughter.