An autobiographical interview with Sciarchimandrite Elijah (Nozdryna)
The Elder, who has just left 2017 in the year, celebrated 85 years, almost never speaks about himself, but for the sake of the holiday he made an exception. This is a story about Christmas in the length of such a difficult, but joyful life, through which the more than two thousand-year history of this truly important in human life celebrates ...
Shiarhimandrite Ily (Nozdrin)
- Father Elijah, as you used to celebrate Christmas? Do you remember your first Christmas meeting?
- Oh. Actually, I remember. We met the whole Christmas family before the war. My father was still alive. The temples were already closed then. But all the same for Christmas, as on Easter, there was always a special state of mind in the soul, the mood was upbeat. It's a pity that we could not go to church ... Thank God. So they prayed.
Adults somehow tried to celebrate the holiday day somehow. We children were constantly hungry at that time. So Mom for the holidays - then it was in the custom - the Sitnikov did - these are simple bread baked in the oven. We had our own Russian oven in the hut. The smell of a Russian stove and new bread baked with firewood can not be compared to anything! Not with any fragrance, no matter how much these spirits are worth. It now does not know what to find, what to pamper yourself with. And in those days the bread on the table was a great happiness!
Poor then lived, but on the soul - joy. Khatyonka we had a small one. We thought before the war. There were sometimes adults such thoughts - yes, where there! That dekulakization, and then the war began, the father was called to the front. There he died in 1942-th year. Mom then one, four children, raised us.
I still remember Ivan Semyonovich's grandfather before the war, he prayed a lot. He himself was an explosive character, but thanks to prayer he restrained himself. For the time being, the Church of the Intercession in the neighboring village of Stanovoi Kolodez was opened, he served at the church, he was the headman, and, in general, if something needs to be done. The master was of all trades. He knew how. Houses barrels, different tubs did. He carefully adjusted everything, scraped, and smoked. He was skilled in the iron business. Whoever needed to fix it from utensils or equipment, - took. I myself forged, roared, soldered. Sleigh collected. We then went to war on such sleighs when the Germans drove us out of the hut.
They ransacked the whole village from the people's places - apparently the huts were shaken up so that somewhere the guerrillas did not hide. For communication with the guerrillas, they were immediately shot on the spot. So, the neighbors still had a horse, and Grandfather sledged it, we all plunged into them with a light baggage and went where the eyes look. And this is just the same winter, the Christmas days were. So I remember such a Christmas. The frosts were standing. But we were happy because we had a horse. But where to go is unknown. Where do we find refuge? But once the Germans are expelled, - went ...
We drove our village Redkino (from 1969 year entered as a street in the village of Stanovoi Kolodez Orel - Ed.), And there is further Khotetovo - a large village, a kilometer for two and a half stretches. We go, and there are a lot of carts - and all without horses ... And people, probably, from them already at home distributed. The Germans stirred up the whole district. And then we stopped. Who had the horses, the Fritzes of them there, it turns out, was selected, - including we unharnessed the horse. What to do?
Frost degrees 30, the smallest 25. It's evening, then the night has come. We do not find all our lodging for the night. Wherever we go, everywhere everyone is clogged. And that's it! And what are you going to do? We shifted the most necessary things from the sleigh to the sled and went on foot to the next village, Yeropkino. And there in every house people - not pushed. Nobody lets us in.
- So the Lord 2018 years ago, no one on Christmas night did not start up ...
- Only the old man, we feel, somehow evasively answers. Mom began to cry, to ask. He let us in. I remember sitting on the floor, and even then I did not sleep. In the morning we ran to Yakovlevo, this is further away the village, where our relatives lived, uncle. They found out that you can go there. We also thought, so we'll get there, and the relatives from there on horseback, not afraid, came. We spent about a month there. This was the beginning of 1942 year.
The temple, restored in our days with the blessing of the elder Elijah in the village of Yakovleva, where he was baptized in infancy.
- And you were baptized in Yakovlev in infancy? There the Kazan church in 1942-m year, when you were there again, was still open?
- No, they have already closed it. That's where we were kicked out, in Redkino, where the Germans re-opened the temple there at the end of 1941. The Germans themselves, of course, were not Orthodox. They did not realize that our people began to pray, and the Lord had already helped them.
- Vladyka Joseph (Chernov) told his father Vladimir Divakov how he returned from the exile at the beginning of 1941 year, went to the Moscow church on Christmas Eve - and there is only a man 10-15, also the next day on the very holiday of the Nativity of Christ in Elokhovsky Cathedral the church was a half-empty church. And the war began - people rushed to the temples ... So on Easter 1944 year in the Church of the Resurrection of the Speaker in Bryusov Lane of Moscow already 2500 people were!
God, through the prayers of those who returned to the temples, preserved Russia
"Yes, the Lord warned." Well, if not otherwise? Only God, through the prayers of those who returned to the temples, preserved Russia. Godless country would perish, but Holy Russia, the Heavenly power, was saved. So, our whole territory was already divided in advance by Hitler.
- How did you survive in the war?
- Well, how? It was the case, and lived at the time. I remember that our grandfather somehow broke off from us - we again moved from place to place - and then he was not allowed to visit us. There were German patrols everywhere in the district. Stop: "Stop! Who goes there? "If you do not listen, they will be shot. It's good, if the signal gives, or it may be a pity for the cartridge - to shoot into the air. Immediately kill. Then only so people shot.
In the evenings and nights, we sat without any sources of light, it was thought: by winking a light, you can signal the partisans. Of course, in our childhood, of course, there was no electricity. That's how you light the lamp, - this is the best thing that we could afford and at the most free time. Thank God for everything!
Hunger was at war. At us, when we have returned on a place of the former residence, a kitchen garden have selected. And there were no other ways of food at that time. And, I remember, the Germans had such a policy: they deported all the dekulakized. If their houses were preserved, then they were infused with them, so people tried to appease. And our house was by the time we returned, broken. Only a small add-on stayed, and that already some people captured. Grandfather asked the new owners to live in this shed, they let us in, and so they did not touch us until the spring: "For now, live." But our garden, as spring came, we were not allowed to sow.
Cross at the place of rest in Ossetia, the father of Father Iliya - Athanasius Ivanovich Nozdrina
"How did you survive?"
- And they survived. Somehow. By God's mercy. Thank God! It was difficult, of course, was. Somewhere something was sown in another place, but the potatoes in the ground froze afterwards, we did not have time and what we planted, to collect by the fall. Because again the Germans drove us from place to place. Somehow they survived. (Father takes a long pause, recalls, before his inner gaze, precisely those times are swept by him - OO)
We were then in the family there were seven: grandfather, grandmother, mother, we, children, four. Father in the war. We did not immediately learn that he died already in 1942-th year. He died in the hospital in Vladikavkaz. I'm there.
- Did the grandmother believe?
- Yes, Grandma Domna - a believer, of course. It was hard for her, my grandfather was hot by nature, - my grandmother now and then smooth out the acute moments. Grandfather Ivan Semenovich was a little short-sighted, maybe, therefore, such a warehouse that, as if in itself: he did not care what and who would think about him, he spoke the truth, and that was not safe then. He died during the war, as well as his father, in 1942-th year. Grandmother then took her aunt to Belarus. Because in our regions and after the war there was a famine. So there the grandmother also died, there they buried. I wanted to return home, of course, but I did not.
Then it was so hard for everyone, not only for us. Even before the war, when people began to drive the collective farms, everyone labored at the laborers. Salaries did not pay, only put a tick-workday. Passports deprived - you will not move anywhere. My aunt at me only, fleeing the violence, moved to Moscow, had time. And in the villages, subsidiary farms - and those taxes imposed: from every chicken, if you happened to have a baby, you had to give so many eggs - and if it does not carry? Also from every tree of an apple tree, - and if a crop failure? From every bush of currant, etc. Off-site arranged. Even the straw in the village, to cover the roof, - imagine, and that did not become, you had to hand it all over! Who is now praising this life under Soviet rulers? Just do not know already how we lived then. Only work and saw. Not before the games and we, the children, not before the holidays were.
"And so, to carouse, say, for Christmas, - this was not already?"
- Most of the peers did not already know about this. But in some faithful families, where they especially tried to preserve church traditions, even with closed churches, the memory of all this remained. I do not know if Varvara Vasilyevna is still alive, - she then moved to the city of Livny. We went to school together with her. She was from a very religious family. So they, the children of this family, walked around and praised Christ: "Christ is born, praise!" I was there, too, with them turned around, praised Christ, sang along.
- Did you have a school in the same Church of the Intercession, where before the revolution was the grandfather of the elder? Teachers were believers?
- Yes, the classes were in the church ... How the churches were ruined, and in the schools the new authorities were especially active. We tried to introduce our own, we conducted ideology. I graduated from seven classes. Then they learned: the Seven-Year Plan, at best somewhere in the cities - a ten-year plan.
I remember, of course, we and the faithful teachers also had. Not all, but there were. Geography taught us a very faithful teacher.
I remember making beets out of beets
When we studied, we had nothing: no textbooks, no notebooks. I remember that I made ink from beet. Teachers did not even have any synopses. They told us everything from memory. I well remember our teacher in mathematics Ivan Alekseevich, he then straightened out the documents to me to enter the technical school.
"Father, and when did you study at the technical school in Serpukhov, did you go to church there?"
- Yes, there was a temple right next to the technical school. And I remember three more churches in the district, however, only two of them went. The priests there, in Serpukhov, had good preachers.
At us and in a technical school all teachers believers were. Simply, they often could not express their faith. They hid it so that they would not lose their place of work. Although there was less ideological pressure on the teachers in the technical schools than in the school, the authorities first of all tried to corrupt the new minds.
Although they watched the youth. Once, I remember, the gabist called out: "You," he says, "I know, you go to the services?"
Shhiarkhimandrite Iliy on the Kamyshen cotton mill. 2010 year. Photo: Alexey Loven
- And you told him what?
- Come on him. What can he, the gabist, answer? I traveled to Moscow more for services. My aunt lived here.
"Who drove you from the childhood to the temples, taught you prayers?"
- Yes, her name was Natalia. She was a very religious person. When they bombed Moscow, she was not afraid of anything, stayed in the temple, prayed for everyone.
- And how do you remember the Orthodox Moscow of those years?
- Actually, then Moscow was something completely different!
Knowing life with God, how she is blessed and joyful, they all desired this life
I remember such a servant of God Alexander, she was just crying about the former Moscow, about its conciliarity, about the piety of the people. And the other grandmother, I remember, constantly recalled how the church of Christ the Savior was blown up, and also her tears flowed. They were such pure, truly believing souls! Knowing life with God, how blessed and joyful it is, they all longed for this life and wept, seeing how people themselves destroy for themselves the possibility of peaceful life here on earth, and the bliss in eternity with Christ.
"Before the war?"
- And before the war, and after. At the same time and after what the people experienced, the repression continued. Those whom the Soviet government could not "reeducate", exterminated. Or corrupted the people with her godless ideology, or killed. How many at the Butovskoy landfill shot, on Solovki crushed ... Before the war, especially a lot, I remember, pahabschiny became. Worked on the youth. Propaganda worked hard. Although even then, of course, many more tsarist, pre-revolutionary people remained. The other was Moscow, another Russia!
An ancient icon of the prophet of God Elisei, before which the aunt prayed, who brought up the nephew-schiarchimandrite
- And what temple did you go to in Moscow?
- The Resurrection of the Speaker at the Assumption Vrazhka, is that in Bryusov Lane. My aunt lived with her there. She was a little sick. But in general she was very bright, hard-working, worked hard. Helped us survive the most hungry time. She herself was lonely. I wanted to cancel my living space in my name, and I told her: "Why should she tell me?"
- And in what you temple for the first time at the Christmas service were?
"It's right there in Bryusov Lane." Although more, of course, as a child memorably, how to celebrate Christmas in Orlovschine, in the village. And in the service for the first time was in the capital. Then the choir was very good in the temple. There even many famous singers on the choir sang, artists of the Bolshoi Theater. In general it was a temple of the Moscow intelligentsia.
- Who was there in the temple then?
- I remember the abbot, the father of Vladimir Elkhovsky. Although there many then the priests served. Because most of the churches in Moscow have already been either destroyed or closed. And then Khrushchev's persecution began ...
Khrushchev was just a hooligan, judging by his behavior. Is it possible to allow such to the authorities? At the governmental level, he made a program: to show on television the last priest. I wanted to finish off Orthodox Russia.
But people then already very much worshiped the service. And so they were drawn to the temples. My aunt was very often at the church. I remember that she was there in the left Nikolsky chapel, at the image of the prophet Elisey of God - one of the ancient icons of the temple of the Resurrection of the Speaker - constantly praying. There it was always possible to find it if you did not find it at home.
Archpriest John Bukotkin
- I know that in those years there was not such a thing as a confessor. But did you have a mentor in your youth?
- Father John Bukotkin. This is already in Kamyshin, on the Volgograd land. I went there after the technical school to work at a combine of cotton fabrics. He blessed me for studies in the Saratov seminary. Wrote me a recommendation for admission. Then, when during the Khrushchev persecutions the seminaries around the country were closed, I was transferred to Petrogradskaya (the father deliberately avoids pronouncing the Soviet name of the city on the Neva-OO). And when I was there, in Petrograd, I studied, my father already served in Borovichi - it's not so far, near Nizhny Novgorod. I visited him there. Especially on holidays I loved to visit. We used to sit with him and say a whole night. We prayed together.
In 2000-th year, when I was already in Optina desert, my father rested in Samara, where he lived in recent years. In the same place, in the Iversky women's monastery, he is also buried.
- What do you remember about studying in the seminary, and then in the academy?
- Then, of course, it was difficult. We started to study in one educational institution, and we were transferred to the Petrograd from Saratov to 1961. Then throughout the country under Khrushchev began to close the seminary. First we, the Saratov seminarians, had a lot, a large class scored. But right at the time of our studies an anti-church campaign began, and it was especially zealous to prevent young people from studying for priests. We understood that we were still being handed over to the tsarist church traditions. Our teachers, both in Saratov and in Petrograd, were still old, pre-revolutionary times.
The rector in the Petrograd seminary, I remember, was Archpriest Mikhail Kronidovich Speransky, he treated us like a father, not as a comrade to his comrades, which was already practiced at that time. Inspector we had Lev Nikolaevich Pariysky. By the way, right after the revolution, he was in the dock with the Metropolitan of Petrograd and Gdov Benjamin. Vladyka, together with Archimandrite Sergius (Shein) and two laymen, Yuri and Ivan, were shot - they are all new martyrs. A Lev Nikolaevich among many others - all of them only one by one only this slanderous thing was arrested by 86 people! - sentenced to five years in prison. Our teachers were confessors.
The past century, of course, is a misfortune for Russia
When we studied already in Petrograd, then this seminary was repeatedly threatened by the authorities. Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov), who was then appointed there to the pulpit, in every possible way prevented the closing of the seminary, even opened the "Faculty of African Christian Youth", as it was then called, inviting there to learn Negroes. Khrushchev, they say, loved African Americans. They somehow loved them, but hated their people ... The past century, of course, is a misfortune for Russia.
- How did the Lord show Himself in that difficult time?
- Of course, he let the tests pass. Since the Communists seized power, it means that this was a popular event. Forgetting God, therefore, the Lord retreated. And manifested Himself in the life of believers. The Bolsheviks and the Communists did their utmost to ruin the Church. And then such gloom from all sides surrounds. I remember it was scary. But we were taught prayers. Since my childhood, "Our Father" knew. He prayed. I saw the help of God. The Lord is alive. I did not allow my Church to be destroyed. It is said: the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16, 18).
Shiarhimandrite Eli and the children. Photo by Alex Loven.
- The Monk Porphyry Kavsokalivit says: one must turn to God, and the Lord will solve all the problems of His faithful children. He gives an analogy: when a small child sees some predatory beast, he does not hurry to enter into a fight with him, he immediately pulls the pens to his father: "Pa-pa!"
- Yes, we must pray! Father John (Peasant) also said: "The retreat is on the ground, and you can not attempt to stop it with your weak hand. Beware of him, and the Lord will give strength and strength and understanding to live in God and in God. And this is only for salvation. " From us - only to God to pray, and the Lord Himself is able to do all that is necessary for us.
- How can you survive the Nativity of Christ in your soul?
With God, not scary. God helps
- Praying. In the temple to be. Communion. The Lord gives us in the sacrament of the Eucharist all of Himself. He is our Christmas, Christ is our Passover. The most important thing is where the will of the person is directed: what do you yourself want? Are you looking for a spiritual world? The Lord knocks on every soul. Calls to the temple. Wants to save. Everything gives us for life not only here, but, most importantly, eternal. He sends us even infirmities so that we can think about what will happen in the next century. Ill - it's a reminder to you: pray, get ready for communion. Sometimes we are so busy that it seems that we are no longer to God. And then they fell ill - and immediately remembered! So it is always when we have some troubles. Or suddenly the war began - people and piled in the temples.
With God, not scary. The Lord is helping.
- What are your brightest memories associated with the holiday of the Nativity of Christ?
- The very atmosphere of the holiday is always pleasing to the spirit. When a man is with the Lord, everything is his glory to God. All the glories of the princess's cave inside (Ps. 44, 14). St. Athanasius the Great explains that here it is about piety, that is, the inner and spiritual adornment of the Church. The service itself, by the way, is different in childhood and is already experienced in mature years. Even a troparion in a very different way you perceive. Now it is different.
Elder Eli at school. Photo by Alex Loven.
- How can the children discover the meaning of the Nativity of Christ?
- For them, of course, the external beauty is also important. It's good that the service was solemn. At the sermon it is important for them to present the history of the holiday. How they sympathize with the Mother of God in that there was no place for Her with Her Divine Son. The very situation is very touching, if with great love to arrange the Bethlehem den. A manger to do. Put the lambs on. Cows. For children this is encouraging. They very vividly imagine the phenomenon of angels, the long journey of the Magi, the joy of the cowherd boys who also came to worship the God-servant. Presents to kids, of course, must be given, then they will bring their gifts and promises to the Lord. And they will have their life from the very beginning in God.
From our generation all this joy was hidden. I, when I had already entered the Pskov-Pechersky Monastery, then for four years there I had obedience to drive excursions. The cave showed. Often, just on these Christmas days, when schools are vacations, teachers with children came to the monastery. Some of them attacked me: "Just do not tell them anything about faith!" And others on the contrary: "Tell them, please, more about God, about the Church." And the children are noticeable: they are different! It is immediately evident: the believing teacher deals with them or not. Then in general in schools such an installation was: children should not know anything about the Church. What a killing of children's souls!
Shhiarhimandrite Eli in the Pskov-Pechersky Monastery. Photo by Alex Loven.
I then served in the Pskov region and in the parishes. There's not enough that the monastery, one for all of Russia, remained open, so also about 80 temples operated. We, monks, were sent there to serve. Now, when I was still traveling from the Petrograd Seminary to Father John Bukotkin, at first it seemed to me that there should be a particularly large number of temples in Nizhny Novgorod. In the same place, the earth is sanctified by the feat of such saints as the Monk Seraphim of Sarov, Diveevo there - the fourth destiny of the Blessed Virgin. And there was only a dozen open churches there! Such a fierce commissioner was evil. He closed all the churches in a row. In our Pskov region the commissioner loved the old days and so did not touch the temples. And Vladyka John (Razumov) knew how to get along with him. Therefore, there, on the Pskov land, there were many parishes.
- How did you celebrate Christmas in Pskov-Pechersky monastery?
- Thank God. Me still metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov) before Pechor dedicated, so there I already acted as a hieromonk. So for Christmas I was often sent - I served somewhere in the villages, at the parishes, so there too people had a holiday. It was good there. And what temples we have there in the monastery! Uspensky, Archangel Michael, Sretensky ... (Father again mentally exactly returns to favorite places, his face becomes very joyful and happy - OO)
"Did they celebrate Christmas on Mount Athos?"
- Each monastery in its own way. Of course, there was always a special solemn Vigil, then a festive Liturgy. We have a very long service in the Panteleimon monastery, even on great holidays. But in the Great Laura they have there for 10 hours can last a divine service.
- How do you, monks, congratulate each other on Christmas?
- Everyone shares his joyful mood, and it multiplies. The Lord gives us all grace: to monks and laymen. Share the joy.