The above warning was given to me when I first met Orthodoxy in 1986. Today [2009] it is even more perilous, even more difficult to find the Royal Path. For one thing there is a far greater abundance of misinformation. And many materials are missing, and other materials are being rapidly rewritten. For another thing there are fewer than ever guides remaining on the Royal Path, especially who speak English. Hopefully this website will be a place where Newcomers to the Faith can keep at least one foot on solid ground, while they are "exploring."

blog owner: Joanna Higginbotham


jurisdiction: ROCA under Vladyka Agafangel

who did not submit to the RocorMP union in 2007


29 November 2009

A Greco-Russian Saint Nun Helen Chin

Dr. Vladimir Moss

Nun Helena was born in Minsk, Belorussia of noble parents who were related to both the Russian and the Greek ruling families (through Queen Olga of the Hellenes - Abbess Tamara Romanov of the Convent of the Ascension, Eleon, Jerusalem was her cousin). According to Olga Abramides, who had been healed by the saint and lived with her for some months in her hermitage, the family of the blessed one had nine children (six daughters and three sons), all of whom embraced the monastic life at an early age.

Helena and her sister Nina struggled under the direction of a certain virtuous abbess in a coenobitic monastery near Batumi, in Georgia, in order to learn the monastic life. The only photograph of Mother Helena shows her wearing the great schema.

At this time there died a virtuous bishop in the Batumi area. During his burial the face of the virtuous bishop sweated, and came down in streams which the faithful standing by gathered up with reverence. Mother Helena took some of this “holy water” and kept it for the next 75 years. Through her faith, and the faith of those sufferers who came to her, this “holy water” became wonder-working.

After the revolution, the monastery in which the sisters were struggling was destroyed by the Bolsheviks, and they sought refuge in the Caucasus mountains, in an impassable ravine one hour’s walk from the village of Chin, in a thick forest of evergreen trees. For the first two years of their struggle here, the sisters lived in complete isolation. Their only food was a little warm water and a prosphora once a day, which appeared in a miraculous way. Later, when the villagers learned about them and began to help them, and they began to cultivate a garden, the fresh prosphora ceased to come…

During the winter they lived in an underground passage. Then the villagers helped them to build a typical Russian cell made out of trunks of trees with a stove. They ate only once a day – boiled potatoes. They never had oil. For Pascha, “to honour the day”, they ate one egg.

The nuns had no communion with the official Churches of Russia or Georgia, and when clergy from these Churches would come up to meet them, Mother Helena would not let them into her cell, nor allow they to celebrate Divine services. For confession and communion they themselves went down to Sukhumi to an exiled priest of Bulgarian origin.

Once some secret policemen tried to catch them. However, Mother Helena was hidden in a miraculous manner, so they found only Mother Nina.

“Are you praying?” one of them asked.

“Yes,” she replied, “for all the Christians. And also for you, since you were baptized in the Name of Christ but have denied Him.”

In 1957 the hermitage was struck by fire. Flames were destroying everything. Then Mother Helena knelt down, raised her hands to heaven and fervently prayed to the Mother of God to help her servants. The Mother of God appeared and put out the fire! And as a sign of her appearance she left the mark of her immaculate foot there. From that time many people came to the hermitage to venerate the foot-print of the Mother of God.

To repair the damage caused by the fire, Mother Helena accepted help from the villagers and pilgrims. A twenty-year-old young man called Christopher Damianides and 42 other Christians worked for three months there to erect new buildings. (Christopher had come a long way from Kazakhstan on hearing of the fame of the saint, although he was very ill. And Mother Helena had healed him after putting him on a strict fast.)

The hermitage was built from wood. So to reconstruct it they had to use huge trees up to 50 metres high. After the completion of the works, Mother Helena called the Christians together, thanked them and said that the next day “Christopher will be able to leave”. The following day, however, she asked him to stay, because “they would have a great temptation”. And indeed, they had many problems from the local Forestry department, because the trees had been cut down without its permission.

After the work was done, some of the faithful offered to Matushka that they use a tree in order to construct a fence around the hermitage.

“No,” she said, “we shall not cut down another tree. But if God wills this work, He Himself will send it us.”

That night there was a terrible storm, and the next morning everyone saw to their amazement that a fir-tree of enormous proportions had been uprooted and stretched from the water right to the boundary of the hermitage. So, in accordance with the saint’s prophecy, the Lord Himself had sent wood to fence it round, in a manner that exceeded human and natural strength.

They had also built a little chapel inside the hermitage. When it was completed, Matushka called the young Christopher, together with Theodore Boukharides, and sent them to the village, saying: ‘There where the Georgians have built a school, there is a buried church dedicated to Saints Constantine and Helena. You excavate it and you will find a hidden icon.” The two young men obediently dug for the church, but could not find anything, and so set off back to the hermitage. Matushka Helena sent them there again, this time with clear and accurate instructions (how many steps to the right and to the left). The young man dug, and this time they found a big icon of the All-Holy Mother of God. While they were bringing it to the hermitage, Matushka, informed “from above” about the discovery, went to meet them holding the honourable Cross and wonderworking holy water. She took the icon, kissed it and put it in the chapel. Then, in the presence of about 50 faithful, the church was filled with a wonderful fragrance. “Come, my children,” she said, “come and see the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

Through the grace of God, Mother Helena knew who were coming to visit her; she called them by their Christian names and said who would be received and who not. She did not receive those with little faith or those burdened by mortal sins.

Once (according to the witness of the monk Fr. Luke Panides) she was visited by a mother with a sick child, who was carrying some food. Matushka did not receive her. Later, when asked she explained that “all of them in the family are unbelievers”. Another time, she told her visitors to sit in a room containing the icon of the Lord not-made-with-hands. While they all saw that the eyes in the Lord’s face were open, one woman saw that they were closed.

“Why is that, Gerontissa?” asked one man.

“John,” she replied, “I am not hindering her, but the Lord Himself, because she practices magic.”

Mrs. Despoina Kalaitzides got to know Mother Helena in 1965 together with a relative of hers. Matushka – who had not seen them before – said to her:

“You are the daughter of Alexandra and you are very like her. I see your father Panagiotes dressed in green.”

Before Despoina and her relative, the hermitage had been visited by two Russian women, bringing some food. However, Blessed Helena had again not received them. Later Matushka Nina told Despoina and her relative that the Russian women had a sick child and on an earlier visit Matushka Helena had advised them to keep the fasts of the Church in order that the child should be healed. And indeed, the child was healed. However, “the Russians easily forget”, and since they were careless, in the end the child fell ill again. And she did not receive the food because it had been stolen from a state institution where they worked.

One evening a bear started groaning mournfully outside the hermitage of the saint. Matushka was frightened at the beginning. However, the cries of the animal forced her to interrupt her prayer. Then she saw that the bear’s paw was wounded. The blessed one plucked up courage, came closer to the bear and bound up the wound.

A few days later the bear returned peacefully, holding in its paws some maize. Matushka received the animal’s gift gratefully, but when she understood that it had taken it from some farm, doing injustice in this way to some unsuspecting farmer, she “scolded” the bear and showed him a piece of wood, indicating in this way that in the future it should bring her firewood. From then on the animal brought firewood, demonstrating in this way his gratitude to the saint.

When sick people came to Matushka, she would counsel them to fast and pray, “for this kind cometh not out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17.21). And since there were no priests to read the Gospel, she would read the Gospel, sprinkling the sick with “holy water” and anointing them with oil from the lampada of the Mother of God. And in accordance with the faith of the sick people, the Lord performed miracles. From the sick she demanded only faith in the power of God and a Christian life thenceforth. At that time there were many “healers” in the Soviet Union. When the sick could not go to the hermitage themselves, their relatives sent their clothes there so that Matushka should bless them.

Like a true nun, Mother Helena had prepared her own grave while she was still alive, outside the hermitage. The simple people, during her lifetime, would take earth from the grave and it would work miracles.

One of the first to be healed through the prayers of Mother Helena was “Katya from Krasnodar”, who suffered from epilepsy. After her healing Katya stayed at the hermitage and became a nun with the name Catherine.

Olga Simeonides witnesses that when she was newly married and her son George was one year old, She fell mentally ill. She was oppressed, didn’t want to be in the house, feared lights and people, etc. With her mother and husband she went to many psychiatrists, with no result. Then a lecturer in psychiatry who was probably a believer discreetly recommended that the prayers of the Church for driving out demons be read. These prayers also did not work, but they did make the condition evident: Olga produced symptoms of demon-possession, and attacked the priests (of the official Georgian Church). Finally her mother in despair began to visit “magicians” and “healers”. At one such visit to a well-known medium, God had mercy on her: the medium, compelled by the grace of God, told her:

“Sit down and listen. You have to find a woman; only she will be able to heal your daughter. She was seven Gospels. At the third your daughter’s illness will be loosed.”

“Since the wretched husband and parents of Olga did not know where to go, they brought the sick woman to her house. For the next month Olga remained lying in a dark room, wrapped in a bed sheet, with absolutely no food or water. There was an icon of the Deisis in the room. One day she heard a sound. Starting up, the sick woman saw a nun standing in front of the icon.

“I am sorry for you,” she said. “Give me your hand, so that I can lift you up. You have twelve days left to live.”

Olga found the courage to stretch out her hand, and hardly had the unknown nun touched her than she felt a supernatural power go through her. Her strength returned and she was completely healed!

When this miracle became known, the thoughts of all turned to “Matushka Helena of Chin”. Olga visited the hermitage to thank her, and recognized in the face of the blessed one the unknown nun who had healed her. Then the saint told her about the satanic bonds of magic, with which, with the permission of God, she had been bound.

“Don’t seek to find out who was responsible,” she said, “because then you will die from sorrow.”

The wife of a very high-ranking Soviet general fell mentally ill. No psychiatrists could help her, so her husband took her – at great risk to himself, since people of his rank were supposed to be atheists – to the hermitage of Chin. Matushka Helena healed the woman. Then the general offered to bring electricity to the hermitage. Matushka refused”

“We are nuns,” she said. “Wax and oil are sufficient for us.”

The general then offered to bring water from the sides of the hill into the depths of the ravine by aqueduct. She accepted this gift.

Matushka Helena was also a prophetess. In 1955 Christopher Damianides, aged 18, was told by his parents to go to Matushka to ask her whether there would be a war.

“No,” she replied. “There will be no war.”

“And how will the situation develop?” asked Christopher.

“The eighth leader [of the Soviet Union] is called Michael [i.e. Michael Gorbachev, the eighth Soviet leader since Lenin]. He will be young and good-looking. He will change the situation. However, there will come great poverty. But finally good times will come…”

Many Pontiac Greeks living in the region wanted to return to Greece. She warned them that they must go only to the Old Calendar Church:

“In Greece there is the new calendar. Don’t go to the churches where it is followed… If Greece returns to the Old Calendar, it will triumph. Otherwise it will perish.”

Matushka Helena died in 1977 (her sister Nina died between the years 1957 and 1959). A Russian-style “open” wooden church has been erected over her grave, and a monk called Boris lives at the hermitage. Her relics have not been uncovered yet. But the earth from her grave is refreshed by a fragrant myrrh which, especially at night, makes the whole area fragrant. And the saint once appeared in a dream to the person who buried her and said:

“Don’t move me, for the oil has reached my eyes…”