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


28 July 2010

The Youth Alexander

from Orthodox Life November-December 1966
The Youth Alexander
[1940† or? 1941†]
[Dedicated to all bereaved mothers]

At the advice and with the blessing of two important spiritual persons, I set out at last, at the end of my life, to write a brief biography of our only son Alexander, who left this world so young [at the age of 13] and of those miraculous manifestations of the mercy of God to us, his bereaved parents, immediately following his death.  Fully aware of our unworthiness, we can explain all the miracles which preceded his death and followed it, only as a manifestation of the boundless compassion of the Lord on human grief, and that this was sent not only for our consolation, but also for the edification and bolstering of the faith and strength of many others who have experienced such bereavement or who can understand it.
May God help me to write everything, not changing one iota of the truth, without any exaggeration or partiality, so as not to detract from the heavenly glory of the youth Alexander.

∞ ∞ ∞

Our son, Alexander Alejeff, like other children, was born in exile in Constantinople, on April 30, 1926.  He was our second child.  The children grew up in entirely refugee surroundings, in one room, mainly under the guidance of their father.  Working as an artist, he was always home, while I was away all day, working as head secretary of an institution which tended to the needs of all the Russian refugees in Turkey.

To raise three children under such circumstances was not easy.  Therefore I cannot pass over in silence the tremendous moral support and loving care which was shown to our family in the matter of raising the children by the family of Nicholas Alexeievich and Maria Petrovna Kizelbash, the Godparents of our children. Both of them, and also the mother of Nicholas Alexeievich, Anna Ivanovna, [all three deeply religious people and close to the Church] devoted many hours of their day to our children, especially when the children, reaching school age, could not go to school.  At this time the Kizelbashes and we moved into the same house.  The children could then go freely to their Godparents, via an inside staircase, for lessons in religion and foreign languages.  It is hard to relate in a short account how much love and affection they showed for our children.  May the Lord grant peace to their souls which were so full of love.

They all noted that Alexander, or as everyone called him, Lulik, showed abundant abilities and often drew conclusions quite unusual for his age.  In addition to this, he was very devout.  Nicholas Alexeievich, a very sensitive person once said, "He's already very refined; I'm afraid for him."

In 1935 a sharp change occurred in our lives.  At the insistence of the communist government of the U.S.S.R., then concluding a secret war pact with Turkey, 200 Russian emigrant families were ordered to leave Turkish territory.  This problem was handed over to the same public institution for which I had already worked for 13 years as head secretary.  Our name, with my husband's also stood on the list.  We had both to evacuate the others and also to resettle ourselves somewhere.  At that time the granting of visas to the United States and South American countries was curtailed.  To France, also.  The situation became desperate.  My husband and I wanted to go to the Far East, where at that time Harbin had a Russian educational system complete to the university level, but for this we would have to write to someone and wait.  However, we had to leave Turkey as soon as possible, while the institution for which I was working was still willing to pay all the traveling expenses for us.  There was a lot of serious doubting and wavering.  On July 26, the Feast of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God, Odigitria, our whole family made a pilgrimage to the Life-giving Fountain, where in the church there was an icon which, according to tradition, was painted by Apostle Luke.  We laid our fate in the hands of the Mother of God, the Guide of Travelers.

After a short while, I wrote to my youngest sister Tatiana [now nun Taisia] in the Mount of Olives Convent in Jerusalem, and mentioned the desire to pass through the Holy Land to pray in its holy places and see each other on our way to the Far East.  An answer came surprisingly fast.  The superior of the Gethsemane Community, Abbess Maria [Robinson], learning about our situation from my sister, immediately sent us a visa granting the necessary guarantees for the British government of Palestine.  How could we not see in this the Providence of God and not keep in our souls forever a deep thankfulness to Abbess Maria, who immediately responded to a completely unknown family in distress?

Of special comfort for us on this unexpected departure was the fact that on arriving in Jerusalem we came under the patronage of His Grace Archbishop Anastasy, under whose spiritual guidance I had became a member of the Constantinople Sisterhood, and who had blessed my husband and myself on the day of our marriage.

We left Constantinople on December 18, 1935, [Old Style], on the 21st arrived in Haifa, and on the following day were in the holy city of Jerusalem.  On Christmas Eve my son was found worthy to hold the staff of His Grace Anastasy during the Liturgy in the Mount of Olives Convent.  From that time on he became one of boys who served in the churches of the Russian Spiritual Mission, and neither the long distances from our house nor the bad weather, nor his frequent illnesses could keep him from fulfilling these duties which were so dear to him.  On certain major feasts he even served in the Church of the Resurrection at the Lord's Sepulchre.  There he once carried the candle before three patriarchs:  of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria.

All this made a deep impression on the youth's heart and in his twelfth year, he asked the Superior of the Spiritual Mission, Archimandrite Anthony [now Archbishop of Los Angeles] at what age one may become a deacon.  The archimandrite explained to him that this depended on whether he wanted to become a monk or go into the white clergy.  It was hard for us to determine what sort of workings took place in our son's mind, since he seldom talked about it.  However, a year or more before his death, he startled me with the question, "Mama, tell me which is better:  to die young without sins or to live a long life and repent at the end?"  

I admit, I didn't know what to answer him, but to all appearances, from what the Russian boys of his age told me after his death, one could conclude that he had answered this question for himself.  Once all of them, five or six boys, were sitting underneath a shade tree in the Gethsemane cemetery talking about what was the best career to choose; one wanted to be an engineer, another an aviator, and so forth.  Alexander kept quiet.  "And what do you want to be Lulik?" his friends asked him.

"I think" he answered, "that in our age you couldn't live your life without sinning a lot, so it is better to die young."  Was it not this choice that made him righteous before God?

More than a year before his death, he made a gift to me on my name's day, which he had made himself, a wooden frame with three icons: the Resurrection of Christ, the Nativity, and the Baptism.  On the reverse side he had carved, "For a good remembrance from Lulik" and giving it to me, he said, "Mama, you will pray before these icons, when I'm not alive."  

"What foolishness you're talking," burst from me, but he quietly answered me, 

"Well, you will see."

In general, however, he was like other children of his age, happy and playful.  The mother of Archimandrite Anthony, who had a son of the same age, with whom Alexander was a good friend, said to me, "I love your Lulik and my Misha very much when they are apart, but often they are unbearable when together; what pranks they don't think up!"

In school he was a model pupil, studied well, and had an excellent reputation.  His classmates told me later, "This was a holy boy" and they told us how he sometimes took someone else's blame upon himself.  Indeed, two times, to our amazement, he was kept after school for two hours.  Someone had played a naughty prank and did not confess.  The principal punished the whole class.  Suddenly Alexander stood up and announced that he had done it.  

"I don't believe it; you couldn't have done this," the principal retorted, but for the sake of order laid the punishment on him, while the rest of the class was dismissed and, along with them, the real culprit.  True, sometimes he was late for the first lesson, but as we found out afterwards, this was because the money which his father gave him for renting a bicycle he gave to a poor boy, who waited for him at the corner, and he himself went on foot, carrying a heavy satchel of books, which was very bad for his weak heart.

Towards the middle of 1940 he began to feel bad more often and sometimes didn't go to school for three or four days.  The school doctor warned he had a weak heart which was not keeping up with his rapid growth and that he should eat very well.  But our income was less than modest.

At the beginning of fall, in 1940, my husband became dangerously ill.  An infection started in his upper jaw from a bad tooth.  Suddenly his temperature soared to over 102° F.  Two doctors were summoned, a therapeutist and a prominent dentist.  After consultation it was decided to pull the tooth, in spite of his fever, and that without an anaesthetic.  It was diagnosed as the beginning of sinusitis [an inflamation of the part of the forehead behind the eyes], since the exudate was moving upwards.  They prescribed applying hot poultices without interruption, so that the infection would not spread to the brain.  His temperature rose, and my husband became delirious.  I stayed on duty the first night without sleep, and in the morning let them know on the Mount of Olives, in the convent where my sister was, asking them to send someone to take turns with me.  Right away a very kind nurse, Olympiada Michailovna N., came and we began to stay on duty, taking turns with her.  Of all the children, Alexander worried the most about his father.  He also decided not to sleep.  But, of course, his youth and weariness made their claim.  The third night was the worst; the patient's temperature rose to nearly 105° F., and he lost consciousness.  On that night something extraordinary took place.

In the Mount of Olives Convent, a nun invested with the great schema, Mother Mitrophania, returning from the evening service, intended to read her evening rule of prayers.  Tired out from standing in church, she lay down for a minute on her couch but did not sleep.  Suddenly, to her great amazement, without knocking and without the usual monastic greeting, "By the prayers of the holy fathers," the door silently opened, and on the threshold of her cell Alexander appeared.  

Mother Mitrophania jumped up.  "Sasha dear, when did you get here?  And so late!  When there are no more buses."  

But Alexander stood silent in the door and just kept watching her with a plaintive stare.  Then it was as if he faded away ... Mother Mitrophania realized that it had been a vision.  His father was probably very bad, and he was asking prayers.  She stood for prayer and so spent part of the night.  In the morning she told my sister what had occurred, and she, Nun Taisia, immediately came to our house.  Moreover, during the night the temperature went down, and towards morning my husband regained consciousness.   The doctor announced that the danger was past.  At that time we did not realize the full meaning of this incident regarding Alexander.

Several months passed by.  My husband completely recovered, but my son felt bad all the more often, and at times we did not let him go to school but made him lie in bed.  Towards the end he lost interest in school, and once he announced straightforwardly, "I don't want to go to that school any more; some of the teachers teach that there is no God."  Since an Englishwoman payed for him at the school, [our subsistence was not sufficient for tuition] no decision was made on this.

January, 1941, came around.  Throughout Jerusalem an epidemic of influenza was raging.  Several schools were closed.  There was much sickness, both in his school and the one in Bethany, where I was headmistress, and where I travelled every day, returning home in the evening.  Our two daughters studied there and left home early Monday morning, remaining there until Friday.  Alexander had been in bed since Sunday with a high temperature.  On Monday I started to go to school as usual, but missed the Bethany bus and decided to return home in order to help my husband with our sick son.  We had no servants.

Our son's temperature kept rising, and we decided to call a doctor, which was not easy to do for lack of money at home.  Our school physician, the very kind Dr. Mankovsky, was not found at home.  I went to an Arab friend, a teacher with a Russian education and on very friendly terms with us, and he telephoned a doctor friend of his.  In this way we did not have to pay for the visit right away.  The doctor administered the necessary injection and gave some medicine, but warned that the patient's heart was very weak, and that we ought to get another more potent medicine for an injection when he came again that evening.  The medicine was expensive and there was no money.  First we had to go someplace and get the money.  

That evening the doctor came again and repeated that he did not like the boy's heart.  He promised to come again in the morning, around eight o'clock.  I don't know why, but my husband and I were not aware of how serious the situation was.  Our son lay quietly, without any complaint, but hardly able to move because of extreme weakness.  The hours dragged by painfully slow.  My husband and I, fully dressed, laid down in the same room, one at the head of his bed, the other along the opposite wall.  About midnight, Alexander suddenly asked, "Mama what time is it?"

"Twelve o'clock," I answered.

He sighed and quietly pronounced, "Six hours more."

I thought that he was talking about the doctor's coming.  At three o'clock he once again called me in a weak voice, "Mama dear, what time is it?"

"Three o'clock, darling."

He again sighed, "Three hours."  A little later he again called me and whispered, "I know I have sinned ... I repent ..."

"In the morning we'll call the priest, and you'll confess and receive Communion."

He softly began to weep.  More than two hours went by. He was breathing interruptedly, with a wheeze ... but we still did not realize that it was the end ... we even dozed off each in his corner.

Suddenly his voice rang out, not weak and wheezy, but loud, becoming strong, as if exalted, "Papa, Mama!  Don't talk to me anymore; now I will fall asleep and will see a wonderful film:  the triumphant procession and marriage at the end ..."

I jumped out of bed and ran to him.  He had already managed to lift himself high up on the pillows [he who before this was too weak to lift his hand for a glass of water].  He himself laid his hands on his breast, as is proper for the dead, and with a smile closed his eyes.  I felt at that moment an unusual silence reigned in the room, and after that suddenly emptiness.  I touched his hand; it quickly grew cold; and I realized that all was ended.  Somewhere a clock struck six.

"What for ..?" burst from my weeping husband.

"For our sins," I answered.  And in that same moment turned to God in fervent prayer: first that He would give us both the strength not to chide; second, that He would reveal to us whether our son was well in the next world; and third, that the Lord would send him for my soul when I have to die.  Only afterwards did I become aware of how bold my second prayer had been, but the Lord, in His unspeakable mercy, did not delay in answering it in the most wonderful way.

Finding strength to run to the nearest police station, I called the Russian Spiritual Mission, and in just 15 minutes, the Superior of the Mission, Archimandrite Anthony [now Archbishop of Los Angeles] arrived at our home.  He took measurements for the coffin and helped us put our son's body in order for the first Memorial Service,which other members of the Mission served without delay, once they arrived.  Singers came from the Mount of Olives Convent, along with my sister as well as sisters from the Gethsemane Convent and Bethany Community, Mother Abbess Maria herself brought our two weeping daughters from the school.  Before evening the body was brought to the church of St. Alexandra the Queen in the Spiritual Mission building, in order to take it to the cathedral on the following morning.  But we insisted on having the funeral there in the house-church, thinking that there would not be many people.  

When they carried the coffin into the church, in the vestibule there stood a modest, elderly monk of the Spiritual Mission, whose name, regrettably, I do not remember.  Saying the customary, "Heavenly Kingdom," he asked me, "Have you lost any children before?"

"No," I answered, "this is the first."

"Well," he said, his face suddenly growing bright, "there will be someone to meet you in the Kingdom of Heaven."  And because of these simple words, my heart suddenly grew lighter.

All the members of the Mission came to the evening Memorial Service:  Archimandrite Anthony and about eight hieromonks, who stood on both sides of the coffin, and also an archpriest of the white clergy, Father I., likewise a member of the Mission released from service to the church a few days before by reason of a nervous condition due to grief over his son, who suffered from a severe mental derangement.  He had already been "retired" nearly two weeks.  However, learning about the death of our son, he wanted to take part in the Memorial Service.  Fr. Archimandrite Anthony, after pondering a while, gave his consent; a mistaken response or something of the sort would pass unnoticed with such a large number of priests.  The Memorial Service began.  During the service one of our friends arrived at the church and came up to my husband who embraced him and began to weep.  Father I.winced; he stared at my husband, then at our son in the casket, then again at my husband and ... something was reflected in his face.  

At the end of the memorial service, taking off his stole in the altar, he quietly and thoughtfully said, "Yes now I see that I'm not the most unhappy father in the world, there's one unhappier than I."  And from that day, his emotional balance was restored.  Soon he became once more a regular priest of the Mission, and for many years he continued to officiate at the ceremonies of the church.  In several days one of the hieromonks participating in the burial service told us about his remark and the sudden change which took place in him, and this also served as some consolation for us.

Fr. Archimandrite Anthony let us spend the night at the Mission, taking my husband to his own chambers and placing at my disposal a cell where singers from convents usually passed the night on Saturdays. From this cell I could go down a corridor to the church where the body of our son lay and read the Psalter over him in turn with the nuns.  Always by my side was my friend, Sister Galina, now Abbess Elizabeth, Prioress of the Annunciation Convent in London.  The Arabian family of Haralampos Georgievich Hury, a regular worker of the Mission's paper Svyataya Zemlya took our daughters home with them for the night.  These very dear people sought to ease the grief of our daughters in every way.

In the morning the church was already full at the start of the Liturgy; students from our Bethany school, students from the English school with the headmaster and teachers [for this occasion lessons were cancelled for the upper classes], nearly all the Russian parishioners of the Mission and hundreds of other persons whom we did not know even by sight.  The news spread like wildfire through the city around us, of the death of the thin blonde youth who served in the Mission and at the Lord's Sepulchre, and people rushed to his funeral.

As many told us afterwards, there was a festive, triumphant atmosphere in the church rather than a funereal one.  Father Hieromonk Ignatius, coming up to Abbess Maria as she entered the church, greeted her with the words, "Happy holiday, Mother Abbess."

Mother Maria looked at him in bewilderment; it was Wednesday, January 23; there was no feast that day.  [If this is an old style date, then the new style date is February 5, which did fall on a Wednesday in 1941.  The birth date year and age at death do not match.  There is an error somewhere.-jh]

"What holiday?" she wondered, as she herself told me later, "we are burying our dear Lulik, the son of our Catherine Borisovna..."  But after a few minutes, she felt that Father Ignatius was right; this was not a funeral, but a celebration and rejoicing.

Most amazing of all was that I, the mother, losing her only son, during the service, and going up to his coffin, also felt that this was a holiday.  It was later that deep grief overcame me.

During the Liturgy, Abbot Seraphim. from Little Galilee, author of the book The Czar-Martyr, arrived at the church and requested the blessing of Fr. Archimandrite Anthony to speak after the services.  "Very well," answered Fr. Anthony, "after me."

In his address, Fr. Archimandrite Anthony, with great emotional warmth, drew the spiritual portrait of the youth Alexander, who, like every child, was playful and loved life, but at the same time pondered upon the deep questions of life and, judging from several of his remarks, seemed to have had the intention of entering upon the path of service to the Church.

Speaking after him, Abbot Seraphim offered for the consolation of us, the bereaved parents, an example from he Lives of the Saints, the life of Saints Uar, John, and his mother, Blessed Cleopatra [Oct. 19].  When the youth John refused to be  returned to life by St. Uar, begging his mother not to deprive him of the blessed life beyond the grave for the sake of a prolongation of a painful earthly existence.  In conclusion Abbot Seraphim said, "This is not the time to be sad, but to rejoice. This night, after fervent prayers for the bereaved parents, it was revealed to me that the youth Alexander, because of the blood shed by his father in the war, was found worthy in the other world to meet the Crown Prince Czarevich Alexei Nicholaevich and the Czar-Martyr himself."  

At these words there was a sort of stirring among the Russians in the congregation; some shed a few tears, and others seemed as if to congratulate one another.

At the beginning of the funeral, Archbishop Panteleimon from the Greek Patriarchate unexpectedly arrived, in the company of two hieromonks and two deacons.  Entering the Altar, he expressed to Archimandrite Anthony his desire to take part in the funeral.  Having vested, His Grace stood at the head of the coffin, on both sides of which stood the Greek and Mission clergy.  The Litanies were said in order, in Greek and in Slavonic.  When they carried the coffin out of the church, a hearse was waiting for it, since the Gethsemane cemetery is a long way from the Mission, but the students from the English school expressed the wish to carry the casket all the way to the cemetery.  Archbishop Panteleimon was invited to sit in an automobile, but he declined and, in spite of his advanced age and feebleness, he walked with the rest of the clergy all the way to Gethsemane, surrounded by hundreds of people.  Those who met us asked in amazement whom they were burying with such honors, and as to the Greek and Australian soldiers, of which there were many in Jerusalem during the war, they asked, as an honor, permission to carry the coffin of the Russian youth.

In the cemetery, when all were gone, Mother Abbess Maria Superior of the Gethsemane convent, came up to us and said, "Tomorrow, not later, move to Gethsemane, to be closer to him."

And on this same day she moved out of the upper house, where she lived along with her helper. Mother Barbara, into the lower house, at the bottom of the hill, so that at our disposal was left the entire upper house, beneath whose terrace, at a distance of some 50 paces, was the grave of our son.  We lived there five whole years.

It was the very next day, after the burial, that the manifestations of God's miraculous compassion to us, his inconsolable parents, began -- the fulfillment of my sinful prayer, that the Lord would reveal to us, whether or not Alexander was well in the next world.

The director of the choir of the Mount of Olives Convent, Mother Eupraxia, [in good health even now, as these lines are being written] saw a remarkable dream the first night after the death of Alexander.  It was as if she were walking through the gates of the Mount of Olives Convent and she saw that the entire path leading fro, the gate to the church was strewn with flowers of incredible and exceptional beauty and color, such as never grow on earth.  On both sides of the path stood boys in white clothing with similar flowers in their hands.  Amazed she asked, "What hierarchs are you meeting?"

"Not a hierarch," the boys replied, "we're here to take Alexander to the Throne of God."  In the morning she told her dream in the convent, and to this day she remembers it in all its details.

Returning to the Mission after the burial, Fr. Archimandrite Anthony, feeling tired, lay down to rest before vespers and fell asleep.  Suddenly, in his sleep, he heard Alexander's  , "In the bosom of the Father..," a hymn for the tonsuring of a monk.  In his sleep forgetting about what had just taken place, Fr. Anthony asked himself, "What does this mean?  Are we going to tonsure Alexander a monk?"

Waking up at this point, he remembered that Alexander had died, and he understood the dream thus:  Alexander, on being presented before God, was singing this and offering it to God, because he had already thought of dedicating himself to Him while still alive.

After our son's death, I more than once meditated on the fact that possibly the Lord brought us to the Holy Land precisely because we would have to bear such a heavy cross and that nowhere else would we receive such relief and comfort as in the Holy City.  In the Russian convents of Jerusalem there were several nuns of the great schema, who regarded or family with great love and interest and, of course offered warm prayers on behalf of us, the bereaved.  I noticed one fact.  Each evening, approximately after eight o'clock, it was as if that heavy stone, which lay on my heart all day, was lifted off by some unseen hand, and I went to sleep somewhat calmed .  I shared this with my sister, Nun Taisia.  She answered me, "I think that's because at just that time the nuns of the great schema begin their evening prayers during which they remember you, the bereaved; it is no wonder that you feel relief at just that time."

One of the nuns invested with the great schema, Mother Ioanna, said to me, "I feel sorry and pray for you who are left behind, and as for him, he will enter into the Kingdom without any trial."

These words seemed to find confirmation in a dream seen at one and the same time by two adult students of our Bethany school.  Anna Shahin and Helen Laraj.  At the time one of them was at school and had been present at the burial, but the other was at home on leave for domestic reasons, in her home town, Bedjal.  Meeting at school afterwards they told the dream to one another and  were astonished that they both had seen the same thing.  They dreamed that Alexander's grave was open, and he lay in the grave alive.  For some reason he was not able to speak and was asking by signs for pencil and paper.  Then he wrote: They took me to the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven, but the Lord said, "You must stay a little longer with your parents; when you come the second time, the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven will open for you."

Soon after the fortieth day, Sister Galina, the future Abbess of the Annunciation Convent in London, in a dream saw Alexander walking in some garden.  He turned to her with the word's, "I don't understand why everyone's afraid to come here; it's so good here!"

To my sister, Nun Taisia, there appeared a dream of a large hall in which there stood a long table.  All sitting at the table were clergy, among whom my sister recognized Metropolitan Anthony Hrapovitzky and others also deceased.  At the end of the table sat Alexander.  The door of the hall was half-open and at this door a gray multitude was pressing, hungry and ragged.  One of the clergymen took a crystal vase of bread from the table, gave it to Alexander and said, "Give it out."  And Alexander went to distribute it.

The Great Fast came around, and the wonderful church services continually reminded us of how our son took part in them the previous year, either carrying the candle before the Gospel or holding the staff or decorating the Plaschanitsa* with flowers, and our sorrow was strengthened at the thought that Holy Week and Pascha were drawing near, and he would not be taking part anymore in these wonderful services.  *The Plaschanitsa [Greek: Epitaphion] is an embroidered icon of Christ lying in the tomb.  It is decorated with flowers, anointed with myrrh, and carried in procession to burial on Great Friday. -Translator.

In just such a sorrowful mood I stood for the Liturgy at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane on the Fifth Sunday of the Fast.  At the end of the Liturgy, the wife of the supervisor of the cemetery came up to me.  She was respected by everyone, the pious Mariam Yagnem.  She had  two sons about the same age as ours and was therefore especially sympathetic toward us.  She called over our younger daughter, Helen, who spoke fluent Arabic, and asked her to translate into Russian for me the dream which she had seen that night.  It was as if she called Alexander over to herself to play with her boys.  But he [Alexander] answered her, "I can't; I'm very busy.  A garden was given to me, and I am raising white roses in it."

I thought, "How good that he has a garden, but for what purpose is he growing white roses in it?"  With this question on my mind, I went up to the upper house.  After tea, I remembered that I had to go down to return a book I had read to Mother Sergia, Mother Barbara's sister, with whom I had frequent heart-to-heart discussions. 

She was sitting in the little garden across from her cell and seeing me, she called out, "How good that you came!  I want to share my joy with you; yesterday I received a letter from my daughter."  Mother Sergia had a grown daughter who remained in the homeland, and a letter from her was a big occasion.  They were received only once every two years or even more seldom than that.  Telling briefly about her life, Mother Sergia added, "Listen to what an interesting poem my sister sent me, something like a vision put into poetic form.  It's called 'Burial of the Holy Plascanitsa in the Kingdom of Heaven.'  In Heaven also on Holy Friday they conduct the rite of burying the Plaschanitsa, which the Holy Apostles carry, having St. Joseph of Arimathea at the head.  Close behind the Plaschanitsa follows the Mother of God, surrounded by the Myrrh-bearing Women.  On either side of the Plaschanitsa St. George and St. Dimitrius of Salonika ride on white horses. On both sides of the road along which the procession moves stand numberless crowds of people.  Those in the first rows see and hear everything; those standing farther back don't see, but only hear how it passes by; those standing still farther back neither see nor hear; but only know that they are carrying the Holy Plaschanitsa.  St. Nicholas leads the clergy.  Before the clergy youths in white, and among them Czarevich Dimitry of Moscow, carrying candles; before the Plaschantisa the Holy Martyrs Faith, Hope and Love carry garlands of white roses..."

This was the answer to my grief over my son's not being present any more at the procession and to the puzzle over why he had white roses in the other world.

Generally in dreams about our son flowers were often recalled, probably because he loved them so much during his life and was so attracted by them as God's creations.  Once he called me over to his bed, where on a nearby table stood a glass of field flowers he had picked.  Pointing to the tiny daisies, forget-me-nots, and poppies, he said, "Mommy, look, what charm!  What beauty God has created!"  Meanwhile he tenderly fondled them, barely touching them with his thin, so very thin fingers.  Before his death, violets stood on his table, and a bouquet of violets was placed in his coffin by our Sister Mary Mitchel, an Englishwoman who became Orthodox.  He also loved animals, and animals liked him and did not bite him.  I will never forget an incident at the villa in Constantinople [he was about two and a half years old then].  He came running up to me with something clutched in his tiny hand and calling, "A bug, a bug!"

"Show me!"

He opened his hand, and I screamed in horror; on his palm lay a large scorpion. I hit his hand from below; the scorpion fell on the grass and crawled away.  I didn't have the courage to kill it.

Soon after Pascha I went to Jaffa to Abbess Eugenia [in the world she was Elizabeth Eugenievna Mitrofanova, founder of the White Cross.  At that time she was Prioress of the Convent of St. Tabitha in the Russian Garden in Jaffa.  I stayed at her home for the night.  Before going to bed I asked her for something of her choice to read at night.  She had whole mountains of books lying on her table.  She thrust her hand into one of the heaps, pulled a book out, and handed it to me without looking at it saying, "Whatever came out is what you need for consolation."

This turned out to be The Maiden Theodora's Journey Through Tortures.  When I came to the place where the angel shows her the radiant hall, set with tables, adorned with flowers from which garlands are woven for the righteous, I understood why Mother Eugenia had pulled out precisely this book.  

From that time on, as I read the poem Burial of the Plaschanitsa in the Kingdom of Heaven, I stopped crying for my son.  But sometimes it grieved me that appearing to so many persons, he had not once been seen by me, his own mother.  I related this to Fr. Archimandrite Anthony He replied to me, "Your heart is still too full of grief; there is no place in it for such a radiant phenomenon as Alexander's soul.  When you calm down more, he will visit you."

Some time later, I remained alone towards the evening in our little house in Gethsemane.  There were three rooms in it;  the first was a living room, from which there were two doors, one to my husband's room, which had no other entrance, and the other to our daughters' and my bedroom.  I sat in the living room at a large table correcting notebooks from school.  Suddenly a rustle was heard in my husband's room.  The cat must have jumped through the window, I thought, and went there.  On a chair at my husband's little table sat our son, whittling on something.  He was in the Russian blouse that I had sewn for him once, but the silk embroidery was iridescent with all the colors of the rainbow and so bright that it was painful to look at.  "Lulik dear, it's you?"  I ran to him.

He smiled and, as if in embarrassment, replied, "Well, you asked me to come."  I sat him on my knee, and it seemed to me he was damp, as if he had just bathed.

"You're not cold, my boy?"

"No, Mommy, I'm warm; I'm very well; I'm so happy that on earth you just can't imagine you could be so happy..." and after these words he vanished, and I found myself at the table once again in the living room, with the notebooks.

In spite of all this , there still passed through the mind of me, a sinner, such completely earthly thoughts and emotions as, for example, being sorry over the fact that he died without seeing our dear homeland.  Praying before the icon of the Mother of God in the cave of the Bethany school grounds, one time I let out a long sigh about this and said, "Mother of God, show him Russia."

I finished praying and thought no more about it.  Two of three days later a nurse from the Mount of Olives Convent, Maria Berezina, came to our house with her little daughter Anna.  "We came so that Anna could tell you her dream about Lulik.  Last night about midnight she woke me up to tell me that she saw him in a dream."

Anna went on, "It was as if were walking along the Jerusalem road, and suddenly we met him, but he was traveling through the air and not on the ground.  Mama and I asked him, 'Where are you going? To Gethsemane?' He answered, 'No,' and pointed to the north.  I woke up, told Mama, and went back to sleep.  Towards morning I saw another dream; we were on the shore of the Black Sea, and suddenly Lulik appeared again and started to walk on the water.  'Where are you going?' we asked.  And he pointed north again."

"It is clear that he went to Russia!"  said both mother and daughter in conclusion, not knowing about my thoughts or about my supplication to the Mother of God.

Another time, remembering how he was so inquisitive and gifted, I said to Fr. Archimandrite Anthony, "Why does the Lord take away such talented people without letting them complete their education?"

"Maybe they educate them there," replied Fr. Anthony.

After a short time one of the novices of the Gethsemane Convent, Sister Christina, came for her usual painting lesson with my husband and said to me, "I want to tell you something, Catherine Borisovna, but I'm afraid you'll cry."

"No I won't," I said, "now tell me."

"I had a dream," she said, "that I was entering some classroom; all the benches stood just as at our school in Bethany.  But the room was empty, except for one boy who sat  behind a desk in the front of the row with his head resting in his hands, attentively listening to  what the teacher-priest, who sat at the rostrum was telling him.  I went up a little closer, and the boy turned out to be your little son.  I thought, since I've already come in, I ought to get Father's blessing.  Otherwise it would have been bad manners.  'Give me a blessing,' I said.  Father turned towards me and I see that its St. Seraphim of Sarov himself!  Then I woke up."

Here is what was told me by a certain Sister Dunya, as everyone called her [by a secret tonsure she was Catherine].  She sat on a windowsill washing the window and asked me, "Do you often see your little boy in dreams?"

"No,"  I said, "very seldom; other people see him."

"Well I see him quite often," she went on, "and the other day he said to me, 'Why did they take it to their heads to bury me?  I didn't die at all, and still they laid me in a grave.  But the Mother of God was so good to me that she brought me up out of the grave, and now I'm free.'"

At this point I remembered how I had asked the Mother of God in prayer to cherish him in Her love.

Nearly a year went by after the day of his death.  It was January 4th, two days before Epiphany.  We were reminiscing about how the year before on that night he had been so anxious to go from the German Colony, where we lived, to the Mission's Trinity Cathedral in order to serve.  But outside a windstorm was raging, and his father tried to talk him out of it.  "Look what awful weather; your jacket's too thin; and besides, you're not well."

"No, Daddy, let me go.  You know there's no one to carry the candle for the Gospel.  All the other boys won't come; they have exams."  And he went.

Now that he was no longer in the world, I was especially anxious to light the lamp on his grave.  I tried to open the front door of our house, but due to a very powerful gust of wind I wasn't able to.  Outside a worse storm was raging than the year before; tree branches were snapping and breaking and falling on the stone steps leading to the cemetery and along the path.  During such a storm it was no use to think of lighting the lamp in its lantern, and sadly I had to limit myself to lighting the lamp before the icons in our room.  In the morning the storm had halfway calmed down, and I decided to try to light the lamp on his grave, transferring the flame from one lantern to the other.  With the aim I went to the church before the beginning of Liturgy.  The nun in charge of the candles, Mother Catherine [or Nyanya Katya, as everyone called her], already stood in her place at the candle desk.

"Mother Nyanya," I addressed her, "lend me the lantern for a minute; I want to try to light the lamp on our son's grave."

Nyanya Katya looked at me with amazement.  "And how did you manage to light it last night?  All of us at the church were quite astonished."

"I not only didn't light it," I returned, "but I wasn't even able to leave the house because of the storm."

"How is that?"  Mother Catherine marveled even more, "The lamp burned all evening; everyone saw it through the vestry window."  [The vestry window looked directly out onto the cemetery and was opposite Alexander's grave; there wasn't a lamp on a single other grave.]

In the convent they began to ask each other who had lit it; everyone answered the same way.  Who would have gone to light the lamp, when everybody knows that his mother does it herself and that it's her consolation.  And secondly, who would have gone to the cemetery in such a storm, when all of us could come to church only by walking close to the walls?  Moreover it wasn't the eve of a feast day or Sunday.

There were also several cases of God's help at the prayers of Alexander in everyday life, as in our family so also among strangers.

Once our oldest daughter Irene came home and, undressing, saw that the chain for baptismal cross was broken, and the cross was gone.  In distress, she began to look all over the house; we moved furniture, took up all the rugs, even strained all the water in the wash basin.  It was clear that the cross had been lost not at home but somewhere in the street, and there was no hope of finding it.  I advised Irene to light the lamp on her brother's grave.  At the end of Matins, my husband and Irene sent home to prepare tea, while I stayed to wait for our younger daughter Helen, who had to read the First Hour.  We hadn't yet climbed up the upper path, when my husband and Irene appeared on the porch of our house, joyfully waving their hands and calling, "Lulik found the cross!"

It turned out that when they climbed up the path to the house, Irene stopped at the fork of that path and the one to our son's grave, in order to see through the branches of the trees whether or not the lamp was still burning.  As she stooped, she glanced down .., in the tall, thick grass was something shiny; it was her cross.

Another example.  In the Bethany school there was a young teacher, Maria Constantinovna D-s, the daughter of very pious parents.  Her father was Greek and mother Russian.  They were parishioners of the Gethsemane church.  They also had a son who went off to Greece and joined the ranks of insurrectionists.  At first his letters came regularly enough; then they suddenly stopped.  Every day the parents' anxiety grew. and it came to the point that his father began to show signs of losing his emotional balance.  Once the mother came to Gethsemane for the evening service to pray and share her grief with Anna Dimitrievna, who had been her close friend even back in Russia, and who had received her first tonsure in the Gethsemane Convent not long before this.  

The mother was in a terrible state of emotion; she cried, wrung her hands, fearing not only for her son but also for the emotional state of her husband.  I felt very sorry for her.  It was Saturday.  Lighting the lamp on our son's grave as usual, I addressed him as a living person, as I did not infrequently, "Pray, Lulik, for this unhappy mother; ask the Lord to send her consolation."  

Just then a light breeze blew; the trees round about rustled; and through the rustling these words came to my ears, "Day after tomorrow." 

I left for church.  Mrs. D. had already gone -- but I shared this with her friend, Sister Anna.  Ten days went by.  I was walking through Jerusalem; I saw that Maria Constantinovna was running to meet me; she threw her arms around my neck with joyous exclamation, "He's alive, alive!"  

At last a letter had been received explaining the reason for his silence; he himself was alive and healthy.

"When did you receive the letter?"  I asked.

"Yesterday," she replied, "but it was written two days after I was at Gethsemane with Mother."  And she named the date.  It was exactly the "day after tomorrow."

There were more instances showing that his prayers come before the Lord, but everything cannot be told.

About two years after Alexander's death, the director of the Gethsemane choir, Sister Paula Bachon, a former student at the Bethany school, had a dream that both students and teachers at the school were sitting at a table in the dining room.  Someone run in and calls out, "Quick, go to the cave and look in the sky."

They all get up and run to the grotto, in which morning and evening prayers were usually read, and they see that above the grotto Alexander is standing in the air dressed in white.  "Pray," says a voice, "then you will see."  Then someone came from above, took Alexander by the hand and they both began to ascend higher and higher.  As they rose higher, Alexander's clothing gradually changed from white to sky blue, and finally he disappeared from view.  One clergyman to whom this dream was recounted expressed the thought that this might signify his rising to a higher level of life beyond the grave.

From that time on our son began to appear in dreams to me and likewise to others as if he had lost his personal characteristics and is rather personifying in himself the Russian people.

Apart from the loss of our son, there always lay on my heart another sorrow: the loss of the homeland and anxiety over the Christian spirit of the Russian people; was this spirit alive or had it been extinguished never to return?  As I stood at his grave, I addressed our son, "You, who now know more than we sinners on the earth, tell me: is the spirit of our people alive?"

After sometime had passed, when I was no longer thinking about this request, I saw in a dream my husband and several other men running down a hill to the cemetery with shovels.  "Where are you running to?"  I asked.

They answered, "We're running to dig up Alexander, for he's risen."

After a few minutes they appeared at the door of our house with a stretcher on which Alexander lay, alive, smiling, but his face pale and yellowish.  He held his hand out to me and said, "Mommy, I've risen, but I'm too weak to stand."

The Second World War came to an end.  According to an agreement with the Allies, the Soviet army occupied the countries granted it.  Several days before the taking of Belgrade, after which there ensued a terribly brutal reign of terror, I dreamed that I was walking across a plain along a deserted road.  Some youth came up to greet me; I took a look at him and I recognized him as our son.  I ran up to him, however, he looked not at me but at some place far above my hear, and his face distorted with horror.

"What is it?" I asked, "What do you see that's so terrible?  Something must happen to your father and me?"

"No," he answered, "right now it's so much worse for my younger brother than for me."  He never had a younger brother.  After several days we read and heard about what was happening in Serbia, and we realized that he had been talking about the Serbian people.

* * * 

Everything cited above does not exhaust what could have been told about the youth Alexander.  But I think that what is told here is a sufficient witness to the fact that there is no death for those who accept without murmur everything sent by the Lord, that there is no request in prayer which the Lord does not hear, when it rises up before Him from the depths of a sorrowing heart.

27 June 1960  Amman Jordan
Catherine Alejeff