Orthodox America

Letters from Russia  

Respected priest Victor Potapov!!!

      In listening to your broadcasts, the letters of people who write to you, I also felt a need to write to you, to pour out my soul. My parents are simple peasants who came to the city in the '30s. The reason for their move, as my father put it, was that "they took the last horse." He spent the whole war in captivity and, as he later said, and says even now (he is still alive), only God granted him to return home.

      I was born after the war, in 1948. As a child I went with my mother to church, I wore a cross around my neck and my faith in God lay in my obedience towards my parents. But my peers laughed at me when one summer at the river I undressed to go swimming and they saw my cross. By the time I was twelve I no longer wore a cross and my thoughts were far from religion. Around me I saw life, and I didn't want to see anything else. I wanted to appear older than my years. At the age of 14 I already knew wine and cigarettes. At 16 I knew a woman. When I was 17 I was sentenced and placed in a colony of juvenile delinquents. After three and a half years' imprisonment, where, it seemed to me, I continued to develop my individuality, everything suddenly fell apart. One day I lost faith in myself; I could not control myself and I couldn't tolerate those around me. I was discharged from the prison and sent to a psychiatric hospital where I spent a year. Then I returned home. Soon I married. I began to live for my family. I am now 41. We have two children, both were baptized in church. However, I did not return to God at once: I did a lot of thinking, I agonized over all sorts of questions about life, about the meaning of life. I wanted to hide from people; I even had thoughts about retiring to a monastery, and had I known at that time how to do this I might have done so. But gradually, in listening to Western broadcasts and to yours, I began to understand that man's happiness lies in the peace of his soul. God became for me a support in life. What a nonentity I felt myself to be during those years when I forgot Him. Now I am 41 years old. I don't work in any business or any organization. I support myself and my family as a photographer, enlarging photographs for people. I don't reflect too much on the future since I am firmly persuaded that all is in God's hands But I know so little about Him, just what I catch from your broadcasts, from literature, etc. I should like to know more...

Vladimir, Ivanovo

Good health to you, Fr. Victor!

      Writing to you is a resident of Nizhgorod, Galina. I am 43 years old, a librarian by profession, although I had to give up my beloved work two years ago for health reasons. I am the mother of two children and the grandmother of a wonderful grandson. My daughter is 21 and my son is 10.

      Only seven years ago I was an unbeliever and raised my children in the spirit of atheism. But it happened that my son became mortally ill. The doctors could not promise to save him and told me to prepare myself for "the worst." And then I got down on my knees and asked the Lord to help. For twelve days my son hung between life and death, and these twelve days and nights I ceaselessly and fervently prayed God to save my son. And the Lord heard me. On the thirteenth day, it was Pascha, my son opened his eyes and asked to eat... The doctors were astonished. They said that this was a unique case in their practice, they congratulated me and said that obviously my son was born "lucky". I alone knew that it had nothing to do with "luck". The Lord had heard my weeping and had helped.

       I left the hospital a changed person: not only aged and gray-haired, but enlightened and wise. I crossed out my past life. I immediately went to church, had confession and received Communion. Now I look at everyone and everything with entirely different eyes. Weaknesses such as lying, envy, hypocrisy fell away as if by themselves. Now what I value most in people is piety, charity, co-suffering and kindness. I had to part with many of my former friends and habits. But I have no regrets. What is most important--my heart is at ease and at peace.

      But, holy Father, I must honestly admit, there, is so much I don't know, I don't understand! In the village where I live there are few like-minded people, and I have to "cook in my own juice”, as they say.

      With great difficulty and for an incredible price I managed to buy a Bible. Of course, I read and try to understand; I go to church, I try to keep the fasts and feasts and do good. But, my God, how desperately I need a spiritual teacher, a counselor, with whom I could share all my painful and perplexing questions! If only there were some religious literature available. But alas! in our country it is catastrophically lacking, and to acquire it, even at a high price, is practically impossible.

      One feels especially sorry for the children. What drivel they are brought up on! But where can one find necessary and soul-profitable Orthodox books? Of course, I try to tell my son and my grandson what I can about Jesus Christ, about His commandments, about faith, about the holy Church. But what joy it would be if they had the opportunity of learning about the lives of the holy martyrs, about the meaning of church feasts, about man's sins and good deeds, and much else. I so want to raise my children in obedience and fear of God. And it grieves me that even now I cannot intelligently answer my son's questions. Help me!

Galina, Gorky

Christ is in our midst!

Dear and beloved in the Lord, M...!!!

      I was unspeakably glad yesterday to receive your letter since I already had begun to doubt that my letters were reaching you over there! Our post is simply not predictable. Now a little about myself.

      I was born and grew up in a godless family in Kiev. The senselessness and lack of spirituality of this life which I led till 23 years of age, finally brought me to God! And the Lord so abundantly blessed this my turning to Him that to this day I do not cease to marvel and to be moved by His mercy, long-suffering and, most important all-forgiveness of my sins!

      In Kiev they allowed me neither to enter a seminary nor to find a position (even as a sexton) in a church. So it fell to my lot (not without God's Providence) in 1983 to go away to Siberia. There 1 met a remarkable girl and married her. A month later I was ordained a deacon and, after two years, in 1985, a priest. Now I am serving in Prokopievsk as the second priest. My wife directs the choir of our church. We have three priests. There was a deacon but they ordained him and took him away because in connection with the multitude of churches being opened there is a great shortage of priests. People are now coming to church, perhaps without full realization, but no one believes any longer in the promised sometime "bright future" and it is necessary to fill the spiritual vacuum with something.

      Many thanks for the book you sent (in truth I have not yet received it)! This now is very necessary since we have a catastrophic lack of spiritual literature.

That is all for now. Write!

With love in Christ Jesus,
priest Sergius

Greetings Respected Victor Potapov!

      ...We decided to write to you because we are interested in the Christian faith, although we grew up in surroundings where God was seldom mentioned and believers were shied away from. There are still doubts in the soul. But our countrymen abroad have not lost their faith like us. It has helped them to hold out in difficult moments of life, united with each other. We hope it will help us, too..

      In our country today they are reviving the Church, and that is good. But we live far from the center of Russia and do not have enough literature which would help us to study the Faith of our fathers.

      We earnestly request that you send us literature suitable for the first stages Of study, a church calendar, and images of saints, even on cards. B. M. Yakutia