Orthodox America

 Letters from Russia  

...Life here in Moscow, as everywhere in Russia, is not easy.  It is painful for people to bear up under the changes taking place in our country. Everyone's eyes are on the instability, the economic problems, while against the enormous difficulties of daily life not everyone appreciates yet the good-freedom of speech, the return to religion, the lessening of fear.  This is especially true for the elderly: it seems to them that their lives, their patience for the sake of the future, their strenuous work was all in vain.  Patriotism and sacrifice were always highly esteemed. And many people of middle age are simply lost; they have no more faith in anything and they don't see what there is in life to hang onto anymore. After all, a majority here lives without thinking about God, without remembering (and often simply not accepting) God.  This is the chief tragedy of Soviet people.  The old ideals have been destroyed, and until the new ones are in place the soul is empty. This is why so many are trying to hold onto the old.  I, too, had a difficult inner break with the old ways.

I grew up not knowing the truth about my country.  The repressions scarcely affected my family.  We (my ancestors) lived in small towns. My parents sincerely believed what was said and written in the papers; they believed what our leaders said, and brought us up this way.  When I matured and began to understand some things, it was very painful. Then came perestroika, beginning with glasnost. What had previously been banned began to appear in newspapers and journals .  I read the Gulag Archipelago about the Stalinist camps; I understood that in the past seventy years the best of our country had been destroyed.  This was an agonizing revelation.  I would have fallen apart had I not been turned to God; this, I believe, was the work of my guardian angels.   Since that time my joints have begun to ache, my head often spins, I have lapses in my memory, but I think I will be able to get well again.

I was raised in a family of atheists.  My parents, although they were baptized, to this day categorically deny any sense of there being a higher power. My younger sister was never baptized.  She is trying desperately to find her way to God, but so far without success.  And until a person himself is prepared, no one can help him.  It was easier for me.  In the absence of my parents, I was baptized at the age of three by my grandmother.  I never rejected God outright.  Ever since I began to consciously examine my surroundings, to seek the meaning of life, I intuitively felt next to me the presence of something higher, a loving and guiding hand.  I began to attend various lectures, studies. At first my interest, my spiritual quest brought me to an acquaintance with Eastern teachings: Buddhism, yoga.  I tried to figure it out, but I felt that it was foreign to me. Along the way I met those who called themselves Christian, but they were for the most part aggressive fanatics. When I was about forty (I am now forty-nine) I began to sense the closeness of Christ, and as soon as I turned to Him, He came to help me.  I met some wonderful Orthodox believers, and I was able to get some Christian literature.  It was all so close, so dear to my soul, as if I had but forgotten it for a time.  And this saved me in this very complex time of ours.  When the old world collapsed, my soul was already filled with new values which do not depend on external circumstances.  It was as if I had met my dear and close ones.  For my daughters I think this path will be easier...

I am so grateful to you for having sent me books and icons... N.N., Moscow