We often hear that a family is a little church. And indeed, if a person grows up in such a family, he acquires a shield that will guard him against the many darts and arrows of life. I would like to share what my family experienced during the Second World War.
In February, 1943, the Red Army recaptured from the Germans the Russian city of Kharkov, where I lived with my family -- my parents, my older sister Katia, and my little brother Dimitri. All of us who had stayed in our homes under the German occupation after the Reds retreated in 1941, were regarded with great suspicion by the Soviets. Because of our exposure to non-Communist rule, it was felt that we might be disloyal. This suspicion showed itself in many ways. For example, our men were sent to the front in civilian clothing. After all, supplying someone with a uniform and ammunition shows a certain concern; sending them away in civilian clothing means writing them off. Seeing our father leave in this way was a hard blow: it was as if he were being sent to his death.
But my mother, Evgenia Dimitrievna, was a woman of strong faith, and this faith kept us from despair. I remember that together we began to read the Akathist for the Protection of the Mother of God. Mother would read the verses, and we children would sing the refrain: "Rejoice, our Joy, protect us from all evil with thy omophorion [protecting veil]." After reading the Akathist and praying fervently, we firmly believed that Father would come home.
There were other things that strengthened our faith. One day in February, my three-year-old brother Dimitri and I went outside for a walk. In the sky I saw several German dive-bombers heading straight towards us. We had to hide somewhere, and quickly. I threw Dirna down below the house next to us and covered him with my own body. A bomb exploded next to us. When we got to our feet, I collected several pieces of shrapnel, still hot. God had saved us.
Soon afterwards the Germans recaptured Kharkov. God answered our prayers. Father came home from the front. His hair had turned grey and he was all stooped, but he had not been wounded. Thank God!
Not all readers of The Orthodox Family have lived in difficult wartime conditions, but every family undergoes many temptations and trials. When, during these trials, a child sees the fervent faith of his or her parents, and when the family prays together to God for help, then the feeling of faith and God's love warm him and give him strength for all his life. Thanks to my mother's faith, I understood that God holds us in His hands and leads us in His ways. We need only to call to Him more often: Turn not away Thy face away from Thy servant, for I am in trouble; hearken unto my soul and deliver it (Ps. 68; Great Prokimenon, Forgiveness Sunday Vespers).
May God have mercy on all of us and save us, and may the Mother of God cover us with her omophorion.
Protopriest Boris Kizenko St. Vladimir Memorial Church
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