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Diaconia: Charities
The house for the elderly (Zdekhovo village near Moscow)
Charity (Moscow region)

The house for the elderly (Zdekhovo village near Moscow)

It has been often heard from people of all kinds: "Yes, we are in for a hard time!" Why is it hard; what is this burden that lies so heavy on a human soul? Perhaps, it is above all the alienation among people and their indifference towards others' fate and troubles. It is especially hard, as it always is, for old people and children. Many elderly people have suddenly felt themselves superfluous. To whom can these people turn for sympathy and help?

From old times it was the Church that assumed the care of the weak and the poor. Now, after so many years during which the Church was forbidden to be engaged in charitable work, it seeks to regenerate charities and church houses for weak old people.

St. Nicholas's church at the Zdekhovo village near Moscow is one of them. For several years now it has been building a little village at a 18-hectare plot of land to house elderly people in need of care and comfort.

It is planned to attach to the house for the elderly a parish subsidiary with the view of creating one economically balanced production compound so that the Spiritual Centre in formation at St. Nicholas could provide real assistance to the elderly in housing and providing food and medical care.

This compound will give to lonely old people a shelter and to able-bodied locals an opportunity to find jobs if they wish to devote themselves to taking care of the elderly, developing the parish economy and restorating the church.

The compound is organised as a pogost, a traditional Russian peasant settlement around a church with a cemetery. It will be designed as a landscape park, with the existing landscape and plants preserved as much as possible.

A spiritual centre is been organised at the church. It will include a parish school with a library, a gymnasium, etc. The workshops located at the compound are planned to develop traditional Russian handicraft production, such as artistic wall-painting, wood-carving, icon-painting, icon restoration, embroidery, knitting, lacery and artistic forging.

It is expected that along with permanent workers these workshops will involve elderly people and children, as well as parish school pupils.

As far as production functions are concerned, the compound is divided into the following three parts:

  1. Stock-raising and poultry farming to produce milk, eggs, meat and dairy products.
  2. Timbering, repairing and storehousing to produce saw-timber and joiner's wares and to maintain agricultural machines and cars.
  3. A vegetable garden and facilities for stocking crops and saltings pickled in wooden tubs according to traditional monastic know-how.
The task of building a parish subsidiary attached to the house for the elderly is to provide the villagers as much as possible with its own food products and to develop profitable industries so that the elderly may be ensured a balanced diet and comfortable daily life. To this end some handicraft workshops have been organised at the compound. Deployed in its production zone are now a cow-shed for 10 cows, a poultry-yard for 500 hens, a diary, a vegetable storehouse, a vegetable procession shop, a timber shop, a bee-garden for 20 bee families and a fruit tree nursery.

The enterprise initiated by St. Nicholas's rector Archpriest Sergiy Kiselev has made not an easy progress. While there are neither funds nor support from state structures, it has not died out. In spite of numerous difficulties, several houses have been almost finished and almost all the necessary communications have been installed. This year the charity welcomed its first inhabitants. These are old people with nobody to take care of them. The charity at St. Nicholas welcomes any person standing in acute need of help.

For the last two years an Orthodox summer-camp has functioned at the compound for children attending one of the gymnasia in Moscow under the pastoral care of Father Sergiy. Along with resting, children have been actively involved in agricultural work and participated in divine services.

In the present situation, not only old people, but also children have often found themselves neglected and in need of loving care. Therefore, Father Sergiy contemplates creating an orphanage for such children. There are many difficulties, of course, especially the want of kind and hearty people who can share the warmth of their Christian souls with old people and children thirsty for such warmth.

The church at Zdekhovo is dedicated to St. Nicholas. It is to him that people in sorrow and grief so often turn for intercession. And now, too, this not an easy task of Christian charity is carried out in unwavering trust in God's help and the intercession of St. Nicholas.

O Venerable Father Nicholas, pray to God for us!

Natalya Salova
member of the Orthodox Sisterhood Board
at Zdekhovo Church of St. Nicholas
Telephone for contacts: (095) 189-20-42

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Charity at the stauropegial convent of the Elevation of the Cross and Our Lady of Jerusalem

The convent of the Elevation of the Cross and Our Lady of Jerusalem was founded in 1837 at the Stary Yam village near Podolsk when a women's almshouse was set up at the Church of Sts Martyrs Phlorus and Laurus there. First this almshouse set up at the church land did not differ at all from similar almshouses for the poor and was supported "by the efforts of those who lived in it and by benevolent persons".

Since 1855 a peasant by name of Ivan Stepanovich, a parishioner from the neighbouring village of Pakhrino, began to take an active part in the fate of the almshouse. Some believed him to be a fool in Christ, while others a person of sagacity. He was acquainted with Metropolitan Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow who favoured him and was also well with the devout family of merchant Savatiugin.

Soon, on the advice of the blessed Ivan Stepanovich, Paraskeva Savatiugina herself joined the sisters of the almshouse and donated funds to built a two-storey brick house. On the occasion of the blessing of the house, Metropolitan Philaret sent as his blessing a Greek-painted Jerusalem Icon of the Mother of God which became the main shrine first of the almshouse and later the convent.

In 1860 Metropolitan Philaret noted during his visit to the almshouse: "It is not an almshouse but a real convent", and renamed it as "charity house of prayer". In 1865, thanks to his intercession, the Holy Synod renamed the almshouse as the Women's Community of Sts Phlorus and Laurus. Paraskeva Savatiugina was appointed the head of the community.

In May 1870, a devout land-owner Alexandra Golovina decided to give to the community her estate at the Lukino village with all its forests, arable lands and fishing-grounds. That same year the Community was transferred to Lukino. In February 1887, by the decision of the Holy Synod, the Community was renamed as the coenobite Convent of the Elevation of the Cross and Our Lady of Jerusalem, Class II, and in June was consecrated as such.

The convent was famous for its charitable achievements. It had its own herbs garden and its own chemist's shop. Sisters themselves composed and produced medicines not only for themselves, but also for local villagers. They went through villages, doing laundry for the weak and the sick, distributing among them medicines and food and curing them from various diseases. Old nuns made quilts and gave them to those who came to the convent for prayer. At the charity itself where old nuns stayed, sisters worked around the clock, taking care of serious cases and reading all the necessary offices at the sick nuns' cells.

In 1921, the convent, just as other monasteries in the country, was ruined and devastated. The sisters were driven away from the convent; some were executed, while others were exiled. The rich library and icons were burnt. Only the main shrine of the convent, the Icon of Our Lady of Jerusalem, survived. It was brought to villages struck by cholera and children's infectious diseases to cure the sick. The convent's churches were used as hostels and concert halls.

In 1995, through the efforts of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia, the convent was returned to the Orthodox Church for the resumption of monastic life and charitable work in it. Before starting good works, however, the sisters had to put the convent in due order. As was before, the sisters began with restoring the almshouse and the church. During the very first days they arranged free lunches for the poor and the sick. People began to flock to the convent, seeking warmth and care. Along with doing a lot of things to order life in the convent, sisters began to revive old traditions, looking for the sick and giving them all they produced. The land was not yet returned to the convent when sisters reaped from the ground inside the convent an ample harvest of vegetables. Large families began to come to the convent in search of clothes, and sisters sewed and clothed those who came.

The first elderly people have appeared in the convent. They are lonely nuns who need shelter and care because of poor health and old age. Along with other obediences, sisters have acted as nurses. Each nun has a novice attached to her. She brings meals, cleanses the cell and takes her out for a walk. The prayer canon and sometimes the Psalter are read at the sick-bed. Every patient is served hot meals. At present there are four nuns and two lay persons, with one of them from the Khomiakovs family, living at the charity. The lay persons are also attended to by novices.

The mother superior, Sister Phomaida (Strelnikova), is facing a great deal of difficulties and chores in the effort to restore the devastated convent. The convent is located far from the city with its noise and bustle, but its location in a forest, with no large villages nearby, does not allow to reckon on regular donations. In winter time, only eight old women remain at Lukino, making up the whole parish of the convent's church. The mother superior has spent days in search for funds for the restoration of the convent. But all who come to it are amazed at how much has been done and tended in spite of the limited resources. Sisters try to do everything with their own hands.

Along with a charity, the convent runs an orphanage for girls in which there are 5 girls at present. Sisters teach them simple crafts and obedience habits appropriate for their age.

There is still much to be done at the convent, but the most important thing is that the needy, the sick and the disabled have already started coming to the convent in confidence that they will be fed up and warmed up there, and the mother superior will give them a piece of good advice.

Telephone for contacts: (095) 549-81-00

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