«Bow to the Russian»: the joy and sorrow of the priests of Donbass in Russia

© RIA Novosti / Sergey Stefanopolous Mikhail Arkhipov is lity at the grave of his wife«Bow to the Russian»: the joy and sorrow of the priests of Donbass in Russia© RIA Novosti / Sergey Stefanov

«Our city Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region, about two months was under the rule of the militia — says Archpriest Mikhail Arkhipov. — I sympathized with, empathized with the militia movement, trying to help purely on his own, priestly level: to pray, someone to talk to. Of course, in any combat actions I was not involved. Then the situation changed — came the Ukrainian government and began testing: many began to call in militia, in SBU for questioning…»

And here came the eldest son of father Michael to go in first class, «in the hot, in his words, Pro-Ukrainian atmosphere.» Then, in 2015, Arkhipova decided to move to Russia, having received the blessing of the ruling Bishop. FR Michael was appointed rector of the rural Church of the intercession near the town of Mikhailov in Ryazan region.

And two years later joy and terrible grief at almost the same time came to the family of a priest. This spring, on may 6, Ryazan perinatal center mother Anna gave birth to their sixth child. A girl named Olga. But after a few hours the woman became ill, and on may 7 she died.

Now father Michael, along with his parents, mother-in-law and six children lives in a small parish house, which has two rooms. Ryazan eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church immediately after the tragedy, issued an appeal asking for help the family of a 35-year-old father. Pokrovsky Cathedral in the village of Lesenka of the Mikhailovsky district of the Ryazan region — an ordinary provincial Church holidays and Sundays services come 15-20 people, almost all «local» and ordinary weekdays — even less. However, when I first saw Archpriest Mikhail Arkhipov, the Church was almost full of worshipers.

On this day, after Sunday mass, the priest was to make more and the funeral — he died one of the oldest inhabitants Leshchenko, 90-year-old «Baba Nina», and to say goodbye to her and to pray for the repose of her soul went to the temple all her relatives.

After the funeral many procession was in the village cemetery. Father Michael took part in the burial and held a service. It was raining, but it was even colder from the chilly wind, I was holding the umbrella over the priest, and he prayed the Breviary.

Then we went to the grave of Anna Arkhipova, which was near. Wife of father Michael died at 33 years old, married, they lived exactly 15 years. The father made a and here a doleful litany.

«My life is now fixated on it. Just that, go here…» — he said.

We stood for. Then he went to the funeral — relatives of the village elder really wanted to see a priest. «We the Church come vacationers, I say to all: bring from Moscow «clothes» children and the bags they carry. The children all dressed, shod, clothed. We always try and bring something. Autumn came, then the potatoes, then other products… All have help. And thank God that my parents helped, not abandoned him — abandoned their apartments in Lugansk came to him and the children to help. Closely live in the house, closely-pretezno. But, glory to you, o Lord, in distress — no offense. Your house little by little will do», — said Tatiana.

According to parishioners, father Michael took «care» about a young family — Elena and Yuri Potapov. She has become the godmother of the youngest daughter, goes to babysit a child and looking after other children. And Yuri, despite his disability (he lost a kidney), constantly gets «a little light», and calls for a priest, carries it wherever it is needed, helps out around the temple.

«One word — I am a woman, people like Potapova, have not met,» — concludes Tatiana.

«Mother Anna sang in the choir, recalls is Elena Potapova. — She was always smiling, always friendly, all grannies will listen, all help, all talk, explain everything by itself, like an angel… And somehow they immediately joined our parish. Father Michael is very responsive. Here we are also trying to help him in everything». Administered by Archpriest Mikhail Pokrovskiy not only the temple, he was made a rector of another parish in the village of Trypillya. But there is a temple there is, as the priest said, only the Foundation. And the Church has yet to build. The situation is complicated by the fact that in Tripoli there is formed a ward of the Church community. Accordingly, to expect help actually nowhere.

However, now the main problem conditions. In a Church house in which they live Arhipova to sleep «several people on the beds.» Difficult. «Especially when I need to do my homework: Junior wants to play, they are on the table jump, senior looking for something to write. This is the difficulty,» — says the priest.

However, sooner or later, he hopes to build his own house. Thanks to donations of caring people, the first step has been made: near Pokrovskiy Church laid the Foundation of the building.

«Do you feel the help of God in your life?» — asked finally, father Michael.

«What has happened has hit me hard. I still can’t really comprehend, he says. — A man died, which I could give comfort, right way, advise where to hold on from something. Now I say, there was one, but I guess now this assistance of God, she become more apparent. Now the Lord keeps me, guides and gives some hardness to move on in life».

And, of course, the help of friends and acquaintances. «It all just poured some in this thread that I still wonder and do not understand — where did this all come,» adds my source. Archpriest Maxim Volynets, like his father, Mikhail Arkhipov, was a priest of the diocese of Luhansk. In the spring of 2014 the house where he lived with his family, was right on the line of contact in the buffer zone between the LC and the Ukraine. On moving to Russia, father Maxim and his family were blessed by the Archbishop Mitrofan of Lugansk and Alchevsk.

Just a few days during attack the infrastructure of the village of Makarovo near Lugansk, where he lived Volynets, was completely destroyed: gas, electricity, water… Suffered a lot of houses. All abandoned property in makarove was looted and pillaged by looters.

Now father Maxim — staff cleric of the Maikop diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church. He is also the founder and Director of pilgrim mission, «Christopher», the former once one of the leading pilgrimage centers in Ukraine.

«The activity that I spent in the Donbas continues, and in Russia we also develop our missional pilgrimage project, are active on the Internet. With us, people go from all over the world. Travel to Russia and other countries. It is even more than the Church, we become one big family, supported connections and relationships for many years,» says the priest.

On the question of the conditions in which we live, father Maxim says that «a sin to complain.» And notice that the most important assistance which he and his family were provided with the Russian side, is the granting of citizenship.

«For several months we have received Russian citizenship, and, in principle, most of us do not have, adds Maxim. — Because it gave a full green light for all our future actions. We have a large family. Had five children. Now here, in Russia, was born another daughter.»

© Photo from personal archive of Archpriest Maxim Maxim Volynets Valenciapatrica«Bow to the Russian»: the joy and sorrow of the priests of Donbass in Russia© Photo from personal archive of Archpriest Maxim Maxim Volynets Valenciapatrica