In early December 2000, Archbishop Hilarion of Sydney,
Australia and New Zealand visited China. He spent only a few days there and then
came back to Australia for the feast of St. Nicholas. It was a missionary and
spiritual trip. Archbishop Hilarion was accompanied by the priest Vladimir
In Beijing, Vladyka was met by the
interpreter Alexy Zhang, a parishioner of the Protection
(Pokrov) of the Theotokos Church in Harbin. There they visited believers, the
Orthodox Albazins. A visit was made to Father Alexander Du, the only remaining priest in
China. In fact, apart
from Fr. Alexander there was also Father Michael Wang who lives in Shanghai, but
unfortunately we lost touch with him. Father Alexander, who is more than 80
years old, can't serve in Beijing, and furthermore there isn't a
Archbishop Hilarion narrated: After
Beijing interpreter Alexy and I went to Harbin by the night train.
Interestingly, that in the Beijing-Harbin bound train, all the window curtains,
in every compartment
and everywhere, were embroidered with pictures of St. Sophia Church of Harbin,
which were of good and original work. We were very surprised, we even asked, if
it was possible to buy such curtains, but couldn't find out it.
In Harbin in the morning we were met
by Yura Zhdan. After we came out the train, we felt, what real “cold” was – it
was hard frost there. Parishioners of the Pokrov
Church together with
Yura came to meet us.
We stayed at the “Holiday Inn” hotel, at the corner of the 3 line
and Diagonalnaya street near the Quay. Then we came to the Pokrov Church, where
25 parishioners were waiting for us. First we came to the office, where we met
Nadya – the manager of the Church Community, and Misha, who had connections with
the Department for Cultural and Religious Affairs. After that we came to the
church. There we venerated the icons and greeted the people. Having talked to
them for some time, we went to the cemetery by bus.
In the cemetery we served three
litia at the graves of Fr. Gregory, Michail Michailovich Myatov and
recently reposed Nikolay Zhang.
Then Vladyka invited all the people
who were present to go to a restaurant. At the dinner in two adjacent rooms were
more than 40 people: in the first room parishioners were accompanied by Vladyka,
in the second one by Father Vladimir. During the dinner everybody were enjoying
the warm friendly atmosphere, with communicating and talking, that was very
important for spiritual support the parishioners of the Church.
After dinner Vladyka and Fr.
Vladimir Boikov visited Evpraksiniya Andreevna Nikiforova, Nina Afanasievna
Davidenko, Vladimir Zinchenkov and Liubov Ivanovna Yuskova. The providence of
these visits is now clear, first of all because Liubov Ivanovna Yuskova died on
May 6, 2001, at 93 years old. In her days she took very active part in church
life of Harbin, she sang in the church choir, worked in sisterhood at many
churches. About 30 years ago she adopted a girl – a Chinese orphan. But an
illness landed her in bed for many years, she couldn't get out of bed, and her
adopted daughter nursed her. During the visit to the sick woman, Vladyka was
surprised at the cleanliness in which she was maintained and at the kindness of
her daughter to her. That time Liubov Ivanovna has already been in fragile
condition, the only thing Vladyka could do for her is to pray at her bedside and
anoint her with Holy Oil.
About an hour before death came, she
opened her eyes and started talking. She said, that she had listened, that the
archpriest had been at her bed and prayed for her. For her kindness and
faithfulness to Christ’s Church she deserved to die this way.
The Australian pilgrims also
visited St. Sophia
Church of Harbin, where now the Harbin City Museum is located.
Comparing to the last trip, the number of exhibit items, pictures and photos,
concerning city history, had increased. Also they went to the bank of Songhua
River, where it was very cold and blowing piercing wind. At that very time the
preparations for the winter Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival were
Harbin City is being built up and
has become a big economic center. The remaining Russians are aging, most of them
frequently ill, being all elderly people. The Head of the Community is currently
Valentina Pavlovna Han, a very energetic woman. In spite of the fact that they
don’t have a priest, they attend church anyways, gathering together and
At the perimeter of the Pokrov
Church everything is cleared away, the fence being taken down and as a result
there is a passable square, covered with cement flagstones. The parisioners are
afraid, that if they still don't have a priest, the government can convert the
church into a musuem, like St Sophia Church.
There are 200 Orthodox believers in
Harbin, and many believers in Beijing too, but they have neither churches nor
After visiting China Vladyka
returned to Australia. Fr. Vladimir stayed in China for one more week and
visited Hailar and the
There are Orthodox believers in
Hailar. In the Three-River area there are 2,500 Orthodox believers, a new big
St. Vladimir Church is built, but there are no icons and vessels. Fr. Vladimir
visited the cemetery, met with representatives of Church Council and
parishioners. He made a visit to the municipal government, where people were sympathetic to his
As Archbishop Hilarion said: - “Our
Church will never neglect Orthodox believers in China, we will visit them
regularly”. Fr. Vladimir is going to attend courses in improving his Chinese
language skill, and at least two times a year will come to China.