Русский | "On the Hills of Manchuria", Russia-Australia № 82, January 2001
English translation by Liubov Afonina

The trip by Archbishop Hilarion to China

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 Boikov.

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 church.

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.

Pokrov parishioners

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 conducted.

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 pray.

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 priests.

After visiting China Vladyka returned to Australia. Fr. Vladimir stayed in China for one more week and visited Hailar and the Three-River area.

Fr Vladimir

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 visit.

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.

Liudmila Kosicina