Русский | Russian Atlantida | March 8, 2005
English Translation by Igor Radev


N. P. Razhigaeva (Omelchuk), city of Chelyabinsk

Just beside the Iveron Mother of God Church to the left of the altar space, the general of the Volunteer Army Vladimir Oskarovich Kappel (1883-1920) was buried. After going through the battles and defeat in the Civil War, experiencing the unbelievable hardships of the legendary Siberia Ice Campaign, he died still not a broken man, but faithful to his ideals of honor and allegiance. The Army of General Kappel was joined by many supporting Cossacks – volunteers from the Cossack stronghold of Etkul in the Chelyabinsk province. The trusting and loyal to him retreating army units brought with themselves the body of the deceased general to Harbin. A tombstone in the shape of a cross standing upon a circlet of thorns was erected on his grave. There are still few people who remember the epitaph engraved on the flag stone: “People, remember that I loved Russia and I loved you, and by my death I have proven this.” Nowadays there is not a trace left of V. O. Kappel’s tomb; it was destroyed after the mass exodus of Russian refugees.

The first serving priest in the Iveron Mother of God Church was the military chaplain Fr. Sergey Braduchan. For a long period the Iveron church was tended by Bishop Dimitry of Hailar (Nikolai Feodorovich Voznesensky). In April 1923 he commenced his service at this church as archpriest Fr. Nikolai.

Vladika Dimitry was author of many theological books and articles on the history of the Orthodox Church, on Christian worldview, and in addition he has also written textbooks and prayer books for the use in schools. Under his guidance, beginning from 1925, for many years the religious journal “Faith and Life” was being published. On the Theological Faculty of Saint Vladimir Institute, which was opened in 1934, he gave lessons on Theology and New Testament Studies. In 1927 he was the founder of Harbin Musical Courses, which existed for a long period of time and were modeled after the curriculum of the former Russian conservatories.

During the 1930’s the Iveron Mother of God Church served as a center for charitable actions under the unremitting care of Vladika Dimitry. Under his guidance the St Seraphim Shelter House for boys operated, who were given a home, food and training in the city schools; St Seraphim Hospice for the elderly and the Nursery for the little children functioned too. The St Seraphim Dining Room was opened, which offered free tasty and hot dishes for hundreds of distressed people. The St Seraphim Association also functioned, which was engaged in charitable works, organizing concerts and lotteries to fund the shelter houses.

The ascetic and charitable activities of Bishop Dimitry were well known not only to the inhabitants of Harbin. He often made visits to the western leg of the East China Railway which was under his pastoral care. As remembered by a former protégé of St Seraphim Shelter House, G. P. Berzin, the Bishop, while making tours around his Diocese, often visited Buhedu, where he performed solemn Divine Services, being thus considerate to the needs of the people who offered their prayers. Receiving generous donations for the Shelter House, he accepted in it children that needed care and who later continued their education in Harbin. At different times there lived Tolya Belov, Zhora Logunov, Kostya Milinkov, Zhorik Kargin and other children from Buhedu.

At the end of 1946 Vladika Dimitry, since he was quite ill, went for therapy in the USSR. He reposed on January 31, 1947, in Leningrad, and was buried at the Alexander of Neva Lavra.

The last rector of the Iveron Mother of God Church was Fr. Valentin Barishnikov. After his death in 1962, the religious services in the church were stopped.

On the day Saint Nicholas Cathedral was destroyed during the “Cultural Revolution” (August 24, 1966), all of the icons and utensils of the Iveron Mother of God Church were burnt too. The unruly ringing of the bells that pierced the souls of the bystanders accompanied this act of vandalism.

The church itself went silent when in it a textile workshop was established, and later, warehouses were set up there.

The church now stands beheaded, with broken windows, dilapidated, pressed on all sides by new buildings and thus living its last. Forgotten and solitary it still serves with its half-broken stares as place where the frugal householders from the neighborhood put their onions and cabbage to be dried.

When visiting the church, it produces a grave impression, and to those remembering its past glory, it causes tears of sadness and guilt for being left to while away in solitude.

It can only be hoped for that the city authorities will restore its former beauty, and that it will not only gladden the eyes of tourists from far away lands, but would also make happy the contemporary Harbiners who remember and love the notable sites of their city.