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.
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
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
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.