Русский | "Orthodoxy and modernity" (
Children of Harbin. Part Three.
English translation by Katherine Ilachinski
«Son, your place - only in Russia»

Archpriest Lazar Novokreschenyh

Archpriest Lazar Novokreschenyh during each Divine Liturgy commemorates the departed Orthodox of Harbin - clergy and laity. In the altar of Kazan Church is kept «Harbin's commemoration book», produced in a very small circulation, it has - about 3500 names. "This book - one of the most important for me", - said Fr. Lazarus.

In the early twentieth century in Harbin there were twenty-two Orthodox churches. They were built by poor Russian immigrants, each has contributed. These people were forced to flee their homeland, but they remained Russians kept their language, culture, tradition, loyalty to Russia and, above all, - loyalty to the Orthodox Church.

Charity and compassion - these are the main features of emigrants. They are remembered for all the good they have done in the foreign land. For example, Metropolitan Nestor [1] in 1921 opened the House of Mercy, where young men with physical disabilities, Russian and Chinese, studied icon painting, handicrafts, languages.

Or Dr. Vladimir Alexandrovich Kazem-Beck, a doctor, who did not consider money important (bessrebrenik). He was a professor of medicine. He treated the poor for free, even helped in secret. When he died in 1931, the entire Harbin came to bury him - Russians, and Chinese. His tomb is still preserved; the New hospitals in Harbin are called by the name of Dr Kazem-Beck.

Russians left everything at home, not taking anything into exile — except the faith in Christ and conscience …

My life - it is a kaleidoscope. So many events happened over the long years that one can not remember, nor tell …

I was born in 1935 in Harbin, on Lviv street, in the family of Cossack-zabaykaltsev (beyond Baikal). My Dad served in the Tsarist army and immigrated at the end of the Civil War with the remnants of the White Army to China. My mother also from Zabaikalye, daughter of ataman Matafonov. They had four children: me, my two brothers - Elias and Nicholas - and sister Maria. When Dad arrived in Harbin, he was engaged in farming and private delivery to feed a large family. Why did he emigrate? It's all simple. He could not violate the oath of allegiance to the Russian monarch, could not take the side of the God-fighting regime.

Dad died young, in 1945. I was just ten years old. Dad was dying in full consciousness. I remember my mother awakened me at night and said: "Father is dying and asking you to come to him. He will bless you". Father's last words were these: "Son, your place - only in Russia". His whole life he dreamed about Russia, wanted to return. The apples in Harbin were not the same, and the earth was not the same, and the air was different, and the flowers did not smell the same …

* * *

When I was small, we lived in Harbin, near the Kazan Mother of God male monastery where among the brothers were my relatives from my mother side: Hierodeacon Irinarh [2], Hegumen Ignatius [3] (he was the confessor of the monastery, totally blind), Archimandrite Innocent [4] and Archimandrite Varsonofy [5]. Here I was baptized, and one can say was brought up. From childhood I was in church …

I remember my mother had an embroidered bag, in which she kept the book of names to remember. And after she came from church - I did not go with her, because I studied in the closed Lyceum - she gave me this bag. I remember how I opened it and took specially smelling unleavened bread (prosfora), which then with great reverence and faith I consumed. I always knew, felt that the Lord helps me in life and learning …

* * *

My elder brother - Archpriest Elias Vasielievich Novokreschenyh - served in the Church of Christ nearly fifty years. First in China, then - in Russia, in the diocese of Chelyabinsk. Then he moved to Riga, and served there. He died there. Middle brother - Nicholas - was a doctor. After moving to Soviet Union worked and died in Chelyabinsk. Sister lived in Magadan, and then, like Elias, in Riga.

About Fr Elias, my beloved brother, I would like to talk specifically. He was much older than me, and after Dad died, I actually grew up under his care. Since seven years old, Elias was a novice in Kazan monastery - it is not surprising that he knew and loved all of church life, with its divine services.. In 1938, Elias became a priest. He served at stations of KVZhD - not just served, but perfectly mastering the Chinese language, carried the word of God, and was a true missionary. He taught Russian to all who wanted. At one point he was transferred to St Aleksev church on the Green Bazaar. He served unselfishly, fulfilling the covenant of Christ: "Received freely - freely give". Fr Elias refused to move to a wealthier parish, and when there was nothing to pay for rent, he just stayed in the guard house. Parishioners remember his good nature and exceptional mildness. Once, during his prayers thieves have taken all valuable from the house, but Fr Elias did not interrupt his prayer nor deter the intruders.

Since reunification with the Russian Orthodox Church of five bishops of the Far East, together with the flock, under the omophorion of the Moscow Patriarchate, my brother, Archpriest Elias Novokreschenyh also reunited. And went home. I followed him - after ten years.

* * *

After Dad's death, I was attending school for boys - in the Lyceum of St. Nicholas, where I studied three years until it closed. Then the material circumstances forced me to go to work in private mechanical workshops, where I acquired the specialty of locksmith-aggregate maker. But that was later. Lyceum also left the most pleasant memories, good memories - we are having annual reunion with my fellow students …

Lyceum gave us quite a lot. Or you can even say - it gave us everything. Education there was a push in the moral and mental development. I remember well my educators: Fr Joseph, nicknamed "Yuzik", Fr Thomas, and the director Fr Andrew … They were all very deserving people.

We can say that education in the Lyceum was tough, masculine - each student felt responsible for his work, education, for his further journey. No one later faltered from the road - this is reflected in the book of my classmate Nicholas Butvillo, in which he traced the fate of almost all pupils.

Dr. Eugene Nikolaevich Aksenov also a student of the Lyceum, gathered all those who studied with him together annually, at his own expense. In November 2007, he received the Imperial Prize in Japan and donated all of it to Russian orphanages. And in September 2008, the church of the Russian Orthodox Church in the name of saint prince Alexander Nevsky was consecrated in Tokyo. Yevgeny Nikolaevich took an active part in its construction.

* * *

In 1955, I married Lyudmila Andreevna Malysheva in Harbin. We have been together already for 54 years. We married before going to the Soviet Union in Iverskaja regimental church. Then we went to Moscow.

I graduated from the Moscow Institute of Light Industry and worked at the plant of "Energotsvetmet" (energy color metal). The specialists came there from China - I was their interpreter and assistant. With all that I went well to the church of All Saints at Sokol.

My spiritual father was Metropolitan Nicholas (Yarushevich) of Krutitsk and Kolomna. He did a lot for me. One can say that it is largely thanks to him that I became what I became. When I returned, it was very hard for me - not to even ask for advice from anybody, and Bishop Nicholas took part in my life and has played a big role in my formation. He has blessed me to serve the Church of Christ. After that I went to Chelyabinsk - where my brother served, in Moscow in those years it was impossible to be ordained. Archbishop Ioann (Lavrinenko) of Zlatoust and Chelyabinsk ordained me to the diaconate, and I got a place in the temple town of Zlatoust. In the 1960s this church, ancient and strong, was literally torn apart by tractors in my presence, - I managed to save only the Eucharist caring case …

* * *

During a meeting with Bishop Longino
E.N. Aksenova, and Archpriest
Novokreschenyh Lazarus. August 2008.
Photo by D. Elistratova

I had many difficulties in my later ministry. After a long ordeal, I was in Saratov; I was received by Archbishop Pallady (Sherstennikov). And later many years I have served under patronage of Archbishop of Saratov and Volsk - Pimen (Khmelevsky) who was loved by me and many more people. Thanks to him, I managed to avoid many disasters.

I was a deacon for a long time, I became priest only in 1991 - story of my ordination is significant.

In the late 1980s, we were with Vladyka Pimen at the Conservatory on a concert of popular singer Boris Shtokolov. In the interval we went to the street — it was a warm summer evening, and I told Vladyka, that I really liked the church «Assuage My Sorrows» - at that moment in this beautiful church was a planetarium. I also added: "What a beautiful church! How I would like to serve in it!". Vladyka Pimen just sighed … After some time - very long - he called me to him and asked, if I remember that conversation. And then he said: «Get ready for the priestly ordination». I tried to refuse (priestly feat always seemed to me unbearable), but could not do anything - Vladyka was unbending. I served for 33 years in the rank of a deacon, so after my ordination, I remember, parishioners were saying: "Oh, they spoiled for us Protodeacon …". Archbishop Pimen appointed me rector of «Assuage». And I am happy that I was involved in the restoration of this church. By the way, Eugene Nikolaevich Aksyonov helped a lot in decorating.

* * *

Harbin - my small homeland, the favorite and the only one. Harbin - it is already past. I cry about it, I often remember, but all that was, has vanished. And one can not return it. One can only remember, pray and believe.

by Natalia Volkova
"Orthodoxy and Modernity" Magazine, №10(25) 2009

[1] Metropolitan Nestor (Anisimov). He graduated from the missionary department of the Kazan Theological Academy. Spiritual Head of Mission in Kamchatka, hieromonk (1907). Founder of Orthodox Benevolent Brotherhood in Kamchatka (1910). In 1913, elevated to the rank of abbot. Since 1914, a military priest, led the ambulance squad «First aid» on the front. Consecrated as Bishop of Kamchatka and Petropavlovsk in 1916. Since early 1920s, lived in Harbin. Served in Holy Iveron Church during the years 1922-1930. Founded here Kamchatka metechion with the House of Mercy. In 1933, elevated to the rank of archbishop. He was easy to communicate with and available. In 1945, was accepted by the Moscow Patriarchate. Metropolitan, Exarch of East Asia. Arrested in Harbin January 14, 1948 and stayed in the Soviet camps until January 1956. Following his release he managed Novosibirsk, Kirovograd and Nicolas dioceses. He died in Moscow on November 4, 1962, buried in Peredelkino (here and in later footnotes of the clergy roster appear: Harbin names (priests and church leaders). Chelyabinsk, 2005.)

[2] Hierodeacon Irinarh (Matafonov). Inhabitant of Kazan Mother of God monastery in Harbin from year 1926. Died in Harbin.

[3] Hegumen Ignatius (Melekhin). Inhabitant of Kazan Mother of God monastery in Harbin from year 1922, Before taking the schema - Hieromonk Or. In 1930-1940's was already blind, only was a confessor. People went to him. He was endowed with the gift of clairvoyance.

[4] Archimandrite Innocent (Mel'nikov). Entered the Mother of God Kazan male Monastery in Harbin in 1925. Since 1939 he was the abbot of the monastery. He graduated from the Theological Faculty of St. Vladimir Institute. He taught at Harbin Theological Seminary in the early 1940s.

[5] Archimandrite Varsonofy (Sukhanov). Before taking his vows - White Army officer. In Harbin took monastic vows (in 1924) and the priestly rank. In 1943 he served in the Changchun station. He was the abbot of the Kazan Mother of God male monastery in Harbin. He was an iconographer.