The Kursk Icon with the Russian Exiles in Germany and Western
The Russian people had not yet earned the abatement of the
terrible tribulation sent by God: the end of the war did not
bring the emancipation of Russia from the godless bolshevik
nightmare. The sufferings of our people, who deceived themselves
with false hopes, only deepened.
Unable to live any longer in an atmosphere of perpetual deceit,
hatred, anger and fear, Russian people, along with the retreat
of the Germans, began to abandon their homes and began a second
great exodus from their homeland, again becoming a land reigned
by evil impiety. The wave of emigrants moved further and further
west. With tears and sorrows it left behind its motherland
and strove to neighboring Slavic countries. Alas, the brother
Slavs, blinded by many years of cunning communist propaganda,
filled also not with hatred for the enslaving Germans, coldly,
if not angrily, meeting their Russian brethren, looking upon
them as rabble. But the front continued further and further
West. Bolsheviks occupied the Baltics, Poland, Roumania and
Bulgaria. The Soviet army entered Yugoslavia. Vladyka Metropolitan
Anastassy, the head of the free Russian Church Outside of
Russia, could not and did not wish to be captured by the atheists,
and, with a multitude of his devoted flock, left for Germany.
The Protectress, the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God,
left along with the Synod. A part of the clergy of the Russian
Church in Belgrade succumbed to the deceitful Soviet propaganda
and decided to await the arrival of the "Red Freedom
Army." Some of the priests, for example, Protopriest
Ioann Sokol and Vladislav Nekludoff and others boldly requested
that Metropolitan Anastassy leave behind the Miracle-working
Icon in Belgrad and even tried to use force to keep it. It
wasn't easy for the elderly Metropolitan to manage their insistence,
but, apparently, the Queen of Heaven Herself did not wish
to leave the Russian diaspora without Her Heavenly Protection,
and the holy Icon was successfully taken out of Yugoslavia.
It left Belgrade on 8 September (n.s.) 1944, having been in
that country for almost a quarter century.
The first stage of Her travel to the West was the city of
Vienna. There it remained with the Synod for several months.
Vienna at this time was often subjected to bombing raids.
And, through the mercy of the Queen of Heaven, in this un-Orthodox
land, the very same miracles began to occur as in Belgrade:
the apartments to which the Icon was invited, and those people
who welcomed it, remained whole and uninjured, though at the
very same time they were in the midst of air raids.
I personally experience two or three such rais in Vienna,
when traveling from Bratislava on Synodal matters. The Synod
at this time was in a small, old hotel, "Pratestern,"
almost right beside the big train station Nordbanhof. This
station was a special target of the allied pilots, and it
was often bombed. One raid, which I lived through in Vienna,
was fairly severe. I say "fairly," because in Berlin
I had to endure much worse bombings.
All the Synodal bishops, headed by Metropolitan Anastassy,
escorted by clergymen, descended after the sirens to the small,
cramped basement of this ancient hotel.
At the time, I was an archimandrite, and I was permitted to
carry the Miracle-working Icon. We had just entered the basement
when the air raid began. Hundreds of large and small bombs
carpeted the ruined train station and the surrounding blocks.
Our small hotel shook and trembled, as though a great earthquake
struck. The din was unimaginable. The basement was humid and
dark, since the elecricity had been cut off. A small flame
flickered from a thin candle in the hand of Fr. Averkii, who
was quietly reading a akathist to the Queen of Heaven before
the Icon, which I held in my arms. The bishops and everyone
else in the basement, in a loose yet amicable chorus, sang
"Rejoice, O Unwed Bride." Everyone subconsciously
moved towards the Icon, especially when the explosions drew
closer and closer. The ceiling dropped plaster on us. Gray,
suffocating dust swirled in the air, which smelled dank and
mildewy. It was very uncomfortable. Our hearts were frozen
Yet, the Miracle-working Icon was with us--Insurmountable
Wall and Source of Miracles, the Door to Salvation, the Church's
Unshakeable Pillar...And our hearts, beating in our chests
like birds in a cage, ready to burst from the terrifying stress,
began to beat normally, calmly. The wondrous prayer began
to sound different: "Strong Warrior of victory, preserving
us from the wicked..."
And, almost as the words were sung, the air began to grow
quiet, the house ceased to shake, and finally, the siren,
now joyous, filled the air, signaling the end of the air raid.
We all genuflected with a sigh of relief and ascended the
staircase, hurrying to leave the unwelcoming cellar, which
could have become our grave. We performed a moleben of gratitude
and dispersed to our rooms to rest our nerves after the terrible
In such a difficult situation did the Synod spend almost two
months, enduring at l east twenty such air raids. Naturally,
the news that the government granted permission to move the
Synod to quiet Carlsbad, which had not been bombed even once,
was met with overall joy; there was also a splendid Russian
Life in Carlsbad, relatively calm, did not last long, some
3-4 months. In April 1945, the Bolshevik military lava-stream
rolled into this quiet town as well. Something unexpected
happened: we had hoped that peace would soon be declared,
and that the Bolsheviks would halt in their campaign towards
the West. We had to quickly pack our things and leave. Vladyka
Metropolitan was able to procure two seats in the bus of General
Vlasov, and together with the Miracle-working Icon, and his
personal secretary A.P. Rudko moved to southern Bavaria and
temporarily settled in the small town of Fussen, near Kempten.
The Synod was provided with a shipping train car, and after
a long, torturous and dangerous trip, harassed by air raids,
it arrived in the town of Kuel, near Salzburg, Austria.
At this very time our monastic brotherhood of St. Job of Pochaev
was born in Wurttemburg, which I headed at the time, after
difficulties and dangers. As soon as the war ended, it crossed
the Swiss border and ended up in Geneva, leaving some of the
monks in Wurttemburg, who, because of problems with their
documentation, could not immediately gain access to Switzerland.
When we approached the Swiss border, someone informed us that
neaby there was a recently-arrived Russian bishop. We instructed
one of our brethren to find out who this bishop was, and,
if it was Vladyka Anastassy, to immediately notify us in Geneva.
It turned out that it indeed was he, with the Miracle-working
Icon. As soon as we learned of this, we immediately began
to seek to obtain a visa for Vladyka to enter Switzerland,
and at the same time sought visas for our brethren who remained
in Germany. The process took about two months. By this time,
the Synod moved to Munich, where Vladyka Metropolitan moved.
Making some changes in the Synod and preparing for its work,
Vladyka, immediately upon receiving a Swiss visa, went to
Geneva with the Icon to reestablish contact with the rest
of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, since there
was still no international mail service from Germany .
The arrival of Metropolitan Anastassy in Geneva was a very
important event in our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of
Russia. First of all it disproved the rumor spread by the
bolsheviks that the Synod no longer existed, and that Metropolitan
Anastassy was taken to Moscow. This rumor was believed by
Metropolitan Seraphim of Paris, and the bishop (now archbishop)
of Shanghai almost did, too, along with a few other bishops
Vladyka Metropolitan Anastassy immediately telegraphed all
the diocesan bishops in the free diaspora, informing them
of his arrival in Geneva with the Miracle-working Icon, indicating
that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia must remain
independent of Moscow, asking them not to submit to the agitprop
of the bolshevik agents, thereby saving the Russian Orthodox
Church Outside of Russia from disintegration.
The Miracle-working Icon, upon its arrival in Geneva, was
given by the Metropolitan for temporary safekeeping to our
brotherhood of St. Job of Pochaev, which rented a small, two-storey
house in the outskirts of Geneva, oin which a chapel was set
up and other monastic accoutrements, with daily services,
etc. The brotherhood was at this time preparing to move to
the USA. As a native of Kursk, the Icon was especially dear
to me. Matters in Europe were very unsettled. Many feared
that the bolsheviks would be tempted by its defenselessness
and would attempt to seize it. For this reason I began to
plead with Vladyka Metropolitan to let the Miracle-working
Icon go with us to the USA, at least for a time, until peace
would return to Europe. Vladyka was hesitant. On one hand,
he was loathe to part with the Relic, which for 20 years accompanied
the Synod and was a symbol of the unity of our Russian Orthodox
Church Outside of Russia; on the other hand, the situation
in Europe indeed caused great fears, and it was perfectly
natural to send such a great historical Russian relic to safer
shores. At the time, it would be a pity to deprive the masses
of Russian emigres of the Icon, people who were in dire straits,
especially in Germany, where mass betrayals to the bolsheviks
I started to tell Vladyka that for the peace of mind of these
people, we could prepare an exact painted copy of the Icon,
but that it would be better to take the Icon itself out of
the reach of the bolsheviks. Vladyka Metropolitan blessed
a copy to be made, and then...we would see.
The brotherhood's icon painter, hieromonk Kyprian, now an
archimandrite, laboring in Holy Trinity Monastery, took to
this holy task with piety and fervor. A service of supplication
was served to the Queen of Heaven, and the riza [ornamented
cover] was carefully removed from the Miracle-working icon.
An old, heavily damaged and worm-eaten board was found, the
face of which was almost completely black from centuries of
soot, and only the contours of the aureola and the clothing
of the Mother of God and the Savior could be seen. Their faces
were entirely invisible. Soot enveloped even the edges of
the Icon, upon which images of the prophets should have been
seen. How could a copy be made, when nothing was visible?
The Metropolitan was informed of the situation. He came to
the Monastery to see for himself. Fr. Kyprian was not only
an experience icon painter but a good restorer as well, so
he asked for blessing to carefully remove the soot from the
Icon. Vladyka Metropolitan waved him off: "What are you
saying? If nobody in Russia ever dared to touch the Icon for
so many years, how can we bring ourselves to do so?"
There was nothing left to do. Fr. Kyprian made exact measurements
of the icon board. He had to begin to paint the copy. But
what was he to paint, if he could see nothing? Cover a board
with black paint and make a few barely-visible strokes of
paint? The poor icon painter fretted, he didn't know what
to do. There was no way he could proceed. And then, early
one morning, when the monks were still asleep, he suddenly
decided to begin, took some warm water and carefully, with
a clean rag, tried to clean off the upper left corner of the
Icon. The gilded halo of King David quickly appeared. This
inspired Fr. Kyprian, and, forgetting about everything else
in the world, forgetting Vladyka Metropolitan's forbidding
and the possible consequences, with trepidation yet great
caution, section by section, he began to clean the Icon.
Gradually each prophet appeared, the wonderful work of the
talented icon painters of Tsar Feodor Ioannovich. Most of
the faces were intact, the clothing and even the inscriptions
on the scrolls. Finally, the most terrifying and important:
the faces of the Queen of Heaven and the Christ Child. Apparently,
this concorded with the wish of the Most-Holy Virgin: Her
wondrous face opened up, together with that of Her Divine
Son, as well as the gold of Their garments. The work was finished.
The renewed Icon shone with wonderful light of the soft, ancient
colors. The face of the Mother of God was stern. An unearthly
wisdom was contained in the high brow of the Christ Child.
Fr. Kyprian ran downstairs. He roused me from slumber, calling
me to the studio: there was something very important to show
me. I came in...and could not believe my eyes. What yesterday
was a blackened board now burns, shines and glows, caressing
the eyes, softening the heart, and piercing the heart with
a sunlit, heavenly, blessed light. I fell to my knees, crying,
trembling from joy...But how to tell Vladyka Metropolitan?
For this was clearly an act of disobedience. We could hardly
wait to go see Vladyka with this report. I took a taxi cab
for this occasion, pleading with Vladyka to go to the monastery
for a very important matter. I did not say why out of fear...
Vladyka, seeing my excitement, did not ask why, and silently
gathers his things and got into the automobile. Arriving,
we led him upstairs, to the studio. The renewed Miracle-working
Icon stood on the mantel. The elder monks stood beside like
The First Hierarch was clearly stunned. He viewed the divine
Icon for a long time in silence. Then he slowly turned and
softly, barely audibly, said: "Sometimes even disobedience
can lead to good..."
We performed a service of supplication to the Mother of God,
and Fr. Kyprian took to painting the copy with special zeal.
The work was easy and joyful. He imparted his entire soul
into making the copy an exact replica. Not only did he work
on copying the front of the icon, but of the verso as well.
His experience in restoration paid off here as well: all the
cracks, even the wormholes were reproduced; the wood now looked
aged and looked to be more than a century old. The colors
on the icon copy shone softly in the same way as on the Icon
The work was completed. If the two icons were placed side
by side, of course, without the riza, it would be difficult
to distinguish one from the other, especially at some distance.
We first tested the monks this way, and when the Metropolitan,
who would visit the Monastery no less than twice a week, came
to the studio, he was shown both icons side by side, and,
jokingly, I offered Vladyka to take either one. Vladyka Metropolitan
approached the icons, carefully looked at them, took first
one, then the other in his hands, looked at the verso of each,
hoping that the backs would betray their identities. Alas,
both looked the same that way, too.Then the First Hierarch
placed the icons back and said with some alarm, "No,
you give me the original."
Of course, we reassured Vladyka and showed him the telltale
signs that showed which was the original. To prevent any future
confusion, Vladyka Metropolitan blessed to remove a small
splinter from the Miracle-working Icon and insert it into
a silver casing in the copy. The original was quickly returned
to its riza, and through the labors of monks Pimen and Alypy
another silver riza, like the original, was made for the copy,
but less massive.
Soon afterwards I was consecrated into the episcopacy in Geneva,
after which Vladyka Metropolitan began to prepare to return
to Germany, where the situation stabilized somewhat, and where
the Synod and its chancery was located.
We tried to persuade Vladyka to leave the Miracle-working
Icon with us to send to the USA, where we hoped to go in the
near future, and to take the copy to Germany. Still, Vladyka
was adamant and decisively rejected our pleas, saying that
the Icon was needed more in Germany for the spiritual encouragement
and consolation of the tens of thousands of our poor compatriots
who were hunted like animals by the Cheka of the Repatriation
The First Hierarch wisely noted that there would be a time
when the Miracle-working Icon would visit America, but for
the time being, the copy should go on ahead as a forefunner.
And Vladyka proved to be right. When we arrived in the USA
with the copy of the Miracle-working Icon, a drawn-out and
grievous schism had begun, lasting to this day. The icon received
a lukewarm greeting, and it was sent to Holy Trinity Monastery,
where it took a humble place in a row of other icons brought
there by us.
Meanwhile, the Miracle-working Icon itself, resettling in
Munich in the Synodal Chapel
of St. Vladimir, became a true "intercessor of the orphaned
and strangers, the joy of all who sorrow, the protector of
the insulted, the blessed consoler of all who came to her
with fervor and faith."
The Icon's travels to displaced persons camps began. Once
again an ocean of tears was spilled at the great Russian Icon.
So many sufferers were consoled, so many atheists or those
of little faith were enlightened and encouraged in their faith!
For five long years the Queen was in Europe, residing in Munich
and traveling all over Germany, as well as the rest of Europe.
It visited Paris, London, Brussels and other Russian colonies.
The days of visiting refugee camps were true holidays for
the interned.Usually, all the camp's residents dropped what
they were doing to greet the Icon. It would be escorted to
the camp chapel, long services would be conducted, and then
many would follow in a long column as it visited each barracks.
Many miracles occured during this time from the Miracle-working
Icon. The Synodal Chapel of St. Vladimir, where the Icon resided,
was a spiritual center not only of Munich, but for many Russian
emigres all over Germany. I bring one touching memory of Galina
"I remember Munich, and small, comfortable church on
Donaustrasse, where the Icon resided for several years. There
was a carved iconostasis, with a fluttering curtain of a warm
brown color, the icons of the Savior and the Mother of God
in the old style, and on the left, in a special framework
with spiral Russian columns, illuminated by flickering candle-glasses
on either side, the Icon itself shone. There were always live
flowers below, and at the foot of the Iocn, a kneeling human
figure. Overwhelming grief was wept over here, prayers were
made for those in distant lands, appeals for strength in those
quotidian, yet such unusual, days. And everyone leaves unburdened
and encouraged. The Mother of God will not leave them...She
would intercede...help...The Icon would be surrounded by children
Standing on tiptoe, they would press their pink faces to the
corner of the riza, concentrating on the Icon with elated
eyes. The church on Donaustrasse nurtured a whole pleiades
of faithful little worshipers, first brought in on the forty-day
prayer after their birth, and in the last days of our life
in Munich, they were already standing serenely, boys and girls,
approaching the Queen of Heaven on their own.
"I remember the beautiful, dark-eyed Alyonushka, all
pink, in golden curly tresses, and, wearing a red sash and
a Russian shirt, Kolenka, one after the other going to venerate
the golden embroidered cross decorating the cloth before the
Icon. They could not yet reach the Icon itself. But the older
children would eagerly help them: Zhenya M., Tamara B., Tanya,
Lyuda, Vera...It was interesting that there were children
who attended church at their own initiative, without their
parents, who, unfortunately, were not especially religious.
Girls would always come, and stay the entire length of each
service. And often, intently and with determination would
go to confession and Communion themselves. This was so touching,
so joyful, but also so sad to see. Sad for their parents,
who willfully deprived themselves of the joy of seeing the
growth of the most wonderful souls in their own children.
"Fortunately, there weren't too many of these. There
were much more mothers, nervously awaiting Fr. Averkii to
bring out the Icon from its place to take into his cell, where
it remained when there was no service. Standing in the path
of the Iocn, mothers would once again lead their children
to reverently venerate it.
"The exodus of DPS across the ocean began, and services
of supplication for traveling would be served before the Icon
every day. People bade farewell to the icon as with something
that i s most dear to them, taking with them its blessing,
taking also small printed icons blessed on the Icon itself."
Chapter from the book of Archbishop Seraphim (Ivanov).
"Hodigitria of the Russian Diaspora." (Second ed.,