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“The Roads Are Not Paved With Gold” 

On May 17, 2007, in Christ the Savior Cathedral in the capital city of Moscow, the fifteenth primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia and His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, signed the Act of Canonical Communion to unite the two branches of the once united Russian ecclesiastical “tree.”

After the 1917 Revolution, many of our compatriots fled our Fatherland, many out of fear of the new regime, others in order to preserve the cultural and religious legacy of their ancestors, fearing widespread vandalism, murder and violence.

In Russia, His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon was arrested. No one could know what was to come…

From November 8-20 (old style), an All-Diaspora Russian Ecclesiastical Assembly took place in Sremsky Karlovci, Yugoslavia, and since then, the Church was divided into two “camps.” 

Over the entire duration of the division of the Church, there were many arguments about the situation, some of them heated. It is impossible for us to understand the state of mind of the emigres then. The profound sorrow stemming from the realization that they left their native Russian land alone speaks volumes. Believing Orthodox Christians who remained in Russia, as well as those who fled, never ceased to love and pray for each other.  

Decades passed… and we are finally together again! The late Patriarch Alexy II and Metropolitan Laurus, as well as His Holiness Patriarch Kirill (then Metropolitan and President of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate), as well as all the others who labored towards the goal of unity and reconciliation, inscribed their names in the history of the Mother Church with the golden letters of peaceful unity.  

We are witnesses to this unity, for now we all commune of One Chalice of the Holy Mysteries of Christ, our children are baptized with the same Holy Myrrh, we all serve, commune, socialize and make friends, that is, we are all one again, like before! 

We now meet a representative of one of the emigre families living in the US, the wife of Deacon Eugene Kallaur (webmaster of the official website of ROCOR), Ekaterina Ilyinichna Kallaur. Priest Valery Lysov, a cleric of Archangel Michael Church in the city of Mozhgi, spoke to her.

- It is my pleasure to welcome you, Ekaterina Ilyinichna! Please tell us about your family history.

Deacon Eugene Kallaur and family.

Thank you, Fr Valery! I would be happy to tell you about my family. I was born in 1977 in New York State. My father is Protopriest Elias Gorsky, my mother is Irina Feodorovna Gorskaya (nee Chaiko). I have an older brother, George, and a younger sister, Tatyana. I will begin with my mother.

My maternal grandmother was Ksenia Pavlovna Chaiko (nee Statkevich). She was born in Moscow in 1911. Her parents were Nina Kazemirovna (nee Pruss-Zhukovskaya) and Pavel Statkevich. Pavel was a surgeon, and founded, together with a friend of his, the first female medical institute in Moscow. After the Revolution began, they fled from Moscow to the Crimea with Nina’s sister. My grandmother was about eight years old then. My great-grandmother Nina and great-grandfather Pavel fled the Crimea separately. Nina went to Constantinople with her daughter Ksenia, and Pavel went to Ljubljana, Yugoslavia with their daughter Irina. There he died from typhus. Nina somehow found Irina and sponsored her move to Constantinople, where Irina later married in the early 1920’s, after which she and her husband moved to America.

Nina Kazemirovna and her sister and Ksenia also attempted to get a visa to America but were unable to. They were granted permission to move to France, however.

Ksenia was a little girl then and loved to play with dolls. She had one with glass eyes and removable arms and legs. Nina Kazemirovna hid the family diamonds, earrings and other jewelry inside the doll’s torso. When the doll was inspected at the border, they heard it clatter, but decided it was just the eyes closing and opening. And so my great-grandmother was able to bring the family heirlooms out of Russia, which helped support her family.

Ksenia studied in Paris. She later opened a haberdashery, for which she made the hats herself. In 1948, Irina’s husband sponsored Nina Kazemirovna, her sister and Ksenia to come to America.

My maternal grandfather was Feodor Vladimirovich Chaiko. He was born near Poltava in the town of Lovich in 1901. His father was a choir director and taught singing at the military school of Poltava. When the Revolution began, he was a student of Nikolaevsky Cavalry School. He enrolled in the White Army. He retreated with the army to the Crimea, and joined the final evacuation from there with the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God. From Sevastopol, Feodor Vladimirovich ended up in Gallipoli, then Yugoslavia, and finally in France. There he attended the Beaux Arts Academy. In 1948, his brother, Michael Chaiko, who had already lived in America since the 1920’s, found Feodor Vladimirovich through the Red Cross and sponsored him to move to the US. 

My grandparents only became acquainted in America, though they had seen each other in Paris. They married and had two children. My mother Irene was born in New York in 1950.

My paternal grandfather was Priest George Gorsky. Fr George was born in 1924 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, but his family was from Moscow. In 1943, he and his family were taken to Germany. There he worked as an electrician on the construction of a factory. When the Soviets came, he was able to flee to Koenigsberg, to join Metropolitan Anastassy (Gribanovsky). After the war, he took a correspondence course in seminary studies with Vladyka Averky (Taushev).

In 1946, he married Alexandra Alekseevna Lopoukhine and was ordained to the deaconate by Vladyka Anastassy, and soon thereafter to the priesthood. He was appointed second priest to Fr Alexander Kiselev. He had two sons, Nikita (1947) and Elias (1948). In March of 1950, the family went to America (Alexandra Alekseevna’s mother already lived there). In the US, Fr George founded the parish of the Annunciation of the Mother of God in Astoria, NY, in 1951, and later served in Richmond, ME, in 1953. In 1956, he was transferred to Trenton, NJ, where he served until his sudden death on January 17, 1962, at the age of 37. He had four children.

One of my grandmother’s sisters was Matushka Elena Slobodskaya, author of the children’s alphabet book and wife of Protopriest Seraphim Slobodskoy, author of the Law of God

-How have things changed after the church unification of 2007? How joyous was the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion, is it reflected in the life of Orthodox Christians in the emigration?

Deacon Eugene Kallaur and His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia in the Christ the Savior Cathedral after Liturgy and the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion, May 17, 2007.

That’s an interesting question but a difficult one to answer. The signing of the Act of Canonical Communion did not only bring joy and the feeling of unity within the Russian Orthodox Church, but also brought tears. 

In May, 2007, I watched the video feed of the unification of the Churches for half the night. One of the most emotional moments of these days was the Divine Liturgy celebrated in Moscow’s Kremlin. Although it wasn’t broadcast, they showed excerpts during news reports, and it is impossible to express the feelings evoked by the fact that our hierarchs of the Russian Church Abroad were serving in this centuries-old church, an unthinkable event only five years earlier. At the moment of the signing of the Act, I had a two-month-old daughter, Matrona, named in honor of St Matrona of Moscow.

If not for the reconciliation of the Churches, a month after the baptism of our daughter, we would have had to name our Matrona in honor of another saint, since Blessed Matrona had not yet been glorified by the Russian Church Abroad. This gave me more reason to rejoice over the reunification. 

My husband grew up listening to recordings of the services of the Moscow Patriarchate, and so knew who some of the Russian clergymen were. For people like him, to be able to serve in Russia since the reunification in 2007 was his lifelong dream. On the other hand, for obvious reasons, my family viewed the Church in the Soviet Union with a great deal of caution. We didn’t even visit churches of the Moscow Patriarchate here, in America. Many other representatives of the old Russian emigres had a similar, if not more stringent, attitudes towards the Russian Orthodox Church. 

I grew up a member of Holy Virgin Protection Parish in Nyack, NY. On Saturdays I would attend the parish school. This church was founded by my family in the 1950’s, and I was surrounded by members of my family my entire life—aunts, uncles, siblings and cousins. The church would be packed on Sundays. The choir sounded very good by the standards of the Russian emigration. 

Every summer I would go to Russian scout camp where we marched to patriotic Russian songs: “Glory to Mother Russia, Glory to the Russian Tsar! Glory to the Orthodox Faith and the fine young soldier!” We prayed “for our suffering Russian land,” and awaited the emancipation of Russia from godlessness. We, the children of emigres, grew up with the hope of returning to Russia. But which Russia was that? The Russia I dreamt of had not existed for many years.  

When the possibility arose, after the putsch of 1991, to return to Russia, few members of the old emigration went back. Many of my peers are members of the third generation. For us, moving to Russia would have meant tearing our families away from familiar surroundings; we’ve grown accustomed to living abroad. It was just unrealistic. I say all this to explain the pain which I feel when I look around me in church and don’t see the faces of my relatives who were always around me.

They did not disappear because of death or relocation. They left into schism, having rejected our hierarchs’ decision to reunite with the Moscow Patriarchate. Although I now live at another parish with my family, the same situation exists in Sea Cliff, NY. Families are broken. Although most families maintain contact and friendship with each other, there is no prayerful communion, and this causes us great pain.  

But now, thanks to the reunification of the Churches, it feels that the Church Abroad is part of something living. Before it seemed that the Church Abroad was simply “surviving.” The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was a temporary solution to a political situation, the state of the Russian Orthodox Church and the forced exile of our members. Now it seems, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia must change its raison d’etre. It must focus on establishing its future, not only preserving the past.

- You have three wonderful children. In general, children are like sponges, absorbing the spirit of their surroundings. Is it easy, living in a multinational and multi-religious country, the United States of America, to preserve within your children your historical, cultural and spiritual-religious legacy?  

The future preservers of the Orthodox faith and Russian traditions in the USA (from left to right) Kyprian, Matrona and Alexei Kallaur.

Of course, it’s difficult! Rearing children under any circumstances requires a great deal of time, and we also have to think about preserving what we treasure most dearly, our faith and our “Russianness.” This despite the fact that, let’s be honest, it is easier to speak English, since we were born in America and attended English-language schools. 

Thanks to the togetherness of my family and our local Russian community in America, I had very few American friends—who were not of Russian descent. I am happy that my family lived in a place where there were a lot of Russian Orthodox families. My parents exerted a great deal of effort for us children to spend as much time as possible with other Orthodox kids. As I said, on Saturdays we were taken to Russian school, where we learned Russian language, the Law of God, literature, history and geography.

We took classes in Russian folk dancing and singing. We would spend our summers in a Russian scout camp, where we lived in tents for an entire month. It was forbidden to speak English there. Every morning and evening we would march to the flagpole, where we had morning and evening prayers, and the American and Russian flags would be raised and lowered. After breakfast we campers would go to lessons on the Law of God every day, and literature, Russian history, singing and lessons in camping. On Friday evenings we would gather at a bonfire where we sang Russian songs. During the year we would attend formal Russian dances and conferences of Russian Orthodox youth, sometimes as far as 6-7 hours away by car. On Saturdays and Sundays and holidays we would attend divine services. All this gave me a foundation for my future. 

When Fr Eugene and I got married, he still had a year left at Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY, and we were allowed use of a house next to the monastery. We lived near the monastery for almost 7 years. Jordanville might be called a little Russia because a great number of Russian settled nearby.  
We had Kyprian and Matrona when we lived in Jordanville. Kyprian is our firstborn, and has Down syndrome, and some of our doctors urged us to speak only English to him. But some Down syndrome experts encouraged us to teach Kyprian to speak both Russian and English, which we were very relieved to hear, since we wanted to have a Russian-speaking family.

Kyprian is now almost 7 years old, and he prefers to speak Russian to us, though he understands English and attends and American school. Kyprian loves to dance the Russian prisyadka to the balalaika. Matrona speaks Russian fluently. Although she is 4 years old and doesn’t go to school yet, we study Russian reading and writing at home. Alexei recently turned 9 months old, so there isn’t much I can say about him. We only speak Russian to the kids, we read Russian books and fables to them, and sing songs.

Our kids watch Russian cartoons and movies, but also American movies dubbed in Russian. On Saturdays I take kids to Russian school. I teach kindergarten there. Kyprian and Matrona participate in the Christmas pageants, one year we staged Repka, and also Morozko. We live on the church grounds, so it’s easy to attend services. I am very happy when I hear the children sing (they sing “Lord have mercy” and other familiar prayers) and it especially pleases me when the children themselves ask to go to church. Kyprian sometimes serves as an altar boy and carries the candle out of the altar. 

I try to replicate my childhood in rearing my children, but today’s situation in the Russian Orthodox emigration does not allow us to do this to the degree we’d like. Our difficulties arise out of the fact that there are few who see to it that kids speak Russian well, and we need to travel fairly far for them to spend time with other Russian families.

Today, in the diaspora, we have to decide what is more important, Russianness or Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy takes priority for us, and though we will try to maintain the Russian language, it is more important for us that the children grow up Orthodox. 

In short, how do we protect ourselves against the influence of our American surroundings? Although Kyprian attends school, the outside world hasn’t followed him home. I am sure that when Matrona goes to school in September, she will have a lot of questions, and I will have a lot of heartaches. We try not to socialize too much with people of other faiths. On Sundays we always go to church for Liturgy. Ideally, we would go to vigil every Saturday, but this doesn’t always work out with such little children. Church holidays are always a great celebration in our household, and we try to show the children that church life is joyous and spiritually beneficial. So our children are accustomed from a young age to think of church life first, and not about sports or concerts. 

- Ekaterina Ilyinichna, tell us please about the life of a regular Orthodox parish in America, for instance, St Seraphim Church, where your husband serves. How does an Orthodox community live now, how do today’s Orthodox Americans participate in the life of the community?

The Church of St Seraphim of Sarov in Sea Cliff, NY. 

On August 1st we celebrated our feast day, St Seraphim of Sarov. For our parish, it is like a second Pascha. Two months before the holiday our parish sisterhood gets together and discusses details on organizing the trapeza feast. The sisterhood consists of the women of the parish. We don’t have many of them, among them are a few girls, but they all do a lot of work for the parish. Usually after Sunday Liturgy we have a luncheon, in the summers, brunch (when service starts early); meals are paid for, but on our feast day, and also on Christmas and Pascha, the trapeza is free, and all the worshipers are invited.

During Christmas, the sisterhood organizes a Yolka [Christmas pageant] with Dyed Moroz [Grandfather Frost] and presents for the kids, and on maslenitsa [Cheesefare Week] a blini dinner. Before Pascha, the sisterhood organizes a Paschal bazaar where they sell kulichi, cheese paschas and other goods. Our sisterhood is very active, some tend to the vestments, others prepare flowers (our icons are decorated with flowers every week), and so forth.  

This year, on the feast day of St Seraphim, our Primate, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, served at our church. The Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign” came to our church, too, and the miracle-working Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God from Jordanville. One of the most endearing characteristics of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is that we are all like one family. For instance, after the services, every person was able to approach the Metropolitan and talk to him in person, and we could freely make personal prayers before the Kursk and Pochaev icons. 

The choir sounded good—it is worth noting that in the parishes of America, the singers aren’t paid. The parishioners sing, the love divine services and church music. They also read on the kliros, not only ordained readers but laypersons, men and women. Boys and men both serve as acolytes in the altar; whoever wants to can participate in the services. 

No one comes expecting everything to be ready. For a parish to survive, everyone has to help. Everyone has to devote time, labor and love, which is what parish life is all about. For example, twice a year we have a general cleanup of the church. Even the parish rector, Fr Serafim Gan, comes to help. Our deacons put up scaffolding, and they clean the chandelier, or prepare the walls for frescoes. Our church walls are only gradually being covered with frescoes, because it is difficult to raise money to pay for them. Now we have the altar finished and the ceiling over the ambo. The frescoes are being painted in memory of the reunification of the Church in 2007. 

- Many young people dream of moving to the USA permanently. They believe that life overseas is better, easier and more comfortable. Matushka Katherine, could you, as a person who has lived in the United States for over 30 years, give your advice to those who dream of getting a Green Card?

There is a saying in English, “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” In other words, “Where is it better to live? Wherever it is that I’m not.” If anyone thinks they can come to America and settle down right away, they are mistaken. There are opportunities in America, just like anywhere else. To have a successful career, settle down, find a home, etc., you must work hard and study hard.

Many highly-educated people come to America only to find out that their diplomas and experiences do not match the needs of American companies. They have to start over. I am not trying to dissuade anyone from coming; whoever is prepared to work and doesn’t expect everything handed to them on a platter, by all means, come here. But I advise everyone to be honest with themselves and analyze their desire to come to the United States. Don’t flee your problems, because you’ll find them here in America, too, because despite the popular misconception, the roads are not paved with gold.

-Dear Ekaterina Ilyinichna! Allow me to thank you for your detailed and fascinating words. I would like to wish your family health, wealth and Divine salvation!

To the Orthodox clergymen and laity living in the USA, I would like to express the wish that the work of St Innocent of Moscow will never fade, but would grow every year and bring forth good fruit on the American continent!

May God grant that all the descendants of the emigres, those who did not yet reunite with the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, would do so as soon as possible, for in the Church of Christ the long-awaited peace has finally triumphed, which is so long expected from us by Him Whose legacy is Love!

Priest Valery Lysov