The History of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville
(Part I)

This holy monastery was established by Hieromonk Panteleimon (born Peter Adamovich Nizhnik) and his spiritual son, Psalm-reader Ivan Kolos in 1930 with the blessing of Archbishop Apollinarius of North America (+1933). The two sought monastic silence just as the brother-podvizhniki Stefan and Varfolomei "built a cell and little church" not far from Radonezh, the future Holy Trinity-St Sergius Lavra.

Fr Panteleimon was born on January 16, 1985 in the village of Rechitza, Grodenenskaya guberniya, Pruzhansky uezd, Gorodechnyansky volost', to a poor but large family. When he turned 18, his parents wished to marry him off. "I did not want to marry at all," remembered Fr Panteleimon later, "and I asked my parents to let me go to America, promising to send them money from there." Peter knew that many of his friends did likewise: they would travel to the US, earn money, send them home to help their fami.ies and ensuring their material well-being. "Many young people, my friends from school," recalled Fr Panteleimon, "would depart for America believers, but would then return a year or two later vehemently atheist. My parents, especially my mother, were simple people, illiterate, but they believed in God. My mother, seeing how being abroad changed young people, often cried inconsolably. I could not bear it and asked her: "Mama, why are you crying like this?" She sobbed: "Son, don't lose God…" These words of my mother remained in my heart throughout the rest of my life."

In 1913, the 18-year-old youth arrived in America. Peter's first trial was his job at a sugar factory near Chicago. Working on both holidays and Sundays, Peter began to wonder how "In America one cannot live properly, like a Christian, like we live at home, and I often prayed to God silently: "Show me the way, O Lord, and I shall follow."

But the Lord seemed to be testing the firmness of the young man in the Orthodox faith. For Peter, the indelible basis for his preservation of the faith of his Fatherland, far from home, were the tearful instructions of his pious mother: "Son, do not lose God." And the youth, unguided by anyone, left to his own care in the midst of the temptations all around him, remained staunch and unwavering to the legacy of his mother.

A year passed. The First World War began. The enemy invaded his hometown. Many towns and villages, including Rechitza, were destroyed and burned to the ground, and his relatives "scattered throughout Russia."

The sad news during these war-torn years reached Peter from Russia. Military victories alternated with losses, until the horrible October revolution of 1917.

Peter, now more than before, began to think about his future. He began to pray with renewed fervor, praying God to help and guide him. External temptations gripped Peter, but "the inner voice, the voice of his Guardian Angel," remembered Fr Panteleimon, "strengthened me against the devil's enticements, and helped me dispense with dreams of establishing myself in temporary worldly contentment."

The year 1917 was a turning point in Peter's life. On April 18, 1918, the 23-year-old man entered St Tikhon Monastery, established in 1905 by Archbishop Tikhon of Aleut and North America, the future Patriarch of All Russia and Holy Confessor. In 1920, he assumes monkhood and is ordained a hierodeacon, and on April 10, 1921, he becomes a hieromonk.

Archimandrite Panteleimon recalled this period: "In 1918, I entered St Tikhon Monastery in Pennsylvania and two years later became a monk and was first ordained a hierodeacon, then hieromonk. Over the course of ten years at St Tikhon Monastery, I saw that it was difficult to live a genuine monastic life as a young monk, and I began to think about where I could find a place where I could be a real monastic. Fr Joseph—at that time, Ivan Andreevich Kolos—helped me; at the time he was a choir director and psalm-reader at a parish. I met him at the monastery. He came to live with us and revealed to me that he is burdened by his service to the parish and wanted to become a monk. I also told him about my intentions. And so we decided to earn a little money to buy a plot of land. For this I began working at Sikorsky Airplane Factory in Stratford, CT, and Ivan Kolos stayed at his parish. In 1928, we bought a parcel of land, where our Holy Trinity Monastery is now. But I continued to work at the factory until we completely paid off the land. At this time, we were joined by another monk from St Tikhon Monastery, Fr Jacob. In the spring of 1930, after Pascha, I quit my job and moved to our property. Everything here was desolate, silence all around, and not a soul to be seen. I went up the wooded hill a few times, relished the quietude around me and gazed upon our property: an old, windowless, two-storey little house and a well, and four other wells in various spots—and that was it, forest and quiet all around; the wilderness. My first purchase, I remember, was a small metal teakettle. I would exit the house into the yard, I remember; I would ignite some logs between three stones and put the kettle with water on top, while I would go to Jordanville to buy food. I would return by the time the water began boiling, and breakfast was ready. The first brethren of the community were Monk Jacob, the old Deacon Ivan Morozov, Philipp Pisarik, Monk Philaret, and later two choir directors joined us: Peter Ivanovich Kozlov (later Hieromonk Paul) and Ivan Andreevich Kolos (later Archimandrite Joseph)" (Pravoslavnaya Rus' [Orthodox Russia], September 1980).

By the spring of 1935, after many tears and labors, a church was finally set up in the small monastic house and dedicated to the Live-Giving Trinity.

On the day of the Holy Spirit that same year, we performed the consecration of the church and the entire monastery, led by Bishop Vitaly (Maximenko, +1960), the eminent Prior at one time of Pochaev Lavra. On this day, the brethren were tested by fire, when at the end of liturgy, smoke was noticed coming from the second floor of the monastic house, and in a few hours, everything burned to the ground "like a living sacrifice of Abel."

"Upon the arrival of Archbishop Vitaly to America," remembers Fr Panteleimon, "we appealed to him to head our monastic brotherhood. At first, of course, we followed the daily cycle of services, and in between saw to the management of the monastery. We bought a cow and two horses and began to work the land. We began to build a barn for hay and began a dairy. From our own timber we prepared the materials for a residential house for 16 cells and a house church. At this time, we were joined by a good carpenter, Hieromonk Ilya (Gavriliuk), and in 1935, the church was completed, which burned to the ground on the day of its consecration. This was God testing our faith. These were the first steps in the creation of our monastery, which, with God's help, is now growing and growing, and over this short period of time has become the Lavra of the Church Abroad. Thank God for everything!"

And so, through the "trial by fire, the Lord cleansed this place for those who gather here, for those who are prepared for the complete denial of self, for prayerful labors, for heavy work and deprivation" (Rossiya [Russia], No 233, 1935). The next day after service, performed at a location provided by local Americans, Psalm-reader Ivan Kolos (later archimandrite), was ordained to the monkhood by Bishop Vitaly and given the name of Joseph. The brethren, left under the open Jordanville sky, did not succumb to the despondency so alien to true Christian life, but relying on the unfailing help of God, undertook the reconstruction of the monastery, and by autumn of that same year, bought a two-storey house, much larger, more comfortable and of better quality than the first.

By the mercy of God, in the mid-1940's the builders of Holy Trinity Monastery were able to repay the mortgage for the house, finish the barn for 80 horned cattle, expand the dairy, acquire another 200 acres of land, purchase all the needed farming equipment, buy a printing press and, soon a new linotype machine with Church Slavonic type and a large, 16-station press.

Is all this not God's mercy, is there not the manifestation of the Lord's promise: "Ye shall receive by thy faith?" The builders/podvizhniki [laborers in the faith] firmly believed in God's assistance and clearly sensed it in all their works and projects. There were instances rememberd by Archimandrite Panteleimon and Archimandrite Joseph when in moments of dire need, and, it seemed, complete hopelessness, drawing hope and consolation through prayer that the Lord not abandon them and would soon help, "a letter would arrive by mail with an unexpected donation from a benefactor."

In 1946, the monks of Holy Trinity Monastery began building a grand, golden-cupolaed stone cathedral, helped greatly by the generous donations of Professor Nikolai Nikolaevich Alexandrov, who joined the monks himself.