On Tuesday evening, November 7, the centennial of the Bolshevik coup in Russia, the parishioners of St. John the Baptist Cathedral gathered in their church to prayerfully commemorate the countless victims of godless communism. Co-served by cathedral Protodeacon Leonid Mickle, parish rector Archpriest Victor Potapov served a solemn panihida. Fr. Victor preceded the requiem service with a sermon, in which he noted the monstrous scale of the struggle to wipe out Old Russia, undertaken against the peoples of the former Russian Empire by the Bolsheviks and their henchmen, who seized power in 1917. Fr. Victor called on parishioners to never forget the terrible tragedy that marked the beginning of the 20th century, to always honor the memory of the Russian New Martyrs & Confessors, and to teach their children the same. A video of Fr. Victor’s sermon is available in Russian here.
On Wednesday, November 8, the Washington, DC-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation organized a memorial concert of Orthodox music, including a performance by the choir of the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign in New York City. Fifteen singers of this remarkable collective, under the direction of Maestro Peter Fekula, masterfully performed compositions by such renowned Russian composers as Gretchaninov, the New-Hieromartyr Priest Michael Lisitsin, Chesnokov, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Bortniansky, and others. The concert was held in the spacious [Hagia] Sophia Greek Cathedral, and attracted over 400 listeners. At the reception that followed, grateful attendees shared their delighted evaluations of the choir’s expertise.
Simultaneously, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation was holding a three-day conference dedicated to the results of the Bolshevik coup. The Russian Human Rights Center "Memorial" was honored by the administration of the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom Foundation. The honoree was announced at the conclusion of the conference at a grand banquet, held in the great hall of Union Station. Fr. Victor Potapov was asked to open the banquet; introducing Fr. Victor, the emcee noted that the chief adversary and first target of the Bolshevik repressions was the Russian Orthodox Church, which is the reason it was decided to give the honor of opening the banquet to a Russian Orthodox clergyman. Fr. Victor read aloud a prayer he had especially authored for the occasion, at the end of which he intoned "Memory Eternal" for the 100 million victims of godless international communism. The hymn "Memory Eternal" itself was sung by the Washington parish choir.
On Sunday, November 12, after the later Liturgy, a memorial event was held in the parish hall of St. John the Baptist Cathedral – a concert dedicated to the greatest tragedy in the history of Russia and the centennial of the coup. During the concert, cathedral cleric Deacon Gregory Trubetskoy and Georgetown professor Elizabeth Zelensky offered commentary on slides regarding key events before and after 1917. The slides can be seen here.
One of the more touching moments at the sorrowful event was the "roll call" of clergy who had been brutally butchered. All those gathered listened to the names of the New Martyrs in profound silence, many not hiding their tears. The local scout chapter "Putivl’" soulfully sang the anthem " How great is our Lord" by Dmitry Bortniansky, the March of the Alexeyev Regiment, and others.
Despite differing opinions in today’s society on those to blame and the causes of these events, there is little debate over this: that the execution of the Royal Family is the primary symbol of this 100-year-old tragedy.
A true pearl of the concert was the performance of the parish’s dance collective "Matryoshka." Members Elena and Katerina Forrest, Anna Weis, Margarita Korsakova, and Proscovia Wilson performed a soft and soulful dance, "Presentiment," prepared especially for this event by the renowned European choreographer Olimjon Beknazarov, who illustrated both the peace and unrest of the Royal Family. The girl wore beautiful white and rose dresses, sewn by parishioner Lyudmila Abramova. In the first segment, the Empress Alexandra reads from the Gospel in her prayer corner, while her daughters the Grand Duchesses, dance carefree and joyfully. Later, the Empress removes her cloak, reminding the audience of the voluntary abdication of the Tsar. The dance ends with the uniting of the family: the Empress covers her daughters with her cloak in motherly fashion, shielding them from the approaching calamity.
Yaroslava Kuzina, Margarita Korsakova, Proscovia Wilson, and Daria Gripas read a poem-prayer, dedicated to the Holy Passion-Bearer Grand Duchess Olga Romanov, a poem by Teffi (Nadezhda Lokhvitskaya) entitled "Before a Map of Russia," the prophetic poem "Prediction" by M.Yu. Lermontov, and excerpts from the poem "Requiem" by Anna Akhmatova. A video of the readings is available here.
Parishioner Andrey Gidaspov specially composed a poem for the evening, dedicated to his grandfather, the New-Martyr Archpriest Theodore Gidaspov, which did not fail to make an impression on everyone present. An English translation of the poem by Andey is available here:
Holy Russia’s Flowers
On the bleak snow of March,
Torn, yet still alive,
Pulsating in a pool of blood,
Lay Russia’s holy heart.
Oh, how it shuddered and arched,
Slowly freezing, knifed
By pine needles, clad
In grief, in the lost forest. Apart.
As its blood gushed out,
Over Russia’s icy cadaver.
Each passing hour,
Its lifeless body stiffened,
As Holy Rus, numb in grief,
Wailed at its feet, stricken,
Pleading for peace,
Watching in terror as the red star
Rose across the sky,
Cheered by her own sons,
As they leapt with a demonic cry,
Betraying the last Tsar,
They broke their ancient vows,
Greeting the enemies of Christ,
In Russia’s final hour,
Seeing it falling apart, all at once,
At the walls of the Ipatiev House,
Where lawless demoniacs,
Shot bullets in a horrid farce,
The innocent souls were martyred,
Butchered in cold blood,
As the soulless beasts tore off their crosses,
Reaping their flesh apart,
In a blind satanic darkness,
They chopped them to pieces,
Burning in acid on this morbid night.
And the morning, quietly weeping,
Let the cold rain pour out,
Let the cold rain pour out,
Let the cold rain pour out…
Yet, the last wish the Royal Martyrs held
Was not revenge, but all forgiving love,
To Virgin Mary their prayers were sent:
"Give us Your strength, bring Russia’s soul to life!"
Behold! The country’s finest hour arrived –
Its loyal sons and daughters rose up,
As Russia’s ancient warriors they strived
To conquer the enemies of Christ.
Priests, monks and nuns, and deacons,
Archbishops and laypeople,
Stood adamant in their mighty faith,
Carrying their crosses to their fate.
You, heroes, have shown to the world
Holy Russia’s mysterious heights,
As you held sacred love in your pure souls,
You triumphed over the hateful world!
Gulags, exiles, and Solovki
Had no power over you,
You firmly stood, defying death,
In Christ was your belief.
Stubbed by bayonets,
And hacked by axes,
Crucified on church altars,
You prayed and sang psalms,
Passing this message to all of us:
«O Holy Russia, you shall rise from ashes!
Your faith shall heal your wounded soul,
And re-united with your treasures,
Your heart shall sing in golden domes!
On the holy vast of your expanses,
Among birch trees and river flows,
Your pure soul will bear the flowers,
Celestial flowers of Christ’s love."
Concluding the evening, Fr. Victor, speaking about the spiritual causes of the transpired events, recalled the words of I.A. Ilyin, about how the primary cause of the revolution was the loss of true faith in God; the people created a new faith for themselves, the goal of which was the create a new state in accordance with Western ideals, forgetting internal, spiritual growth. The concert concluded with the intoning of "Memory Eternal" to all of the victims of communism, followed by the hymn of Hieromonk Roman, "Lord, have mercy," performed by Nicholas Mounts, a member of "Matryoshka," a group that itself inspires hope in Russia’s spiritual rebirth.
(Materials from Daria Gripas, Andrey Gidaspov & others.)