"After her death I understood that I had a genuine Orthodox near me", one of Olga's acquaintances said about her.
There may arise a question: Is it really such a rarity, for there are so many Orthodox people around? The thing is that there was something unusual in Olga's character close to the features of genuine ascetics described in books. There was something what the world needs so much today. It was perhaps her determination and lack of pity for herself.
Olga was a maximalist and after turning to the Orthodoxy gave her entire life to the Church and God without leaving anything for herself. Only few have strength for such selflessness. But such people as Olga always attract attention. They remind us that life of a Christian is a serious thing.
On November 22, 1990, on the day when His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II consecrated the hospital church in honor of the faithful Prince Dmitry Olga marked her 30 year birthday. In four years on February 8, 1995, when minor consecration of the church in honor of Holy Patriarch Nicolas of Mira Likia in Feodorovskoye village was held she was born for the eternal life. On that day many people came from Moscow. The first liturgy was celebrated in the church which restoration had begun due to Olga's work and care. Though she did not look strong enough for such an endeavor.
At the liturgy Olga received the communion. Two hours later the car in which Olga was going to Moscow flew into the stripe of the oncoming traffic. Death was immediate.
Today the church is functioning in Feodorovskoye village, the routine circle of services is going on, people keep coming. God's servant Olga is prayed for at each service, but especially on February 8.
Olga grew with her mother and grandmother. She was always good at school, not trying to be the best. She entered the journalist department at Moscow State University, but left it in her second year. During 15 years after school she changed many jobs: she was a social worker and a secretary, wrote articles in the publishing house of Moscow Patriarchy and taught students, was an office-cleaner and a laboratory assistant in a college...
Olga did not like to talk about her life before coming to the Church. At that time she wrote verses and prose. In early 80s she got interested in publishing a magazine about the Orthodoxy. Her friends from St.-Petersburg asked her to work on composing "The Children Bible". As a result a few issues of samizdat magazine "Krug" appeared, prepared entirely by Olga: she compiled texts, checked the quotations, typed on a typing machine hundreds of pages using carbon paper. The questions that arose during that work led her to the church. She was baptized. Some time later arranging some business with "Krug" she came to Grebnevo village, where Fr. Arkady Shatov ministered at the moment. She came to the first talk wearing a white trouser suit. People remember her saying then: "I am sitting, smoking, reading the Bible and understand nothing!"
For Olga's acquaintances it remains a mystery how that turn occurred, how it happened that she so strongly accepted the Orthodoxy. Before that she was dressed up to the nines, she wore elegant dresses, put green eyeshadows on, and all of a sudden she began to dress modestly, even poorly. She did not need anything any more; she did not buy anything for herself. She put on what the church got as humanitarian aid. She ate in the charity dining room. Money seemed to be unnecessary.
At first Olga started working as a cleaner in the church. It was not a feat of faith - just somebody had to clean the floor. She volunteered to study, having poor pitch and voice, but being at the same time eager to actively participate in the church services. She went to help at the hospital, though she suffered of mesophobia (a dread of dirt). She became the first teacher in the Sunday school. She developed the teaching method herself - in the late 80s there were no teacher's aids or any orthodox books. She talked with children like with grown-ups; she was a teacher, not a mentor. She was the first to organize the publishing of "Brothers and sisters" magazine, to compile hospital catechism papers with explanation of the meaning of the church sacraments.
Having received blessing she restored her position in the University and defended the final thesis. She managed also to get the second (catechist) education in the Theological college.
She lived at the church in the hostel with some other girls who wanted to live a monastic life. She got up early and prayed a lot. In the class of the church Slavonic language that she taught in the evening school of nurses she would sometimes fall asleep from weariness. Once during the choir rehearsal she fell asleep on her feet and fell down on the floor.
She talked to people only on necessity. Sometimes she stopped the talk in the middle of a phrase and went away. To some her manners seemed abrupt. But that was her way to fight verbosity.
Nobody was allowed to enter the room where the girls lived, and Olga did not let anyone to come in without blessing, even the plumbers when the pipe cracked. Even to fill up the rat hole with glass, for the rats were numerous then, they ran also over beds and did not let them sleep.
She could wash things of her neighbors, or make them laugh or treat them with a chocolate. She had also an artistic talent: she could easily act a scene out, for example, presenting her thesis. But only few people saw this. Early in the morning she got up for prayer according to the monastic rule (the rest were too tired after working at hospital and got up a bit later), they had breakfast together and parted for the penances till the evening prayer rule. But in a couple of months one of the girls could not stand such a life, and in half a year - another Olga's neighbor left.
Then a new hostel was organized for those who did not have any place to live in Moscow or who lived far away. Here the girls also did not have much fellowship: in the morning they prayed and went to the hospital, at night they could hardly reach their bed - they were so very tired. Olga slept in the corner behind a curtain. Her bedside-table stood there, where she kept all her things. She set the alarm clock for 5 in the morning and always tried to get up quietly not to wake anybody up. According to the rule they could go to bed at 11 p.m., but she usually was reading at that time. She also wrote a service to St. Elizabeth but this work of hers was practically unknown.
She left the church only on business, e.g. to the Patriarchy, or if she had to arrange something for the commune in a certain office. She knew how to talk in the institutions: even medical analysis was ready a week earlier if Olga spoke to the doctor. At that time there were many problems with handing over certain premises to the church. Once they decided to win back the alms-house in Shabolovka-street. The progress was really hard. And a few girls started gathering for a special prayer besides the regular services. But time passed and the comers became fewer and fewer, and there was a day when only Olga and one more sister came.
Olga's soul thirsted for the life in a convent, but she could not live her spiritual father. Besides in the early 90s cloisters were just being opened, they were under restoration and she could be appointed to the position of a supervisor, taking into consideration her education and the talent of a leader. And Olga did not consider it good for herself.
That is why she wanted to organize a commune of a monastic type. For a long time she looked for a deserted church in Moscow region, where girls like her could live and work. Out of several churches selected by Olga the church in Feodorovskoye was chosen. Nobody believed that she could live there: intelligent, fragile Olga - in the village, in the frost, with a spade...
The village church was restored by five girls: they carried the earth from the ground, brought firewood, cleared away snow. Olga went to the military construction unit in the neighborhood and asked for help. There was a quick respond. They sent materials. Even her arm fracture did not stop the work. That winter was very cold. Late one night when nobody could go for the fourth time several kilometers to make a phone call it was Olga who still went.
When her grandmother fell ill Olga nursed her in the hospital. A year after Olga's death her grandmother died too. Olga's mother was left alone. It was then that she received the communion for the first time.
We cannot see Olga's soul from inside, understand her and answer all the questions "why" and "how". But her life is like an open book with memories of those who knew her.
Impressed by Olga's sudden death I thought a lot about her life, I prayed and asked for forgiveness. All the things that seemed strange in her behavior obtained their inner logic in my mind, I realized the striving of her entire fragile being for the sole goal. I saw her purity and courage.
Olga was a well-known author among the Petersburg and Moscow avant-garde writers and lived a full-blooded life of her artistic circle. In those days when I tried to understand her life before coming to the Church I had a night dream. Olga set down on the windowsill with me and tenderly, but emphatically asked: "Galya, when you write about me, please, write the most important". And I understood that she asked me not to write too much, not to write about her past. And though dreams are deceitful I could not write what I wanted since then.
After receiving the holy baptism, Olga irrevocably with all her maximalism parted with her writings, with her ambience, with the world of her affections. Olga chose "the only needful thing" and did not accept Christianity with dirt, concessions and compromises. Olga was an irreconcilable warrior for the purity of faith.
The Church life absorbed her entirely. People said that in Grebnevo village near Moscow she got on quite well with the old village women helping them clean the floor in the church, scraped off wax from candlesticks and was happy, when she was allowed to hold the cloth during the communion. When she studied the ministry of deaconesses in the early Church she tested herself in the missionary work. Everything was after her heart. At home in her kitchen papers with feast troparions written on them were hanging everywhere.
Olga was strict to people. She was insulted by ignorance in the church, by the careless attitude to the service, wrong understanding of the Christian faith. On the other hand it did not result in a protest because she was even stricter to herself.
Once we argued with her and a mutual resentment appeared between us. Olga was first to reconcile. She asked for forgiveness and as a token of reconciliation she presented me a white blouse sewn by her. Tears were running down her cheeks.
During some walk she told me she started to think seriously about living in a convent. Olga said she could not imagine how she could get saved living the way she lived. At home she was loved and pampered. "Can you imagine, at home they bring me fried chicken to bed. How can I get saved living at home? I have to go, and having done this once, not to return back. And if I do it gradually I'll get stuck".
She was one of those people who attract attention of the others in the church. You stand at the service, do not quite know what to do and you have to look at somebody to follow. She did not have any personal life. In the Feodorovskoye church she stood behind the candle counter, sold books, icons. All this was very far from her, her interest, her soul was not there. This work was a burden to her, but she never refused, did not protest, was not offended.
She was the only person among my acquaintances, who came to faith and turned her life upside down. Completely! The way she changed her life can be compared only with retiring to a convent. She is hard to recognize on photos. It is next to impossible to imagine that this extravagant lady in a white hat is Olga.
She burnt a large suite-case of her manuscripts. She did it with pedantry - burning everything, to the last page - all her stories, early works. It was not any demonstration - here, see, I renounce my former life! No, she did it quietly.
We were alike with her: we both wore strong glasses - hers were also -6 or -8. I taught her to read Slavonic, but she was forty times cleverer than me. She quickly learnt Church Slavonic and started to teach others. The acme of all was certainly the service that she composed. To write a service to Elizabeth Feodorovna takes a person of such spiritual height that it's just...
She had the monastic spirit, but couldn't retire. But in the world she asked for a blessing for everything - she was always in obedience.
She was not odd, cold or callous. How can a cold person lead so many people to faith? You cannot imagine how good she was with children! Children would not love a cold person, and they always thronged around her. However she did not pap them up, did not slobber over them.
I was brought to the courses of esthetic education. Later it turned out that it was a Sunday school. Besides I came to Olga Gennadievna's classes on Saturdays - we read Church Slavonic texts. I tried to read with feeling, and she showed how to do it and translated unknown words. Olga Gennadievna also helped me with English. She gave me "Alice in Wonderland", but she did not notice that it was a book for the first year University students and not for the first grade. Nevertheless I studied, I struggled and read, for it was given by Olga Gennadievna. She looked always very beautiful to me.
Once I asked her if collecting chewing gum surprise strips was a sin. At that time collecting them was like an epidemy in our school. She answered: "If you collect them to make a present to your friend, then not." I went to my friend and gave all of them to him. He was really surprised.
After several months of classes she asked me:
- Are you going to the Liturgy?
- It is long; it will be hard for the child to stand it.
- Try for half an hour.
Igor easily accepted everything, for me it was more difficult. I remember, on some feast when the service lasted the whole night we came with our families - the whole group of the Sunday school. Certainly, nobody could stand the whole service. She gave us her poor coat to sit on. I hardly had strength to follow the course of the service. Soon we all slept side by side near her, and she was singing.
When she told us about saints or explained something important, she became inspired and her words came from her heart. And dry lines from books became plain and clear.
She said I had to pay more attention to my son, and my job left me few opportunities. So I dropped my job. It's a pity we do not have her any more. We are so silly without her.
I'll remember her to my dying day - she saved my family. It nearly came to the divorce. Who were we to her? Common parishioners. But she found time and came to us, when I was about to leave home. If it were somebody else I would scold him and turn him out. But it was Olga Gennadievna. I had just come home. We were sitting in the kitchen. She did not ask why we quarreled and who was at fault. She looked at Igor and asked:
- Who would you like to live with?
- I would like to live with mother and father, - my son answered.
It may seem a trifle, but if she hadn't interfered then, nobody knows how the story could end.
And her passion for Feodorovskoye village, when she gathered a group of girls, lived there and invested all her strength into restoration of the ruins, I think, is a real feat. She never thought of herself. She did it for people and for God.
Sometimes she would fall asleep during the service and joked about herself: "Some fall into lethargic sleep, and I - into the liturgical one."
She tried to live keeping the commandments. Very sincerely. One could see how she struggled with herself, tried not to take offense. I remember somebody shouting at her and she remained silent and even did not try to vindicate herself.
Unfortunately I realized only after her death, that I underestimated her. I realized that I had a genuine Orthodox near me.
Irina Petrovna, chantress:
During the service Olga marked unclear places with a pencil, and afterwards asked specialists who could check the meaning using the Greek text.
Our friendship was like the friendship of wild beasts. There was not heartfulness in her friendship: if you need anything she would always help, but as for drinking tea together, chatting and discussing personal problems - never.
It is very difficult to write about a person, with whom so much in your life is connected. I tried to start writing several times, but nothing good came out: the portrait was not true and vivid. I was afraid to disfigure anything in it. That is why I restrict myself to a few reminiscences.
I met Olga in 1977. We were 16 then and attended the "Young journalist" school. I think love for God, striving to cognize the truth were always in her, even when she did not realize it.
Almost all of us - born in the early 60s - were brought up in the spirit of "scientific atheism": our parents were not baptized and we so much the more. We did not hear anything about the Church, the Orthodoxy. Relatives-believers were a rarity. I remember meeting a girl from an Orthodox family in the Moscow University. She invited us home and all of us were very surprised to find icons in the apartment. And Olga was interested most of all. After the classes they stayed together and disputed for hours about the meaning of life, faith, the Orthodoxy. Perhaps, it was the first time when she began to think about God?...
I remember another episode. Olga called me on the eve of the entrance exams to the journalist department and asked:
- Are you nervous?
- Very much, - I answered.
- I know what to do, - she said. - We have to pray.
- Do you know prayers? - I was surprised.
- No, but we can make up our own, - Olga suggested.
For quite a time she read an invented prayer into the receiver, and I repeated after her.
I remember also that she persuaded me to go to church for the first time - it was St. Nicolas church in Khamovniki (Moscow borough). We, freshmen, had our practical work there. I remember us absently standing before the altar, drawing displeased glances of the parishioners and did not know what to do. We did not even know where to put candles.
Those were perhaps the first, unconscious steps on the way to God. And Olga went this way more confidently and consciously with each new step swiftly leaving behind all her friends.
She managed to change a lot in her life. They say she had a strong character. Maybe it was so. But this did not make her way easier. I would say it made it harder. Before coming to church she used to do things the way she wanted. If she made up her mind to go to the Altai or Leningrad, she would go for sure. It was useless to try to talk her out of it. And in the church she learned quite quickly to do everything only with a blessing, in obedience. Even in trifles she did not trust her own will. She managed to overcome squeamishness: she cleaned floors and nursed the infirm. She learned to get up at five in the morning; though earlier she could never be in time for the lectures. She confessed she liked slugging and idling a bit. And she never before refused tasty grandma's lunches. Friends, feasts, long talks in the kitchen over a cup of tea, reciting of poems, songs to the guitar, old disks. There was always a heap of people in her home.
She managed to change everything, cast aside decidedly and irrevocably, considering it unnecessary, empty, distracting her from the main things. Some of her former acquaintances did not believe: Is it true that Olga cleans floors? She won't stand it, in a month, or maximum in half a year she'll get back to her former life. All this is only her extravagant freaks.
But a month passed, another month, several years flew by. And she moved on further and further striving for more strictness and selflessness - she dreamed of living in a convent. And she was consistent and resolute in it. I remember that once I invited her to visit me and she answered: please understand me right and do not get offended, I do not leave the church at all, only on business.
At times Olga had very bad migraines. Tablets did not help. Chocolate eased pain a bit. I knew it since University and often gave her chocolates on holidays. Olga rejoiced over them like a child. But once when she already lived at the church I brought her a chocolate, she did not take it: "You know, I don't need chocolate any more", she said very calmly and smiled.
Earlier she was very partial with people. If a person was interesting to her, she became "sick" with him: everything in him seemed perfect and unusual to her. Her dislikes were also strong: she could drop a sharp word and touch to the quick. I saw her struggle with these affections living in the church, tried to keep distance, to treat everyone evenly, with Christian love. I do not know and I won't judge if she succeeded in it or not. Some parish people found her too dry and out-of-body. But those were people who did not see in this out-of-bodiness incessant work on herself, who did not feel the love for God and people, her kindness behind her outward dryness.
I remember her call me once late at night when I had problems and was in low spirits. When we talked, I did not ask her anything. But she must have understood my situation. In less than an hour there was a ring at the door - Olga arrived. How did she manage to come so late at night? Where did she find money for the taxi? She simply felt her help was needed and came at once. Afterwards she helped me very often - with advice and prayer. I always knew: if I am in a tight corner this person will always be near me. But she did not like to speak about her own problems. I never heard a single complaint from her. And in her life there were enough difficulties.
She helped many people and they looked for the chance to be with her again. Once Olga invited me to visit her charges - she worked in the service of public assistance then and helped in the Grebnevo village church. It was near to "Novokuznetskaya" underground station. It was an old Moscow house. A couple of lonely elderly Muscovites. If you could see how warm they received her. On that day she brought food and some clothes, if I am not mistaken, out of humanitarian aid. They seemed to care only for her arrival that day. They sat her at the table, told her about themselves and questioned Olga. Then they talked for long about God. She wanted these people that became dear to her to receive the baptism. I believe her wish came true later.
She led many people to faith. Knowing the joy of life with God, she tried to share it with others. It was important to her that her relatives and friends came to church. She did her best to accomplish it. She had this gift. I cannot call this a talent to convince, it was a real power. She told me once: "I am godmother of your daughter. And you are not baptized. How are you going to take her to church?" At that moment I got angry with her: do not press down on me, I'll decide it myself when time comes. And then I thought back on her words again and again, I thought and read a lot... She always induced people to think, to move forward, to rise over oneself.
Archpriest Arkady Shatov, Olga's spiritual father:
Christianity is not a set of rules. It is the life given to God. One can learn everything in the church: to fast, to refrain from watching TV, to put on a long skirt, but all these changes are only the outward, superficial ones. What is most difficult is to give all your will to God. Olga strived for this, she searched for highness.
Olga was demanding toward herself, which is a rare thing today. She did not live for herself at all. She dressed herself to be warm enough. She ate to maintain strength. She slept because not to sleep was impossible. She was an absolute unmercenary. She gave away everything she could live without. Her relations with material world were complicated: sometimes she forgot something, mixed up something, was late ...
The next day after her death the Patriarch called. He said with the words from the New Testament that we should grieve over her...
God took her because she did not know what to do further. On the one hand, she outgrew our parish and left to Feodorovskoye village in search of stricter life and more fellowship with God. But she could not go to a convent.
Father Ioann Krestiankin said, since Olga always obeyed it means she did everything right and her fate is blissful.
From missionary leaflets published in the printing house of St. Prince Dmintry church. Text is compiled by Olga Gennadievna Komarova:
"There are these words in the Gospel: "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." These words are the essence of the Gospel doctrine. Lord Jesus Christ calls upon everyone to enter His kingdom. But to do this one has to clean his soul from sin. We should not think that the Kingdom of God is located somewhere in the other world infinitely remote from us. Or it is waiting for the righteous only in the "life hereafter", about which we know nothing. The kingdom of God is closer than we imagine. It is hear, near us. And repentance is the door to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Cleaning the soul from sin is a heavy labor. Man cannot accomplish this by himself. "Self-perfection" without God's help is like trying to pull oneself out of a swamp by the hair. No time to wait! The swamp of sin ate up into the soul, distorted, spoiled, mutilated it, made it fatally ill. A sinner is sure to perish if God does not heal him of sin. But it is necessary for the man to want this. God does not save against man's will..."
Somebody said after the funeral: "Lightly she went from this world. Like a bird taking wing from a branch that did not even quiver."