Abbess Erotida

стр. 94Abbess Erotida (Elena Mihailovna Gala)

· Born on October 18, 1965 in Kishinev, Moldova.

· Completed higher education.

· Entered Tolgski women’s monastery as a postulant, 1988.

· Tonsured as a rassophore (novice), 1989.

· Took vows as life-professed monastic, 1994.

· Appointed abbess of Nikolo-Solbinski women’s monastery, 1999.

Awards:

· Order of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Princess Olga III degree, October 18, 2005.

· Patriarchal A ward (“The right to wear a cross with decorations”) April 8, 2014.

· The Order of the Holy Passion-Bearer Tsar Nicholas, for development of the Russian State, and for years of work toward the glory of the Russian Orthodox Church, awarded on November 1, 2011, by the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America.

· “Honor and Glory of Great Russia” award for outstanding contribution to the spiritual revival of monastic life; for participation in public projects aimed at the spiritual and moral formation of the nation, 2016.

· Order For Faith and Loyalty, September 21, 2016.

· Jubilee Medal of the Russian Orthodox Church “In Commemoration of the 1000th Anniversary of the Repose of the Equal-to-the-Apostles Grand Duke Vladimir”, September 2, 2015.

· Jubilee Medal “700th Anniversary of the Appearance of the Tolga Icon of the Mother of God” for the revival of the Holy Vvedensky Tolgsky Monastery, August 21, 2014.

· “Holy Empress Alexandra Feodorovna” medal, in gratitude for many years of service to the Russian Orthodox Church, for contributing to enlightenment and social service, for boundless love for God and people, 10/18/2015, International Tsarsky Fund.

· “Russian Land” medal of the pan-national public movement “Orthodox Russia”, July 13, 2009.

· Medal “For Fidelity to Duty and Fatherland”, presented on August 12, 2008 by Marshal of the Soviet Union V.G. Kulikov.

· Commemorative medal, Encyclopedia of Seraphim of Sarov charitable foundation.

· Anniversary badge of honor, International Tsarsky Fund, September 23, 2010.

· Certificate of honor from the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation, for conscientious work, achievements and merit in the field of education, November 6, 2020.

· Certificate of honor from the Governor of the Yaroslavl Region for strengthening spiritual traditions and moral foundations, and significant educational activity, in connection with the 1015th anniversary of the founding of the Rostov-Yaroslavl diocese, October 2006.

· Diploma of Archbishop Kirill of Yaroslavl and Rostov in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the revival of the Holy Vvedensky Tolga convent, for labors devoted to the restoration of the ancient and holy monastery, 2008.

· Bishop’s letter of gratitude for the labors for the glory of the Mother Church on the Yaroslavl land, May 18, 2013.

· Bishop’s letter of blessing and gratitude for work carried out to the glory of the Holy Mother Church in the Pereslavl diocese, June 23, 2016

· Bishop’s letter of blessing and gratitude for work carried out to the glory of the Holy Mother Church in the Pereslavl diocese, June 26, 2017.

· Bishop’s letter of blessing and gratitude for work carried out to the glory of the Holy Mother Church in the Pereslavl diocese, January 8, 2017.

· Russian Red Cross Certificate of Honor, for conscientious, active work in service of mercy and humanism, November 4, 2017.

· Letter of gratitude from Bishop Feoktist of Pereslavl and Uglich to the director of the Good School at Solba, Abbess Erotiida (Gazhu), for sacrificial service toward the education, and spiritual and moral upbringing of the pupils of the Good School at Solba, June 22, 2019.

· Letter of thanks from the Department of Education of the Yaroslavl Region.

· Letter of thanks from the Head of the Pereslavl Municipal District, V.M. Denisyuk, to the director of the “Good school at Solba” Abbess Erotiide (Gazhu), for successes achieved by graduates in training, 2016.

· Letter of thanks from the Head of the Pereslavl Municipal District, V.M. Denisyuk, to the director of the “Good School at Solba” Abbess Erotiide (Gazhu) for educational administration, and outstanding achievement by the pupils of the school, 2017.

· Letter of thanks from the Ural Humanitarian Institute for successful studies and commitment to the ideas of enlightenment April 7, 2013.

Family Background

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I come from a large, friendly family, with five brothers and sisters. We were brought up in the Orthodox faith from a young age, and we followed all Orthodox rules and traditions: praying, fasting, receiving communion, and visiting holy sites. Every Sunday my siblings and I went to church with our parents. We all learned to work and respect our elders. My parents were simple working people. Holidays at home were particularly solemn: many guests, including priests, would come. My entire family, besides an older sister, chose to serve God as monastics, all thanks to my parents, who themselves had very much wanted to give their lives to God.


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My grandfather Alexander was a deeply religious, kind, and prayerful man. He and my grandmother had ten children. My father was the oldest. When my father was 18 years old, he went with my grandmother to the Kitskansky monastery (in a suburb of Bender in Moldova), where he very much wanted to stay. On that day after services, however, it was announced that the monastery was to be closed. They began to chase everyone out of the church, forcibly dragging people out. My father grabbed onto the ambon in front, and said that he wasn’t going anywhere. His mother tried to persuade him, saying, “Let’s go, Misha. Times will change. Rules will change. You are still young, you still have time. Everything is still ahead of you.”

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They headed back home, but when they got there, my grandfather had disappeared. He had been taken and sent into exile. He later returned, but afterwards, he was taken away forever. Later, we found evidence that he was shot to death in Siberia. My grandmother and all her children were

also sent to Siberia. The youngest brother was then just a baby. They were in exile for ten years. My father worked in a gold mine, and took care of the family.

After the exile, everyone returned to their home country. My grandmother needed help with the housework, and so she blessed my father to marry my mother. The mothers of both my parents knew each other even before the exile. With this blessing, my parents married, even though they had not known each other before.

My father had a lifelong desire to serve God. When he retired, he finally entered a monastery, the same one he had wanted to enter as a youth. This monastery had reopened after hard times. By the providence of God, the Archbishop Vincent (now Metropolitan of Tashkent and Uzbekistan), whose parents had been close to my parents, had been appointed there. My parents were tonsured as monastics in this monastery, and then the bishop sent my mother to a women’s monastery. But my father served in this one monastery to the end of his life, fulfilling various obediences. In spite of his advanced age, he entered the seminary, studied, and worked very hard. He was ordained to the diaconate, and then to the priesthood. He died in 1995, and is interred in the monastery cemetery. My father knew when he was going to die. He told his cell attendant that within a few days, a woman who had many daughters in monastic life would come, and that she needed to be given a message. Papa left a message and a letter for us as well.

After my father’s death, Bishop Vincent sent my mother to Divevski monastery, where she stayed for 10 years. When my mother fell seriously ill, I brought her to Solba, and I tried to do everything possible to provide for a peaceful old age. At present, my mother has the obedience to pray for the monastery, for all who ask the monastery for help, and especially for our benefactors.

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Monastic Life

From childhood, Mama had a great love of monasticism, and dreamed of a life devoted to the clerical state. She raised her children to have the same honor and respect. Before giving birth to each of us, she would pray for the future child. All of us were dedicated to God from birth.

nastoyantelnica (1)I went to college and was trained as a food service technologist, but I never worked in this field. Instead, I was immediately called by the Lord to serve the church. Although I was still a student, I frequently visited monasteries. On November 7, 1984, with the blessing of my parents and spiritual father, I arrived in Sergiyev Posad, where I labored for three years under obedience at the Moscow Spiritual Academy, keeping records of food stocks.

On March 12. 1988, I entered the Tolga Monastery, which had recently reopened. This was the first Russian monastery to open after the persecutions. There was one in Moldavia, one in Estonia, several in Ukraine. Entering was difficult, especially for young people. All young people needed to have secular work experience, as well as a residence permit.
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We visited my older sister, the nun Philophea, who already lived in the Pokrovsky Monastery in Kiev. By necessity, the sisters at Pokrovsky worked various jobs in the city: nurses, medics, and cleaners. When the authorities came to inspect the monastery, the sisters would hide in the attic. The government did this so that young people would not enter monasteries. Except for secular work, the sisters followed all monastic obediences. This was how they lived at that time.

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I became one of the first novices at the Tolga Monastery, and got to witness the rebirth, from ruins, of this holy place. After 11 months, I was tonsured as a rassophore (novice); and after a few years, took vows as a life-professed nun. I received various obediences for the next 11 years.

 

The very first obedience was in the kitchen. Bishop Platon appointed me “refectory manager”. I dealt with stocks, supplies, and meal preparation. At that time, more than 70 people were already employed by the monastery: restorers, guards, drivers, electricians, and plumbers. On weekends, many pilgrims would come. They also needed to eat and be served. I routinely went to Yaroslavl for groceries, begging alms from various businesses. It was necessary to return with groceries in time to cook and feed everyone, and all this with no money. It was such a miracle: there was always enough food for everybody, with nothing left over. I was very worried about this, because there were no refrigerators to store food.

I was given many obediences: baking prosphora (communion bread), doing laundry, tending the gas boiler room, growing flowers, taking care of bees in a cedar grove apiary, singing in the choir, sewing and embroidery, as well as general monastic tasks. I became an assistant to the monastery administrator. Later, I myself received the obedience of administrator. With the blessing of Bishop Micah, I organized a sewing workshop in Yaroslavl for tailoring priestly and monastic vestments.

In subsequent years, my life in Tolga was very difficult: I became very sick, spent a long time in the hospital, and was classified as disabled. The first night that I came to Solba I experienced a true miracle: by the morning I had become completely healthy. As if shackles had fallen from me, I felt lightness, a surge of strength, and a cheerful mood. Since then, I have never stopped laboring, and thanking God for His ever-blessed providence toward me, and toward all godly people, for all miracles that constantly happen before our eyes in this monastery.

Life as Abbess

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In 1999, I was appointed Abbess of Nikolo-Solbinski Monastery by order of Bishop Micah. Three sisters from the sewing workshop came with me. When I was preparing to leave, they had begged me to take them along.

At Solba, several abbesses had already come and gone during the course of a single year. When I was appointed, things were so neglected that there was little hope that anything could be done. When we arrived, I thought there could at least be some corner where the Liturgy might be served, or where there might be a stove for warmth. Who would have imagined then, what miracles would come – that the monastery would be restored!

That first summer in Solba, I barely slept – I had so much energy. Before coming here, I had written a letter to Fr. John Krestianin (the Elder of the Monastery of the Caves from Pskov) and another to Fr. Cyril Pavlov, explaining that I was very ill; how could I even begin to serve? I did not receive an answer before I got to Solba.

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At first, I constantly worried that we might die of hunger. The place was unfamiliar, and we had no car. I kept thinking about how I might feed the sisters here. Then it came to me: zucchini grew everywhere, requiring no special attention. The plants were large and plentiful. We could harvest it for immediate use, and for the winter. The zucchini ripened! We stewed it, and fried it, and salted it, and dried it, even made jam from it.

On the feast of St. Sergius, our first car was donated by Bishop Micah. We began to load it up with zucchini. When the car was filled to the max, I asked the driver: is it possible to load more? It’s possible, he said – the motor is ready to go. We went to Moscow to sell it, though we did not know who we might sell it to. We went to many places, until we found one woman with a vegetable store. She took all of it, giving us 3000 rubles – our first income.

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We had homeless vagabonds living with us in the sisters’ quarters. None of the doors could be locked. For Easter, they set up their own holiday, getting drunk of course, climbing the bell tower, ringing the bells, and beginning to fight. So it was all week. It was frightening. Finally, I went to them one morning. I crossed myself, crossed them, and commanded the sleepy crowd: “Gather yourselves up and leave this place!” Surprisingly, they obeyed. They proceeded to an electrical substation, wanting to cut our power as a parting gift. I was afraid, because nothing was locked then. Finally, the vagabonds did as they were told, and went away. Nevertheless, this episode continued on for a long time, because they sent their friends, other vagabonds, to us.

For the first six years, monastery restoration was especially aided by my own brother, Bishop Theodosius, at that time a hieromonk at the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra in Sergiev-Posad. He then had the obedience making prosphora at the Lavra. Now, he would bake prosphora, and bring some to us. Every time he would come, he would always wonder whether he would find us alive, whether anything might have happened to us. Without fail, he would bring us something to eat – and with prosphora. He would bring one of the fathers, to conduct more solemn services, because he very much liked to serve and himself conducted the service well.

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At first, we had a big problem with the priests. It was difficult to ask somebody to come even for one service; nobody wanted to come, because there was no place to stay. I would go to the Lavra and ask the prior (now Bishop Daniel of Archangelski). I would stand all day long in the passageway and wait, until they gave a priest to me. They always sent someone. Once I went to Bishop Theognostus and requested my brother, The bishop did not refuse me; he blessed him and from that day, Father Theodosius served us. He helped with construction and in household matters, greatly sacrificing himself for the sake of the monastery. Most importantly, his prayers at services inspired and spiritually supported us during our most difficult moments. In 2005 he was appointed Vicar of a monastery by the name of Holy Royal Passion-Bearer at Ganina Yama in Yekaterinburg, and in 2011 was ordained Bishop. Now he heads the Eparchy of Isilkulsky.

Currently, of course, the monastery is very different.

I would like to thank our benefactors, who have provided all possible assistance in restoring our monastery. Their names are commemorated at every church service, and in the sisters’ personal prayers. If any benefactor has a particular prayer intention, we always respond. They have become our dear loved ones, whom we treat with special warmth.

By the grace of God, I had a rare opportunity to be guided in my spiritual life by elders and gifted spiritual people. In the early years of my monastic life, I met and corresponded with Fr. John (Krestyankin), and later with Fr. Cyril (Pavlov). I owe a lot to Bishop Vincent, who attended to me even before I entered the monastery. Even now, despite his unbelievable busyness, Bishop Vincent always provides help and support. With gratitude I remember Abbot Boris (Dolzhenko), who was never indifferent to my difficulties when I was sick, during my time at Tolga Monastery, where he was our confessor. I especially thank my spiritual mother, Abbess Varvara of the Tolga Monastery, for the guidance and instruction that I experienced under her leadership, which speaks to the depth of her love. Now I have the opportunity to implement what I was taught, helping the monastic sisters entrusted to me. In the same way that I was formed and raised, I try to instill in my sisters love for the Lord and devotion in serving Him. This is the most important thing.

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