The abbess

стр. 94Abbess Erotidida (Gazhu Elena Mikhailovna)

She was born at 18th of October 1965 in the city of Chisinau. She graduated the University, and entered in the nunnery at Tolga in 1988; consequently, was tonsured as a postulant in 1989 and as a nun in 1994. In 1999 she was ordained as the superior of the nunnery of Saint Nicholas from Solba.

Awards

-the embellished cross in 18 April 2014

-the medal of the Russian Orthodox Church “ the third degree of the saint Olga” in 18 October 2005

-the award “the glory and the fame of the great Russia” for the contribution to the development of the monastic life and for the participation in common projects concerning the spiritual and moral development of the nation

-the award “for faith and confidence” in 21st September 2016

-the medal of Russian Orthodox Church ” in the memory of the millennium remembrance of the great Vladimir in 29 April 2016

-the medal “for the effort made for the glory of our Mother the Church” given by the Jaroslav eparchy and for the developing of the nunnery Tolga

-the medal accorded by the governor of the district Jaroslav for the consolidation of the spiritual tradition and the moral principles and for the activity in education

-letter of thankfulness of the Department of Education of the district Jaroslav

The history of a family

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Our great family was very friendly indeed. We were educated from the early childhood in the Orthodox faith, in the respect of the traditions and commandments of the Orthodox Church: praying together, fasting, getting the Holy Communion, traveling as pilgrims for visiting the holy places, frequenting the church every Sunday together with our parents. All of us were accommodated with effort and we had deep reverence for old-aged people. Our parents were very simple workers. Especially during great religious feasts, we had at home a very glorious atmosphere. We were receiving a lot of guests, among them priests as well. All the members of my family, except the oldest sister, chose the way of serving God in monastic life thanks primarily to our parents that consecrate their life to God in the same way as we did.


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My grandfather Alexander was a man of a deep faith. He kept praying all the time. He had gotten ten children with my grandmother. My father was the eldest one. At the age of 18, my father used to visit quite often together with my grandmother the monastery of Chitcani, situated in the surroundings of the town Bender in Moldavia. He wanted with all his heart to stay in that monastery until the end of his life. One morning, after the religious service, the communist officials announced the closing of that monastery. They started instantly to persecute the believers, to take them out of the church. My father refused to leave the church, stuck himself on the fence near the altar and declared plainly that he shall stay there whatsoever. My grandmother tried to convince him to obey. She said “let’s go my dear Misha, times will change, the political regime will change, you are still young and everything is forward”. Then they went home. There, my grandfather had disappeared. The communists had taken him and sent him in exile. My grandfather came back after that but not for a long time. They took him away once more, but this time forever. Later on, we found proves that he was shot in Siberia. Our grandmother together with all her children was exiled to Siberia as well. The youngest brother was at that time just a baby. He was in the exile for 10 years. My father had worked in a gold mine and he took care of his family. After that all of them came back to the motherland. My grandmother had needed help for taking care of the house and for that she blessed my father to get married with my mother. The parents of my mother and my grandmother new each other even before the time of the exile. On behalf of the blessing, my parents had gotten married even though they didn’t know each other before that.

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My father wanted all his life to serve God. When he got retired he went to the monastery where he had longing to stay in his young age. This monastery opened after the fall of the communist regime. By God’s Providence in that eparchy was ordained the actual bishop of Ekaterinburg, Vincent, whose parents were close to my parents. In this monastery my parents took that monastic vows. The bishop blessed my mother to go to a nunnery. My father served in the same monastery until the end of his life, accomplishing different tasks. Though being quite old, he went to the Seminary, being very keen on studying.  He was ordained as a deacon and after that as a priest. He died in 1995, being buried in the cemetery of the monastery. My father knew when he was going to die, he told to the colleague of his cell that in a few days a woman whose daughters are the nuns over there shall come  and he has to deliver her a message. He left us also a farewell letter with a message for everyone.

After the death of my father, Bishop Vincent blessed my mother to go to the nunnery of Diveyevo, where she stayed for 10 years. I took her to Solba when she was very ill and I tried do everything was possible to make her happy in her old age. At the present my mother has the obedience to pray for the monastery, for all in need of prayer, especially for the benefactors of our monastery.

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The history of a nun

Since her childhood my mother had great love or monasticism and she dreamed this kind of life, having great reverence especially for priests. She educated her children onto this respect. Before giving birth to every one of us she prayed for the future child. She dedicated us to God before our birth.

nastoyantelnica (1)Leaving home, I went to the University, graduating after four years the alimentary specialization, but I’ve never worked in this field, because I followed instantly the calling of serving God in the church. Still being a pupil, I used to go a lot in pilgrimages. In 7th of November 1984, with the blessing of my parents and of my spiritual father I left to the town Sergyev Posad, where I worked for three years at Moscow Spiritual Academy, having there the obedience to sort the products in the cellar. In 12th of March 1988 I came to a recently opened monastery, namely at Tolga, in which I chose to remain as a postulant. It was the first monastery in Russia that opened after the communist prosecution of Christians. There was one sister from Moldavia, one from Estonia, some others from Ukraine. It was very difficult to enter in the monastery’ s sisterhood; especially for the young sisters the admission in the monastery was conditioned by having experience in different working fields and being registered on the place of your living, that is to say having plain legal permission to stay in Russia.

My elder sister, nun Philathea had been already included in the sisterhood of the monastery of the Protection of our Lady from  Kiev. We used to visit her. The sisters of that monastery had to accomplish mandatory work in the city, having different jobs: doctors, medical sisters, cleaners and so on. As it was still the communist regime when my sister went there, the officials came to the monastery for checking for the eventual new postulants, and the sisters had hidden in the cellar. Except working in the city, the sisters used to accomplish the usual obedience in the monastery. They lived at that time in quite harsh conditions.
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I was one of the first postulants of the monastery of Tolga and consequently I have witnessed the development of this monastery. After 11 months of obedience as a postulant, I received the toga and in a few years I received the monastic vows. I had several tasks in my obedience for 11 years.

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The first obedience was the kitchen. The bishop of that time, Plato, charged me as “refectory counselor”. Later on, I worked at the deposit and surveilling the preparation of the food. At that time, in the monastery there were 70 workers: builders, guardians, drivers, electricians and so on. At the weekends there were a lot of pilgrims and it was necessary to give them to eat and to serve them. I went quite often to Yaroslavl for buying products and for receiving alms for the monastery. I had to come back with the products to succeed to prepare them and to nourish all the visitors, free of charge of course. It was a miracle – every time there was enough food and there weren’t any remains as we didn’t have any refrigerators for keeping the food fresh.

 

 I accomplished as well other tasks, namely the bakery, the laundry, the gardening, the bees, even the choir. I participated also to common obedience as I was the helper of the nun in charge with the administration. After a while, I had to accomplish also the administrative task. Consequently, with the blessing of the bishop, I receive the obedience of organizing in the town of Yaroslavl the sewing factory for priests’ and monastic’s garments.

The last period of my life to Tolga was quite difficult. I was very ill, stayed in the hospital being invalid. I didn’t even know if I was going to live or if I was going to die. The first night when I came to Solba there was a miracle. In the morning, I woke up being completely healed. I felt such a relief, took powers and a very good inner mood. From that time I didn’t stop working and thanking God for His kindness and care for me and for all the people of God, for all the miracles that permanently come in our monastery.

The history of the abbess

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In 1999, with the blessing of Bishop Micah, I was ordained as the superior mother of the monastery of Saint Nicholas from Solba. At the beginning together with me there were three sisters, previously workers at the sewing factory. When I left, they begged me to take them with me.

There were a lot of potential abbesses that came here at Solba but none of them wasn’t able to remain. When they sent me there, it was no hope that it would be possible to do something at that place, provided that it was quite desert, there was nothing to be done with it.

When I came there I had hoped to find at least a small place to serve the holy liturgy or at least a stove for getting warm, but I didn’t think that it would be such a miracle. The first summer I had almost no sleep as I was full of energy. Before being sent there, I sent a letter to Father John Krestianin (the Elder of the Monastery of the Caves from Pskov), another one to father Cyril (Pavlov), explaining them that I’m very ill, lamenting how could they possibly send me here in such a terrible healthy mood and so on. I didn’t receive any answer before coming to Solba.

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At the beginning I kept questioning myself how could be possible to live there without any food. I thought that we are going to starve to death. We didn’t know the place and we didn’t have any car. I was thinking how could I get for those girls something to eat. It came to my mind to cultivate squash. Eventually it would have been possible to cook it and to put provision for the winter. We cultivated squash, the crops were quite satisfactory. We put them for the winter we made even jam. The first car arrived to the monastery on the Saint Sergio’s feast (the protector of the Laure of Saint Trinity), it was sent by Bishop Micah. We put in the car all the squash. I didn’t ask the driver how much should I put on the car but he didn’t say a word. They went to Moscow to sell them. There was one woman who had a shop with vegetables and she took all the squash she gave us three thousand rubles; they were our first gained money.

Together with us there were leaving some bums. And the doors were never locked. On the Feast of Easter, they got drunk of course. They climbed up in the tower, rang the Bells, started fighting, continued like that all the week. It was frightening. At the end, in the morning I came to them, made the sign of the Holy Cross and told them directly: “now will you prepare yourself for leaving out of here?” It was amazing but they listened to me. They went and disconnected the electrical transformer. I was afraid, provided that as I said, there weren’t any locked doors at that time. But in the end, those bums listened and went away. However, the history didn’t finish, as they came again with their friends a few times afterwards.

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Before my coming to Solba, my brother, father Theodosius, had taken already the monastic vows, accomplishing his obedience to the bakery in the Laure of Saint Sergio from Sergyev Posad. Once, they asked him to go and to give the holy communion to a priest from Yaroslavl that had a car accident; this priest became consequently our neighbor, father Dmitri.

My brother made a lot for our monastery, he helped us enormously. Now he is the bishop of Isilkulskii and Russko Polianski.

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At the present, the monastery developed, even though until the end of the construction there is a lot more to come. I give thanks to all the benefactors that helped our monastery by the measure of their powers and we read their names every time, praying for them while doing the services. If any of our benefactors needs prayer, we respond them instantly. They are in our hearts and we love them.

By the mercy of God, I had the opportunity to be guided in the spiritual life by a lot of holy men, by venerable elders and I acquired some experience. In the first years of my monastic life, I met and corresponded with Father John Krestianin and consequently with father Cyril (Pavlov). I am also completely thankful to Bishop Vincent, that helped me even before the opening of the monastery and even now providing his old age he comes and help us. With thankfulness, I remember also the Superior Father Boris (Doljenko), that didn’t remain indifferent to me, especially while I was ill in the sisterhood of Tolga. I am thankful to my superior Varvara, the abbess of the monastery of Tolga, particularly for the lessons that I received being under her coordination and for having now the possibility to coordinate myself and the sisterhood. As I was thought and educated in my previous monastic life, I am striving to educate my sisterhood in the devotion for the love of God and for His serving.

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