Friday, November 11, 2005

Protopriest Michael Ardov. Words on the passing of Anastasia Georgievna Schatiloff (Grabbe). She was consumed with zeal for the Church, for the Tr

I am thinking back to the distant 1970’s, to those stagnant years during the time of Brezhnev. I was a lay person in the Moscow Patriarchate then. Some absolutely amazing documents started to make their way to us. They were called "Notes from the Department of External Church Relations of the ROCOR," and they were sent by the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. They consisted of little commentaries on the life of Orthodoxy and of the Christian world in general. In the utter isolation in which we lived at the time, these served as a big helping of very important information. I remember how we used to copy them and send them around. Of course, this was done with great caution because, as I imagine, the KGB would have been very interested not only in these materials, but also in how they came to be in our possession.

Later on, I was able to find out that the person who put these "Notes" together was none other than Anastasia Georgievna Schatiloff, née Countess Grabbe, daughter of Bishop Gregory (Grabbe). Years passed by, and then, in 1994, I landed in America for the first time. It was in the home of Fr. Vladimir Shishkoff, where Bishop Gregory was living, inasmuch as Fr. Vladimir was married to Maria, the other daughter of Bishop Gregory, that I finally got to meet Anastasia Georgievna in person.

For forty years, this woman served as secretary for her father. Vladyka Gregory himself, over the span of fifty-five years, occupied the position of Secretary of the Synod Abroad. In 1994, when I first got to meet them, although Vladyka Gregory was already "out of work," he still had a large correspondence, and he continued to exert his influence on unfolding Church events. And all of this, because he himself was old and infirm, was carried out with the help of his elder daughter, Anastasia Georgievna.

Then, we learned that these "Notes" themselves stopped being published, as the result of an internal revolution inside the ROCOR, when, after the death of Metropolitan Philaret, Metropolitan Vitaly was chosen as First hierarch of the ROCOR, and Bishop Gregory was scandalously and crudely kicked out of the Synod of the ROCOR. But a little bit later, another publication began appearing, "Church News," which for dozens of years would be put together and published by Anastasia Georgievna. Literally up until last summer, "Church News" came out regularly, and became an even more serious publication than I remember the earlier "Notes" to have been.

I became friends with Anastasia Georgievna. I was enchanted by the fact that, other than Church interests, she had, in fact, no other interests at all. Although she did have children, and grandchildren, and she was on good terms with everyone, nevertheless, all of her energy, and her entire identity, were always concentrated on Church questions.

I am very sorry that I won’t be able to speak with her, sit down at table with her (she loved that), drink a shot of vodka with her, and hear her tell her stories anymore. And her stories were amazing. For example, she was closely acquainted with Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), and with the other First Hierarchs of the Church Abroad, and she remembered many remarkable figures of the emigrant community, as well as war-time and post-war Yugoslavia and Germany. Many of her memoirs were recorded on tape by my assistant, Sergei Alexandrovich Suvorov. With God’s help, we hope to digitalize them and make them available to posterity.

For now, I would simply like to say that we are praying for the repose of the soul of Anastasia Georgievna. She was a remarkable person, an impartial witness, and a person obsessed by one idea. It could be said that the main living force, which helped her to survive, which made up the fundamental content of her life, was simply what is called "the zeal for Thy house," zeal for the Church, zeal for the Truth.