Memoirs of Father Alexander
For all of Vladimir Fainburg's reminiscences see the original site.
Dear father Alexander,
My heart fails to embrace what happened on September 9, 1990. No voice of reason, not even a grave in the corner of a small churchyard – nothing can make me get used to the fact that you are not here. And will never be with us.
I won’t approach you during the confession, hearing your cheerful, muffled voice:
My dear, how glad I am that you’ve come! Here is Christ - between the two of us. Tell me what’s torturing you, what is there on your heart?
And your warm hand won’t touch my shoulder, pressing to yourself in fatherlike manner.
I won’t answer your merry triple bell. You won’t come in, so loud, so big. We won’t give each other a hug, exchanging kisses. Week days won’t turn into festivals.
Mind keeps saying – this is all over. The whole experience of the human race testifies to the same.
But the heart won’t submit. I cannot think, speak, and write, using the word “was”.
For me you are here. All alive. Every hour, every minute. For all times.
What had happened caught me at the height of my work at a new novel which idea I had managed to share with you, reading out the first rough pages. As ever, you kept pressing me: «Speed up writing while you have time and energy, while there’s hope for publishing. Who knows what is there ahead…»
I worked almost round the clock, very hard. All the time I saw your beaming eyes before me. The work turned out to be a life-saving raft in the depth of despair when I had learned of the tragedy.
And now it is over. There is no raft left… Those who know that you granted me with your friendship, keep calling, coming, requesting: do write reminiscences of father Alexander Men’.
But how can I write reminiscences of the one who is for myself alive? It would mean to recognize the fact of your loss.
Father Alexander, Alexander Vladimirovich, Sasha! Week comes after week, and month after month, while again and again I catch myself, with some bitter delight, living through the time when…
… It is snowing.
December, 1977. A gloomy, cold morning. It is freezing. I’m walking back and forth by a church fence in Novaya Derevnya. The gate is locked. The church is closed, today there is no service. In a little house by the church, there isn’t a single window lighted up.
I am appointed for eight. It is almost nine, but the priest isn't coming. Maybe he forgot that it was he himself informing through Olya for me to arrive exactly today, by eight o’clock in the morning?
Then why am I freezing here? They say he is young, that Alexander Men’. That it is not much safe seeing him…
But what could I do if neither the people whom I know, nor the books available to me can answer the questions to have been torturing me for already several years? Recently, when visiting one home I met a first-year student from the MGU (the Moscow University) Psychological Department. Her name is Olya. Olya is a believer. She says that her batyushka1 (Russ. батюшка - as mode of address to priest – father) is a splendid man, a mine of knowledge.
I am far from religion. Let it be batyushka, I feel myself a starving man, craving for bread of knowledge. My circumstances turn out the way that my old outlook crashed, while a new one cannot get shaped. I never knew it could be so torturous. I ask Olya to speak to the priest, maybe he could find time to see me.
Now the meeting is appointed. And he is never here.
Olya says that Alexander Men' is handsome, majestic.
Whatever he could be, he is not punctual. I’m stiff with cold. Have been waiting for an hour and a half. So why am I not leaving? It’s high time for me to take a bus back to the station and into a train. Might have been already back to Moscow, back home.
…It is snowing. Suddenly I see a passer-by arising behind the snow veil. Dressed too light. A hat. An overcoat. He is running. Running toward me.
Batyushka, at that moment you looked neither handsome nor, the more so, majestic. Before me, I saw a person, also frozen to death.
Excuse me, for goodness’ sake! Something got wrong with the electric line. A power cut. Kept sitting in the train for the whole hour. I come from Semkhoz, near Zagorsk you know.
You open the gate, stepping up the porch of the little house, unlocking one door, then another.
Have a seat. Get warm. I’ll be back in a minute.
A small study. It is warm. Bookshelves tightly packed with books. Icons. A writing-desk, two armchairs. Left alone, I’m looking around, trying to get used to the place. You come in, wearing a black cassock and a big silver cross on your chest. And only now I see – yes, handsome, majestic. You are holding two big cups of strong steaming tea.
We sit facing each other. Your eyes are pouring openness.
And still, it is hard, it is so hard to start speaking. I’m afraid that all my questions might sound strange to you.
Indeed, since I started to train in a semi-secret parapsychology laboratory, regularly studying books, copies, manuscripts dealing with amazing problems of which existence I had never suspected before, since I started treating people and, to my own amazement, healing them, - since that time there came a new dimension rushing into my life, breaking the old familiar stereotypes.
I found plenty of people around me, some of them with high academic grades, studying UFO, searching for yeti, investigating mysterious properties of the pyramids… Many are busy promoting “Agni Yoga” by Yelena Ivanovna and Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich, where it is stated that in the Himalayas there hide almost immortal sages of Shambala who could influence the global ways and, be it their wish, any inhabitant of the earth.
Here, for the first time you interrupt my confused monologue:
If these sages do exist let them get retired! Just in the space of this century we had two world wars, the blood-stained revolution, and terror never to be ended. The nuclear sword of Damocles, too!
You rise from the armchair, looking thoughtfully round the shelves, taking one book, then another, handing them to me. And then, so much trustfully, so simply you say the words unlocking the door into my future:
Believe, there is no miracle in the thing that you can heal. It is normal in every person, like an ability to see and to hear. All this is dormant in man in a folded, rudimentary state. The Russian Orthodox Church stays negative toward healing. Modern church is jealous about healers since it lost this gift, though once, during the first centuries of Christianity each temple used to have its own healer…
I'm holding a volume by Vladimir Solovyev, and a book “Sources of Religion” by a certain Svetlov. Naturally, I have no idea that E. Svetlov being one of your pen-names.
You are seeing me to the door. The next room and a small corridor turn out to be packed with sitting and standing people. The whole queue of those eager to see father Alexander Men’, having their own questions, anxiety, pain, and hope...