Centenary of the Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe

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Parish St Peter and Paul, Deventer (Netherlands)


“God’s ways are not our ways”, this expression can be applied to our parish as well. During the German occupation of the Caucasus some German officers were lodged in the dwelling of the Russian family Lagodin in Nalchik. At that time the son of this family, Alexey, was put in a German jail. When the Germans had to leave Nalchik, as the Red Army was approaching, the parents, with tears in their eyes, besought the German officers not to shoot their son, as the Germans used to do before retreating, but to release him. These officers listened to the urgent request of his parents, and set the young man free. The other inmates, however, were all shot. The young man understood very well that this miracle did not mark the end of the danger. What would happen to him, when the soldiers of the Red Army would discover that he was the only prisoner, who had not been shot by the Germans? This would be highly suspicious, and could lead to further and big troubles, even to a painful death… He decided to flee, together with his wife Valentina, westbound, remaining between the frontlines. At the end of the war they were in Austria, not far from Klagenfurt, and ended there up in a camp for refugees. They assured the authorities that they were Polish, because they knew that Russians were sent back to “Stalin”, which meant a secure death, either by a tribunal or in camp. Austria had many refugees and the Austrian government asked other European governments for help, including the Dutch government. But they received the reply: “We cannot help yet. Almost everything has been ruined here. Please, wait a couple of years. Then we can offer some help.” And indeed, approximately in 1950 Alexey and Valentina received an invitation to come with their little son Victor to the Netherlands. As they has expressed a preference for a not too big city to live in, they got a dwelling and job in Deventer. Once they had settled down, they started to look for a Russian Orthodox parish in the neighbourhood, discovered the parish of the Protection of the Mother of God in Arnhem, some thirty miles from Devent-er, which belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile, and started to attend the services over there. It goes without saying that these services in Arnhem were celebrated in Church Slavonic. Having been there for some time, Alexey and Valentina asked the priest: “Church Slavonic is fine for us, and may be for our children, but surely not for our grandchildren. Could you introduce some Dutch in the services?” On this request they got a sharp refusal. Later they tried several times to find some support for this idea, but in vain. Eventually they decided to organize an Orthodox chapel in Deventer, where occasionally, usually on Saturdays, one of the Orthodox priests could celebrate the Liturgy in Dutch. This was the begin-ning of our parish. They continued to attend the services in Arnhem, but when in Deventer more people showed up in the Liturgy, which was gradually celebrated more frequently, their visits to the parish in Arnhem became more seldom. During the following years the Orthodox group in Deventer did not decrease, but remained stable. Some Greeks also joined the group. When in the beginning of the nineteen seventies the Orthodox bishop in the Netherlands James (Akkersdijk) decided to leave the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile and to join the Moscow Patriarchate, the congregation in Deventer expressed the wish to unite itself with the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe. At that time Archpriest Guido de Vylder – who became later Archbishop Gabriel – celebrated more often than other priests in Deventer. In the end of 1984 priest Theodore van der Voort, who had studied in the middle of the nineteen seventies at the Leningrad Theological Academy, but who after a collision with KGB – the Soviet State Security Service – had to return to the Netherlands, joined the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese. He was ordained in 1982 by Archbishop James, in spite of the fact that “Moscow” prohibited his ordination. He started to celebrate in The Hague, in the parish of St. Mary Magdalene, Equal of the Apostles, but soon it turned out that “Moscow” could not stand him and a change of jurisdiction was simply unavoidable for him. When he joined the Archdiocese, Archbishop Georg (Wagner) charged him to celebrate the services in the Deventer parish. So the Deventer parish got for the first time its own priest. Soon the Lit-urgy was celebrated every week and when Fr. Theodore moved to Deventer with his family, they began to celebrate the Vigil as well.

Current Situation

Adjacent parishes where the Liturgy is also celebrated every week are situated at quite a dis-tance according to Dutch standards, till sixty, seventy five miles away. When it became wide-ly known that there were weekly Liturgies in Deventer, church attendance rose sharply. When the Iron Curtain fell not only Russians, but also Georgians, Ukrainians, Romanians and Pontic Greeks settled down in the Netherlands, and some of them started to attend the services in the parish. But also the number of Orthodox Dutchmen increased markedly, both by natural way – births – and by conversions from other Christian denominations. In the beginning of the nineteen eighties some twenty persons were regularly attending the services. Now some two hundreds. It became necessary to find a bigger building. In 1999 the parish bought the major part of a building in the city centre. At that time a young icon-painter from Kostroma, Yevgeny Tisov, was regularly visiting the parish. He gave several times a short course of icon painting for the parishioners. The parish assembly decided that he should be asked to paint the icons for the new iconostasis, and was very delighted, when he agreed to do so. In 2000 Fr. Theodore went to Kostroma and with the help of some of his Russian friends trans-ported all twenty-three icons through Finland, Sweden and Germany to Deventer. It goes without saying that a complete story could be told about this journey. In 2006 the parish man-aged to buy the remaining part of the building. Now it became possible to enlarge the church and to organize a parish hall in the cellar, where coffee and tea are offered after the Liturgy, and a parish library and class for catechesis in the attic. In the parish the services are celebrat-ed in Dutch, as was the desire of the founders of the parish, Alexey and Valentina Lagodin, but some parts are in Church Slavonic. Every year a one-day pilgrimage is organized to visit a church in the province, which played an important role in the history of Christianity of our country. When the Feast of Theophany is on a Saturday or Sunday, the Great Blessing of Water is celebrated at the bank of the river IJssel, where Deventer is located.