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

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Mother Nonna (Lydia Volkoff)

Mother Nonna, in the world Lydia Volkoff (March 23, 1896 - February 11, 1975), was born into a pious family of old believers. In her childhood, she did not have a doll but lead soldiers whom she treated with love, making and remaking their bandages. When she was fifteen years old, she told her parents: "I'm leaving for the front, I can't live quietly in my corner while war is going on! I have to help the wounded". Neither her parents nor anyone else managed to prevent her from leaving the family home and becoming a nurse. After the war, she went to Belgium, where she completed her training as a nurse. She worked for a time in a Parisian clinic. It must be said that she was quite amazing: small, very modest, intelligent, always at the service of others.

She came one Sunday to the parish of Christ the Savior in Asnières, then a second Sunday ... Soon, she came regularly. One day she arrived with a huge bag of fruits and vegetables, a gift for the whole parish, and met Father Methodius. After some time, she asked him: "How could I help you? I am a nurse, I can be useful to you in the parish. Bless me for this obedience! "Father Methodius gave his blessing and Lydia Volkoff served the parish even more actively. Finally, she settled in the parish house, began to make prosphora, prepare meals, welcome people. In Asnières, she welcomed everyone and regaled them all with her "vatrushki". Little by little, the small kitchen of Asnières was transformed into a living room. She sometimes received until 11 o'clock in the evening, and then got up at 4 o'clock in the morning to knead the prosphora.

Monsignor Methodius opened a small infirmary in his parish where Lydia Volkoff received the sick. When Monseigneur had tuberculosis, she accompanied him to the countryside to treat him. From that moment on, she always remained by his side. She continued to help the parishioners of Asnières, but in the first place she took care of Father Methodius.

The monastic profession took place at the Notre-Dame de Tout-Protection Monastery, in Bussy, during the vigils of November 1, 1958, on the feast of Saint John of Ryla. Monsignor Methodius came from Asnières to celebrate the tonsure. He was thinking only of the rassophorate, but the Abbess Mother Eudoxia, expressed her disagreement: "What are you doing, Monseigneur? Don't you see who you're going to tonsure?It is necessary to profess it now with the great Habit". Lydia Volkoff was elderly and in poor health. Monseigneur accepted, and there was a very beautiful ceremony in our little church. Lydia Volkoff had long, white hair like that of Saint Mary the Egyptian. We all had the impression that the saint herself had just entered the church, excessively thin, with her beautiful white hair. The new profess was given the name Nonna, in honor of the mother of St. Gregory the Theologian.

Monseigneur had agreed to tonsure Mother Nonna, on the only condition that she not stay at the monastery but that she return to Asnières. Indeed, it would have been difficult to do without her in the parish. So Mother Nonna came back and was very happy. Mother Nonna continued her hard ascetic life. In the parish everything seemed calm and quiet, but sometimes there were small conflicts, disputes. Then the little Mother Nonna appeared and everything was arranged. Mother Nonna assisted Monseigneur until his last days, (he had two heart attacks and died of the third) after which she no longer regained her former strength. A year later, she herself was hospitalized with generalized cancer and died soon after. She is buried in Sainte Geneviève des Bois.