The 120th anniversary of the birth of Metropolitan Victor (Svyatin)

The Chinese Orthodox Church
English translation by Katherine Ilachinski – 7/2/14

In the July issue of the newspaper “Kuban Orthodox voice” was posted material by Elizabeth Sergeevny Dyachenko, dedicated to the 120th anniversary of the birth of Metropolitan Victor (Svyatin), Chief of the 20th Orthodox Mission in China.

In late May, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill in a working visit went to the People’s Republic of China. After a warm welcome and talks with the Chinese government our Patriarch held services in Beijing (on the territory of the Russian embassy) in Shanghai, and in the remaining church building in Harbin.

Bloodless Sacrifice was served on antimins of Vladika Victor (Svyatin), the last chief of the 20th Orthodox Ecclesiastical Mission in China and Exarch of south-east Asia. In 1956, by order of Moscow Vladika Victor arrived in Russia and was sent to the Krasnodar diocese, which he headed until his death in August 1966.

In this post I want, my dear friends, to tell about those who carried the word of God to people together with Vladika in China and in my native Kuban land, and who now rests at All Saints Cemetery.

If you enter the cemetery from the Rashpilevskaya Street and move to the center, you will see on the left side the well-preserved white monument and next to it – the tomb of Boris Mikhailovich Kepping. And turning up the path to the right, deep over the three graves, we will see the grave of Protopresbyter Michael Rogozhin. Both – the companions and close friends of Metropolitan Victor (Svyatin). Both – the participants of the First World War, the 100th anniversary of which will be next year. Many of the Kuban people, who were the participants, are at rest at All Saints Cemetery. Their graves are too, in bad shape.

And the war of 1941-1945? However, the graves of soldiers of the Great Patriotic War somehow are marked, but without thinking, not with love, untidy. On the approach to the “eternal flame” there is an inscription on the wall, which stings the soul: “They do not exist, but they are with us always. They won the right to be forever close to the living. ”

It is necessary to confirm these words in the future Memorial complex. After the “eternal flame” there are a number of graves. Orthodox person knows that the dead must lay with face to the east. This is a firm rule. And headstone should stand in the legs. This rule on some graves is violated. Here’s the first disrespect for traditions. And what is the fate of those graves that do not fall under the relevant assessment for the Krasnodar history? Where should we put the graves of my ancestors? My grandfather, the Kuban Cossack Kucherenko Gregory Nikolaevich, who had gone to Siberia with hundreds to secure Trans-Siberian Railway, a member of the 1914 war? He was later a member of Kapelevski campaign, received a severe wound, was captured and imprisoned by the red and narrowly escaped a sentence of death. My heroic grandfather.

Or my great-grandmother Maria Selivanovna Kovalev from the Don Cossacks. She had many children, she, along with her husband, a civil engineer went through all the construction of railways, which were at the time. Or rather drove through, because at the disposal of my great-grandfather was one railroad car, later with the growth of the family, two railroad cars. My great-grandfather Arseny Mikhailovich had seven children. I can list many more graves of my kin, the fate lying in them are very interesting, and sometimes tragic, instructive. The history of my country is full of such grains of destiny. One would not want to destroy the graves of my ancestors.

But let us go back to the companions of Bishop Victor (Svyatin) in China. Protopresbyter Michael Rogozhin was born in a small town Laishevo, near Kazan in 1889. He graduated from the diocesan school in Kazan, then seminary, served as subdeacon in the church of his native city. In 1913 he entered the Kazan Theological Academy to the Missionary Department.

The war began, and Michael Rogozhin was sent to accelerated officer training courses. In 1915, he was an officer of 162 Alhatetsinskogo Infantry Regiment on the Romanian front. A year later, badly wounded he was under the German gas attack. In a hopeless condition he was sent to a hospital in Moscow, from where he was urgently taken to his hometown.

All residents of Laishevo (and even Tatars) prayed for his recovery. And they were heard. Surrounded by care, taking grasses of his native fields, Michael was getting better with each passing day. Soon he went to Kazan, where a girl was waiting for him. In Kazan, he was arrested for religious propaganda, and as a former officer was sentenced to death. With great difficulty, they arranged an escape for Michael.

Together with Masha he went to his native town. In Laishevo Michael was elected commandant of the city. By the end of 1918 retreating troops of the White Army entered in Laishevo. Under their help convoys with refugees and wounded arrived. Rogozhin leaves with White Army. He soon became the head of Votkinsk’s division of Kappel’s army.

By the end of 1919 the White Army was retreating, covering a diverse crowd of hungry, sick, angry refugees. Among them was Mary Rogozhina with twin babies Aristarchus and Peter, born in the summer. Initially, small Aristarchus died. It was said that he was lucky. Father with the soldiers dug on the shore of Lake Baikal’s grave in the frozen ground, and even set up a cross. Peter died two days later. He was just covered with some ice. Crazy mother was given the doll, stuffed inside her shirt, and she rocked it through the entire trip.

On January 1, 1922 in Vladivostok, Michael Rogozhin was ordained a deacon, and on January 2 — a presbyter. In October, the remnants of the White Army retreated and fled Russia to China. Father Michael received a parish in a working class neighborhood of Harbin-Private Zaton, built by Russian merchants long before the revolution.

Of the 250 houses of the Private Zaton on the feast of the Nativity only 6 houses have accepted him. And on Pascha, thanks to the missionary work of Father Michael, almost all accepted the Orthodox priest, only 6 houses did not. Even non-Orthodox Chinese invited the priest. But the main concerns of Father Michael were children and young people. He always said that if you do not teach, do not nurture the young in Orthodoxy, do not cultivate a love for the motherland, we will lose them, they will dissolve among other nations. Father Michael has built a spacious new church, two schools, a library, a children’s clinic. He opened a night school, he picked the teachers for all schools, he led the history, geography and astronomy. And what a chorus of Russian folk songs was organized in the new church! All of Harbin came to listen to the chorus. Father Michael had a wonderful voice, “was leading always and in everything.”

In year 1930 Father was transferred to another area of Harbin – Majiagou. And here he builds St Alexis church, he opens a school, and a school for the deaf. He teaches the law of God in the first Russian high school, named after Pushkin, in the private school of Druzelya, in the River School.

In year 1932, Japan occupied Manchuria. Russian exodus to southern China began: Shanghai, Tianjin, Beijing, Hankou. Orthodox people left to where the Russian churches were, built long before the revolution by merchants with the support of the Orthodox Spiritual Mission. At the invitation of the Chief of the 20th Ecclesiastical Mission Vladika Victor, Father Michael Rogozhin also came to southern China. As a good organizer, he was sent to Tianjin. Multi-million city, a large port where from time immemorial Russian Union of merchants engaged in the export of tea from China. By this time, Father Michael had already a large family – a son and two daughters.

Here tireless Father restored the old church and high school. Organized singing lessons. He taught the law of God, history and geography of Russia at the high school. Soon in Shanghai, where a huge increase in the Russian population for Civil Registration was, they organized the Council of Orthodox Mission. Vladika Viktor sends Fr Michael Rogozhin to Shanghai and puts him at the head of the Council. (Until now live in Krasnodar, two men who had come from China, with straightened metrics signed by Father Michael). In year 1937, Japan invaded south China.

And in 1941, the Russian population of China was divided into two parts – the winners and defeated. Winners for the victory of the USSR. Defeatists for a German victory. Vladika Victor believed that in the difficult time one must be with their homeland, and it is necessary to be under the rule of the Moscow Patriarchate. They decided to send the priest Michael Rogozhin to Japan since the Japanese Spiritual Mission was under the jurisdiction of Moscow and, in addition, Father Michael himself could talk a little in Japanese.

With great care, through neutral countries, with other people’s documents, Father arrived in Japan. But by that time Bishop Nikolai Equal-to-the-Apostles died, and the head of the mission was under house arrest. The mission was run by Japanese priests.

Thank God that Father Michael met clergy loyal to the Russian Orthodox Church. They described a situation in which they found themselves, and advised to workthrough the Russian Embassy in China and through civilian people. They decided to send a cousin of Bishop Victor, a devoted man Boris Mikhailovich Kepping, a big Russian patriot to Beijing.

Yes a Russian! His ancestors were from an old Swedish clan who for centuries were gunners. After the victory of Peter I over the Swedes and the signing of the Ninshtad’s treaty, the lands of fon-Kepping were annexed to Russia. Peter kept their nobility, but gave them lands on Don. All the men were finishing the Mikhailovsky Artillery School, participated in all the battles waged by Russia. Boris Mikhailovitch was an artillery man. He took part in the War of 1914. After being wounded in 1917, he returned to his unit. The signing of the Breast Peace he considered a betrayal, and he did not want to participate in the Civil War. He was a monarchist. He came home with sad thoughts. In July, the White troops occupied Orenburg and Orenburg Cossack began to form the army of General Dutov. Boris Kepping was sent to serve under ataman Annenkov. Part of the Orenburg Cossacks, having passed through all of China, went to the Far East to continue the fight the Reds. The other part did not want to wage war with their fellow countrymen. Boris Mikhailovitch belonged to this part.

He with the help of Russian consul Dolbezhev reached the Russian Orthodox Mission, looked around, chose the city, in which was a large and strong Orthodox community. But he was not depending on it. He repaired, corrected, and built something. This was seen by the Chief of 18th Ecclesiastical Mission and he advised him to go to Tianjin, where at that time Father Victor (Svyatin) served.

Boris lived for a while in the so-called, Hotel Victor — Father Victor’s apartment. But in here he was not dependening on anybody. He enrolled in English courses, courses on mechanics. Life was gradually adjusting. Father Victor’s younger sister Olga from Russia, who later became the wife of Boris, soon came to Father Victor. Their eldest daughter, Marina, was born in 1927, the youngest Xenia – in 1937.

Boris was promoted by this time to the head of an auto repair station and head of the construction department of the General Post Office of Tianjin. Unthinkable career, given that he was not a Chinese citizen, He only had residency paper.

The war between Germany and Russia made life difficult for Russian refugees in China. Arriving one day at work, Boris saw hanging on the wall map of Russia. Half of the map – up to the Urals was circled by the color of Japan and the other half – the Urals – the color of Germany.

Boris tore the map off the wall and broke it into small pieces. He was expelled from working and was blacklisted. Just at that time Vladika suggested to Boris Kepping to deliver a letter to the Russian Embassy with a request to transfer the Orthodox Spiritual Mission in China under the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate.

It is the end of year 1943. The war is in full swing. It is not known what the outcome will be. The Japanese would like to acquire the property of the Mission. But Boris agrees, supporting himself, as always, by the proverb: “Do not pity the fallen horse but get on the true one.” He went to the embassy, and his back was full of bayonets of Japanese rifles, and when he began to ring the doorbell, and one could not hear steps behind, bayonets deeper and deeper stabbed his back. The door opened, the letter was taken. And in May 1945, the Patriarchate had sent a letter of greetings with the adoption of the Orthodox Ecclesiastical Mission in China under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. This was the first reunion of the Church Abroad and the Moscow.

In June 1956, Archbishop Victor (Svyatin) arrived in Krasnodar. The family of Boris Kepping moved here after working on virgin land, and then to Vologda. In September 1956 Protopresbyter Michael Rogozhin arrived from Australia after a secret mission to Krasnodar and who became rector of Holy Trinity Church. Father Michael passed away exactly a year after Boris Kepping, on August 8, 1959. Bishop Victor was walking behind the coffin of his faithful friend. Forty days funeral services were performed on his grave.

“They are not here, but they are with us always.” These words are the best reference to these people, the two ascetics, Russian patriots whose graves are at All Saints Cemetery. They are alive in our memory, forever alive in the memory of the Church and are associated with us in Christ. A real work of love can and should be the care of their graves.

ES Dyachenko