Orthodox America

Letters from Russia  

Greetings! May the peace of God be with you always!

        A bit about myself. I am 28 years old, married. A year ago the Lord gave us a daughter, in holy baptism, Maria. Five years ago I graduated from the history department of a pedagogical institute, I worked as a teacher in school; this past year I've been working in a secular charitable organization, the Children's Fund; we help orphans, needy children and needy families with many children. I am close to many clergy.

        My work often takes me to children's homes, orphanages and the homes of large families. I see the thirst to learn about God, the soul-saving teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, in Russia today it is still difficult to find books of Holy Scripture--the Bible and New Testament, prayer books, books of akathists, theological literature, and books for soul-profiting reading for Orthodox Christians. Here we receive a lot of help from our brothers and sisters in the West, who, with their donations, send us Christian literature in Russian.

        I make bold to ask you also, and through you many, many Americans to help us get as many copies of the Gospel, the Bible, the Law of God, prayer books, akathists, Lives of Saints, spiritually edifying reading, theological books. All the books received I will give directly to the families of believers and those seeking God--primarily to large families, who are, as it were, small parishes in themselves. Children's editions I give to orphans in state homes, but we have very few such books.

        I likewise make bold to request you to send as much theological literature for the Kursk Diocesan parochial school which is opening in September.

         I'm enclosing several copies of my address where you can send packages of books. You may give these addresses to all those who should like to make a donation to the Christians of much-suffering Russia--i.e., to send books for Orthodox. You can likewise publish these addresses in the local secular and Church press with the request to donate to us books in Russian.

        TO each person who writes to us and sends books we will reply personally.

        All the best! May the Lord grant you His abundant help in your work for the good of the Holy Church!

Write and send books to these addresses: [….]

The following letters were addressed to Fr. Victor Potapov in response to his religious broadcasts on Voice of America.

Respected Victor Potapov!

       Writing to you is a 16 year old girl who, to her shame, must admit that she began to be interested in her native culture only this year. Your broadcasts were in large measure responsible for this, awakening for the first time in my life a desire to go to church. Previously I hadn't any idea what an Orthodox service was.

       It was only in going to church that I understood how necessary its influence is in arousing a feeling of charity, in restoring the wasted part of our culture, in cleansing... Many, including me, must come to faith. The collapse of all former ideals has generated cynicism, and only faith can save us.

       The Church, however, church services-this is not merely prayer; it is a series of rites established over the centuries, whose meaning is often obscure to such an unenlightened person as myself. I sought for literature, but alas, there are no books about Orthodoxy, no church calendars. The only thing I found was a New Testament, a great book strengthening faith in my soul. For this reason I'd like very much to hear about all this in your broadcasts. Thanking you in advance...

P., Chita

      A teenager, a believer, is writing to you from the town of Tikhoretsk. My name is Sergius. (I trust you will not throw away my letter, thousands of which you must receive.) I am 17 years old. Like most of my contemporaries I was born into a family of non-believers. And so I lived in darkness until, at the age of 14, the Lord opened my eyes. For the first time in my life I felt a longing for church. I went in and stood looking at the beauty. No service was in progress. An old woman began to tell me about the icons. I was struck how the old woman spoke of the saints represented on the icons, as if they were her friends, often using the words 'our,' 'my.' On returning home I longed for church and flew off to God's house. I stood and did not understand what the people around me were doing. But I sang in my soul. I felt such a relief that I wanted to leave all earthly worries and run to meet Him whom they were glorifying. Then I began to visit the church often on days of sorrow and days of joy. They took notice of me because the parishioners in our church are only old women. And now I learned that there exists such a book of all books--the Bible. For me that is a spiritual waterfall, never running dry, which quenches the spiritual thirst of my soul and will not cease to satisfy till the end of my days. No one will ever be able to destroy the Bible. I was given a Bible to read for a while, but I barely had time to read two books before I had to relinquish it. It was necessary to search for the source of truth--the New Testament. This was being sold in our place, but it cost 30 rubles. At that time I was enrolled in a technical school (now in the third year or four). I did not receive a scholarship, and my mother wouldn't give a single ruble, not for anything in the world, for getting spiritual literature. So I began to economize on food, on entertainment, and in a month saved 30 rubles. But there was no longer a Testament available. After half a year I managed to buy one, for which I thank God for His mercy toward me. Then I was invited to sing on cliros, which I did until friends and my mother found out about it.

        I feel drawn to God. I dream of becoming a priest. I wish to teach people the Truth. I want to be a pastor and faithfully serve God and my fatherland. In 1990 I shall be 18 and will begin to go to church without fear, like an adult, and will try with God's help to enter a seminary. If it is God's will I shall become a priest. But I know so little. The priest tells me: live according to the Gospel and imitate the Holy Fathers. But how can I live according to the Bible if I have hardly read it? He promised to get me one, but that was over a year ago. There were some Bibles for sale, but on a scholarship of 30 rubles, half of which goes to my parents, there's no chance of buying one. The cheapest Bibles here cost 70 rubles; expensive ones--300. I don't understand why they're so expensive. About other spiritual books one can only dream. You often broadcast Live of Saints, but where are those books among us? Are they published only in your country? If you have spiritual literature sold at prices lower than ours, I beg you to send me a Bible and if only the Life of my Saint--St. Sergius of Radonezh, of whom I know almost nothing. Help me, please. I will work nights to pay for the books and expenses...

May the Lord bless your good deeds. With esteem, respect   and Christian love for you,

Sergius, Tikhoretsk


      On February 25 I listened to your broadcast, "Religion in Our Lives." I really liked it and decided therefore to write. It was most interesting to hear about the Mystery of Repentance---Confession, about how to prepare for confession, how to confess. To be honest,' I :envy believers; in a moment they can relieve their souls from sin.

      I myself am a half-believer, if one can put it this way. Until recently active atheist propaganda was conducted in our country. I myself was a "convinced" atheist. In our history classes it was driven into us that there is no God, that all priests are only trying to get rich at the expense of others' misfortunes. Two years ago, however, a new teacher of literature came to our class, and she opened our eyes. During lessons she read to us excerpts from the Bible; she brought the magazine “Science and Religion" she told us about the spiritual value of religion, about God, about the soul. And we saw the true face of religion. We understood that religion bears within it man's pure ideal.

      I believe in God. I call myself a "half-believer" because not once in my life have I been in church nor have I read the Bible.

   Here I shall end. Good-bye! Be with God!

Alexander, 16 years old, Karagandinsk region