On Some Humble Heroes of Our Time

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled… Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy... Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt. 5:6, 8, 10).

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Originally appeared at: Orthodox Christianity

Anna

She was going nowhere. Later she would work in a mobile theater with which she would tour all over Russia, make things for sale on an old home knitting machine, work in a store selling recycled materials and do much, much more to somehow sustain herself and earn at least some income in the crazy 1990s. But now Anna was walking along a long corridor of the theater, over and over again replaying the entire conversation with the director in her mind and convincing herself for the umpteenth time that she couldn’t have done otherwise.

The theater was staging a play about Tsar Nicholas II, in which they slung mud at the Tsar-Martyr and indeed at all that was sacred for Anna and every Orthodox Christian. She got the role of Princess Vyrubova, lady-in-waiting to the last Russian Tsarina, and, although it didn’t directly touch the theme of faith, Anna didn’t want to participate in it. The last conversation with the director had been very difficult. St. Nicholas II wasn’t yet canonized by the Moscow Patriarchate, but it was beyond her strength to take part in such a pasquinade for a low-level public.

Not only Anna left; the leading theater actor to whom the director had intended to offer the role of St. Nicholas II, along with other actors of the company, left in protest as well. The play was staged in spite of everything, but the production didn’t last long and was removed from the repertoire. As for the director, he met a bad end...

Afterwards, years later, they would ask her again and again to come back—after five years, and after eight years... But now she was walking along the corridor of her once favorite, and now alien theater. She was walking, without imagining even vaguely what she would do to survive in that difficult, unstable time for everybody, when losing a job was the worst trial...

Irina

Irina was taking home a thin, clumsy teenage girl in oversized orphanage clothes. She still had no idea what would come of it, but she believed that she would do everything in her power and even more to raise and establish this abandoned child who didn’t know affection, who had lived in an orphanage her entire short life. Her birth was very complicated—she was pulled out with forceps. And when the child was born, the mother was told that the girl would be sick all her life and it would be better to leave her right there in the hospital.

When Irina was asked: “Why do you need a sick child who you can never cure?” she replied, “Everybody wants the healthy, but nobody here wants the sick!”

The girl didn’t know how to do elementary things. Even her appearance was different from ordinary, healthy children. But this didn’t stop Irina. Her desire to give warmth and love, to care for others was so great... She always lived like that, never passing by someone else’s misfortune. She took on any hard work, and fed all the cats and dogs in the area. One can only guess how she managed to save money from her meager income and help those in need...

And what Herculean efforts it must have taken her to give a sick girl a start in life in the 1990s, instilling in her all the social skills, giving her an education, providing her with all she needed! And she didn’t think it was anything special at all. Irina always lived without standing out, without complaining, without grumbling. She swept the streets, washed the entrances of appartment buildings, and never asked anyone for help.

Only after her death were photographs found indicating that she descended from an old aristocratic family, and was related to the philosopher Vladimir Solovyov...

Nikolai

Nikolai was going to the hospital, finally making the decision that his conscience was dictating to him. Dmitry, his current wife’s ex-husband—the man from whom he had long and zealously protected his beloved woman—was there after ruining himself by drinking, sick and helpless. Nikolai considered himself somehow guilty before Dmitry because in effect he had led his wife away, protecting her and her son (whom he very quickly began to consider as his own) from contact with him. Of course, Dmitry himself was to blame, since his addiction to drinking had ruined his family. When Dmitry constantly came home drunk, quarrels would give way to periods of gloomy calm, when his wife was afraid to approach him and their son tried not to catch his father’s eye...

And now Nikolai was going to the hospital to pick up that completely degraded man from there and bring him to his (Nikolai’s) home. Not everyone understood him, some gave the screw-loose sign, because now everything was fine with Nikolai—he had a wife and a stepson who called him “dad”. But he couldn’t just leave Dmitry and live as if nothing had happened. He brought him home and didn’t leave him alone, trying to prevent him from taking up his old habit again. Whenever Nikolai went out for a walk with the child he took Dmitry along, since it was impossible to leave him alone at home. Acquaintances were surprised whenever they met Nikolai, sincerely misunderstanding him and making fun of him. But he paid no attention to them and continued to look after Dmitry until he became well enough to overcome, although not completely, his addiction to drinking and start living on his own.

The boy has grown up. He regards Nikolai as his father, and having seen such an example of mercy and compassion from childhood, he himself will probably never be able to pass by a person who has found himself in a difficult situation, albeit through his own fault.

Marina

Marina was walking from the church. The conversation with her father-confessor was short. Marina knew his position, but still wanted to talk. She now needed support, the approval of at least one person who knew her.

Yes, you cannot have an abortion, an abortion is in any case a murder, whether it is a desired child or not!

For the hundredth time Marina was replaying the events of that night in her mind: Why did she stay late at the party? Why didn’t she see the catch in an unknown guest’s insistent offer to drive her home? Why didn’t she jump out of the car? “It would have been better to get smashed up than to endure this!...”

Everyone turned away from Marina. Her grown-up daughters, to whom she had had to tell everything, tried to persuade her to have an abortion, saying: “You are bringing disgrace on us! Think what people will say! How will we look into our neighbors’ eyes? How will we answer them?!” Her friends tried to convince Marina that the baby would be only a problem, a burden, that she wouldn’t be able to accept and love it. “Anyway,” they said, “giving birth now, at your age, no one knows by whom, with two adult daughters of marriageable age—is madness!”

Marina didn’t listen to anyone. She couldn’t imagine how it was possible to kill the life in one’s womb, even if it’s unwanted! That doesn’t make murder something good!

Eventually Marina gave birth to a baby girl. Having lost the support of her relatives, Marina raised her on her own without shying away from the most menial and hardest work.

Now her daughter is fifteen, and Marina doesn’t regret having refusing the abortion at all. The girl is deeply religious, clever, beautiful and her mother’s support in everything.

And Marina was once again convinced that the Lord never leaves a person, if only he doesn’t agree to sin. Indeed, the Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy (Ps. 146:11).

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