AND BLESSED DUNIUSHKA OF USSURUISK, RUSSIA (+ 1918)
AND BLESSED DUNIUSHKA OF USSURUISK, RUSSIA (+ 1918)
By Vladimir Moss
Blessed Duniushka appeared among us soon after the end of the Russo- Japanese War. Whence she came, none knew. She would usually come to our town in the summertime, departing with the arrival of cold weather. Whither she went, none knew. I do not recall Duniushka’s presence in my early childhood, but I would chance to meet her in our house later on, and sometimes to be present at her conversations with my elders. She was respected in the town – and somewhat feared. The peasant-women often turned to her for advice on household and family matters; they would confide their women’s woes to her, attending to her words and trusting her. But such popularity weighed heavily on Duniushka, although she realized that this was the way she had to travel to her targeted goal in life; then the cross which she had consciously taken upon herself would not appear to be beyond her strength to bear. She never gave precise replies to the questions asked of her. Her arguments could be understood in a twofold manner; and there were even times when she would reply sharply to some questions. "How’s that, my dear? I’m no prophet – how can I know? " And then she would add, quietly: "It will be as you say, my dove, if you but pray properly for it." To another question, she responded with an unclear reply, and the woman felt that Duniushka was leaving something unsaid. "Well, what is one to do?" she would usually reply." Maybe it won’t be as you say; be patient – it means that you haven’t yet merited it. The Lord knows, after all, what will be best for you. Don’t try to find out – I’ll say a prayer," she would add, with a sigh.
Sometimes there would be moments when she would be inspired to "speak." Then she would become transformed, in full view of everyone: she would appear to grow taller; her cheeks would acquire a rosy hue; her voice would sound loud and self-assured; her eyes would gleam unnaturally, illumining her entire face. At such times, she would be listened to with bated breath.... At first she would speak with a restrained voice, with only the expression on her face changing; gradually, she would grow ecstatic and her voice would grow stronger, as she no longer restrained it – and quickly, very quickly, as though afraid that she might be stopped, she would continue hastily: " Blood! Blood! People will end their lives in martyrdom!… The Holy will be desecrated!… Brother will rise up against brother! The Nation will lose her Gosudar’ [Sovereign]!… Oy!" would burst forth from her lips, with some sort of hopeless moan.… But what she said was not comprehensible to anyone at the time…
I recall Duniushka as already being an old woman: skinny, of tiny stature, – she appeared very cheerful and lively. Her face was unwrinkled, retaining its sweet appearance. Her eyes, in particular, stood out; with her gaze, she would pierce anyone with whom she was speaking, and rarely was that person able to bear it. She was always cleanly attired, in a long, dark skirt and a light-colored blouse, over which she wore a small, dark kurmushka [jacket]. The white scarf on her head was always neatly tied at her chin. During the summer, she would wear lapotochki [small bast-sandals]; in the winter, valenki [felt boots] and a poorly-fitting shuba [fur coat]. She always exuded a scent of rose-oil or incense, and wherever she had been present, the aroma would remain long after she had left. I would ask my father why Duniushka gave off such an aroma – and my father would explain it to me thus:
"Duniushka leads a different kind of life; she is a person given to strict fasting and prayer – she eats no meat or fish; on the days [that the Church has] appointed [for fasting], she nourishes herself with milk and vegetables – mostly raw, and even then, without eating her fill. On Wednesdays and Fridays she eats nothing at all. She has no place to call her own, where she might go to rest, such as a home. During the summer, the peasants see her in the fields or in the forest, whither she goes to be alone -- apparently for prayer -- spending long periods of time upon her knees. It is much more difficult for her in the wintertime. No one knows where she spends her time during the cold winter nights. For people such as Duniushka, food and drink cease being necessities. Usually, their bodies become permeated by spiritual vibrations. As a result of refraining on the physical plane, they obtain power on the spiritual one – and, as a result of prayer and ascetic podvigs [exploits], they might well be endowed with miracle-working abilities, even during their lifetimes. Under such conditions, Duniushka cannot emit an unpleasant smell. We know of many similar cases from the Lives of the Saints."
Duniushka acted like a peasant-woman, but rumours circulated about that she had been the wife of a prominent chinovnik [government official]. Having lost her beloved husband, having early become a widow, she had chosen for herself "the way of a wanderer for the sake of Christ." She patiently bore this cross with honour to the end of her life, never departing from the appointed rules…
Before the German War of 1914, Duniushka again often repeated her prognostications of calamities which seemingly were to come upon the land. No one thought of war. After all, the Japanese War had but recently ended; the nation was recuperating from military action, life had begun to settle down into a normal routine, and then -- suddenly -- war again! Duniushka, after all, "never cast her words upon the wind!" -- "Brother will rise up against brother! They will destroy everything acquired by their ancestors…. They will sweep away religion, and -- most importantly -- there will be no master in the land!" The master in the land, of course, is the Tsar’ – God’s Anointed One! He cannot go anywhere! Duniushka ‘s predictions were incomprehensible….
Before the war started, my father was transferred to a new parish in the Cossack stanitsa [encampment] on the Chinese border. Our family took it hard, parting with the Ussuriisk Region and their native "Uspenka." There were no such beauties of nature in the new locality as those for which the Ussuriisk Region was renowned. Mother had her own problem: it was necessary to part with her beloved farm – with the cow, the horse, with the domestic fowl…. We were moving to different surroundings, and Mama took it hard…. Duniushka would often come by; she liked to have some tea from Mama’s samovar. She and Mama were both great tea-drinkers. After dinner, I was sometimes given permission to spend some time in the dining room. From childhood, I had liked to draw and copy the pictures from my favorite magazine, "NIVA." Thus, being present during Duniushka’s conversations with Mama, I would become an invisible witness of what was said….
A month before our departure, Duniushka came to say her farewells. It was the end of summer. In the dining room, the silence was broken by the samovar, releasing hissing steam. Mama poured out the just-steeped, fresh tea. It was cozy. In the front corner burned an unquenchable lampadka [a tiny votive-lamp]. I sat quietly with my pencils and with my "NIVA." And I knew that I would never again see Duniushka. Today, there was much that she promised to tell Mama…. And she said: "Don’t grieve that you’re leaving ‘Uspenka’. It will be easier to bear the world’s woes where you’re going. This trouble will come upon everyone and grind them up, as though in a meat-grinder. It won’t touch Batiushka [Reverend Father], though, and many will later envy him." (She bent over, closer to Mama, and said something to her, quietly)…. "The war will end, and its end will turn the whole country upside-down. Insurgents will appear – leaders – who will incite the people against the Tsar’.… It will be terrible!"…
Duniushka appeared pale, with faded eyes, and it was as though she did not have enough air to breathe…. "And later, they will seize upon religion. They will sweep away that which has been gathered through the ages and assiduously preserved by our ancestors. But it will be impossible for them to root it out; the roots will remain – and, after many years, they’ll give forth a most-beautiful bloom and fruit…. The Tsar’ will leave the nation, which shouldn’t be, but this has been foretold to him from Above. This is His destiny. There is no way that He can evade it." Being briefly quiet and, as it were, having gathered her thoughts, she added: "For this, He will receive a martyr’s crown on earth, for which He’ll receive, subsequently, an eternal crown, a Heavenly one…. He will be a prayerful Zastupnik [Intercessor] for the nation and the people, when the chastisement fallen upon dozens of generations for the harm done to God’s Anointed One will reach an end…. The generations to come will bear the responsibility for this act on the part of their ancestors. The disaster in the land," (she had the revolution in mind) "will disperse the people; they will be scattered to various countries, losing touch with one another. But, wherever Russians go, they will bring their culture and their religion.
At the far end of Russia, there will be an enormous earthquake. The waters will break out of the ocean, flooding the continent, and many nations will perish. Many diseases beyond understanding will appear…. The face of the earth will change…. The people will comprehend their guilt; they will come to understand how far they have departed from God and from His teachings, and then they will begin to be reborn spiritually, gradually being cleansed physically, as well. People will become vegetarians. By that time, many animals will have vanished. The horse and the dog will only be seen in pictures; and later – the cow, the goat, and the sheep will disappear forever from our planet…. People will no longer be interested in politics, and the spiritual principle of each nation will predominate…" Duniushka paused momentarily. I was left with the impression, looking at her and listening to her prophecy, – that she had grown extremely tired.
We thought that she had already finished her prophesying, but then, suddenly, with a great surge of energy, she continued: "Russia will be supreme in the world. Her name will be Holy Russia. All sects and religions will pour into Orthodoxy…. But Orthodoxy, and -- essentially speaking -- religion, will draw closer to what it was in Apostolic times. . . . In those centuries to come, there will no longer be any Tsars or Korols [Kings]. In Holy Russia a Kniaz [Prince/Duke] will reign, who will come from the nation that gave us our religion [i.e., Byzantium (See the relevant prophecies of St. Methodius of Patara]. He will be a supremely spiritual person, who will provide the opportunity for uplifting the moral fibre and the spiritual principles of the nation…
In the course of one of those centuries, Asia will bestir herself; she will try to penetrate into Europe, but her attempts will be futile. No one will ever overcome Holy Russia, and only through her will salvation come to the world…. Keep my words secret until my death. She [i.e., Death] already waits for me; she’s not beyond the hills. And you, Matushka, [Reverend Mother], will have to suffer cruelly; you will endure everything in a Christian manner; you will lose your children; but, later, fate will be kind to you – you will meet again…"
In 1918, we received a sad bit of news. On Uspienije [the Feastday of the Dormition of the Most-Holy Mother of God, in the large selo [village] of V., according to his custom, Father Serafim was celebrating the Liturgy. With shouts and curses, a group of the "local authorities" burst into the Church. They grabbed Father Serafim and, just as he was – in his riza [vestments] and his poruchi [liturgical cuffs] – they hanged him upon the Royal Doors [the central doors in the wall which separates the sanctuary of a Russian Orthodox Church from the nave]. Duniushka rushed to his defense, and was slain immediately with a ramrod.
Mama later told me that all of Duniushka’s predictions concerning our family had come to pass…. I have tried to record, in this, my diary, everything that I had once heard personally, having been present at my Mama’s meeting with Duniushka…
Excerpted from the Diary of V. Zarskaya-Altayeva.Translated into English by G. Spruksts, from the Russian text appearing in "The Russian Community Bulletin of Seattle", vol. 16, No. 161, March 1986, pp. 3 - 6. English language translation copyright © 1986, 2002 (with revisions) by The Russian Cultural Heritage Society, The St. Stefan of Perm' Guild, and the Translator.