Sophia V. Goodman, “Fr. Michael Would Open This Bag and Say, “Fill, Fill, Fill!”
Mrs Sophia Goodman, now aged 83, was born in London in 1930 to Count Wladimir and Countess Maria Kleinmichel (née Carlow). Mrs Goodman’s father, who had arrived in England as a penniless exile in the early 1920’s, became a merchant banker in the City of London, and also was appointed by the Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, the sister of the slain Tsar, to be the Comptroller of her household. Both the Count and the Countess were veritable pillars of the parish of the London Russian Orthodox Church in Exile. The Countess was the Patron of the parish Sisterhood of Saint Xenia for the last 20 years of her life; she passed away in 1979. The Count was both Treasurer and Starosta of the parish for more than 40 years, and it was his prudent care of the meagre resources of the parish that paved the way for building the London Russian Orthodox Cathedral (ROCOR). Following the death of Count Kleinmichel in 1981, his daughter, Sophia Vladimirovna Goodman, became Starosta. It was while Mrs Goodman was Starosta that the ROCOR London parish found the courage (and the resources) to buy a plot of land in west London, on which today stands the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God and the Holy Royal Martyrs, an everlasting testimony to the faithful devotion of the Kleinmichel family to the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
Nicoals Mabin, 2013
sSophia Vladimirovna Goodman: My mother came to England from Prince Islands. When they left with the Australians, with her husband’s family, after her husband (Golitsyn) died there (he used to lead royal hunt) then she took the children and their nanny and came to England.
They settled in London, while her older sister, who was already there, Katya Galitzine, soon obtained, with her husband, on an old farm called Chessington Field. There was a fairly large house there, and every Sunday she used to invite everyone from church who wanted to come to lunch. The entire choir would come almost every week. But the choir was not very big. But it was a village at the time. Now there are houses, houses, houses. It’s all London by now. But then it was a village.
This was in ’22 or ’23; they lived there with their three mischievous children. They grew up there, and then went to boarding schools. But all of this happened prior to the Second World War. So Chessington, as everyone called it, was a place where various Russians could go and relax or what-have-you in the fresh air.
Deacon Andrei: Was it close [to London]?
SVG: Yes, it wasn’t far. Now one can get there by train in seven or ten minutes. It’s part of London. There’s a zoo there. She was an incredible person [Aunt Katya], she was just …
Dcn A.: And your mother?
SVG: My mother was of an altogether different sort. But she loved all of this as well. Yes, yes, we went often. The money was hers and Aunt Katya’s.
Dcn A.: Were there other such old pre-revolutionary households abroad?
SVG: No. Because, you see, when the First World War started, the Tsar took all the money from abroad, except from Germany. He couldn’t take it from Germany, because there was war. It was thought that all the aristocrats who had money abroad should give it back to Russia for the war. And almost everyone did this. The only people who couldn’t do this were the merchants. They had to have money, so that’s why some of them had money in London. Or like the Trubetskoys, who had a big house in Paris (Clamart). They couldn’t simply close it just like that, and they still had it when they left. But this was a very big family with a big house. I can say that they were very generous with the poor when they came.
Dcn A.: The Trubetskoys, you mean?
SVG: Yes, the Trubetskoys and the Yusupovs.
Dcn A.: But the Yusupovs were in London, right? Yusupov himself, who shot Rasputin.
SVG: Yes. He was. He himself married the eighteen-year-old niece of Alexander III, Irina, who was the eldest daughter of Xenia Alexandrovna. This saved him after the business with Rasputin. Then everything had broken up already, and they sent him to the South of Russia on his own. They didn’t let him live in Petersburg or Moscow. This was a sort of punishment; Grand Prince Dmitri Pavlovich sent him to Persia and he wound up with the English ambassador. At that time he was just a boy. But this is a different story.
My aunt, my mother too, was from Chessington, and everyone came there. They had a colonel with one leg. For some reason, he was supposed to teach the children Russian. They already knew it somewhat. But they teased him. I remember this. I was always there. I was awfully afraid of him, because when he spoke he would bark, like in the army. Then Mrs. Arapov, who had sons also taught there. She was a widow and lived alone and also needed to speak Russian.
So she gathered people together whom she needed, so to speak, so Chessington was always packed. There was a little house church there, very small. I remember this all very well, although it all ended in ’34.
I was no older than four. So Vladyka Nikolai [Karpov] came there with some monks. He had three or four monks. He was always organizing the little boys, and they were all acolytes. But this was church life. We went there almost every summer. But later this all got too expensive. Money was running out. They [the Yusupov's] had a sort of antique store, and Uncle Vava was always doing something profitable there. People loved her. She had such a spirit.
Dcn A.: What do you mean “a spirit”?
SVG: Yes, she had such a deep spirituality. Had she not been married she could have become a nun. She was completely that way. I find it strange that people wind up in families yet have a strange need for religion, like she had. One of her nephews had it too. He wasn’t particularly Orthodox, because father was all over the place, although he knew the services by heart, her youngest son. Because I stood next to him at funerals, then Emmanuel, who was almost never in church except on Pascha or great feasts. But then I heard him recite by heart almost the entire service. He lived in Peru, in Argentina, and then came back to England. Then he lost this money. He was in southern Ireland at the time of the war. There he married a young lady, so many years old. She was from northern England, where they had three children. They were married for sixty years, and then they died. She died not long ago. He led her to Orthodoxy.
Dcn A.: It’s interesting that most of the people [of the ROCOR] who were active during the War came out for the other side — they sided with the Germans, even here in America. (There was almost no Russian Church Abroad in America at that time.) But here we have your relatives, who were in the Air Force and the Navy. This is quite out of the ordinary for people of the Russian Church Abroad.
SVG: Yes. My brother was also in the army. But he was killed in Holland, when they attacked with parachutes, near Arnhem on the border of Holland and Belgium. There they told him to take a bridge. The Dutch ran up and asked please not to blow it up, saying that there, were the snipers were sitting, half of the village was hiding in a basement. This was a big, old building. He said okay, we’ll seize it then; we won’t blow it up, and all this. And just then one of them shot him. So he was a hero. This was all fate. Just when the Germans attacked Stalin, he said that he wanted to go to Hungary. At that time he was an officer. He wanted to go to Hungary and fight against the Bolsheviks. But even his own colonel and my father told him: You’re a complete fool. No one will take you, and they’ll throw you in jail right away. Then he calmed down. He loved the army life very much.
Dcn A.: Did he go to church?
SVG: Yes. He went, and he was killed. Here’s something I find very strange. Later there was a man with us. He was an architect with a Russian name, but he changed it. He had a son who studied to be a doctor for six years. He was traveling to Belgium and there was an airplane crash and they all died. Also with them was Kadloubovsky, and he especially went to church, and all of the young people and his father were very faithful. They all went to church together.
Dcn A.: Right now I’m looking at the English translation of the Philokalia. I believe Kadloubovsky took part in this.
SVG: That was his father and aunt. They helped Mr. Palmer. They were great friends, because Mr. Palmer was an Englishman. You know about this. But he was older than they, and he ran a relief association in Germany near Lübeck. There a young Vladyka Vitaly (Ustinov) was a young priest, and they became friends. He was a very spiritual man, this Gerald Palmer. He personally converted to Orthodoxy there.
Dcn A.: Through Vladyka Vitaly, you mean?
SVG: Yes. Fr. George Cheremetieff was there too. They were together, so to speak.
Dcn A.: Did Fr. George serve with the Germans?
SVG: Yes. Because he was from Paris and was married to my mother’s sister-in-law, a Galitzine, the sister of Boris, my mother’s husband.
Dcn A.: Sophia Vladimirovna, I lost you at the point when you began to speak about the fact that those young people who were believers were taken from this life. Is this what you wanted to say?
SVG: Yes. Because after the war very few young people were left to us from that generation, my generation, you might say, although a little bit older.
Dcn A.: Is Mother Elizabeth related to this?
SVG: Yes, and of course the Ampenoffs. They were merchants and part of our life, you might say, passed under the influence of the Ampenoff family. Because Fyodor Ivanovich was also Russian, and he had a Russian grocery store. He would come to us, because at that time we lived north of London, and he would come once every two weeks in his own little — not a truck, but a van.
He used to come and talk with us for hours in the kitchen. His wife was a great friend of my nanny. That’s how I always remember them, like he was there and a nanny too. There was someone else. They would all sit in the kitchen and talk about something for hours.
Fr A: Didn’t Vladyka Anthony Khrapovitsky stay with the Ampenoffs when he came for the consecration of Vladyka Nikolai in London?
SVG: He stayed with them. Yes. Yes. Because they had a fairly large, not quite large, but sufficient house. This was in the north (of London) and was very close to Hampstead Heights. It was high up, so the air was a little better. At that time there were awful fogs (pea soup fog). It wasn’t from the weather but from there being too much coal smoke from all the houses. Now they don’t allow this. Sometimes in winter you couldn’t see. You’d walk out and there would be this fog — smog. But that’s all ended now.
Dcn A.: So the Ampenoffs was one family, and your Kleinmichel family was another? Were these the pillars of the church, like you?
SVG: Yes, but you see, my father came here completely accidentally at age nineteen. He left because his father had been killed in Crimea. He was just working there. There was no money for him in this part of Crimea. He became very influential there through his own labour. He worked not only in cherry orchards, but in apple orchards also. One day the person in charge just told him to go somewhere, to get something from somewhere.
Dcn A.: This was your grandfather?
SVG: Yes My grandfather. But he never came back. Later they found his corpse. Months had gone by. They only recognized him because he had no teeth. He was always such that if he had a pain in his tooth he’d say, “That’s enough,” and that was that. So he had not a single tooth and was only forty-two.
Dcn A.: When did he die?
SVG: Yes. There were children already. Papa was eighteen, and my two aunts. One was older and one was younger. But they were all close in age. My grandmother left on a British cruiser. It went to Yalta to get Empress Maria Feodorovna. Because Maria Feodorovna had a sister who was Alexandra, Queen of England and Princess of Denmark, and George V loved them very much. The Danes were like a window on the world for the whole royal family, because prior to that they’d been surrounded by Germans. They’d all had enough of them. But there one could be happy and everyone laughed; it was a totally different atmosphere, so that they were always elated when they went to Denmark.
Dcn A.: They were happy that it wasn’t necessary to marry someone from Germany?
SVG: Yes. So he particularly befriended his cousin Xenia Alexandrovna and therefore took her into the family, although not with her husband, since they’d already separated. Then the tsar took the aunt and uncle of my father to look after the house and the princess, the children, and everything personal, because he was Prince Arbeliani, while she was a Kleinmichel (née Mesherskaya) and he’d known them from childhood.
Dcn A.: Did Great Duchess Xenia come to London before the revolution?
SVG: No. She, with my mother … a good book has come out … she’s our friend (Marlborough) because the ship was “Marlborough.” This was 1920 or 1919 I don’t remember everything because everyone was together on the “Marlborough.” It took the empress and the Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, and all her sons, and of course also the servants Arbelian and Tizuverov, and the Dolgorukys also; because they were all in the circle of Xenia Alexandrovna and the empress. So they a left on the Marlborough. But the empress said, “No, I’m not moving, because in Yalta are all my friends, and all the people who must get out before the Bolsheviks come.” The admiral tried to get her to move, but she said no. So he quickly called a cruiser-destroyer. Finally they got all the people who were there in Yalta, in Crimea. There were a lot of people in Crimea. This was the emigration from that part of Russia. The other, of course, was through Finland. People left, and then others left later, because of the Germans after Brest-Litovsk. That was when they took part of the Ukraine, they took Pskov. So when that was over they were able, after the War, to go back to Germany, and the mass of Russians went with them.
Dcn A.: So it was 1919 when your father came here. Not 1920, rather, but 1919.
SVG: Yes, I think it was 1919. He came in ’19, because they’d left them on Malta, but not the princess and the empress. But it seems to me that they came over on a different boat. But they weren’t left. Other people were left. Some went to Italy, others to France, and some wound up in England, although it was hard to wind up in England in those days. But my father, just a boy at the time, was taken by one of the captains of some sort of warship, which was going back to England, because he said that he wanted to be in the English army. At the time the war was ending, but England was still sending two regiments to Archangelsk, and my father wanted to wind up there. But when he got to London and went to the War Office they told him that the army did not accept cripples. He was crippled from birth.
But since he spoke English well, and on Malta they still didn’t know what to do with all these people, they said, “Here’s a work permit. Go do whatever you can.” That’s how he wound up here, because he could speak four languages. He didn’t speak German particularly well, but he spoke English, French and Russian very well. So they took him into a company that had goods from Poland and various other countries. He spent most of his life there. Because these big companies in England, you know, had all come to an end.
Dcn A.: When the empire fell?
SVG: No. There was a disastrous financial crisis.
Dcn A.: The same as in America?
SVG: Yes. And then his company simply went under. It was all the more lucky for him that he’d already made friends. He was the same age as the son of a man who ran a big bank, and he was there with him. They had a very uneven relationship because one was very rich. They became very good friends, and when this happened, he said, “Yes, we have a position for you somewhere.” And they helped him in all circumstances, but it was much less money. But they got a place for six pounds a month in 1931. By then he’d already married my mother and had two children. They had a nanny and somewhere they got a cook.
At that time the Ampenoffs were in the North, and they had taken my father in when he travelled there. He had a place which he offered. It was three pounds per week. But papa already understood money. He understood that at that time in Germany money was falling, while for the English pound you could get nice room and something to eat. So he sent them [to Germany] three pounds a week and they could live on that. It was quite enough for him himself there, but he had a room with breakfast in Chelsea for five shillings. That’s a quarter of a pound. Once he was fed well at the Grand Duchess’s and another time he ate with the beggars at Sloane Square, where there was a soup kitchen. This was after the war, and it wasn’t good there. But after this he advanced pretty quickly. He always remained thankful to the Ampenoffs. Later when he was married in 1929 he left for church from their house with their blessing.
Dcn A.: How did it come about that your father was so connected with the church?
SVG: Papa, because he had his own thing, which was medical, as everyone knows. People didn’t understand why, but they knew that some children were being born who, for some reason, as it happened, couldn’t walk. At that time they had an x-ray. He told me that in 1905 there were machines from which sparks came out and they would produce some sort of photograph. No one understood it, and they thought that he had tuberculosis. At any rate he stayed with the nanny in France because there was some sort of sanitarium there for people. Grandmother came, and grandfather, every year and visited him. So he spent almost five years there with the nanny, and then he went back to Russia. He was lame and walked on crutches. As soon as they opened the relics of St. Seraphim of Sarov they took him there. When he got there he was on crutches, but he went away without crutches. I don’t know how this happened, but he always considered it a miracle, so to speak, and that’s how they brought me up as well. So this was a big thing. And after that he entered the Lyceum. He was twelve years old at the time. This was about 1913. And he was better. He graduated and then the revolution began, but he was still lame. This wasn’t noticeable at the time, but now this is something chronic in our family. It’s very strange, because now one of my little nieces walks that way. After two years they took her to the doctor, and he said right away that this was because she had a thigh that wasn’t right, that hadn’t grown sufficiently, and this is a thing that they know all about now. I even remember that after six weeks the Sisters of Mercy came and picked up a child by the feet, then let him go. When the child is younger than six months this is a routine operation which they do now. But it’s very uncomfortable because the child has to be in a cast for almost three months; they have a special sort of cast. We had an Anglican priest who had a child, and I remembered that they always wore them like that. But after that they can play football, or whatever they want. Now this is just a routine thing. But now I’m talking about different families. I say to my family, “If you originate from papa, you should examine that lame thing more carefully.”
Dcn A.: So as a result he was a serious believer?
Dcn A.: I understand that at first there was an embassy church in London.
SVG: Yes, but you know, you’ve seen the book [by Protodeacon Christopher Birchall on the history of the Russian parish in London is being published by Holy Trinity Monastery]. Nicolas [Mabin] helped and did everything very accurately in the old way. There were also some sort of [Russian] sailors there, and there are graves around Hayling Island, near Portsmouth and Southampton. But this was in the 1600′s, you know.
Later, at the time of the First World War and afterwards, the ambassador was Benckendorff. He was a Catholic, and so the embassy didn’t have a real church. Even when Alexander II built an Orthodox church in London, he was doing it for the Greeks, because there were a lot of Greeks in England. They were everywhere. And this big church was for all the Orthodox; later the Russians took the church from the embassy, on Welbeck Street. It’s still there today.
They don’t know what to do with it. It’s very small. We were even thinking about taking it but, you know, now this is Oxford Street in London, where there are stores and everything. It’s very close. You can go by foot from Oxford to Welbeck Street. So it wasn’t an especially comfortable place for refugees to go. It wasn’t in a basement; rather it was a house that had been built as a stable. Thus part of the church was on the second floor, the other part below, since that’s how the house was built. It was wonderful, the first time I saw it. It was a very nice church.
Dcn A.: And is the iconostas still there?
SVG: No. The iconostas [in the Russian church on Welbeck Street] has already been destroyed. When all the refugees came after the revolution the church was then too small. It could take about fifty people and was a very rich chapel. So when the refugees arrived they gave them a church on Buckingham Palace Road. It was big, not particularly pretty, and the Anglicans didn’t need it anymore. But at that time no one had destroyed the [old] church, so we got everything, the whole iconostas and the icons from Welbeck Street and took them over there. The icons were already dirty by then.
I remember all of this from 1934, 1935 and before that. They were there for the whole war, and as soon as the war was over things happened very quickly. There was a Coach Station and buses went from there all over England. They needed a square to pull up to and stop, because now this was a big thing. The place is still there but they took [the church] away. This all happened in 1953. The authorities said that they had to knock it down, because that was needed for London. Now there’s a square there for all of these buses.
But then the Russian Church of Moscow sent us Fr. Anthony Bloom from France, and he was a hero of resistance, a doctor and a very intelligent man. He spoke very quickly and well in English. He knew whom to address. There were a lot of very left-wing Anglican priests, for example, the ‘Red Dean of Canterbury’, and he had a big influence over a short period of time, so that they gave the church to both of us. But my father asked for a church right away, because when there were Evlogians then there could be a lot of people who just went to the big church, while those who were in the Church Abroad when to the podvoria. Fr. Nikolai Behr also had a church not far, it seems, from there. But most of the people, it seems, didn’t see any difference.
Dcn A.: Which was the main church? Fr. Nikolai’s?
SVG: No. They went to the big church, which was in common, so that one week it was the Church Abroad, and the next week the Evlogians would be there. And most of the people just went. It was all the same to them. Fr. Nikolai was very kind. We all had good relations. Nobody said, “Ah! They go here! They go there!”
Dcn A.: So, in 1926, when the division happened, it wasn’t very sharp in London?
Dcn A.: Ambassador Sablin was there too. Did he play a role?
SVG: Yes. He was there. He went to church, I’d say.
Dcn A.: He was very perspicacious and wise. He could see deeply into people, particularly Vladyka Seraphim Lukianov. He related to him very carefully.
SVG: Yes. I remember him well. He was always on good terms with his mother, and she spoke to my mother just a little bit. But my father was very much an émigré [i.e., had the attitudes of a White Russian.]
Dcn A.: How so? Did he have monarchist views?
SVG: He wasn’t a monarchist by contemporary standards. But he was much the monarchist in regard to the memory of Nikolai II, and he looked after the Grand Duchess [Emperor Nikolai II's sister] almost all his life.
There was a man named Petr Bark who served for a time as a financial minister in the government. He moved here, and many bankers respected him. He spoke English very well. I can’t say that was an especially pious man. But in any case, when the Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna arrived here, King George V said that Bark should look after her business, and they made him the head of financial matters. So he looked after the Grand Duchess. He was very pleased, and he was knighted. Of course he didn’t pay the servants’ salary, but he looked after the monthly budget.
Things were uncomfortable for the Grand Duchess, because although King George V looked after her well and gave her a trust, yet she had six sons, and almost none of them were able to find a place. Eventually two of the moved to America, and two worked there.
But it was very hard because [England] was very left-wing. There was Lloyd George, who was a very left-wing Prime Minister. He didn’t want the Russian Royal Family in England at all. So this was all somewhat hidden. It wasn’t entirely secret, but they didn’t advertise it either.
Finally they settled her in Buckingham Palace, and then they gave her a house on High Street. This was for a short time, and later he [King George] settled the Russian Royal Family in his own place in Windsor Home Park. Whenever he was in Windsor, which was fairly often, I’d see him set out every morning by himself in a bowler hat. He wasn’t tall. He’d walk to the cottage where she lived and they’d go walking in the park.
They had a nephew, Alexander, who was my age, and they wouldn’t let us go out of the house at those times. That was the important thing about it to us children. They’d say “You shouldn’t go walking there.”
There was a pond there, and they would take umbrellas so as not to be splashed by the frogs. They were very interested in all the swimming things, and they’d walk there. This happened every three days or so.
King George loved everyone very much, but Queen Mary was a very official woman and she took no part in this. But the children of George VI and the Duke of Windsor write rather amusingly about it in their memories: how there was this family at the end of the garden, so to speak, and how he’d walk there.
Dcn A.: Did Xenia Alexandrovna have relations with the Church Abroad?
SVG: Oh yes. She attended the Church Abroad.
Dcn A.: But Ambassador Sablin, if I remember correctly, usually went to the Evlogian church.
SVG: Yes, or to the big church. He didn’t go to Evlogy’s little chapel. No. But his wife probably did. Especially after the war, when Metropolitan Anthony Bloom came, she would say “He has such wonderful eyes!” This is Sablin’s wife, not the Grand Duchess. My mother would say that, of course, they went there because “he has such wonderful eyes.” Vladyka Anthony was very successful here.
Dcn A.: Do you remember Vladyka Seraphim Lukianov?
SVG: He would come, and my father would always go to the station to meet him. Then Vladyka [Metropolitan] Philaret [of New York], and when they came with the Kursk Icon, there was a council here, almost at the very beginning of 1937, when Vladyka Nestor came from China. He came here, and of course with him was the future Vladyka Nathaniel, and they brought Fr. Michael Polsky as well, because Fr. Boris Molchanov was there and he in particular didn’t make a special impression on the parishioners. Then, of course, when they understood that there were a lot of people in England, it became more important and we got Fr. Michael Polsky.
Dcn A.: And were you happy with him?
SVG: Oh yes.
Dcn A.: Was he there throughout the war?
SVG: He was remarkable. Simply incredible.
Dcn A.: Tell us about him.
SVG: He was a big man with a big beard. No one had yet seen that someone could take all of his hair and bind it with a rubber band.
[A few words here about the situation prior to WWII] Because the people who had been in Serbia understood that something awful would happen soon. They also understood that war was coming. They understood that there were Russians there and Germans, and here they are sitting in Serbia, and they wanted to be kind to all of them. It was remarkable how the Serbs regarded the refugees. They took the whole army, the remnant of General Wrangel! So some young people came to us. There weren’t very many young men, but I think thirty to forty people showed up then. I remember this because I knew everyone in the church, and then some young people appeared in the church, of which we hadn’t had many. They all started singing in the choir, and Foka Feodorovich was elated that he’d finally gotten some new voices. They’d all been in Yugoslavia, mainly Serbia, and they came here. Fr. Boris [Molchanov] didn’t pay much attention to them, but they were all attached to Fr. Michael, because they had no family here and he filled the lack. They became friends and that was all. The war began and they all had some kind of place there.Fr. Michael was like a father to them all. They all had ration books. He had one ration book. He just went down North End Road. This was a very poor section then, and they were selling everything in the shops. There were butchers there. He went, and I even remember them. He had a big leather bag (there was still no artificial leather then) and he would open this bag and say, “Fill, fill, fill!” And he only had one ration book. So they’d throw him everything there. They all loved him. Everyone would be laughing. He would drag it all home and with all the girls he would prepare it in big pots. This was all in a basement in the courtyard. He would make some kind of soup out of all of it. There was some sort of refrigerator and he would invite everyone to dinner afterwards and feed all these people. It was incredible what he did. There was another incident, when the foreign office called out priests from both parishes. Then, unfortunately, Fr. Nikolai Behr died. Fr. Theokritoff took after him.
Dcn A.: And had he also been there from the beginning?
SVG: Yes. He’d been Fr. Nikolai’s deacon. They made him a priest after just a few years, through the Greeks or something. But he was afraid when they called him to the foreign office and told him that it would be convenient for them if he would go under the Moscow Patriarchate. He agreed, and certain people from Fr. Nikolai’s parish came over to us.
Dcn A.: Why was this necessary for the British authorities? Was this during the Cold War?
SVG: No, this was when Hitler was attacking Russia.
Dcn A.: This must have been when they reestablished the patriarchate in 1943.
SVG: Yes. It was then. Of course it happened just at that time, because at first Stalin and Hitler had a pact, and then the English had propaganda that was directed as much against the Soviets as against the Germans, because they’d been allies, and the English authorities wanted to forget this. So this “Uncle Joe” business was pure hypocrisy. But when they called Fr. Michael he told them what and why and how [concerning the USSR]. Because he’d been on Solovki.
Dcn A.: Did he escape from there?
SVG: Yes. And he read all his memoirs about it to my parents when I was nine years old. He was a wondrous man. It’s because of him that I, personally, am Orthodox. Yes, because they carry a child into the church, but he …
Dcn A.: Was there sympathy for the Germans in the Russian community? Were there English Nazis?
SVG: There were a few people. There were a few families like that, who were incredibly anti-communist. Of course, everyone was anti-communist, but there were some families for whom this was like a religion, an idée fixe; but not many, although in Paris this was stronger, and Vladyka Seraphim [Metr. Lukianov] published an address telling people to support the Germans. But in order to stay in England and, so to speak, make some progress there, one had to have some brains. Some who were like that left. They went to America. Some people went to France. But those who stayed were pretty loyal British subjects.
In my family, my mother was the daughter of Duke Meitenberg-Shtirilitz. This was the youngest part of the Romanov family. They were descended from the younger brother of Nikolai I, and from Alexander I. Besides Constantine, there was also Michael, who stayed in Poland. Not many people know about him. He was in the army. But these two brothers looked after the younger one, and when he got married after the Napoleonic War to Frederica Charlotte Maria Württemberg, they built him the Mikahailovsky Court in Petersburg, which was a large palace. Who needed this in those times? Things changed. People didn’t move as much. They built it, and my great-grandmother, before she died in 1892, came to an agreement with her cousin Alexander II that when she died it should become a Russian museum. So when she had died they moved out of there entirely around 1893-94. They could only live in a small part of the place. They still had a place in Oraninbaum [on the Gulf of Finland, west of St Petersburg]. They left. The place was emptied out and turned into a Russian Museum.
My mother was one quarter German. Her mother was Russian, but her father was half Russian. There were three children. There was a fourth, but she, poor thing, died before the revolution. There was a little brother, Uncle Teddy, and also her Uncle Vutembergsky, who fought against the Germans in the Russian Army. He was an artillery man who settled in Paris after the revolution, not knowing what would happen. Then people came from Vutenberg and told him that his mansion was waiting for him. He took his cousin, my mother’s brother, with him. He also got married just about then, so as to have something of a family with him. Finally, three children lived there in Germany, and my mother traveled to Germany regularly.
First she went to visit her uncle, then her brother, and then papa. He took her into the garden, not in the house, and told her all the horrible things about the Nazis. So she knew very well what was going on in Germany. Some people were arrested or simply disappeared. No sort of illusion of about this. And they explained this in the Russian community in London. But there was one woman named Anna Wolkoff, who was obstinately anti-communist and pro-German. Her father was an admiral who himself was half English, as his mother had been and Englishwoman. He was in the Russian navy. Here they were far-right and favoured the Germans. But this ended quickly, because the war started and the English arrested her. She had transmitted correspondence [with the intention of delivering it to the Germans] between and American Embassy and America. This created a scandal in its time, but it went by very quickly. She was incarcerated throughout the war. As soon as the war ended they let her go. Again, this was pretty stupid, because they arrested almost all of the Italian waiters, in Soho and everywhere. There were quite a few of them, and politics were all the same to them. They received their main salary and lived there. They were in restaurants. But they didn’t arrest them as spies. The just called them 18d [Emergency Internment of Aliens]. Various Englishmen ended up there as well, who were far-right and thought that Oswald Mosley was excellent, and all that.
My mother visited all of them. She generally believed that one had to visit those in prison. There is an anecdote that she went to visit Admiral Volkov himself. She would have to bring things from these Italian restaurants to the poor people. She had to walk to Soho, bring bags of everything, and leave them. She went out. She went somewhere with the bags and there was a huge door. She grabbed the handle, turned to a policeman and said, “It’s locked!” The policeman said to her, “Madame, if this door was not locked, what would be the point of having all these people here?” That’s how she told it.
Dcn A.: And was Fr. Michael there with you throughout the war?
SVG: Yes, throughout the war, and this was excellent.
Dcn A.: But his Matushka stayed in Russia?
SVG: Yes, and his daughter, who left after he died. She left the USSR with her husband. But Fr. Michael, there in the Foreign Office, spoke, left, and everything [regarding ecclesiastical jurisdiction] remained as it always was. But after the war, when some nuns wanted to come here my father got the visas together for them all, so he wound up in the Foreign Office a few times. Once when he was there about these visas a tall man came up to him and said, “What happened to that priest of yours, Fr. Michael?”
Papa said, “He went back to America. He is in San Francisco.”
“Ah yes. Well you know he produced an enormous impression on me because his parishioners would come and say against him that he mentioned in his sermons occasionally that you shouldn’t support the Russians. But he said, I know who it is. It’s Mr. So-and-so. They all come and have lunch with me on Sunday.”
Dcn A.: So he demonstrated a Christian attitude. This is interesting, because in all of the communities, as for instance in China there were people who reported to the Japanese and later went to America. But why did he go to San Francisco?
SVG: It’s my impression that he went there because there it wasn’t necessary to be so furiously opposed to the American Church, because Vladyka Anastassy and Vladyka Leonty used to meet every day and drink coffee together; they’d been in seminary together. But people were muttering all around. Everyone was saying, “where are you going? [i.e., what jurisdiction?]” Because when I got married we went to America. And there in New York there were people who’d been in the Lyceum with my father and we spent time together. At first we went to Engalychev, who favoured the Synodal church. He’d been in the army or some sort of American organization, and they’d sent him to England, so that he was in England for the last year of the War. And there was a Mr. Ryabov, who was an architect. He’d spent his whole life in America. He built a church in his garage. He had great success with the church in Sea Cliff for the other Leonty. Someone said to me, you should be very careful because these two aren’t talking and we don’t understand why.
Then the Metropolitans spoke together and around them was all this and that and this happened because I understood that the same thing happened in Canada and then again Vladyka Vitaly, whom I knew well because he stayed there after Fr. Michael left.
They wanted to have as many experienced and respected people as possible in America. Everything went to America, and there we got a big church on Park Avenue, and life was fine.
Fr. Michael Polsky went straight to San Francisco in order to struggle and he was very much opposed to the patriarchal church. This was all sixty years ago. He was very opposed, and so was my sister. She understood a lot about the church then. She knew a lot about Metropolitan Leonty’s church because she had excellent English and excellent Russian. This was very rare. She’d been in Oxford. But at any rate she knew people from both parishes, and she certainly considered one to be worse than the other. She always went to church, and whenever she went to Switzerland for the U.N., she always made sure to go to our church. She helped Vladyka Anthony with various problems in Jerusalem because she had a good salary with the U.N.
Dcn A.: And Vladyka Vitaly came right after that?
SVG: And then it began. I won’t say anything else, but for me it was very hard, because then during the war I used to wear skirts. Everybody who worked in factories anywhere did this. There the women wore skirts, so this was normal for me. But I didn’t understand why women had to wear headscarves, especially since the ladies wore hats. But I considered these hats to be radical and I was not about to wear a hat. I was about sixteen or eighteen. It was all very strict from this point of view, because they were also monks, and I can somewhat understand. When he was Metropolitan, in one of those years, Zina, like me, went up to him and said, “Oh, Vladyka, I used to be so afraid of you. You were so strict. And here now you’re laughing.” And he said, “Yes. But then I was a young monk and I was afraid of women. Now I’m already sixty and I don’t care.”
Dcn A.: But he was also here for a short time, then they sent him to Uruguay.
SVG: Yes. That was a big mistake. Not that they sent him to Uruguay, but that they sent him away from here. That was a shame.
Dcn A.: He was beginning to open parishes here?
SVG: Precisely. He did well because from the time of his arrival people from the camps started to come. England received 10,000 [displaced] people. America received 100,000. But South America received only a few. England received 10,000 workers. It wasn’t like the first time [after the Russian Civil War] when they let very few people go some of them came here somehow, and then they took everyone away from here to the Western Front. Then, when the revolution came they let whichever soldiers wanted to return to Russia, and whoever wanted could stay and keep fighting, they could fight with the English or the French. Usually the soldiers who stayed on the front and fought with the Germans were also sent to France or England at the end of the war. They were here as well.
Dcn A: That’s interesting. I haven’t been able to find anything about soldiers in the emigration, because the officers and junior officers were more important. But there were soldiers as well.
SVG: Yes, the soldiers. And, of course, when they say, “Oh these princes driving taxis,” — it wasn’t entirely like that. Especially the artillerists. They knew how to drive, and there was a great variety of them. Some of them left, married Russians and left somehow. Others, at any rate, disappeared into England and became Englishmen more or less. And now a book by [Vasilii] Zakharov has come out. He’s not a relative of the physicist in Russia. He worked there. He was also a physicist, but a lesser one. But his father was an artillery officer. They left here and later he had a little store. Now he’s written a book about those they knew, mostly about London. And he wrote No Snow on Their Boots. This was interesting for me because he writes certain things. I knew him. He married an Englishwoman. They worked in Geneva. She was a great friend of my sister. And they lived in Chester, at any rate. I told him about various things that he wanted to know about.
Dcn A.: So what happened after Vladyka Vitaly, then?
SVG: A time of troubles. Fortunately we had Fr. George Cheremetieff, who also became a priest in a strange way. When my mother was at the camp [Fischbek in Northern Germany] with Fr. Vitaly and Mr. Palmer, George Cheremetieff was there also as a translator. Mama knew that he was a believer and knew everything. So she told him that we needed a Russian priest. “Now you know where you should go and what you should do …” And he became a priest and wound up here. They were related, and she remembered him as a little boy. At any rate, this was salvation. But then we in the Russian Church Abroad had Fr. George Grabbe, and [he sent us] Fr. Alexis [Popjoy] from Brookwood. He is a personal friend. To live as he lived can only be honourable. I went to see him after they’d already made me starosta for some reason. So Vladyka Mark told me, “I didn’t know that the duty of starosta can be passed from a father to his son or daughter” [laughing]. Vladyka Constantine did that for me. I was in the hospital then for three months and was very seriously ill. My father died just then and we gave him a lovely funeral. Vladyka Constantine almost fell into the grave when they were burying my father.
Dcn A.: So Vladyka Constantine did not settle here?
SVG: Yes. He wasn’t in one place for more than three months. Everyone who knocked on his door he invited in.
The Miller family was here, and they were nice people. Their son looked after my eldest daughter. They all died one after the other. He should have been starosta here because he spoke English and Russian well, and because he grew up in Belgrade and they helped a lot there. It happened that part of the church wanted nothing to do with the Millers because they were involved in politics. Then there was one more Galitzine. Others said that they wanted nothing to do with Galitzine. He was born first. My aunt, who died, said that he had a strange life. She was able to get people out of the USSR.
Then there was her older husband, who was always somewhat ill and never had any kind of position. He lived peacefully in a small estate. [When the revolution began] he thought that no one would take him, so he stayed. The first thing that happened was that they sent him to Perm and he lived there after that. He married a very young Tateshev woman, who was also quite strange. They had three children in Russia. She was [got out] somehow through Mannerheim, who was a big friend of the family. He got out through Hindenburg, who didn’t know them at all, and then from there through Molotov and came to Chessington. There was all kinds of drama.
At any rate, there were so many people who respected Aunt Katya that eventually they got them a little house in Chiswick and moved them all there. So we continued to see them. No one wanted to vote for their son. All the same, that was half of the parish, while others didn’t want Miller. But there was no one else, because my cousin Wolcough was very young at the time. He was in the English Guards [regiment] and was always wherever they were fighting; not in Africa but in Aden (Yemen). At any rate he always came to church. So I, although sick and woman, received more or less this position. But it was fortunate for Gregory Wolcough that he returned to all this.
Dcn A.: And how was it between the two parishes, the ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate?
SVG: It was bad. Because it happened in 1953 that the Anglicans offered us a church. We could both use it, share it like we’d done on Buckingham Palace Road. Vladyka Anthony said yes.
Then he had a very small parish, while we had a huge one, especially with the people who’d come from the camps, although the English took fifty people and sent them to the factory in Nottingham. There they set them up a place to live. And in all the big towns, they distributed a good portion to these people, so they had a place to live and were taken care of. There was a mass of Cossacks and an Ataman who wound up in Scotland. They’d been with the Germans and, for some reason, hadn’t been given up. Because the English understood what was going on, they opened the door, so to speak, and these people weren’t cut off.
Dcn A.: So the English can’t be blamed entirely for sending people back the USSR?
SVG: No, not entirely. But of course they can be blamed, because there were spies in the foreign office. When they finally caught [Kim] Philby, then they understood. And he died in the Soviet Union. McClean and Burgess, I think, have also died, all three. They say that there were more, but no one is sure. Now they’re all dead. They were much older than I. These are people who were in the University in Cambridge between the Wars, when I was four. Now I’m 83.
Dcn A.: So the Anglicans offered a church that the Russian communities could use by turns?
SVG: Yes. They did. But the Cossacks got on buses and went to London, others too, to vote en masse that we should be remain independent.
Dcn A.: This was after Fr. Vitaly already?
SVG: Yes, this was later. But Fr. George Cheremetieff was already and old man, and he didn’t have a special authority. He was our priest, but there was also Fr. Alexey, and fortunately he was a calm person.
Dcn A.: [Fr. George] Was a leader?
SVG: No, he wasn’t a leader. He wasn’t a fighter. And the nuns arrived just then. Mother Elizabeth and everyone. Papa got them a visa, but Mother Elizabeth was already a British citizen, while the others weren’t. They went where we lived at the time, at Doctor Gherkin’s. They gathered on a corner where cars where driving by and began to sing him a prayer of thanksgiving. He said, “What will I do? I put on my hat and stand up and there’s little nuns all around me.”
Fr.A: What was social life like? Did they decide to keep it separate, or was there always contact with those who went to the Moscow parish?
SVG: Little to none. Mama saw certain people. They were people who considered themselves simply Orthodox. Lots of people went there, but not many that my mother knew.
A large English parish grew up around Vladyka Anthony [Bloom], and they gave him money and supported this church. Nevertheless this church is still there. They’ve just repaired it.
Dcn A.: Did you meet Vladyka Anthony as well?
SVG: No. I never met him. We had the Red Cross. It was the place where everyone met, and the Red Cross played a great role. Zinovieff was a Colonel. His father was the organizer. Everyone respected him and he quickly took everything into his hands. Because the English didn’t recognize the Soviet authority for a pretty long time. This was the son, whose sister my mother later knew well. So he gave everything over to the English.
Everyone who could make a collection and sent supplies to the Russian White Army, wherever they were fighting. All this happened at the embassy. And then it happened that there were a lot of people who were utterly poor. The mere fifty pounds that they’d arrived with was gone. And there was no Social Services like there is now, which gives everything they need right away. They just had to live on whatever they could do and gather on the streets. When the Red Cross opened there was already some small thing like that. Zinovieff took it over and they moved to Chiswick, which was a poor part of town, but nice. There they bought a house and lived there. They also bought a house for the Red Cross, which revived. People had balls there and bazaars. My mother took part in this, because Zinovieff’s wife was something of a relative. All of this was done by people from the church. They prepared and sold food, and got a lot of money back, and they organized schools. There they could go up through age 14 without paying, and when they had to pay it was fairly inexpensive. Then there were high schools were one could go. If poor people couldn’t pay then people like the Zakharovs — that was something else. They organized various schools. They gave two places for Russians in the boarding schools.
I know that they got a scholarship for my brother and sister, but Papa could have done this. They simply gave places and people were let in. There were three girls among them and they all got into good English schools. Their mothers worked in stores, and then the Red Cross took care of all of this.
People were terribly sick and couldn’t pay for medicine. They did a lot. But of course at that time they especially looked after the elderly. Eventually they obtained four buildings, and one of them was very large with eighteen rooms. This ward grew. There were as many as forty people there.
Dcn A.: So people of various jurisdictions could meet on the territory of Red Cross?
SVG: Yes. And people also went to bazaars and to church. They came to us and we went to them. But my aunt didn’t go.
Dcn A.: What was it like under Vladyka Nikodim?
SVG: You know, he was old when he came here.
Dcn A.: He was one of a few generals who became a hierarchs.
SVG: Yes. Now there’s Vladyka Anatoly (MP) and he’s just like Vladyka Nikodim. For me it’s very easy with him [Archbishop Anatoly]. He has the same things. He has tears in his eyes. He talk to people just like Vladyka Nikodim. He very much like him. Vladyka Nikodim was such a wonderful person. He visited all the parishes. He travelled everywhere, to all the parishes in Scotland, where it was certainly very hard to live. I don’t know why it was so strange there. Many people approved of him, but one can’t say that this was the tenor of the parish, or that it was kind to Batioushka.
We also had Fr. John Suscenko. Fr. Alexis was there too. He was twenty-eight years old and Vladyka made him an archimandrite and sent him off. And we had a wonderful English man who converted, Fr. Mark Meyrick. He was part of a group of Anglican priests somewhere, and he simply converted to Orthodoxy as a young man. He was the sort of person that didn’t want any sort of intrigue. They made him a priest and he was very good. He was my children’s priest, because they don’t speak Russian. He kept them in Orthodoxy, and my oldest daughter considers herself Orthodox. And she is Orthodox. She doesn’t like head scarves either. But that’s nothing — she’s fifty-six and has six children. They’re all Orthodox and baptized, but they went to Catholic schools. But she goes to church and knows the feasts. Her husband is an MP. He’s a Catholic but isn’t opposed to Orthodoxy at all. It was all the same to him that they were all baptized, and he often goes to church with them, sits and prays. Vladyka Nikodim, poor Vladyka. But I can say that he was good with children.
Dcn A.: Do you remember when St. John came here?
SVG: Yes. I was nineteen. He came here after the war. I was a bit afraid of him, rather I was in awe, because he was carrying this huge box around his neck with an icon. He came to have lunch with us. I remember that my father drove him from Barons Court and there they gave him a ticket, and he had lunch with us and talked. He made a great impression on me. Then when my father drove him back the next day, the ticket collector asked, “Who was this holy man?” So he noticed him. He wasn’t noticed only by Orthodox.