Author Church People Clergy and Monastics Deacon Andrei Psarev

Abbess Theodora (Lʹvov)

Mother Theodora's grave in Lesna Convent, Provemont, France

A True Mother Figure to Her Sisters

Abbess Theodora (Lʹvov) passed away on this day in 1976.

On October 28, I wrote about the founder of Lesna Monastery, Abbess Ekaterina (Princess Evfimovsky). Mother Theodora was the third abbess of Lesna Convent. She was born in 1893 in Khabarovsk into the family of Prince Nikolai Tumkovskii. At 17, she enlisted in the active army as a nurse. During the Civil War, Nina, her baptismal name, married Prince Lʹvov, but soon became a widow.

Princess Lʹvov continued her service to others in the diaspora. In 1928 in Serbia, she joined Lesna Convent, which had moved there away from Romanian oppression in Moldavia.

As a result of the collapse of the Russian Empire and the events of the Russian Civil War, exile families would break up under the experienced trauma; some spouses lost their lives, while others remained within Soviet Russia. Lesna Convent continued its mission of looking after orphans and abandoned children.  Mother Theodora became St. John of Shanghai’s European counterpart, looking after the Khopovo orphanage. Hundreds of children passed through it during the two decades of its existence.

Yugoslavia ceased to exist after the German occupation in 1941. The army of the newly founded Croatian state occupied the convent. As a result, a communist guerrilla burned it down. The sisters moved to Belgrade. The convent belonged to the Serbian Patriarchate and did not leave Belgrade in 1944 with the Synod of Bishops. Along with the Russian clergy who remained in Yugoslavia (see my account of Archbishop Anthony of Geneva), Lesna Convent joined the Moscow Patriarchate.

Although nuns received Soviet citizenship and Patriarch Alexey I wanted to relocate the convent to Moscow’s Novodevichʹii Convent, the Soviet authorities did not allow this plan to be carried out. Abbess Nina remained faithful to the Moscow Patriarchate and did not want to leave for the Russian Church Abroad. In 1949 Abbess Nina passed away, and Mother Theodora took her place. Having been displaced for seven years, the sisters finally obtained visas for France, where they were received into the diocese of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. Like a captain, Mother Theodora delivered the ship to a safe harbor.  She was a gifted musician, a beekeeper, and knew various handcrafts.



Sinodik RPtsZ: Pamiati Igumenii Feodory [A ROCOR’s Commemoration Book: Abbess Theodora in Memoriam].

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