Restoration of the Church


February 20
Since the working day was transferred to the last Saturday, that is February 27, in view of the holiday, we took a trip to Prechisty Bor a week earlier. It had been snowing heavily the day before and at night. In the evening, Vitali had called to ask if we were still planning to go. He was almost sure that no one would remove snow from the local roads. He said he had bought a train of gears, but the chances were high that we might get stuck in snow. On the other hand, we could not possibly miss the trip. The 10:20 commuter train had been cancelled until spring, so we had to arrange a car ride during such a heavy snowfall. The plan was to leave our cars in Ragodino and walk further on in case the road would be impassable. Agreed.
It went on snowing in the morning. We got together at our usual meeting place, the Riverside Station: Sasha, Dmitri, Alexei, Alexei Andreev, Liuda and Marina, followed by Sergei Donskov and Natasha. Vitali drove up in a Sobol minivan. Alexei Gagarin came late, but in the company of Sergei Sherstobitov.
We were driving slowly, the roads had not been cleared. We got to Prechisty Bor safe and sound at 12 sharp. Local women had been already waiting. We thanked them for having cleared the pathway to the church. For quite a while, we could not open the lock. A spray of nonfreezing lubricant didn’t help, we burnt paper.
F. Maxim was away in Diveevo, so we had to follow the layman’s order of the prayer service. We started right away since it was just terribly cold. For some reason, it was colder inside than outside. By the end of the prayer service, our hands and feet were numb with cold. We hurried to the cars to get warm.
The way back was more exciting. At first, we could not turn around. Pushing Gagarin’s car out of snow was an ordeal followed by removing snow from under the Sobol’s rear wheels. A local snow-fighting tractor arrived and cleared the road for us. We were happy. We had no problems getting to Ragodino, but the way further turned into a real torment.
Gagarin was moving first, so he was the first to get stuck. During the short time we had been out in Prechisty Bor, the wind had drifted so much snow from over the roadsides that our car got stuck immediately. We got off to push it out of the snow. The car drove on for 10-15 feet, and again its wheels were rolling away at one point. We managed to set free Gagarin’s car (it got stuck again however after 20 yards) only to start pushing the 2-ton Sobol.
At that time, two jeeps emerged driving in the opposite direction. There was absolutely no way to pass each other. We suggested the jeep drivers a bypass along the roadsides. While the drivers were hesitating, Gagarin managed to squeeze his car into some kind of a niche off the road. Right behind however, there was the Sobol. It had a rear wheel drive and weighed quite a bit…
Vitali put a train of gears on and we managed to push the car backwards a bit. The two jeeps got through, their drivers got off and helped pushing the Sobol. Finally we hit the regular road. One mile took us almost one hour! However, no one complained. Elvis entertained us on the way back.
We handed Boris M. Arseniev, a film critic and director, a copy of our short film about the Church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos in Prechisty Bor which we had made for the Roads to the Temple Film Festival.

March 27
A thaw marked the beginning of this week, it started melting. We feared the roads might turn into mighty torrents by Saturday. We were even thinking about getting to Prechisty Bor by a different road – drive to the village of Ustie and from the Tvertsa railway station walk through the pine forest.
Wednesday night however brought a cold spell. Frosty weather prevailed until Saturday which gave us a chance to get to Prechisty Bor by the usual road. However, just to be on the safe side we left half an hour earlier.
We were few: Alexei Andreev, Alexei Gagarin (driving), Vitali (driving), Natalia A., Oxana I., Dmitri K., Ivan S. and Alexander D.
We stopped at the driveway to the village and decided not to take risk and drive no further for the pools of melted water on the road were enormous.
The church exterior was as usual, but there were puddles inside. They were fed by streams running in from outside. Vladimir and his friend Yuri came, Vladimir was quite resentful that the church had not been cleaned inside again. He took the keys from Raisa Georgievna and promised to clean it up by Easter.
The locals brought pussy willow branches. Tomorrow is the Entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem. We followed the layman’s order of the prayer service.
F. Maxim will be here on April 11 for a festive prayer service. How can people be left without a prayer in their own church during the Easter week?
We were thinking of camping out in Prechisty Bor for May 1st holidays – all Club people could come down here and alternate work and recreation. The idea subsequently got the shape of a cycle tour. It could be combined with the idea of a mass cleanup session that we had been harboring in our minds for a long time. We have to formulate a concrete plan. Well, we can get enough tents and bikes…
After the prayer service we were making video inside as we heard something fall from above.
If you look up to examine the inside of the dome, you see some thin greenish coating all over its inner area (with the exception of the centre). It had been caused by constant moisture working in the bricks.
After a temporary roof had been constructed in the fall, the green areas had faded out. Now the spring has caused the green coating to grow more intense. We picked up a fragment of a brick from the floor and realized that it was the outer layer of bricks impregnated with the green coating that kept falling down. The fragment was wet to touch.
Intensive brick crumbling was in effect in the north-western section of the dome. The amount of fragments lying on the floor served the compelling evidence. We suspected a roof leak in that area. Vitali should examine the condition of the roof covering when he climbs on top to adjust the cross and uproot the undergrowth on the trumpet arches of the tetragonal base.
This news offers little consolation. We have managed to construct the roof, but this had no effect on the dome. Now we need money to pay for the draft design of the church conservation. First and foremost, we want consistency and competence. A restoration expert promised to come down here after snow would melt down.
Happy Easter!
God grant that we get to Prechisty Bor on April 11.
We really wish that snow would melt and the earth would get dry. We are thirsty for work. So far we’ve been getting ready for the Territory of Good Works Project which will be launched in Tver at Slava Plaza on April 17. Over there, we’ll be raising money for the church in Prechisty Bor. Vitali has promised to arrange us a stall, F. Sergiy will help with ordering a banner, we’ll also have to make the layout of a presentation brochure. Lots of work indeed!

April 11
A sunny morning with a cloudless sky. Vitali had driven up in his Sobol to the Riverside Station before everyone else. Gradually people were getting together. Vitali was in a hurry – he would have to be back downtown by half past one. Lots of work in Prechisty Bor. Vitali and Roman had to adjust the slanting cross on the dome.
Lesha Gagarin’s car was coming second. Natasha, Dmitri and F. Maxim were a bit late.
The grassland adjacent to the driveway to Prechisty Bor was on fire. People from the closest houses were bustling with buckets of water. A prayer service was the last thing they were thinking of. Vladimir was expecting us near the church anxious to share the news that local women had cleaned up inside the church. It was clean indeed, but outside lots of rubbish, debris and fragments of bricks.
Vitali and Roman climbed to the top of the roof. They shouted from above that there was a 4-inch gap between the tholobate and the edge of the new roof. That was the reason for the wet dome. We’d have to close it somehow.
The guys had adjusted the cross as F. Maxim arrived. The prayer service was solemn and joyful. We walked round the church in a cross-bearing procession. The priest sprinkled holy water profusely upon everyone while the choir was singing Paschal troparia and stichera. Lots of people came, the total of forty – a seasonal influx of summer residents had set in.
After the prayer service, F. Maxim spoke about Antipascha, the First Sunday after Pascha. He also said that we might come here next year for Pascha. Everyone received artos, everyone was smiling – everyone but Raisa Georgievna. While we all had been getting ready for the prayer service, someone had stolen one of her chickens. Well, this someone might have been a dog. Raisa’s chickens ramble along the churchyard, her farmyard is very close, almost touching the tombs’ guard railing.
Snow was not to be seen, the Tvertsa river had overflowed greatly. The sun was baking as befitted in spring. You could smell smoke in the air – grasslands all around were on fire. After the prayer service, Vitali’s Sobol took everyone who had business downtown and tore off.
Sasha, Dmitri and Lesha Gagarin brought an old cupboard from the village – it could hold all of our tools.
Vladimir said he would bring one more cupboard from his home – a new one to hold icons and books.
We didn’t linger and left almost immediately. At the exit road, we saw Vitali wearing his blue shirt and black pants – he had been helping put out the burning grassland. He waved his hand hopelessly to say he got late.
We put on speed intent on making to the Resurrection Cathedral by 3 pm to listen to the choir of St. Daniel’s monastery.

April 17
We took part in The Plaza of Good charity event which was arranged by Potanin scholarship nominees. The involvement in the project was our own idea. The profile of the event was volunteer work in orphanages and promotion of a healthy way of life.
Our stall with a huge banner A Church That Should Live and an info stand turned out to be quite eye-catching against the dominating background.
People came up, asked questions, several left their contact information. Some people wanted to make donations, but this was not allowed on the plaza, so we were handing out flyers with a settlement account number which anyone could use to transfer a donation.
It was an exciting and joyful day!

April 24
So few of us that we got into one car: Alexei Andreev, Vitali, Vania Sandulov, Nikolai and Dmitri. The others were busy or had family problems. F. Maxim had exams. The weather was nasty with a strong cold wind. During the whole trip, we were expecting a sudden snowfall. We got there safe, however during the trip our car almost lost the muffler, but Vitali fixed it tight with a piece of wire.
We had to loiter for a while around the church in wait of the few faithful – a family arrived from Andriyanovo followed by Vladimir who brought us his cupboard. Then we had a common prayer. The cold inside and a weak choir comprised of one person with a sore throat did not dampen the fervor of the prayer. We thanked the congregation for the common prayer and announced plans of an upcoming mass cleanup session. Then we left.
See you soon, Prechisty Bor!

May 8
The cycle tour which had been preceded by lengthy arrangements pursued the route Likhoslavl’—Pervitino—Ivanovskoe—Prechisty Bor. It brought us to the destination point about 7 pm. The day before, Lesha Gagarin had delivered tents, sleeping bags and food to Prechisty Bor. Yet earlier, Sergei Donskov and Vitali had brought all the equipment and a wheelbarrow.
We set up a camp on the bank of the Tvertsa by the water edge. Dmitri and Sasha D. were getting firewood, Sergei and the girls (Olga, Tatiana and Natasha) were pitching tents, making a fire and cooking supper.
Later on, Sasha Danilov and Julia Smorodova arrived to Prechisty Bor by a commuter train. We made a pause for a meal only when it got dark. Everyone felt fatigue after a 30-mile cycle tour, but no one was sleepy. We were barbecuing meat and singing songs. We retired to tents about 3 am and fell fast asleep.

May 9
A warm serene morning. Since early hours, we had heard voices of fishermen. We got up about half past eight. The prayer service was scheduled at 10 am – by that time we were to have cooked breakfast, got all things ready for the service and subsequent work. Our spirits were high – it was the Victory Day!
Very few locals showed up. We followed the layman’s order of the prayer service with the Akathist to Great Martyr St. George the Victorious.
Natalia and her granddaughter Arina were the only ones who stayed to help us. Raisa Georgievna was busy about the house which is large. She does help a great deal – not physically, but by way of emotional support which is indeed highly appreciated.
We were working non-stop since 11 am till 3 pm. The guys were removing earth from beside the walls, carrying bricks and earth into pits, the girls were taking away rubbish from the churchyard.
Experts told us that the ground around the building to be cleaned from the surface soil was to be no less narrow than 7 feet – that is the width of a scaffold. After four hours of work, we barely managed to remove the surface soil between the south-western corner and the western entrance archway on a patch no wider than 2 feet. Digging earth was a hard job. The surface layer which destroyed the brickwork of the walls was comprised of brick fragments of the demolished winter church mixed with earth.
Driving a spade into the ground was an ordeal – you just hit bricks. We unearthed fragments of the original mosaic floor, but failed to hit the footing course. Deep down the ground was still frozen – a solid icy shield. We quit to allow thawing. Skillful removal of the surface soil along the perimeter of the church requires really Herculean investment of efforts. Well, what can we do? Work further…
Soon we’ll have the calculation of work priority ready. We fear to imagine the manpower costs and the expenditure for the simple transportation of materials – there is no access road to the church. If we had known the man-hours, we would have ordered a tractor which would dig up anything in a second. We also fear that the locals might revolt as soon as they see a tractor in the churchyard.
Sergei Donskov and Vitali climbed on top, cut off the remaining undergrowth and hurled down loose bricks. The girls took away from the churchyard and burnt an enormous pile of garbage. We want to hope that it would not accumulate again as happened before.
We left home by commuter train, exhausted but happy.

May 28
Joyful news! Our short film about the church in Prechisty Bor Living Churches – Living Souls was awarded a diploma for “High Morality and Joy of Spiritual Endeavor” at Slavic Youth: Dreams and Hopes 6th International Youth Video Festival.
We are grateful to the Tver Diocese Department of Youth Affairs for the help (and personally to its chairman VRev. Alexei Shevchuk).
Read details here.
Sasha and Olga went to Moscow to collect the award (they didn’t miss a chance to see around in the first capital).

May 29
The trip to Prechisty Bor last Saturday of May was unusual. We were joined by seven students of Tver Konyaev College of Industry: Dmitri Volkov, Evgeni Zuev, Oleg Stadnikov, Sergei Vasiliev, Evgeni Pakhomov (freshmen), Evgeni Averin (sophomore), and Alexei Sokolov (junior).
The guys were of different years, had different majors, but all were very sociable, cheerful and, what’s more important, very responsible.
Their college may boast a variety of adequately funded social programs. Students who enjoy a firm social position and want to be socially active usually get involved as volunteers.
The guys had come from different parts of Tver province: Krasny Kholm and Kalininski districts, Tver City. They enjoyed working for the good of the church, and we saw their thorough devotion.
In Prechisty Bor, we showed them around and told the amazing story of how the church had appeared and how it had survived the tragedy of the Soviet regime. The guys walked around with great interest. During the usual Saturday prayer service, they went swimming in the Tvertsa. They came back happy and full of energy.
Their job was hard but quite exciting. They continued our job of unearthing the footing course of the church. In some places, getting down to the limestone base – the original level of the church that had existed before its partial destruction – required going as deep as three feet. Digging was again hard, you drove the spade into the ground only to hit brick fragments. Sometimes we came across fragments of the original mosaic floor and pieces of plasterwork with traces of mural painting on them.
We managed to accomplish a lot during the day. We’d been working for three hours. The students’ help contributed greatly to our project of saving the church. The brickwork buried under earth had rotted away and crumbled. Now the priority is to unearth walls down to the footing course which would give the old brickwork a chance to get dry.
The guys were happy and said they would come again.

June 24
More joyful news. Our short film Living Churches – Living Souls took the first prize as the best documentary at Film Shots 1st Open Cinema, Advertising and Videoart Festival which itself was a part of a bigger project, Debut Tver Province Film Festival. The Film Shots enjoyed patronage of Tver State Film Collection institution and Tver City Department of Culture, Sport and Youth Affairs.
The Sower Club is grateful to the Film Shots organizers, the jury and personally to its head Ivan Demidov, director of Tver State Film Collection institution, for this high appraisal.

July 3
Prechisty Bor saw a joint meeting of local and summer residents that addressed the issue of the preservation of the village church. The announcements posted in the neighborhood had gathered fourteen people. Amazing! It turned out however that these women (out of 14 only 3 were men) had taken to heart the church preservation project more than anyone else. They elected the action group and its leader. The job of the action group would be to interact with the city youth and work towards the achievement of our major goals. We didn’t have to wait long – a week later, a delivery of 2,500 bricks was arranged to Prechisty Bor that would serve to brick up the apertures. The guys have already taken a trip to the village and carried all the bricks into the church. Now we are searching for a bricklayer. If we don’t find him, we’ll try laying bricks by ourselves – a good chance to learn the skill. After the apertures are bricked up, one more plan of ours is to partition off an area for the setting of the Communion Table which would allow us to have the divine liturgy. The idea has received unanimous acclaim. One woman from the action group wishes to take baptism. Life goes on. The only nuisance is an extremely hot summer…
A couple of days ago, guys from Yakutia called to offer help. God save them and help them in their good undertakings!

July 29
We had a meeting with the governor of Tver Province Dmitri Zelenin. A Club member Alexander Dylevski told the head of the province administration about the restoration of the church in Prechisty Bor and requested support from the authorities. The governor emphasized that The Sower Club was promoting a very important and worthy cause – he pledged his support including grant aid. He also encouraged the adoption of new information technologies – making use of modern digital equipment and internet resources, making big chunks of information about the Club promptly available to internet users.
“The key issue here, said Governor Zelenin, is the priority and significance of the work you’ve been doing in Prechisty Bor for the local authorities”.
At the end of the meeting, Alexander presented the governor with a copy of the magazine that has an article about the church, an info flyer and our short film.

July 31
Most of our guys came to Kobiachevo by minibus taxi. Prechisty Bor is on the other bank. The guys forded the Tvertsa River. Given such a hot summer, they were chest deep at most. They were carrying backpacks over the head. F. Maxim and Natasha came by car.
The traditional prayer service assembled a large amount of local residents. Afterwards, a brisk discussion followed about what was to be done next and how.
The local action group took the trouble to search for board lumber to construct a temporary altar and an icon-screen.
That day, we all witnessed a joyful event – the baptism of 4-month-old Nastia. Her parents, a very young couple, were residents at a village nearby.
F. Maxim told them to give her Communion at a city church and to come here for the divine liturgy for the dedication feast on September 21.
While the infant was getting baptized, the church was visited by Elena, a great granddaughter of deacon Pavel Pletnev who had once served here. She showed us her great grandfather’s grave. After baptism, F. Maxim served the lity for the dead at the grave.
Lots of work done. We managed to remove all the earth that buried the footing course of the northern wall and cleaned up the devastated altar space.
We took the same way back – across the Tvertsa.

August 5
Sasha and Olga traveled to Prechisty Bor at daytime to interview local residents about the church and the village.
They visited the Chumakovs at a nearby railway station settlement. Anfisa Nikolaevna at 95 did not remember much. Through all these years, she had kept the memory of her wedding at Prechisty Bor in 1935, but could not remember the priest.
Sasha and Olga stopped by the Kriukov sisters, Zoia Petrovna and Galina Petrovna, who told lots of interesting stories. The two hostesses treated Sasha and Olga to a lunch.
After that, the interviewers visited the great granddaughter of deacon Pavel Pletnev who had served at Prechisty Bor since 1918 till 1933. This visit was followed by swimming in the Tvertsa. The river had become really shallow, its water was sea-warm. After swimming, Sasha and Olga drank hot tea…
Lesha Gagarin, Sasha Danilov and Sergei Balakirev, a skillful bricklayer and a good friend, arrived by 7 pm. They brought two bags of cement. The young men started laying bricks and were doing this until half past nine when it got pitch dark inside the church.
That day brought a great deal of emotions. One of them is quite striking and not at all pleasant.
Some local residents think that a big padlock on the door has barred them from entering the church save for “certain days”. Our arguments that key duplicates were kept in the village and thus anyone could get into the church at any time produced no effect. “Before everything was open, everyone could walk in and leave flowers. Now the church does not belong to us”. “It does! Who else needs it?” “No, it doesn’t…” It’s a hard job to argue with them. “Does belong to us” means a desolate building where you can leave flowers passing by. We’ve been constantly telling them: “We are making it not for our own use – it’s for you!” They wouldn’t hear us.
If you are not here – those who live beside the church walls – the existence of the church has no sense…

August 6
We continued bricking up the apertures.

August 11
We were laying bricks until late at night and started constructing the chancel.

August 28
The Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos coincided with the traditional Saturday prayer service. F. Maxim was to hold a service at Chernogubovo, so we moved our prayer service to 1 pm, but were able to come only by 2 pm. Most of the people had already left, although we had called to say we would be late. We had a prayer service with the Akathist to the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos. It was raining outside, inside it was cold and dank.
After the prayer service, we continued the work. An hour later, we let Denis and the girls go home – they were freezing. There were only three of us left: Lesha Gagarin, Dmitri and Sasha Dylevski. However, we couldn’t work much longer either – it was very cold and a slanted rain was pouring inside through window openings. We left before dark having managed to brick up the southern aperture at the altar space, set in a window (obtained from Dmitri’s company) and install a form cage for the chancel. Somehow our spirits were not very high, although the Dormition Fast was over…

September 3
One building company donated a lock box for keeping tools and helped to deliver it to Prechisty Bor (the sign welded to the box read Shurik’s Bar). Igor, local jack of all trades, helped us unload the box. Thanks, guys!

September 4, Saturday
As usual, Prechisty Bor was visited by Lesha Gagarin, Dmitri and Sasha. They worked till night and managed to lay flooring and put up supports. We were making progress, however slowly. Besides, Lesha was going to withdraw to get ready for upcoming exams. From Sofrino, Sergei Rubanov brought icons for the iconostasis, lampions and fabric. F. Maxim said they were already making the Communion Table and the Table of Oblation. We should find time to purchase fabric for analogions. Sasha’s brother offered making three analogions, and we have a new one that we can use.

September 5
A devastating loss. Died Vladimir Zakharovich Isakov, writer, journalist, historian, public figure – a person whose demise has left irreparable emptiness in the heart of everyone who had known him.
Vladimir loved his small house in the Kaliniskaya Pravda Journalists Summer Village close to Prechisty Bor. He had always taken great pains to escape from the oppressive city into the countryside. Over here, he indulged in writing, thinking and relaxation.
He had been thinking a lot about the church at Prechisty Bor. We recall the memorable meeting of June 13, 2009, when summer village residents came to a mass cleanup session. It was with undisguised hope that Isakov was looking at us who were young and full of determination to raise from ruins not only the church at Prechisty Bor, but all churches in Tver Province.
He was taciturn as usual. Two feelings of skepticism and joy were having an argument in his heart: “If it works… If the young get it!..” He was taking us from one vacationer to another and we were having a quiet conversation. We could see that deep down he was jubilant.
Much time has elapsed since then. We haven’t seen Vladimir in the church, nor has he come to any of the prayer services. This was so much unlike him. He must have been here when no one was around. He hasn’t lived till his 67th birthday (October 7) and just a short while till the first divine liturgy at Prechisty Bor (God grant September 21). We’ll miss you greatly, Vladimir. Please pray up there that things work for us the right way… You would want it so much yourself.
Vladimir Isakov was buried on September 7 at Old Choporovo graveyard not far from Prechisty Bor as he had wanted it. His mother-in-law is buried there too. As a tribute to his memory, we’ll quote parts of his diary that refer to the church at Prechisty Bor (quoted from: Isakov, Vladimir. Diaries and Memoirs. Tver, 2006.)
August 20, 2002
Tonight, after work, Irene and I walked past our village of Prechisty Bor to Old Choporovo graveyard. It was a quiet evening full of sunlight. The graveyard is located at the edge of a pine forest. Last year we had buried there Irene’s mother Maria Stepanovna. Yura had found a place for the grave. A scenic tranquil spot. Several years earlier, there had been just a few graves there. Tonight we’ve seen more than a hundred…
At Maria Stepanovna’s funeral, I showed Yura the place for my grave. Somehow it just became obvious. I wouldn’t like to be buried in the city. Municipal cemeteries resemble jails or I would even say inferno. For quite long, I’ve been thinking of country churchyards. At one point, I was more or less certain about Nikolo-Rozhok at Lake Seliger. I even took a trip there to have a look. It turned out that there was a huge lack of space and a huge problem of applying for this space. Afterwards, I was thinking of Vydropuzhsk, Vasil’kovo and Upper Kotitsy. And all of a sudden, it has just become obvious… [P. 14-15]
September 21, 2002
The Feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. We’ve been to the cathedral of Ascension. <…> The cathedral is being renovated – the base of the bell tower has been transformed into a pass-through entrance, there are scaffolds inside. The Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos is the dedication feast of the church at my summer village of Prechisty Bor. The church stands out there to make us feel remorse. It can be seen from as far as the railway. Pine and birch saplings grow on its threadbare brick dome. No windows or doors. The bell tower was demolished long ago. Inside, from times immemorial, there has been some kind of thrashing-mill. Wind howls between high walls still bearing the traces of mural painting. The wind brings in a smell of herbs from the churchyard that has beset the edifice from all sides. Sometimes we walk into the empty church when we happen to pass by. Irene would stand in the center and sing a troparion. Sounds soar and resonate up high. At one point, we wanted to collect a congregation to start the restoration of the church. We failed to find adherents in the village, and in the whole neighborhood there were only three people who showed concern – Sasha Gorsheva from the other bank of the Tvertsa, Valeria Yabloneva from a summer village by the railway station, and Liusia Rumiantseva who lives in our street.
No one of us has the money, those who have the money show no concern for the church. Liusia Rumiantseva is very much exasperated at the village residents. During this hot summer when many forests were on fire, she would keep alarming them: “From now on, that’s the way it will go – unless you restore the church”. But now this argument has no effect any more. I personally think there will be time when the church at Prechisty Bor would be opened again. The scenery here is magnificent. There is a reason behind the village name, Prechisty Bor – the Most Pure Forest. A long time ago, the ruling bishop had his summer house here. A road going past the church took you down to the ferry across the Tvertsa. Standing in the ruined church, I would always picture in my mind’s eye this place a hundred years ago. The church in its grandeur, ringing of church bells permeating the air over the river, huge masses of people.
Who knows the ways of God – all this may return one day. Let’s say rich vacationers from Moscow would build their summer houses on the left bank of the Tvertsa, they would build a road and restore the church. Somehow, vacationers from Moscow are not welcomed here. It’s a quiet place. Muscovites are sure to bring along clamor, noise and rush. They always need more, they are never content. Thinking of Muscovites, our villagers make a sign of the cross facing the empty church. O most holy Theotokos, save us! [P. 26-27]

September 10
We laid a floor for the chancel and finished the framework of the future iconostasis. Now we need plywood. First purchase, then deliver – that’s the busiest part. Someone brought in benches. We left Prechisty Bor at 11:30 pm and got home after midnight. So little time left. Wrong time for Lesha’s exams.

September 19
We hosted an unmatched super-event – Beginning of Indiction at Prechisty Bor. Its principal goal was to draw the attention of the public, first and foremost of the youth, to the problem of the oblivion of spiritual and historical values.
The event was attended by: Tver Stal’ Division of Nashi Movement; Eirene Orthodox Youth Club; Tver City Public Organization The Knights of The Most Orthodox Grand Prince St. Michael of Tver; Tver Regional Public Movement The Union of Active Youth; Tver Regional Division of the Inter-regional Public Organization Orthodox Youth; Tver Organization of Orthodox Scouts The Force of The Most Orthodox Grand Prince St. Michael of Tver; Svetozar Tver Club of Historical Reconstruction; Students’ Initiative group of Tver Konyaev College of Industry.
We had to clear lots of obstacles on the way to this event. We even survived an emergency situation during the transportation of the participants and equipment to Prechisty Bor – one of the buses lost a wheel. But we came through all right – the young people squeezed into one bus and continued the trip, squashed but merry. However that was not the end of our problems. The car carrying equipment had a road breakdown which didn’t happen to be serious to the great joy of the event leaders.
Still, in spite of all obstacles, with God’s help we got to the point of our destination safe and sound. Over a hundred people (young and middle-aged) assembled in the field adjacent to the village of Krasny (Prechisty) Bor.
Alexei and Sasha told everyone about the history of the church and the village, about our moderate progress in restoring the church. Those who wanted could light tapers, pray, examine the traces of frescos, walk around the edifice, severely battered but not shattered by merciless time. Many young people seemed to be lighting a taper for the first time in their life. After that, we got to know each other. Young people told about their clubs, organizations, and events. We agreed about cooperation in the future.
This was followed by a grand festival for the soul and body. Exhibition performance of The White Wolf War Ethnography Club went with a bang. The viewers actually were encouraged to join games of young Russian warriors – fighting for the possession of a baton, getting the excitement of free-flying (you were to perform a tuck in the air), and even confronting each other in a traditional Russian wall against the wall fight. No one was harmed to the great relief of the event leaders and the nurse on duty, Julia Fedoseeva’s sister.
Afterwards, the people who had been starving by that time had a meal of buckwheat boiled with canned stewed meat, as well as sandwiches with smoked lard. In the future, getting a field kitchen through one of Tver military units to provide hot meals seems like a good idea.
The lunch was followed by a triumph of street festivities hosted by Matitsa and Laditsa folk groups. They started with singing folk songs and then involved warmed up young men and women into a series of fun games. And not a single drop of alcohol.
Everyone will surely keep the memory of how they learnt folk dances, danced in a ring and played a kiss game. I myself, your humble servant, was chasing at breakneck speed a handkerchief flung by a young lass.
But everything has its end. Young men and women holding letter of thanks and a copy of the short film about the church restoration, exhausted but happy, trudged on to get on board the bus. Nothing upset our way back. The Sower Club chairman however had to make a big detour of 20-25 miles to get home in a car that broke down for the second time – but that’s a different story…
That day, young men and women of The Sower Club stayed at Prechisty Bor until late getting the church ready for the divine liturgy.

September 20
F. Maxim held All-Night Vigil. Everything was ready for the divine liturgy. It was windy, we had to cover the window in the altar area with a piece of roofing felt, otherwise the wind kept blowing candles out. We managed it. Kolia and Xenia sang in the choir, Olga helped them. Very few people came, but it was so solemn!
Our heart was filled with sensation that something great and extraordinary would take place tomorrow.

September 21
We have made it. With God’s help. At the expense of unremitting toil, lack of sleep and frayed nerves. We have lived to see it… the first Divine Liturgy. And it is over.
Preparations always take long, they are always troublesome, but the event itself is so fleeting… You are still overwhelmed with joy, and you look back replaying the event in your memory over and over again. Your mind may not reconcile itself to the idea that the event is already over. This was the case with the first Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos at Prechisty Bor after seventy years of oblivion. It was a real feast, a bright flare, joy and tears in the eyes, tomtits in the altar, a cross-bearing procession along the village street…
The first Divine Liturgy. An Orthodox Christian may very well comprehend what it means for the church where no Eucharist has been celebrated since the closing down in the late thirties of the 20th century.
For everyone who lives on this ancient land, who is buried here, this gap in the spiritual history of the village and of the whole neighborhood is a real tragedy. It’s not an exaggeration. Actually it’s a mild way of saying it…
September 21 is a special date for Prechisty Bor – the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos, the dedication feast. In the past, everyone was out on this day, no one worked, bell-ringers were deafened by their own bell-ringing, the line of people to receive the Communion numbered hundreds…
The Soviet era rendered a different tinge to human lines, brought them to different locations, but it failed to extirpate the feast from the generation memory of the Russian countryside – it also failed to exterminate priests, bell-ringers, church bells and bell towers. The feast survived as the Day of the Village. Quite meaningless for younger generations, and just one more reason to heave a deep sigh after looking at the devastated church for older generations – but it stayed.
The new age thrashed out of the village all its folk songs, its accordion players and the unique feeling of rural unity. The new regime brought silence, but void of content, silence brought emptiness…
How arduous was the period of preparation for the first Divine Liturgy which will never take place again…
It’s so hard to hold the Divine Liturgy in the church where there is no altar, where wind is blowing in all directions, where emptiness reigns in the hearts of people living nearby.
The Divine Liturgy requires a very special place, very special conditions and people for whom it might be held. These prerequisites have been adding up for one year and a half, and any person active in restoration of a devastated church would say that this period was short. And he will be right.
It was below zero Monday night. Since morning, the grass had been covered with white frost, it was very cold, although clear sky signaled the start of a warm day. It was much colder inside the church – the fall lacked warmth to disperse the cold harbored in there by the night. In spite of the cold, people kept coming. Lots of people. Those who wanted to make confession were so numerous that it took them almost an hour. I sincerely enjoyed watching old women that were coming up to the priest with some sort of ingenuousness and openness. I enjoyed watching their tears, their happy smile. For many of them this was the first confession.
Anfisa Nikolaevna Chumakova is 95. She lives at Tvertsa railway station settlement. In 1935, Anfisa Nikolaevna and her husband had a service of marriage at this church. Today she has revisited the church, very old and decrepit.
Someone would say that “junction of time” is a commonplace phrase, but to us it’s akin to miracle. Anfisa Nikolaevna was sitting on a stool, her eyes were full of tears.
While everyone was out in a cross-bearing procession, she was sitting quietly beside the church. I would give away all I have to know what she was thinking about during those moments. I would give away everything to live through the moments she lived through that day.
“Everyone thought that the footpath to this church had long overgrown with weeds” said F. Maxim after the liturgy. “Today we see the opposite”.
This footpath may be narrow, it winds around guard rails of the tombs, but it does take you to the church which today has become home to a great feast. This is the feast not only of a village scale, it echoes as far as the Russian Orthodox Church worldwide.
That day, one more missing link fit into the chain. Vitali Soldatov, principal of Mednoe boarding-school, came bringing donations that had been collected by young campers of Druzhba summer camp during the time period of fifteen years.
A decade ago, these young campers had crossed the river, taken apart the winnowing and threshing machines and dragged them out of the church. Back then, their counselors had received the blessing of F. Gennadi Ulianich of Tver to collect donations for the restoration of the church – in the camp, they put an offertory box to accept children’s nickel rubles.
The young campers have grown up by now, they might even have their own children, but the good people have brought their nickel rubles here to be used by those who restore the church today.
Lots of nickel rubles and each of them radiates warmth and “love unfeigned”…
We are happy that everything went so well, we are saddened by the thought that first events occur only once.
Well, the first Divine Liturgy will never take place here – God grant it! September 21 has started a countdown in a different time domain. It means there will be second, third, fourth liturgy… Happy Feast to everyone, and glory to God for everything!

October 1
We brought a workers’ cabin to Prechisty Bor. Now we have a place to change clothing. The cabin has heat insulation, a small window. We’ll put a stove, couch, table and small wardrobe there later. We’ll make it habitable, and it will be fine! In winter, this will the place to get warm and drink tea. Great! We thank good people for such support – concretely, Tatiana Borisovna Zaitseva.

October 9
Feast day of St. John the Theologian, Apostle and Evangelist. Sasha and Olga were the only ones who could take a trip to Prechisty Bor. Since morning, it had been very cold, but cloudless sky again signaled the start of a warm day. They traveled by commuter train.
Vitali arrived a bit later. He brought roofing felt and helped lift two corners of the cabin with a jack. Quite soon he had to leave however to get ready for a youth rally which was to take place in Kaliazin. Olga was selflessly carrying bricks, Sasha was leveling off the cabin with a jack.
Sasha and Olga also managed to take pictures of the surviving mural paintings, talk to old-timers and tape their stories.
No commuter train was scheduled until late, so they had to hurry to Kulitskaia station, a terminal for the bus bound for the city. Sasha and Olga traversed the field lying between Prechisty Bor and Kulitskaia in an hour only to find out that the bus had been cancelled. They had to hitchhike to get home.

October 19
On Tuesday, we got together as usual at the domestic church of Priest-Martyr Theoktist, in Yunost’ sub-district of Tver City. At the meeting, we decided to talk about our progress at Prechisty Bor, discuss the results and map out future plans. We started with a prayer service for the increase of love. The service was held by F. Maxim. Lesha Gagarin suggested having this prayer service more frequently. We decided to reserve first Tuesday meeting of each month for Prechisty Bor project and always start it with a prayer service.
While we were all having tea with milk rolls, Sasha suggested we had Prechisty Bor supervisors that would alternate each month to delegate duties between the club members and give everyone a chance to be involved. We decided to work as a team and see how it would be going.
Then we argued about how urgent was the need to open a church site in the net. Voting showed that there was a need. Costly restoration activities were reserved for the next summer, thus at wintertime we should try drawing everyone’s attention to the church restoration project in the most tactful and unobtrusive way.

October 30
Last Saturday of October, we travelled to Prechisty Bor for a prayer service with the Akathist to the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos which during the year had become a cherished tradition. Few people came and we took off in two cars: Lesha Gagarin, Sasha, Olga and Tatiana, Valentin, Ivan Sandulov, and Natasha. Dmitri could not attend, he was helping Alexei with moving. The service was held by F. Maxim.
After the divine liturgy of October 21, this was the first chance to have an undistracted, leisurely look at the church that had undergone remarkable transformations. The newly constructed altar had occupied some inner space and thus somehow brought in a feeling of cosiness. Finally, candles that were lit during the prayer service ceased to go out. If we close the window openings completely, it would definitely become much warmer inside.
A man with his son arrived from Tver who, as F. Maxim had reported, wanted to share some information about the people who had demolished the church. During the prayer service, he was telling his son that although the church was now cold and devastated, very soon it would be completely restored – the mural paintings and the choir will be back and it will be packed with people again. The next moment you realize that you’ve got distracted from the prayer service and pricked up your ears to their conversation.
Afterwards, we had a memorial service for the repose of the souls of Anna and Vladimir Z. Isakov. The locals prayed for their deceased relatives and put down names to be remembered in F. Maxim’s prayers. Anna was a young girl whom we had lost two years ago. God rest her soul…
Raisa Georgievna gave us a cast-iron wood stove. After the prayer service, the guys carried it into the cabin. Good, it will get us warm! Everyone was freezing during the service. Quite modestly, Lesha mentioned to Sasha that he was very cold – obviously, he was anxious to drop a hint that it was time to go home. However, Sasha answered back: “Here is your hot tea, get warm! We should go on and have the windows closed before winter”. Then everyone drank hot tea with bread-rings and gradually got warm.
Natasha drove F. Maxim who had caught a cold to the city not to make his condition worse. She also took Tatiana, Valentin and Ivan. Olga stayed to support the guys who were working until evening.

November 14
We came again to close the remaining window openings. Our hearts ached to think that later open windows would give way to snow and water… We were closing them with polycarbonate sheets. We were trying to perform a good job, so our progress was slow. Moreover, strong wind and crumbling plasterwork under your feet made working in the window openings of the second tier quite dangerous. It took us the whole day to close only three window openings of the second tier in the southern wall. We finished when it was already dark. All the credit goes to Lesha Gagarin, Alexei Evstifeev (whose black eye forced him to stay on the ground), Alexander Bychenkov and Alexander Dylevski. On our way back, we were dreaming of closing all the window openings before the first snowfall. Thank God, we were lucky to have finished this much. In two days, it grew cold and wet, and then winter set in. Now we’ll have to wait until spring…

November 27
One month has elapsed after our last visit. Again we are travelling to Prechisty Bor for the usual prayer service. Yesterday, on November 26, was the Feast Day of St. John Chrysostom in whose name the razed right side-altar of our church was consecrated. We decided to have a prayer service with the Akathist to St. John Chrysostom. F. Maxim was taking exams, so we were determined to follow the layman’s order of the prayer service. Our cars could not hold all the people who disregarding a light frost showed up for the trip. Regretfully, we had to turn down those who had called on Friday. We could offer only ten car seats – using commuter train was inconvenient since the gap between trains was quite long. Next time, we’ll have to arrange a minivan ride or at least one more car. Attended: Sasha, Olga, Tatiana, Dmitri, Lesha Gagarin, Ivan Sandulov, Alexei Andreev, Sergei and Natasha. Sergei, Sasha Danilov’s good friend, was travelling with us for the first time. It was a long way, the road was bad – sheer ice, but Alexei used the time to tell Sergei about the history of our club which if printed would take no less than five books.
Two weeks before, our guys had come to close the window openings of the second tier on the right side. Thank God, they had managed to protect the altar space from rain and snow. However the window openings on the left side still remained unclosed. Well, probably next year… Working up there was quite dangerous – the lower parts of apertures were slippery.
First snow has fallen. It had melted in the city at once turning into slush under people’s feet, but here in Prechisty Bor it had stayed in the shape of nice snowdrifts. Our spirits were high, for quite a while we were taking pictures outside and playing around in the new-fallen snow – we were simply happy. Then Sasha was making a video of something, while we were drinking tea and eating a fish pie cooked by Ivan’s mother. We wished happy birthday to our girls Natasha and Tatiana and boisterously sang “many years” for them. On the way back, we were singing songs.

December 11
F. Maxim had just returned from Yaroslavl’ having passed all the exams. After the great vespers at his Chernogubovo church, he told us that Russian House had published an article about the first Divine Liturgy at Prechisty Bor – he had already received a phone call from Moscow with an offer of help.
Lesha brought a copy of the magazine a few days later. We are again grateful to the editorial staff of the magazine for the assistance!

December 14
Our club took part in Patriots of the Upper Volga Regional Forum of Orthodox Youth. Upon the completion of the plenary meeting in the Theatre for Young Audiences, the forum moved to the assembly hall of the Tver Branch of the Moscow Institute of Economy and Humanities where participants demonstrated their presentations of social projects aimed at the education of youth patriotism. F. Maxim made a presentation of our club project Living History which includes the restoration of the church at Prechisty Bor.

December 16
The 69th anniversary of the liberation of Tver from Nazis. All of the motivated young men and women left for the town of Kaliazin where a Regional Youth Congress convened. It assembled representatives of regional and municipal bodies carrying out youth policy, various youth societies and public organizations. The Sower Club in the person of Alexei Andreev and Oxana Iskhakova were active in the Orthodox section Orthodox Youth. Alexei gave a talk about the restoration of the church at Prechisty Bor and other club projects. However, they failed to demonstrate our short film – the laptop computer which was available lacked codecs.
Our club members got to know young men and women representing a variety of Orthodox youth organizations of Tver Province.

December 18
Alexei Andreev appeared in front of the youth audience in the village of Emmaus community centre. The youth assembled for the closing seminar on Social Project Engineering.
The talk about the restoration of the church was preceded by the newsreel New Generation made by Pilot television company (the credit goes to sisters Bykov). The newsreel told about the work of the youth at Prechisty Bor. The audience proved to be grateful listeners and asked questions at the end.
Who knows: someone of them might want to survive the same experience…