Human Fates in St. Elisabeth Convent: Nun Vera (Gordienko), Part I

Vera (Faith). This nun got the name Vera during her tonsure for a reason. Before her coming to faith, this woman was addicted to heroin and used to think that the dark and gloomy hell was her home.

Her faith saved her and keeps saving her today. A couple of years ago, she was diagnosed with a deadly disease. She accepted it as the chance to figure out what she had come into this world for and who she really was.

Join the Light Side

A British photographer Alys Tomlinson came to the Convent a couple of years ago to take pictures of Sister Vera. Her photos received a prestigious award. Alys became the photographer of the year.

However, Vera isn’t a famous person in the Convent. Everyone knows her as a nun who loves horses and who possesses enough inner strength to help other lost souls.

“I was 24 when I came to the Convent,” Nun Vera says. “It happened suddenly. I just had God grab me by the collar like a silly kitten, turn me back, and kick me below my back.

It took me a while to learn to be grateful to God for that. At first, it was a shock mixed with glimpses of insight and with finally being able to feel my soul inside. I had known that I had a soul. It was a revelation for me that my soul was part of something bright. Until then, I had been absolutely certain that I was a child of doom and that the dark hell was my real home.

Outcry of The Mother’s Heart

My father was an army officer. A deputy Chief of Staff of the Army of the Byelorussian Military District. A real officer, as it was understood in the times of the Russian Imperial Army. Now you can imagine how he raised me.

My mum is a maths teacher. She is a decent and honest person and in fact, deep inside, she is a staunch believer, even though she doesn’t go to church. Her soul is so close to God at its core that I suppose she used to talk with him directly. A prayer doesn’t require words sometimes. As far as my mum was concerned, it was an outcry of her loving heart, which saw her beloved child wither away.

My dad retired in 1992. You might remember that those were turbulent and tragic times, both politically and personally. I was a teenager at that time. I was in search of my own identity. Due to the chaotic environment, the dark side of life had the better of me.

I belonged to the beau monde. My friends were artists and musicians, not all of whom were classical musicians. I got to know some rock musicians: we rode motorcycles and listened to heavy music. Of course, I tried drugs. Could I not?

Love Is Greater Than Anything Else

There is a psychiatric hospital behind the fence adjacent to the Convent. There was a time in the life of each of my addicted friends and “colleagues” when they reached a condition in which they needed help.

At that time, our abbess visited the hospital units. She would come to the addicts and try to explain to them that there is a different life, there is a soul, there is eternity, and there is the loving God who cures all diseases and is ready to forgive all sins if only we wanted it.

I met her one day as I was visiting my friends at the hospital. Her eyes… they turned everything in my soul upside down. The light in her eyes almost burned my chest through. It was as if God looked at me through her eyes.

It is surprising because I was hard to impress at that time. We exchanged just a couple of words with her. I don’t remember what she told me. Words didn’t matter. Deep inside my soul, I realised that there was God’s love, which was superior and greater than all human sins and all the filth of the earth. Everything sinks in that love immediately and fully.

But then, I turned back, left the hospital, and went on to do what I had been doing. A lot of time passed since then. Finally, my life turned in a direction that led me to leaving all my past behind and try to live without it. So I asked Mother Abbess to let me stay in the rehabilitation centre.

Unable to Get to the Airport

People are different. Sin just doesn’t stick to some people. My mum is one of such people. On the contrary, I attract sins like a magnet. I feel so interested in everything I mustn’t do or have. The dirtier and the riskier it is, the more I need it.

My mum wasn’t opposed to my going to the Convent. In fact, it was her who drove me to the Convent. That was how it happened.

I was working in the sewing workshop of the Convent. One day, my spiritual father ordered me to move into a cell in two hours.

Luckily, I was obedient to my spiritual father; perhaps, that was because my dad was an army officer. If you’ve chosen your general, you’ve got to obey him.

I remember how I hurried home on that day. It was a weekday. I don’t know why my mum was at home: she had to be at the school. She spotted my insane eyes and started asking what had happened. I replied in a calm voice: “Call the airport and book me a ticket to the next plane, and then call a taxi.”

I was in a condition when I realised that everything was over. Either I fly to a different corner of the planet or I stay in the Convent. In moments like those, the evil forces openly grab you by the throat and compel you to do what they want.

If my mum hadn’t been at home, I’d have flown somewhere. She was looking at me packing my bag. Then she threw all deodorants and make-up kits out, saying, “You won’t need these in the Convent.” Well, and I was left with no other choice than to pass out…

End of Part I
To be continued…

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  1. What a wonderful interview. I am in America and am encouraged to read your story. God bless you for listening to your spiritual father.

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