How a Future Bishop Tried to Finish a Soviet School

‘Teacher award’ by Abram Kharkovsky

When I was in my final year at school in the late sixties, they were reluctant to give me the certificate because they knew that I was going to continue my education in Leningrad Theological Seminary. I had never kept my faith secret from anyone. Even as a toddler, I was sure that I would serve the Church of Christ.

My elementary school teacher asked me when I first came to school:

“What would you like to be?”

“I’d like to be like my dad,” I replied.

“What is your dad, then?”

“My dad is a priest.” 

I studied in Math School No. 330 from the 8th grade onwards. It was one of the best schools in Leningrad. I was the only student who didn’t join Komsomol because its oath included the following words, “I pledge to fight the remnants of the past.” They considered Christian faith to be one of those “remnants of the past.” 

At the end of the school year, they lowered my grades for all subjects because of a harmless misdemeanor of my school friends. Apparently, they found a pretext that they had long been looking for. I could never receive my certificate if not for my chemistry teacher and Russian literature teacher…

Archbishop Simon of Brussels and Belgium

I have to admit that I was bad at chemistry. I had always been better at math. I was in love with a classmate of mine, so I always helped her with math. I knew almost nothing about chemistry, on the contrary and I had a D. If I had received an F, I wouldn’t have gotten my school certificate at all. However, my chemistry teacher gave me an A for my final exam.

When I came to the literature exam, I started reciting poems instead of answering the questions. I read Anna Akhmatova’s poem first, followed by Pasternak’s Hamlet.

The teacher asked me,

“Do you have any favorite poems?”

I said, “I don’t. I have poems that resonate with my soul here and now, though.”

And I went on to recite more poems.

“Stop, stop,” she interrupted me. “That’s an A.”

I managed to get my certificate and enter the seminary.

I remember the humane actions of my teachers who had the courage to resist the harsh atheistic system with cordial gratitude even now, many years later.

Originally posted by Foma Magazine
Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds

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