Three Nuns, Three War Heroes

The end of World War II on 9 May remains a big holiday in this part of the world. It reminds us how much of a blessing is a peaceful sky above us. Yet even in times of the bloodiest of battles, the Lord never abandons His children and works miracles for them. Here is a story about the lives of three women who lived through the war as heroes, became monastics and departed to the Lord in glory.

Nun Adriana (Malysheva) 

Natalya Malysheva joined the army and went to the front when she was in her third year at the Moscow Aviation Institute. During the war, she was stationed at the headquarters of Marshal Rokossovsky, where she served in army intelligence. She fought in the battle for Moscow and lost her fiancé there. She also participated in the Kursk and Stalingrad battles and assisted in the talks with German general Paulus. She finished the war in Berlin, but remained in the army until 1949, as a part of the Soviet military contingent in Poland and Germany.

She was young and an atheist, but the Lord protected her from harm, knowing that she would eventually forsake her worldly life to become His servant. Natalya was a brave soldier. She could do many things – ride a horse, jump with a parachute, give first medical aid and even speak German, which made her a good candidate for a career in army intelligence. She was also an excellent shot.

Miracles followed her from her first days at the front. 

Through Divine intervention, she carried a wounded soldier under fire while she was fighting in the battle of Moscow. It was a cold winter. She had to undress to her underwear so the enemy would not see her in the snow. She reached the wounded soldier quickly and unharmed. But she had little idea how she would bring him back to safety. Suddenly, dense snow began to fall, hiding them from the enemy’s view. She strapped the soldier to her body, and they passed the dangerous sections of the track under cover of the snow.

Natalia Malysheva during the war
Natalia Malysheva during the war

In another incident, a German soldier almost took her prisoner while she was listening in on the enemy communications. He hit her with the shoulder of his gun, and she was expecting him to shoot her right there. She reached out for her gun to shoot herself, but the German soldier kicked it out of her hand and declared: “I do not fight with women. Go away.” She could not believe her luck. “I cowered toward the forest, expecting to be shot in the back at any moment,” remembers Natalya. Suddenly, the soldier shouted: “Wait. Take your gun, or they will shoot you for returning without your gun.” – She has not shared this story with very many people, but she spent years looking for that merciful German officer among the prisoners of war.

After her discharge from the army, she graduated from the aviation institute and became a rocket designer. She worked in this profession for thirty-five years. She was the only woman member of the state rocket testing commission. She designed the engines for the first Soviet ballistic missiles and space crafts, including the spaceship “Vostok” that carried to space the legendary Yury Gagarin.

Portrait of Nun Adriana by A. Shilov
Portrait of Nun Adriana by A. Shilov

When the Pukhtitsy monastery opened its metochion in Moscow, she retired at took tonsure as Nun Adriana. She called herself a nun of the modern time. She was always young at heart and kept abreast of the latest news and developments. Alexander Shilov, a known contemporary artist asked to paint her portrait two years before her departure. Like many others who knew Nun Adriana, he said of her, “Some divine light was coming from within her.” Nun Adriana fell asleep in the Lord on 4 February 2012.

Nun Sophia (Osharina) 

She joined the army in her young years and went all the way to Berlin. She forced the river Dnieper and took Konigsberg. She fought in an airborne unit that brought shock and awe to the Germans and that they nicknamed “Night demons”. She also had perfect hearing and went travelled with the Soviet Army all across Eastern Europe as a radio operator. It was hard and dangerous work. The Nazis worked hard to locate the radio stations and capture the operators. As she was doing the Morse code, she always used to pray, “Lord, save me, Lord help me, Lord protect me.” She wore a cross on her neck. Ekaterina came from a religious family and was herself a believer. She believes that her survival during the war was the gift of God’s grace. As a nun, she was always reluctant to talk about the war.

“There were thousands of dead bodies across the Dnieper in Mogilev. So many that I could barely walk. Some were still alive, and were pleading with me, “Help, sister, Help!” But I was carrying a heavy radio station, and I had orders to move quickly to establish radio contact, and it gave me great pain to leave them lying there without any help. Of twenty-five people in my unit, only two survived. It is a painful memory.”

In 1945, Ekaterina saw the legendary Moleben with the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God. Later, in an interview, she remembered, “Nuns and priests came together – a hundred or more of them. They stood with flags, icons and in vestments in the middle of a battle. The soldiers joked: “The priests have come. Now they will get the ball rolling.” But the moment the monks began to chant, everything went quiet. The shooting stopped abruptly. Our soldiers came to their senses and broke through the enemy defences in less than fifteen minutes. Later, they asked a German war prisoner why they had stopped shooting. “Our guns jammed,” he answered. One officer I knew told me that the priests had been praying and fasting for a whole week before that Moleben.” 

Nun Sofia in the garden of the convent
Nun Sofia in the garden of the convent

Ekaterina received fifteen decorations for her bravery in battle. After the war, she returned to her hometown Zelenodolsk and graduated from the Timirazyev Agricultural Academy. She married and had two children. In her old age, she heard about the rebuilding of the Raif Monastery (in Tatarstan, Russia) and joined it eventually. After taking tonsure, she worked as a gardener. Many called her garden as beautiful as the garden of Eden. She departed to the Lord on 4 April 2008.

Nun Elisaveta (Dmitrieva) 

She was also a believer when she went to war and shared multiple miracles that happened to her in wartime. Her grandmother Marfa brought her to God. Grandmother Marfa was a devout believer and had the gift of foresight. Vera listened to her predictions with awe and saw them come true in later years, “People will be wealthy but evil, young women with evil faces. There will be another massacre of the infants. There will be many things on the shelves, but very little to buy. People will buy their water in shops.” 

She fought throughout the war with prayer, As a nurse, she has rescued countless numbers of wounded from the battlefield. Mother Elisaveta remembers: “I was saying the prayer, and that send my fear into the ground; I heard nothing but my heartbeat. And I was not afraid.”  

At the start of the war, she was left behind in the occupied part of Voronezh Oblast. There, she worked with the other doctors to hide the wounded men from front-line intelligence units from sure death at the hands of the Nazis. She spent two years on the front line and then worked as a nurse on medical evacuation trains and in military hospitals. 

She often looked death in the face. Many nurses and doctors were dying around her, but the Lord was protecting her from harm. Once she saw in a vision the arm of her guardian angel who covered her from the shells. “A bomb explodes. Someone’s arm is covering me from the shells. It looks like a wing turned upwards, I see it clearly on the side, but when I turn my head to see better, it disappears. The shells fly past, cutting everything into pieces, but I escape without even a scratch,” recalls Mother Elisaveta. 

She also shares her memory of another incident that happened during a battle near a small railway station. The wounded had been sent away, and she was lying in a trench with a bad fever from an attack of malaria. The fire was intense, and the enemy tanks were approaching. The soldiers worried of they would endure the attack, while Vera was whispering to herself the verses of Psalm 90. A shell landed near her but did not explode. The tanks were approaching. Suddenly, the friendly planes appeared out of nowhere and stopped the enemy assault. The soldiers almost cried with joy. They said to Vera: You were in luck. We were going to shoot you and then kill ourselves not to be taken prisoner. We already drew lots to choose who will shoot you. Nobody dared. Then the planes came to our rescue.” God protected her again.

Vera Dmitrieva. Post-war photo. 1947
Vera Dmitrieva. Post-war photo. 1947

The would-be nun had an exceptional love for all people. She even pitied the German war prisoners. She protected and cried for them. She once saw the Red Army soldiers rough up a German prisoner. She ran into their midst and made them stop. “You cannot abuse a prisoner you have taken. Take him where he needs to be.”

After the war, she received the Order of the Patriotic War and the medal “Victory over Germany.” She continued to work as a nurse in civilian hospitals and clinics. She took the small scheme at an old age as one of the oldest nuns in Khabarovsk. At tonsure, she took the name Elisaveta, in honour of the Holy Royal Martyr Elisabeth Romanov. Like her patroness in heaven, she dedicated her whole life to helping the sick and the infirm. Nun Elisaveta fell asleep in the Lord on 2 November 2010 after a long and deadly illness.

Mother Elisaveta surrounded by children
Mother Elisaveta surrounded by children

By the prayers of our beloved nuns Adriana, Sophia and Elisaveta, may God have mercy on us, strengthen us in our faith and inspire us to emulate the feats of these servants of God for the sake of Christ and our neighbours.

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