It seems that although annual parish feast-day celebrations are always expected, they often bring the unexpected. In Luxembourg, the parishioners of SS Peter and Paul Church know that the Ruling Bishop will arrive from Geneva, they know the hierarchal service and how he performs it, and know that everyone will later share a trapeza feast. Yet this year, the feast day was not only abundant in terms of changes, but it also brought extra joy as it marked the 85th anniversary of the parish’s founding.
Preparations began long ago. Priest George (Mashtaler) heeded the wishes of His Eminence Archbishop Michael of Geneva and Western Europe to put together a modest chronology of the parish, and with his blessing, they began gathering all available historical material on their forebears. This inspired other parishioners, descendants of the Russian and White Armies, to research their own family and parish histories. From the first generation of Russian settlers in Luxembourg, Svetlana Yuryevna Ushakova provided invaluable help: she had arrived here with her parents in the late 1920’s. She remembers the first priest and founder of the parish, Fr Eugene (Treshchine), and the construction of the church by the initiative and oversight of the rector, Mitred Protopriest Sergei (Pouch). Vyacheslav Ivanovich Skripnichenko, the parish treasurer, offered historical material on the first years his father spent in Luxembourg, but also the “Gallipoli Period” of the Kornilov Regiment in Turkey, portions of which later settled in Bulgaria, Serbia, France, then the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
The late Valentin Feodorovich Galykine had left his recorded memories of the wartime and post-war period of the Russian colony. Having gathered materials from the Luxembourg archives, historical and research centers and eyewitness accounts, they were able to put together a 100-page, richly-illustrated book which describes the life of the Russian Orthodox community of Luxembourg from 1929 to 2014.
Six chapters of history are interwoven with major details and events in parish life, the names of its active parishioners and little-noticed helpers, with descriptions of their traditions and innovations.
A special place is devoted to the preservation of the traditions, language, culture and faith of the first generations of immigrants. Photographs are published for the first time on the life the local diaspora: the iconostasis of the house chapel in 1929 and the houses of the immigrants, photos of children with Fr Eugene and the young Fr Sergei and his matushka Emilia, views of factories where the former soldiers and officers of the Russian and White Armies worked, pictures of the first divine services and the still-unbuilt church on rue Probst.
One section is devoted to the iconostasis of Fr Kyprian (Pyzhov), who came from Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY. Pages were also devoted to the parish’s life today, the choir, Sunday school, children’s chorus. Recalled were the biographies of the three priests who ministered to their flock. The lives of their fathers and grandfathers intertwined since the distant year of 1920, when the ship departing from Crimea to Turkey was boarded by the future first pastor of the parish, then still Colonel Eugene Treshchine, the father of the second priest, Colonel Roman Pouch, and the grandfather of the third, graduate of Sergievsky Artillery Academy, Boris Mashtaler…
The feast day was celebrated on July 12. Vladyka Michael was joined in the service by Protopriest Stefan Weerts of Brussels, Priest George (Mashtaler) and visiting clergymen. After a procession of the cross, a gift of a panaghia was given to Vladyka Michael.
On the actual anniversary day, July 20, a tent was erected in front of the church in anticipation of a multitude of attendees: the church itself became the altar, and the courtyard was the church. The archbishop was joined by Protopriest Pavel Tsvetkoff, Protopriest Stefan Weerts, Protopriest Peter Shturm from Basle, Protopriest Spiridon Tsekouras from the Greek community, Protopriest Leonid from Brussels, Priest Quentin de Castelbajac and others. Also serving were Protodeacon George Figurek of Geneva, Protodeacon George Kobro of Munich, nephew of Fr Sergei Pouch, Protodeacon Nicolas Mokhoff from the Synodal Cathedral of the Mother of God “of the Sign,” and Deacon Alexander Mashtaler, brother of Fr George.
During the reading of the sixth hour, Dimitri Rahr was ordained a reader. During the minor entrance, Fr Quentin was elevated to the rank of Protopriest, and Priest George was awarded the nabedrennik. The Ruling Bishop was given a copy of the parish chronicle, written by Inna Genshow and titled And the Golden Cupolas Shone Forth.
Honored guests were also in attendance, including representatives of the Luxembourg diplomatic corps, and political and religious leaders: Chamberlain to the Royal Court Dr Paul Leche, Deputy Fernand Karteiser, First Advisor to the Russian Embassy to Luxembourg Mr Yuri Sokolov, Municipal Council member Marceline Gerjen and Honorary Chaplain to the Great Duchy George Villermos.
The celebrations concluded with lunch for 200 guests in a neighboring restaurant, where in addition to the magnificent Swedish cuisine financed by a benefactor, an impromptu concert of religious, lay and classical music was given by the various guests.
The hierarch then departed for the home of Fr Sergei to offer Holy Communion; Fr Sergei was unable to attend the service due to illness. The choir, under the direction of Galina Tretyak-Lepache, made a CD of the vigil and Liturgical singing during their feast-day celebrations.