The Spiritual and Patriotic Education of Russian Youth Abroad
Speech of Larisa Krassovsky and Nicholas Collaso at the opening of the International St Tatiana Meetings in St Petersburg State University of Economics and Finance
Your Eminence, Reverend Fathers, Dear Sirs and Madams!
The bloody 1917 Revolution scattered millions of Russian people throughout the world. They fled certain death, going to the West, to Europe and the Far East through China.
Our parents and grandparents, who were forced to abandon their much-suffering Homeland, taught us that the primary goal of the communists in this internecine war was to destroy all the pillars of the Great Imperial Russian Sovereignty. Representatives of all the classes of Russian society found themselves abroad: clergymen, aristocrats and nobility, officers, soldiers, cadets, scholars, teachers, artists, iconographers, industrialists, Cossacks and peasants, and almost all of them had but one goal: to recreate Holy Orthodox Russia—abroad! To reestablish what was lost. And construction of Russian churches began throughout the whole world, higher educational institutions were opened, and schools. Cultural centers were established, opera companies, symphonies, cadet corps, Cossack organizations, athletic and charitable groups. Youth scout organizations were recreated, and in the midst of this tumultuous creative life was the Holy Russian Orthodox Church.
My name is Larissa Krassovsky, and I am a member of the third generation of Russians born abroad. I am 19 years old, and I am visiting my native Russian Land for the very first time, for which I give thanks to God. My father, Vladimir Krassovsky, is the Director of the Choir of the Cathedral of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” in San Francisco, where the uncorrupted relics of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco the Miracle-worker lie. My father is also an icon painter who paints church frescoes. My mother, Natalia Krassovsky, is the director of interpreters at San Francisco University Hospital. I have two older brothers and an older sister. We all speak, read and write in Russian. We also all sing in the Cathedral Choir. We all know that our Homeland is Russia, and Russian blood flows in our veins.
My name is Nicholas Collaso; I am 18 years old and I am also a member of the third-generation Russians who were born abroad. I am the first in my family who has stepped onto the land of our ancestors. Thank God, I am finally in Russia. My father, Victor Collaso, is a banker and soloist, the leading bass in our Cathedral Choir. My mother, Elena Collaso, is a chemist, and also sings in the Choir, as does our entire family. I have one older sister. We all speak read and write in Russian. When Americans ask me who I am, I always say that I am Russian
When I turned 5, Lyalya and I enrolled in regular American schools. At the same time, our parents registered us at SS Cyril and Methodius Russian Orthodox High School at our Cathedral, where we studied three times a week after American school. This is a 12-year program, fairly intensive, in which we studied the Law of God, Russian language, Russian history, Russian geography, literature and culture. At home, our parents forced us to speak only Russian. We were taught that Russia is a great country and that our Homeland is nothing but Russia, despite the fact that we were born in America. Over those 12 years, the names Nestor the Chronicler, Griboedov, Zhukovsky, Derzhavin, Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, Turgenev, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, St Andrei Rublev, Vasnetsov, Nesterov, Mendeleev and Sikorsky became dear to us.
Our parents and teachers taught us to love God and His Holy Church and how to build our lives exclusively around the Church. They taught us to love our Homeland, Russia. They gave us “the great, powerful, truthful and free Russian language.”
Singing in the Cathedral Choir has also become a part of our spiritual education. Kolya has been serving as an altar boy since he was a child. I grew up in our Cathedral Choir. When Kolya grew up, he also joined the Choir under the direction of my father, in which both of our families sing. The Choir consists of 65 singers. A lot of them are young people. Over the course of a year, we gather for services and rehearsals more than 200 times. Everyone sings for free. Our repertoire is very broad. We sing the works of Kastalsky, Chesnokov, Bortniansky, Kalinnikov, Fr Matthew, Trubachov, Konstantinov, Ledkovsky, Raspopov and many others. We also sing the znamenny, Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian chants… Kievan Caves Lavra, Mt Athos and Muscovite melodies, and various podobnys. It was in our Choir that we came to love divine services. We sing with a great deal of enthusiasm, and our services are very ceremonious. My mother is a soloist and lead soprano, and Kolya’s father is also a soloist and the lead bass. Sometimes we also give concerts.
Besides this, we also belong to the Organization of Young Russian Scouts [St George’s Pathfinders—transl.], which, thanks to our counselors, once again began work here in Russia. Our motto is “Always be Prepared, for Russia!” On Saturdays, after Russian school, we would attend scout meetings at the Scout House across the street from our Cathedral. The premises also house the headquarters of the General Cossack Union. The Cossacks helped the scouts with the construction of the building. Lyalya’s grandfather is the Atman of the Cossack Union in San Francisco, and my grandfather was a long-time President of the Cadet Union of San Francisco. The scouts taught us to sing Russian folk and military songs. They also taught us to love Russia, love each other and to be kind, honest and noble people. At each meeting, we pray, and will continue to: “Lord, save Russia and establish Thy Church.”
In conclusion, I would like to thank all those who organized this remarkable event, and all those who gave us the opportunity to come here, especially Vladyka Amvrosy [of Gatchina—edit.] and our dear Fr Andrei [Sommer—edit.]. My late grandfather, who was a senior scoutmaster, wrote a wonderful song which we would sing around the campfire:
“But we believe our Fatherland will rise
And under the tricolor banners,
The Russian Two-Headed Eagle
Will spread its powerful wings.”
Greetings on the feast day of St Tatian