|IN THE PHOTO (from left to right): Priest Oleg Oreshkin, Archpriest Peter Perekrestov, Archpriest Alexey Poluektov (in the light vestments), Protodeacon Nicholas Porshnikoff, Archbishop Anthony (Medvedev) – 1991.
On Thursday, May 27, 2010, the Very Reverend Archpriest Alexey Poluektov reposed in the Lord. If one measures by the number of years he served as a priest in California (more than forty), he was at that time the senior clergyman of the Western American Diocese.
Alexey Poluektov was born in Russia in 1929, one of six children. As a youth, he witnessed the brutal German occupation of his village. Under difficult circumstances, as a young man he worked for the railway and studied to be a mechanic. After World War II, Alexey served in the Soviet army and was sent to East Germany. It was from there, in 1954, that he was finally able to escape from the communist authorities and seek freedom in the West.
Upon arriving in the United States, away from the grip of the godless Soviet society, he pledged to dedicate his life to serving God and the Russian Orthodox Church. He undertook to enter Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, New York, completing his course of study in 1962. In 1966, he was ordained to the deaconate by the ever-memorable Metropolitan Philaret, then First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, and a few months later, on the feast of Our Lord’s Nativity, to the priesthood. As a new priest, he was immediately assigned to the church of Our Lady of Kazan in San Francisco, the memorial church to Tsar Nicholas II and his family, a parish he served faithfully for thirty-seven years.
When Father Alexey began serving in Kazan Church, the parish was directly under the omophorion of the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad. In time, and with the new priest’s leadership, the parish situation was normalized and returned into the fold of the Western American Diocese. Besides restoring canonical order in the parish and reconciling it with the diocesan authorities, Father Alexey zealously undertook the task of beautifying the church, which was almost completely rebuilt under his guidance. Thanks to Father Alexey’s efforts, the Kazan church became one of the most beautifully adorned, warm, and welcoming churches in the Russian diaspora.
Although Father Alexey was not gifted as a speaker and was a man of few words, he had the talents of listening, showing compassion, and offering advice and comfort in a spirit of humility and with good humor. When he served, people noticed an atmosphere of extraordinary peace, quiet, and an air of simplicity. He was highly sought-after for his counsel and became the spiritual father to many priests of the San Francisco Deanery.
Because of his early experiences living in Soviet Russia, Father Alexey held close to his heart the suffering Russian people under the yoke of godless communism and did everything in his power to help them. He founded St Elias Publishers and set up a printing press in his home. Among the books published under this imprint were such inspirational works as St John Chrysostom’s Six Books on the Priesthood; Bishop-Confessors by E. L.; Heaven on Earth—St John of Kronstadt’s Teaching on the Divine Liturgy, compiled by Archbishop Benjamin (Fedchenko); the two volumes of IK Surskii’s Father John of Kronstadt; Sergei Nilus’ On the Bank of God’s River and Holiness Under a Bushel; and a reprint of the Shanghai Book of Prayers for Different Occasions. Father Alexey also printed the monthly San Francisco Holy Virgin Cathedral newsletter Tropinka and an extensive series of missionary brochures, Faith and Life. All his books—and especially the missionary brochures—were secretly taken to Soviet Russia to help quench the spiritual thirst of the faithful who were living under the atheistic regime.
In 1996, for the first time in forty-six years, Father Alexey visited Russia, which was no longer enslaved to the communist authorities. He became a fervent supporter of the process leading to the 2007 restoration of unity between the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church, in the homeland and in the diaspora, and this event was a great source of joy and comfort to him.
In due time, Father Alexey received all the awards of recognition the Church bestows, up to the jeweled cross, for his pastoral work, laboring to beautify the house of God, and for his publishing and missionary efforts. In 2003, for reasons of ill health, he petitioned his bishop to retire from active church duty. The last Liturgy he served at the Kazan church was on June 13, 2004, exactly fifty years after his flight from the communists.
During his retirement years, Father Alexey regularly prayed and served at the Saints Peter and Paul Church in Santa Rosa, a parish that was close to his home in Sonoma County, and would help the parish rector, Archpriest Alexander Krassovsky, as much as his strength would allow. A few months before his repose, Father Alexey was unable to go to the Santa Rosa church, and thus Father Alexander would visit and commune him at his home.
After Father Alexey reposed in the Lord on May 27, his body was prepared for burial by Archpriests Stefan Pavlenko and Alexander Krassovsky and Hieromonk Juvenal. The funeral took place on Saturday, May 29, at Father Alexey’s dear Kazan parish in San Francisco. Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America led the service, assisted by numerous clergy: Archpriests Stefan Pavlenko, Peter Perekrestov, Mark Gomez, Serge Kotar, and Vladimir Derugin; Hieromonks James and Juvenal; Priest Ioann Comanescu; and Protodeacon Dimitri Jakimowicz. Father Alexey leaves behind his wife, Presbytera Margaret, daughter Kira, sons Ilya and John, daughter-in-law Julia, and three granddaughters – Catherine, Natalia and Ksenia.
Reflecting on this fine example of a quiet and meek pastor, on the beauty of San Francisco’s Our Lady of Kazan Church, and the labor of love that was St Elias Publishers, the clergy and faithful of the San Francisco Deanery will remember with admiration the newly reposed Archpriest Alexey Poluektov. O Lord, with the saints give rest to Thy servant!
Archpriest Peter PEREKRESTOV