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Alexei Savin: In Memory of Protopriest Rostislav Gan (On the 75th anniversary of his ordination and 100th anniversary of his birth)

 

On December 8, 1975, Protopriest Rostislav Gan reposed in the Lord. He was born on July 16, 1911, at Chalantun Station of the Chinese Eastern Railroad to the family of a staff captain of the 4th Amur Railroad Battalion. 

He received his elementary and high-school education at the Railroad Commercial School, and in 1925 transferred to the YMCA high school, which he graduated in 1928. That year he enrolled in the Civil Engineering Department at Harbin Polytechnical Institute, whence he graduated in 1933. He chose his life’s path in his student years, deciding to take up a spiritual vocation. While studying at HPI, he also took courses at Harbin’s St Vladimir Theological School, which he graduated in July 1933. 

On Sunday, February 9, 1936, he married Sophia Konstantinovna Yumina, the niece of Bishop Yuvenaly (Kilin, +1958) of Tsitsikarsk. On Saturday, February 15, the feast day of the Meeting of the Lord, he was ordained by Bishop Yuvenaly to the rank of deacon, and the following day, on Cheesefare Sunday, to the priesthood. That year, he moved to Shanghai, where he was appointed Rector of the house chapel at Shanghai Commercial School, where he taught the Law of God and mathematics, in addition to teaching religion to Russian students of other international schools of the city. When Fr Rostislav left Shanghai due to health problems, St John (Maximovich, +1966), said to many that he “lost a piece of his heart.”  

In 1937, Fr Rostislav was appointed rector of the local church in Kagahasi, near the city of Dalny, and in 1938, he was transferred to Tianzin and appointed rector of St Seraphim Church, where he also taught the Law of God in Russian schools. In 1943, he was transferred to be a parish rector in the city of Hailar. At the same time, he ministered to parishes in the towns of Hake, New Troitsky and Hui-Hul-Di, Mongolia, and taught in the Russian schools of Hailar. At the end of 1946, he moved to Harbin, where he was appointed rector of Holy Transfiguration Church in Korpusny Gorodok, and the prior of the local convent, where he remained until his departure for Australia in 1953. During this time he actively participated in the diocesan publishing concern, editing the three-volume church music book Pesnoslov and other publications.

Upon arriving in Sydney, Australia, Fr Rostislav was appointed rector of Protection Community, then the parish in Cabramatta, where he remained until his death. He begins very active work here. The local community did not have its own church yet. Fr Rostislav inspired them to build one. A parcel of land was purchased along with an old army barracks in which a temporary church was set up. But Fr Rostislav was not satisfied with this arrangement and planned a new, stone, gilded-cupolaed church. Surrounding himself with active and hard-working parishioners, he began collecting donations for construction, inviting the architect Maklashevsky to prepare drawings, and, in 1957, construction began. By 1973, the church was finished, along with a parish hall and chapel of St Panteleimon in the basement. 

Fr Rostislav was involved in a broad scope of work; in addition to divine services and services of need, he also visited sick Russians hospitalized throughout the city, visiting prisons (he was the chaplain of all Orthodox prisoners in New South Wales), he taught the Law of God to Orthodox students in the public schools of Sydney. He provided pastoral care to a large Russian senior home and the patients at St Sergius of Radonezh Russain Benevolent Society in Cabramatta, which exists on the premises of Protection Church to this day. He regularly conducted Saturday services there. By his initiative, a children’s church choir was organized which prepared future singers and psalm-readers. He gathered young people for Sunday discussions on spiritual and philosophical subjects. Fr Rostislav also taught theological courses in Sydney, preparing clergymen for service in the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand. 

An expert in liturgics, he published articles in Pravoslavnaya Rus [Orthodox Russia] under the “Notes on Divine Service” section, and his Pesnoslov, which he wrote in Harbin, was published by Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY. Unfortunately, he did not live to complete the publication of his collection of little-known troparia and kondakia from Serbian and Bulgarian sources.  

For his work as a cleric, Fr Rostislav received the following awards: he was elevated to the rank of protopriest, awarded the palitsa and ornamented cross. Before his death, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia awarded Fr Rostislav with the miter to mark his forty years of service. But his work was not limited to ecclesiastical service. He was one of the main initiators of a large effort to sponsor refugees from China.  

He took his duty to serve the people very deeply, he could be summoned at any hour of day or night to minister to the sick or dying, and there were times when he would sit at the bedside of a dying person all night, with the hope of administering the Holy Gifts to the patient if they regained consciousness. People would come to him with their sorrows and he always found time for them, providing good counsel and assistance. Fr Rostislav was well respected and loved not only within the Russian colony but among other Slavic populations, and even native Australians. 

Fr Rostislav died following complicated heart surgery, which his body, ravaged by years of asthma, could not endure. Before the operation, Fr Rostislav bade farewell to everyone, chose his coffin and prepared the vestments for burial. During his stay at the hospital, Fr Rostislav often partook of Holy Communion, for the final time on December 7, 1975, the Sunday directly preceding the day of his operation. The funeral of the late priest was performed by His Eminence Archbishop Theodosius (+1980) of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand and His Grace Bishop Konstantin (+1996) of Brisbane, along with the clergymen of the diocese and an enormous gathering of worshipers. Worshipers paid their final respects for the duration of the funeral service, after which the clergymen themselves bade farewell to Fr Rostislav. In attendance to pay their respects were not only a multitude of people, representatives of other Local Orthodox Churches and those of other confessions, representatives of civil authorities and social organizations. The parish choir sang with feeling under the direction of AA Korobko, and the large children’s choir sang several prayers, too.  

From his student days, Fr Rostislav dedicated his entire life to serving God and man, and left kind memories in the hearts of a great many people who knew him.