Eulogy for Protopriest Theodore Shevzoff by George Alexandrovich
(Read at the Funeral Reception on June 15th, 2016)
From the Editors: on Wednesday, June 15, 2016, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York celebrated Divine Liturgy, followed by the funeral for Protopriest Theodore Shevzoff in Church of the Presentation of Christ in Stratford, CT, along with His Grace Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan and clergymen of the Eastern American Diocese. After the burial of the late cleric, a memorial luncheon was offered at the parish hall, during which George Alexandrovich delivered a eulogy on Fr Theodore.
When the hour finally comes to bid farewell to a good childhood friend, one can't help but try to share with the family and all of his friends everything that one experienced during his life in relation to the reposed. This desire for me was especially strong since our friendship was special, genuine and fraternal, which left in my mind the warmest and most unforgettable moments.
I met Fedya in the middle of the 1930’s, when his family moved from Sremskiye Karlovci to Novy Sad (Yugoslavia). We studied in the Russian elementary school, where children of various classes all studied together. My friendship with him began when two kids started to fight. No one knew how to stop them. Then Fedya exclaimed with a loud voice”Hey you! Go ahead and wag your tongues but don't let your fists fly!” The fighting kids were stunned, and they stopped fighting.
It was under this “slogan” that Fedya led his life, developing and honing his approach to life. Faith and the conviction of his parents influenced him greatly, they stood for truth, for faith in God and love for the Fatherland. Fedya's father, Ivan Ivanovich, as did most of our Russian émigrés, went to serve in the Russian Guard, seeking a path to resurrect our enslaved Russia, which, ultimately, did not happen until the end of the century.
In the meanwhile, the Russian diaspora raised their younger generations with the desire to return Orthodox Christianity to Russia.
Since the age of six, we served as altar boys and studied the Law of God, which our batiushka taught us, an invalid was had been injured during the Russian Civil War, Fr Sergy Samsonievsky. Fedya and I became closer friends then and participated in the Sokol athletic club, which helped us learn about Russia and to love her. С шестилетнего возраста мы прислуживали в церкви и проходили Закон Божий,
The real tribulations began when Fedya’s mother, Vera Mitrofanovna, became gravely ill. Ivan Ivanovich was already serving in the Russian Corps. Fedya and I worked in the Russian library every evening, signing out books. During the day we studied, and spent our free time together, building boats which we would set adrift on the Danube River. Our parish rector, Fr Sergy, could no longer serve because of the shrapnel in his leg. He soon died, and a young priest was assigned to our parish, Fr Vladimir Rodzianko. He also became our religion teacher.
The war soon broke out, and Fedya’s mother soon succumbed to illness, and our friendship strengthened when my grandmother died of a heart attack. Fortunately, the family of the remarkable Leonid Graf took Fedya in, and when time came to evacuate, the Grafs took Fedya to Germany. As the war flared up, we lost contact with each other.
After many years of wandering, ending up in America, life finally normalized, but I knew nothing of Fedya’s whereabouts.
In America I met a certain Alexander Pinchuk at an electric company. I learned that he had a cousin name Fedya, whom he lost contact with. A few years later, after I completed my military service, I got a job where I needed to find out about certain plastics. I called a factory and asked to talk to an plastics engineer. I was connected to a Mr Shevzoff. There is no need to explain what happened then. We picked up the lost thread, and soon, Sasha Pinchuk and I went to Connecticut, where we finally met again face to face.
Life doesn’t wait for our instructions; obligations to family, to work and parents often alters fate. Fedya and his family moved to the American south, and we lost touch again. Years later my wife and I attended a lecture on the “relics of Ekaterinburg,” at Otrada social center in New York State. During the intermission, I espied Fedya, who was already “Fr Theodore,” with a beard and a cassock, a golden pectoral cross on a chain around his neck, talking to some other audience members. Once again, we met under exceedingly odd circumstances. After the lecture, we went to serve a memorial services for my parents at the nearby cemetery, whom Fr Theodore had known well.
Since then, Fr Theodore, his matushka Nina Evgenievna and I have remained in constant contact, celebrating our 50th anniversary with my wife. The last five years we have tended to health issues in our families, but our friendship continued even when we could no longer meet in person and share recollections of our childhoods, the friends we shared and the years we spent together.
I am so happy that I was enriched with such a life-long friend who understood and supported me, gave me inspiration, prayed for me, and whose memory will remain with me forever.
May my dear friend and devoted servant of Christ, Protopriest Theodore, abide in the Kingdom of Heaven!