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On St. Nicholas' Day in Sofia's church of Saint Nicholas the Wonder Worker

St. Nicholas accompanies Priest Vladimir Tishchuk in his ministry abroad

For the priest in Sofia's Russian Church, the mercy of St. Nicholas is an example for everyone who follows God

Protoiereus Vladimir Tishchuk
Photo: podvorie-sofia.bg

Not long ago, just a month ago, the Russian Church in Sofia consecrated as St. Nicholas Mirlikiysky the Miracle Worker welcomed with joy its new superior - Archpriest Vladimir Tishchuk. Like his grandfather and father, he is a hereditary priest and from a young age, together with his brothers, served in the temple in the city of Vladimir, Russia, where he was born in 1963. He belongs to the so-called "white clergy" who must be married before ordination. As a young priest, he was sent to New York, USA, where he served for 10 years in the Church of St. Nicholas, where his two children were born. After that, for 22 years, until he came to Bulgaria, he was a priest in the Russian Orthodox church in Vienna, whose patron saint is again St. Nicholas. 

His wife, Olga Vladimirovna, is a doctor and works as a pediatrician at the Russian School in Vienna. His son Alexander followed in his mother's footsteps and is already a surgeon in a Vienna hospital, and his daughter Tatiana is a biotechnologist. ‎

The assignment to Bulgaria came unexpectedly for Father Vladimir. For all these years in Vienna, he became attached to his parishioners, and they to him, as in a big family. Despite the sadness of the separation, the meeting with the Bulgarian laity is particularly exciting. On the one hand, the stories about the Russian Church of the Bulgarians from his Viennese parish somehow prepared him for his arrival, and on the other hand, pleasant memories from his childhood, when his father served in this same church in the 1970s, resurfaced. As he himself notes, many churches around the world are under the heavenly protection of St. Nicholas, and his life has been connected with the saint ever since he served abroad. ‎

The church of Saint Nicholas of Myra the Wonder Worker in Sofia

While he was a young priest in New York, a strangely dressed man came to his church and began to question him about St. Nicholas. He became embarrassed that he could not tell in detail the life of the saint, and the visitor did not stop smiling and repeating in Italian "Santa Nikola", "Santa Nikola"...‎

"Then there was a change in my soul", recalls Father Vladimir, in a special interview for Radio Bulgaria. "I realized that he is an important saint for every person. You know, Saint Nicholas did not write a single book, we are not familiar with his sermons. He is depicted with a gospel in his hand, and the gospel reading is a source of Christ's truth. With his kindness, he became a guide to God for many, many people. He did not just respond to the requests of the needy, but sought himself whom to help. Most of us, when we see someone begging, we wonder if he really deserves alms or if he is a fraud. We study him further to help him, and that is what separates us from the saint who knows in advance who to come to help. He helped so many people. God gave him the grace to help and this is the strongest preaching - kindness and mercy. It seems as if there are the most churches with his name all over the world. I don't know a city where there is no church named after St. Nicholas, and in Russia, if they build a new church somewhere, its heavenly patron is St. Nicholas."‎

So far, Father Vladimir has celebrated the feast of St. Nicholas of Myra twice a year according to the Julian calendar - on May 22, when his relics were brought to Bari, and on December 19, when the saint was presented before God. However, in Bulgaria, due to the differences between the celebrations according to the Julian and Gregorian calendars, the feast of the beloved saint is celebrated four times in the Russian Church, and Father Vladimir will gladly continue this tradition:‎

"In Vienna, we used to give gifts to the children on this holiday, and everyone who attended the service received a gift from St. Nicholas. It was something very simple - a piece of chocolate, fruit, and it seemed like a wonderful tradition to me. I don't know if here too we will be able to establish it. It will be wonderful! We believe that the saint will always help this temple, but it also depends on us. If our hand is open to help our neighbors, he will help us too. If we forget about charity and being his followers, he may stop helping us."‎

For Father Vladimir, serving in the Russian Church in Sofia is both joyful and responsible because of the love of the Bulgarians for this temple. The feasts of the Lord will continue to be celebrated according to the Julian and Gregorian calendars, because the difference in the celebration should not divide people and stop them from coming to the Russian church. At the end of the cordial and relaxed conversation, Father Vladimir extended an invitation to all the Orthodox Christians in our country - to be welcome both on weekdays and on holidays!‎

You can listen to Darina Grigorova's interview with Father Vladimir Tishchuk on the Russian language webpage of Radio Bulgaria.

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Photos: podvorie-sofia.bg, BGNES

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