Natalia Grigorenko-Men: We lived very openly

September 9 – the anniversary of the assassination of Archpriest Alexander men. What was the family life of one of the most famous preachers of the twentieth century, was close to a premonition of his death, how did you manage to establish a life after death and what is the main objective of the charitable Foundation by name of Alexander’s father. “Pravmir” publishes an interview of 2015 with the widow of the father of Alexander, Natalia F. Grigorenko.

Photo 1970-ies

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In preparation for this meeting, I wanted to read the previous interview with Natalia Feodorovna Grigorenko-Men. And found this one. In the biographical notes about his father Alexander says “in 1956, the year he married Natalia Grigorenko”.

The widow of one of the most famous preachers of the twentieth century, the mother of the Federal Minister conducts non-public life: working as a warden of the Church of saints Cosmas and Damian in Shubin, where the rector, a close friend of the family Mana Archpriest Alexander Borisov, and cultivates his garden in Semkhoz.

Natalya Fyodorovna Grigorenko-Men

Natalya Fyodorovna continued to live in the house, where she moved a schoolgirl together with her parents and much later returned with her husband, where she raised her children. When you come into the house at the end of summer, I think if it was the September twenty-five years ago? Also smelled like Phlox? The same round Jolly pumpkin was lying on the kitchen table? Here father Alexander went out that morning to catch the train…

Around the house over the years, things have changed. Previously, there was just the outskirts of the village. Now, the murder of Alexander’s father built a temple in the name of St. Sergius of Radonezh, whose Abbot was a nephew of Natalia Fedorovna, the priest Victor Grigorenko. And in the former house of culture priceplendil factory is a Museum of the father of Alexander and cultural-educational center “Dubrava” in his name. It turns out a triangle with sides of two hundred meters of the temple, the house Museum. In memory of the father of Alexander and events in “the Grove” (and there are exhibitions, concerts, film screenings, come the tourists and pilgrims) inside this triangle is very busy, but in everyday life in Semkhoz quietly and slowly.

This year a lot of plums. And Natalya Fyodorovna met us with his father Victor Grigorenko words that she needed more time to cook plum jam. Then treated tomatoes, which are grown right there: pink, strong-smelling South.

Natalya Fyodorovna, and all your life you doing this? Garden, vegetable garden?

– No, only with age was. Gradually got involved. And before that, I was not very fond of weeding, and everything else. I loved the house and its landscaping.

And tell, by the way, about the house. It’s still your grandfather and grandmother built?

– Parents and grandparents, together. Got land, built a house and lived grandfather with grandmother and dad and mom.

And then you and your father Alexander?

– Yeah, and then we came here. The father liked this place a lot, next to the Lavra of St. Sergius, the places familiar from childhood. He was friends with my parents. I don’t really want to live in Semkhoz.


Like in Moscow?

– No, not in this case. Just then the situation is not very. The people were mostly outsiders, because of the 101-kilometer leaked, settled on the local houses were in need of cheap labor force. But, by the way, the father of Alexander was with the local normal relationship, he knew how to build them so people, despite the constant stabbing around and stuff. If it was the village or the village where people, that is, with roots, the situation would be somewhat different.

And how your got here?

– In the specialty. My dad was an agronomist, he came to work here. First, before the war, in 1941 we came to live in Khotkovo. And here settled in the very early 1950s. in General, our large family moved from the Ukraine, and just in time: otherwise they would have fallen under the Germans.


And why did you move?

– There were four brothers Grigorenko. And one lived in Moscow, worked there in some kind of Ministry, he had a room in a shared apartment. And he decided all the brothers and sister to drag here from the Ukraine, gathered all the money and bought a house in Bronnitsy near the monastery.

At that time, all were very cheap because others were exiled, some were executed, and the house was sold… Sad story. Well, and then began to disperse who where settled. Dad was first given shelter here, and then we bought land and built this house.

Photo early 1960s

And at school you get in Bronnitsy studied? And from here went?

– Yes, went on the train. And every day back and forth went on Khot’kovskaya railway bridge. Bridge right over a cliff, above the river, is very high. Not sure how it is now, and then there was the narrow wooden walkways next to the rails and transparent iron zagorodka. Now I get to pass on it – I never will go. And then we kids went alone and not even thought of. And if there is a train, it is not clear where to go. It is only necessary to stand, gripping the handrail.

To my children let alone to go to school across this bridge! Before wasn’t afraid of anything. And in trains still were not automatic doors. We have not even got off the platform and opened the door, clung to the stair and climbed into the car.

But was your family secular? Ordinary Soviet family?

– In General, Yes. But grandma sometimes went to Church, although he was not very practicing. But mom angelina Petrovna many years sang in the Church. At first she sang in Zagorsk, in Elias Church. Even there she was a soloist, it was good, all well developed. But then there was turbulence almost forbidden to have a choir, and she lost the job.

Then she briefly sang in the Abbey, and then several decades in Moscow in the Church of all who sorrow on Bolshaya Ordynka street in Matveyevskoye is known choir. Came late, sometimes, as in 12 hours of the night on the train, very scary. My dog and I went to meet her. And then, when I married Alexander and we met his family, she was sometimes after Vespers under the big holidays to spend the night in their room on Serpukhivka: mother of the father of Alexander, Elena Semenovna, put her out of the cot.


How did you and father Alexander met?

– At the Institute. We were studying in different faculties: I’m on merchandising, and he is hunting. And they were only boys, and we have almost all girls.

The Institute was in Balashikha, and directly behind the Institute was a road to Moscow. You could walk through the woods to the station and to get to Moscow by train, but we used to go out on the road and voted, it was decided to hitchhike. We dovozili to the subway, so it was faster and more fun.

And that’s something we girls with merchandising, were standing in a group and boys in another pile nearby. A car stopped, we got in the indoor body, and us boys jumped to the same. Well, the future father of Alexander, then Alex approached us with his girlfriend and said, “Girls, here are you tickets, we will have an evening hunting, come!” That’s how we met.

He really was crazy then. No one wore boots. And he went in boots and riding breeches. A hat and a field bag over his shoulder. And then another, and by this beard to grow, which in those days was very exotic.


Were you apprehensive at first?

– No, I was not scared, I just said even the guys from our group: “Why are you Dating him? Look how he’s an oddball”. And he with this field bag was not broken up, he had a Bible, and he her for a drag and read everywhere. And at parties, if he was there was tired, he climbed under the table, put under the head of his field bag and slept.

And you are not scared that he is a believer?

– No, I treated this quite calmly. He warned me, said “I’m planning to become a priest.” I told him: “If you want it, come on.”


And your parents? At the time it is hard to imagine: “who’s your daughter got?” “Yes he was a seminarian!” It’s just “poor girl!” Your family normally took such a choice?

– They are very good to him all his life. And it was mutual. My parents were in the house unused attic with high ceilings. And there we have built on the second floor of a small apartment, at first thought it was going to use it as a summer residence. But then he settled here, and the station is very close, always at hand mom, where children can be left, if that. We bought a two-bedroom Finnish panel house, shoved it entirely in the attic, sawed the boards, made a sloping wall.


And the children had no problems due to the fact that they popovychi? Because I know that many were.

– Were many, Yes. But we have, in General, all was well. Except for the fact that in the year when Mike went into the army, all the sons of the priests from the Zagorsk district were sent to the battalion away from Moscow. And Mike served in the far East. Two years we never saw him leave were not given, and we have so far to go to him could not. But now he can safely say that went from crane to the Minister. He ran a tower crane.

Remember, he came from the army early in the morning and went in there to my dad’s office on the second floor. Then he said: “to Wake his father. He opened his eyes, looked: “Misha, is that you?.. and I thought – I’ve come from.” In General it is necessary to say that father Alexander had a wonderful sense of humor.

But, by the way, about children. The school was another family of believers. They, like us, were a boy and a girl, in the same classes as our kids. So they really teased and bullied because they go to Church. I think it’s because they lived a very closed and very suspicious to the outside world, I’ve been at their house, and the house was hard, they kept themselves opposed to unbelievers. And we lived very openly. Father Alexander was communicative, it was known to many.

Although the children were at us is difficult. The local school was then a very good Director, Yuri Sarievski. He always stood up to protect my daughter, even when she skipped lessons or something did. And he said to me: “don’t touch Lena, don’t touch! I cope with it”. Now Yuri reads in the temple, helping in the altar of his father Victor.


Natalya Fyodorovna, and how do you live with father? Now as you remember those years, when so much time has passed?

– We with it lived well. We had an understanding. We match all tastes. All the same. For example, I loved to hang pictures on the walls, if something new happened. He never interfered, but I laid on the floor and asked: “what do you think, so it will be good or not?” He said: “Yes, all right.” Or: “Let’s move this here.” And then hung on the wall.

We have not had any problems on any occasions. Only, of course, I wish he paid more attention to the children, the family. But it had little work, because it is very big was download. But still the kids while they were little, he every evening read at night. Let a little bit, even fifteen minutes, twenty, half an hour, but not necessarily.

We had a break: I loved hosting is, and he is not. But when I went to work, and I the first time worked, and then went to work, he took over some of my duties. He paid for utilities, went to the post office, bought and brought food.

When he was in Moscow, be sure to go to the store. He even loved it. For example, we were visiting, I told him: “come back home”. And he: “No, you have to go to the store to buy groceries”. “No need, we’ll manage somehow.” “No, let’s go buy”. Learned how to cook dinners. I came home from work, he was waiting for me. I seven o’clock came, and he always fed me dinner if I was home. He was very fond of cabbage and very tasty it was prepared.


And when in the early 1980s had problems with the KGB, father of Alexander the caused, and difficult situation in the parish, and the General atmosphere, as it was in this period in the family? Didn’t want to say, “just drop it all, do like, don’t touch, because I will come and take you. And what are we going to do?” How do you do it all transferred?

– We never so the question was not. We just tried to adapt to the life. There were a few searches. The house was the outhouse, there is stored the coal, and we have books by Solzhenitsyn and others hid in the coal is dug out, put in a bag, and refilled with coal. When he was summoned, of course, was worried: I will not come.

My job was also such stresses. I worked in training Institute in Pushkino, it was the timber industry. I got there in concealing the fact that my husband is a priest. Otherwise I would not have taken. We had such a harsh Director, former Deputy Minister, when this was revealed, he called me: “How could you? You were deceived,” – “And you’d have me to work?” “No, I would not take” – “see, that’s why, and hid”.

And when we first was going abroad to travel, to Poland, to father Alexander have all allowed and given a visa and won’t let me. Gathered party meeting Director, Deputy Director: “so you want abroad, you have the same husband – priest.” “Yes, my husband already gave permission to go to Poland. And I why are you not allowed?” In the end, with great difficulty, but I signed the necessary papers.

1989 year

And how you live after the death of Alexander’s father? How did you manage to get on with my life?

– At first I was confused, didn’t know what to do. And then decided to create a charitable Fund named after his father Alexander. I tried to persuade the son of Mike and Paul, brother of Alexander’s father. Mike quickly agreed and we started the Foundation, the archive, the library began slowly to publish books.

And 14 years ago Archpriest Alexander Borisov asked me to become President of the Church of Cosmas and Damian, said, “You’re commercial, you can.” And I must admit that we, in General, fruitful with his father Alexander labored all these years without any incidents.

What is the main goal of the Fund? The recollection of father Alexander?

– Yes, and the continuation of his Affairs. One of our main goals is to publish books. Little remains unreleased, but is. Now I want a book of his letters to collect.

And he himself said when something about death or about how he wants his legacy treated after it? Or he just lived for the moment and not think about it?

– He is not thought, but wrote consciously wanted his books to be read.

The book is clear, and foreboding no he didn’t?

– Well, as you say… Last time maybe was because it came from a society “Memory”, and threatened others… but I never said nothing. Only in passing I’m used that will get: “What did they want from you?” – “Nothing good”. But he didn’t want me to worry.

The anxiety he had lately. He, for example, especially in the last days and weeks I was told: “You are’t shut, please. What you have all been solved, all the doors?” Or: “You put the lamp up to the window it was obvious that someone was home”.

…Natalya Fyodorovna in a hurry to jam. Hear plums fall on the ground. But before that, Victor arranges her meeting at the Museum of the father of Alexander. Going to demolish the building on Serpukhovskaya’s childhood Alika Me where he lived with his mother, Yelena Semyonovna and visited great-aunt, Vera Vasilevskaya, who wrote a book of memoirs “Catacombs of the XX century”.

Victor wants to move the situation from the Moscow room Mana to the Museum in Semkhoz. Without Natalia Feodorovna with her ability to see and organize the space it is doing not at risk. So during our conversation, Natalya Fyodorovna was thinking all the time about how to put the furniture in order to preserve the atmosphere, to convey the spirit of the time in a rather modest Museum space and at the same time not to overdo it, not to clutter it. She looks to the empty corner and sees the familiar furniture is there: “Closet prayer here hang. And wardrobe for books.” In “prayer” locker stood the icon, it was opened during prayer.

According to the memoirs of father Victor, Elena Semenovna Men was very strict in Church discipline and put his grandson Mike, and his cousin Viktor, who came in the holidays to stay in Moscow, on regular prayer. Victor believes that the first real prayer experience received in the childhood in this room. “And here table put, – continues Natalia Fedorovna, on it was a tablecloth, and under it – kletochku. They, when they had dinner, the cloth was removed, the cloth had lunch, and then again was covered with a cloth. Over the table hung a lampshade with fringe. He is also survived”.

It has been 24 years. Almost a quarter of a century. But the memory of his father Alexander very much alive. It would be trite and untrue to say that he’d just walked this path. But as he lived – simply and openly, and now his active and without strain attitude to life continues to lead and those who were close to him, and those who met with his legacy after his departure. And Natalia Fedorovna continues to be a – such that what he loved.

Archival photographs – from the website

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