Novoye Russkoye Slovo -- June 25, 1932Krasnow Scrapbooks The Russian Colony of the Past; Memoirs of an Old Colonist; the Russian Independent Society
Long I have lived in Chicago. And I have worked much in the social field. Naturally, a considerable quantity of various materials has accumulated - observations, facts, bound up with life, with the customs and temper of the Russian colony in Chicago.
Before my very eyes, so to say, and in my very presence, the process of shaping Russian social organizations went on. Some kept growing and developing; others fell to pieces and disappeared in a gulf of intrigue induced by ignorance, inadequacy, and lack of culture. I do not intend 2to do my sketches at this time in a systematic or chronological way. Eventually, I contemplate, I shall set up from the material I have on the history of the Russian colony in Chicago, an account of our part of the emigration.
Meanwhile I shall limit myself to isolated characteristic episodes descriptive of the environment in which was formed the social life of Russian emigrants.
In connection with the 20th anniversary of the St. George Brotherhood in Chicago, recently celebrated here, together with the congress of the Independent Society, which had decided to fuse with another powerful Russian organization, R. O. O. V., I recall an incident which actually brought about the founding of the Independent Society.
The history of this organization, the so-called Independents, is interesting chiefly by making us familiar with the first manifestation 3of protest against tsarist church tyranny of the Russian autocratic government in America.
It began twenty years ago, after our Orthodox Church in our city had been managed by "Father" V. Alexandrov over a period of five years, and it had seemed to him that the 300 or 400 dollars per month which he made was not enough. He resorted to all sorts of "schemes," and one nice Sunday morning he started to exhort his parishioners: "Why do you take your money to all kinds of banks, where it is often in danger. Better give it to me for safekeeping!"
Some time later, for some reason, it came to light that the church was in debt. Everybody appeared perplexed, but this soon grew into a persistent demand by the parishioners for an account from their priest, who did not relish it at all, and therefore instead of a reply presumptiously threw himself on the parishioners, called them "revolutionists, infidels, and Socialists."4
Yet, the parishioners still persisted: "Give an account!"
This went on for about a month. On one of the Sundays that followed, "service" was assisted by several police officers in whose presence the little father in a bold voice began his sermon thus:
"Beloved brothers and sisters: Appointed by the Bishop Platon, I, as your spiritual shepherd, although under no obligation to account to you, nevertheless, from spiritual goodness shall do it for you. I fully followed the teaching of the Gospel, and accordingly my right hand did not know what the left did; with one hand I took your money, and with the other I used the money as needed. What was left I put in the bank."
The priest immediately assigned a committee to examine the case. This did not find favor with the parishioners; loud protests were uttered, 5and the ugliest, most shameful row imaginable ensued.
The "scandal-mongers," one by one, were arrested by the police, to whom the priest pointed them out with his cross. Those who resisted arrest the priest drove from the church with the same cross, and thus wounded one woman. All those arrested were in a few days let out on bail.
Similar scandals had occurred in this church on previous occasions. Yet this time something "extraordinary" happened, inasmuch as it was found necessary to call out from New York "His Eminence, the Prelate proper" to "restrain the unruly."
The prelate, upon arriving here, at once called in lawyers, to whom he paid out about $2,000. This money he ordered recovered from the community after the trial.
The trial took place, the arrested ones were released after a fine of 6ten or fifteen dollars. They were also enjoined from further attendance to their church. And the property of the church was signed away to "His Eminence," who after this went back to his own. Sure enough, the priest lost his popularity. He soon gathered up his belongings and disappeared. His location has not been discovered to this date.
Soon afterwards (about three years later) the absconding priest was replaced by another, Kukulevski, who on the very first Sunday promised to serve devotedly.
"Elect your own committee and be your own masters."
Yet, when the committee met, the priest advised that he was unable to present documents which, kept as they were by Father Vladimir in a fireproof safe, were nevertheless chewed up by mice. "Other documents, 7however," continued the 'Parent,' "those relating to debts are intact. The debts reach into the thousands." The committee was unable to comprehend how it could be that only debt documents were on hand.
More scandals and protests.....
And here commences a genuine period of "revolutionary insurrection" by church-goers: "We want our Independent Church. We no longer need tsarist consuls, nor government-appointed eminences in whose name our church property would be written. We ourselves shall manage our church; we ourselves shall manage the priest; also we shall order him about, not he us.
And so the committee gets together a group of about four hundred revolutionists, who are determined to have a priest for the parish and not a parish for the priest; petitions and telegrams went to "His Eminence" in New York, begging that a priest be sent out. There came a reply that 8one would be sent, but on the condition that the entire property of the new church be signed away to "His Eminence."
But the "revolutionaries," who had time to become well organized, did not relish this reply. They found it more advantageous to find a location for a church of their own on their collected funds; also, to engage a priest independently. This they did. The result was the Russian Orthodox Independent St. George Church, and next door is the Russian-English School; also, the Russian Independent Society, whose lot it was later to be transformed into the immense, powerful, influential organization of mutual aid and mutual enlightenment.
An Old Colonist.
II D 1, I C, III C
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