Mitred Archpriest Oleg and Matushka Natalia Boldireff

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Mitred Archpriest Oleg Boldireff (1911-1997)

and

Matushka Natalia Vsevolodovna Boldireff (born Maliantovitch) (1917-2005)


Boldireff may be spelt Boldirev, Boldyrev.


Father Oleg

Oleg Boldireff was born on 24 June, 1911, in Novonikayevska Stanitsa on the Don River near the city of Mariupol, which was at that time in Russia, and nowadays in Ukraine. His was a family descended from the Don Cossacks. In 1919, he was enrolled in the Donskoy Military Cadet School of Emperor Alexander III. The next year, when he was only 9 years old, he was separated from his parents and from his native land.

Exile

The school, because of the Bolshevik Revolution and civil war, was evacuated to Izmailia, Egypt. In 1923, he left the military school and entered the English high school (gymnasium) for Russian émigrés in Turkey. From Turkey, he emigrated to Bulgaria where, in Shoomen in 1926, he entered the Russian high school (gymnasium) from which he graduated in 1930.

Education

From 1930-1934, he studied at the Saint Sergius Theological Institute in Paris. He graduated with the diploma of Candidate in Orthodox Theology, First Degree. From 1934-1935, Oleg lived in Canterbury, England, where he attended Saint Andrew’s College. He wrote a thesis entitled “The Doctrine of the Church according to the Narratives of the Evangelists Matthew and John”.

Matushka Natalia

Natalia Vsevolodovna Maliantovitch, along with her twin sister Anastasia, was born in Moscow on 28 May, 1917, to Galina and Vsevolod Maliantovitch. It was the year of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Exile

After learning of her husband’s death in 1920, Galina Maliantovitch took her twin daughters and older son Nicolai to Prague. The 2 girls were put in a foster home for 8 years, but Galina was able to take her daughters to Paris in 1928. Later, she sent them to a Roman Catholic girls’ boarding school in Belgium. Natalia also had a younger half-sister, Katia, daughter of her stepfather, Vladimir Jeleznoff. At age 18, while visiting Christ the Saviour’s Church in Asnières-sur-Seine, France, Natalia met her husband-to-be, the seminarian Oleg Boldireff.

Marriage

Oleg and Natalia were married on 10 November, 1935.

Ordinations

Oleg Boldireff was ordained to the Holy Diaconate on 30 November, 1935, by Metropolitan Evlogy (Georgiyevsky) of Paris. One month later, Metropolitan Evlogy ordained Deacon Oleg Boldireff to the Holy Priesthood.

Pastoral service

In a demonstration of her support, Matushka Natalia surprised the new Priest Oleg on the day of his ordination to the Holy Priesthood. She gave him the news that she had completed the readers’ courses, and that she was therefore able to conduct music for any of the services, including those of Great Lent, Holy Week and Pascha. Being musically gifted, Matushka Natalia not only sang in the choir, but in case of necessity she could also substitute for the choir director (even when services would be in English, as they would be, later in their years of service).

The Priest Oleg and Matushka Natalia received from the Lord 5 sons : Sergei (in adulthood a church choir director), Vladimir (for a time in Canada, he was a Cossack Ataman), and Nicholas (in adulthood a priest) who were born in France ; and Andrei and Oleg, who were born in Montréal. Despite her difficult childhood, the harshness of the revolution, World War II, and famine, Matushka Natalia, through God’s Grace, was able, while raising 5 sons, to serve alongside her husband Father Oleg in the capacity of caregiver to the elderly, youth-group organiser, church reader, choir singer, choir director, Church School teacher. In addition to this, she offered sanctuary in her home to literally hundreds of refugees at one time or another. Matushka enjoyed music, singing, and reciting poetry. Together with Father Oleg, she served the Lord and His people.

In 1935, Father Oleg was assigned to serve as assistant rector in the Church of Christ the Saviour in Asnières-sur-Seine, France. During the following years, he also served in a senior citizens’ home in Rozay-en-Brie. In addition, he founded and organised the new Church of Saint Spyridon in Rueil-Malmaison.

In July, 1939, Metropolitan Evlogy sent Father Oleg to organise a new parish in Dive-Cabourg. While serving there, he worked as a metallographist in a factory laboratory. However, within 2 months, he was mobilised and he spent 6 months as a trainee at Le Havre. By June of 1940, Father Oleg was on the battle-front, and working as a medical orderly in the regular French army. In the same year, he was taken prisoner by the Germans and sent to work in Germany (usually forced farm-labour). In March, 1941, he was released from the Prisoner of War camp, demobilised, and — as a priest — sent back to France.

In 1942, the Priest Oleg Boldireff was assigned to serve in Saint Spyridon’s Church in Rueil-Malmaison, (a parish he had founded). The Church of the Mother of God (Korchin) was also founded by Father Oleg.

The year 1945 was spent in travelling all over France. Father Oleg visited labour camps and prisons in order to attend to the spiritual needs of the many Russian-speaking people held in them. Certain other priests were also engaged in various aspects of this pastoral work.

In 1946, Father Oleg Boldireff was assigned to serve as assistant rector of the Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky in Paris. During the time of his service there, the Priest Oleg Boldireff was elevated to the dignity of archpriest by Metropolitan Vladimir (Tikhonitsky) of Paris.

Transfer to Canada ; service in Montréal ; founding communities

Then, in March, 1948, with the blessing of Metropolitan Vladimir, the Archpriest Oleg Boldireff, together with Matushka Natalia and their children, emigrated to Canada. In Canada, he was assigned to serve as the rector of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Montréal, Québec. He served in this capacity for 15 years. During this time, he served as the dean of Québec and Ontario. Further, during these years, he was instrumental in founding churches in Québec City, Val d’Or and Rawdon, Québec, and in Ottawa, Ontario. These foundations were associated with the very many Russian-speaking immigrants who had begun to live in these areas.

The Town of Rawdon, Québec is of special significance in the life of the Boldireff family, and also in the lives of very many other people of both Russian-speaking and French-speaking backgrounds. Rawdon is situated north of Montréal, in the Laurentian Mountains, a distance of about an hour’s drive. The first Russian immigrants to go there fishing were Boris Orlov and his wife Iuliana, in 1926. Even though before World War I, the village was mainly a place of temporary summer residences, it was with the second wave of immigrants in the 1950s that the Russian-speakers settled there in greater numbers. Many other immigrants also settled there (people from Hungary, Poland and other countries). Retirees who initially had had their dachas (small chalets) in Rawdon began to winterise them and to move to Rawdon permanently.

The presence of Orthodoxy in Rawdon is marked by the existence of three chapels, a hermitage and a cemetery. The founder of the Orthodox Christian community in Rawdon was the Archpriest Oleg Boldireff. After spending a few summers with his family in Rawdon, Father Oleg decided to buy a small property there, and to build a house. With the help of some parishioners, and especially the architect Mr. Levtchuk, he erected a small chapel in the family’s garden for the use of his family and for the local community. At the end of the summer of 1955, this small chapel was dedicated to Saint Seraphim of Sarov.

Gradually, the Russians living in and around Rawdon came to attend the services. Growth in the number of parishioners was also due to the increase of the numbers of Russians of Montréal who decided to move and settle in Rawdon after retirement. In 1962, the Orthodox cemetery was opened following the acquisition of land donated by the A. Lowes family in the community, and following successful approaches made by Father Oleg to the Roman Catholic Church of the municipality. The opening and consecration of this landmark site was conducted by Bishop Anatoly (Apostolov), who was the Bishop of Canada at that time.

After the departure of Father Oleg from Montréal, Archbishop Sylvester (Haruns), the newly-arrived successor to Bishop Anatoly, built a larger chapel next to the cemetery, and dedicated it Saint Seraphim of Sarov. Over the years, the vitality of the Temple declined somewhat, because of aging or death of members of the Russian community. However, after the fall of communism in the Soviet Union, a new wave of immigrants and young families began to appear. In this revival of the community, there was added a growing interest in spiritual matters, and they (and tourists also) began to visit the Temple to find out more about Orthodoxy. Pilgrims from various parishes in Montréal also would go to pray and to venerate the relics exhibited in the Chapel of the Transfiguration beside the Temple of Saint Seraphim. These relics include those of Saint Seraphim of Sarov and Saint John the Forerunner (the Baptist). The legacy in Rawdon of both Father Oleg Boldireff and Archbishop Sylvester is very much alive.

Transfer to Vancouver

In 1963, the Archpriest Oleg Boldireff was transferred by Archbishop Sylvester to Vancouver, where he was assigned to be the rector of Holy Resurrection Church there. This parish consisted of Orthodox Christians of different eastern European ancestries (as do most parishes). However, many of Holy Resurrection’s parishioners (more than usual elsewhere in Canada) had a history which involved China and eastern Siberia, mostly associated with the 1918 revolution. As in Montréal, life was rich with the activities of a large parish : liturgical services, a children’s school, a young people’s circle, a string orchestra, lectures and performances were all parts of this richness.

In 1967, during the Canadian Centennial celebration, Father Oleg organised a special concert composed of Canadians and Canadians of Russian origin. The money collected from this concert was donated to Vancouver’s organisations for handicapped children. The next year, he was invited to read the prayer for the opening of the new session of the provincial parliament in Victoria (the first time in the province’s history that an Orthodox Christian clergyman had done so).

Transfer to Detroit

In 1970, the Archpriest Oleg Boldireff was transferred to the omophor of Bishop John (Garklavs) of Chicago, and he was assigned to be the rector of All Saints’ Cathedral in Detroit, Michigan (this parish was closed over 2 decades later and absorbed into the parish of Saints Peter and Paul). It was during this period that he took part in a pilgrimage in the Holy Land. This pilgrimage was led by his spiritual father (and former dean in Paris) Bishop Methodius. They visited approximately 50 Biblical sites, and very often Father Oleg assisted Vladyka Mefody (Methodius) in the services. The most unforgettable one, which he remembered with awe, was the midnight Divine Liturgy they celebrated at the Holy Sepulchre, where the bishop asked him to serve proskomedia on the very Tomb of Christ itself.

Transfer to Ottawa

In 1974, Father Oleg requested a transfer back to the Archdiocese of Canada, and he was assigned to be the rector of the Russian Church of Saint Nicholas in Ottawa, Ontario. This parish had been founded by him many years previously. The next year, on the 40th anniversary of his ordination to the Holy Priesthood, he was awarded the right to wear the mitre by the OCA’s Holy Synod. A high point for him in these Ottawa years was the pilgrimage that he made with Matushka Natalia in Greece. There, they had the blessing to venerate the holy relics of the 2 saints in whose honour had been named the first and the last Temples which he had opened and in which he had served. In Bari, Italy, they prayed before the relics of Saint Nicholas of Myra, and they served an akathist to him. On the island of Corfu, they prayed and served before the relics of Saint Spyridon of Trimythus. Besides this pilgrimage, Father Oleg visited Alaska. In Sitka, along with other priests, he participated with Metropolitan Theodosius (Lazor) and other bishops of the Holy Synod who met there to sanctify the newly-restored Cathedral of Saint Michael.

Many times during his years of service as a parish rector, Father Oleg was able to harness the cultural talents of the Russian community on behalf of charitable causes. For example, in 1985, his parish in Ottawa organised a large concert for the benefit of persecuted believers in Soviet Russia. Featured was the choir of Christ the Saviour Sobor in Toronto, Ontario (under the direction of his eldest son, Sergei) and the Volga dancing ensemble. The large sum raised was forwarded to its intended destination by way of Paris.

Perhaps the most joyous events for Father Oleg and Matushka Natalia during their many years of service were those related to the welcoming to Canada of the miraculous Tikhvin Icon of the Theotokos. This holy icon was invariably accompanied by Bishop John (Garklavs) of Chicago, who participated in the solemn services before her image. During this visit of the wonder-working icon, Father Oleg witnessed the appearance of a great number of visitors who took the opportunity to venerate this wonder-working icon of the Theotokos. There were stops in Montréal (twice), Vancouver, Detroit and Ottawa. When the holy icon was in Ottawa, Bishop John stayed for a few days in the home of Father Oleg and Matushka Natalia, and he enabled Father Oleg to arrange the visiting of sick parishioners with this holy icon, so that they could chant, together with all the rest : “Rejoice, our Lady, quick to hear, interceding for us before God”.

Retirement

In 1987, the Mitred Archpriest Oleg Boldireff was granted retirement at the age of 76 by Metropolitan Theodosius. He was attached to the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Montréal, and he moved to Rawdon, Québec. There, he was asked by Archbishop Sylvester to conduct services in the Chapel of Saint Seraphim (and in the winter in the smaller skete chapel of the Transfiguration) for as long as his health would permit. To the delight of all, Father Oleg agreed. For about 10 years, he faithfully conducted these services.

In 1991, Father Oleg had the physical strength to make an extended visit to Russia. There, with God's help, he was able to locate his remaining relatives (a half-sister, nephews and nieces). He also visited the village where he was born. For him, the greatest joy of that trip was the day that he celebrated the Divine Liturgy for his compatriots on the soil of his native land which he had left so very long before.

Repose of Father Oleg

On 14 November, 1997, the Mitred Archpriest Oleg Boldireff fell asleep in the Lord in Rawdon, Québec. On the old-style calendar, this is the Feast of the Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian, and on the new-style calendar, this is the Feast of the Apostle Philip. Father Oleg had suffered for some time from cancer. In his last moments, and upon his repose, he received every detail of loving Christian attention : the Service of Anointing (with 7 Gospel-readings), Holy Communion, prayers at the house, and the washing, anointing and vesting of the body by his brother priests.

The very beautiful and memorable funeral services which followed were conducted as Father Oleg had wished. He was vested in his blue vestments ; he wore the purple kamilavka (with the Trisagion prayer-strip laid across it). The Jerusalem Orthodox shroud was at the lower end of the coffin. At Rawdon, his mitre and jewelled Cross were placed on a little table beside the coffin. In Montréal, at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, the mitre was placed in the coffin by his shoulder. The Russian flag was draped over the coffin, as was the regimental standard. During the singing of “Memory Eternal (Vetchnaya Pamyat’)”, a Cossack lowered a flag. The concelebrating clergy at the Order for the Burial of a Priest and at the Memorial Divine Liturgy were Archpriest Alexander Janowski, Archimandrite Cyril (Bulashevitch), Archpriest Nicolas Boldireff, Higoumène Irénée (Rochon), Hiéromoine Marc (Pierre), Hiéromoine Cyrille (Bradette), and the Priest Nikolai Nikolaev. The Archpriest John Tkachuk was also present. After the services in Montréal, the coffin containing the body of Father Oleg Bolidreff was taken to the Russian Cemetery (now named for Saint Seraphim) in Rawdon, and it was interred there.

After the repose of her husband, Father Oleg in 1997, Matushka Natalia, in retirement in Rawdon, remained active by keeping contact with the many spiritual children of her late husband, with clergy in North America, Ukraine and France, as well as her very large family. As much as she was physically capable, she attended and participated in services, primarily at Saint Seraphim’s Church in Rawdon. When she was unable, a priest would bring to her the Holy Mysteries, and pray for her, as well.

Repose of Matushka Natalia

She joined her beloved husband in repose in Christ on 12 December, 2005 after a two-month illness. On the new-style calendar, this is the Feast of Saint Spirydon, and on the old-style calendar it is the eve of the Feast of the Apostle Andrew. Matushka Natalia Vsevlolodovna Boldireva went to the Lord peacefully while her son, Subdeacon Andrei Boldireff, was reading the Holy Gospel according to Luke. At the time of her repose, Matushka Natalia left behind 5 sons, 16 grand-children, and 11 great-grand-children (with 2 soon to be born). After the Panikhida, Funeral Service, and the Memorial Divine Liturgy, her body was interred next to that of her husband in the Saint Seraphim Russian Cemetery in Rawdon, Québec.

Memory Eternal to Mitred Archpriest Oleg Boldireff and to Matushka Natalia Vsevolodovna Boldireff.


References :

Holy Resurrection Vancouver history

OCA Montreal history

OCA Rawdon history


Additional information :

OCA Detroit history

L’implication de la famille Boldireff dans l’Église orthodoxe russe de Montréal

'Mitred Archpriest Marks 60 Years' Service' in "Canadian Orthodox Messenger" (Autumn, 1995), pp. 5-6.

'Mitred Archpriest Reposes in the Lord' in "Canadian Orthodox Messenger" (Spring, 1998), pp. 1-2.

'Matushka Natalia Boldireff 28 May 1917-12 December 2005' in "Canadian Orthodox Messenger" (Spring, 2006), p. 6.