Serge and Lubov Troubetzkoy
Prince Serge Grigorievitch Troubetzkoy (1906-2003)
Princess Lubov Alexeievna Troubetzkoy (born Obolensky) (1912-1991)
Serge may be spelt Sergei, Sergius, Serguei, Sergey.
Grigorievitch may be spelt Grigorievich, Gregorievich, Gregorievitch.
Troubetzkoy may be spelt Troubetskoy, Troubetskoi, Troubetzkoi, Trubetskoi, Trubetskoy.
Lubov may be spelt Liubov.
Birth, Family Context
The Troubetzkoy princes descend from Demetrius I Starshiy, one of of the sons of Algirdas, who ruled the towns of Bryansk and Starodub. Algirdas was killed, together with his elder sons, in the unfortunate Battle of the Vorskla River (1399). Descendants of Demetrius continued to rule the town of Trubetsk (Troubchevsk) until the 1530s, when they were forced to choose between converting to Roman Catholicism, and leaving their patrimony and settling in Moscow. They chose the latter. They were accepted with great ceremony at the court of Tsar Vasili III of Russia.
The Troubetzkoy family which sought refuge in Russia at that time did much as the family of the Belsky princes had done somewhat earlier, but for rather different reasons. Another person who had moved to Russia at the same time as the Belsky families (because of the Orthodox Faith) was Saint Tikhon, who became a monk at Lukh in the Kostroma diocese.
Prince Serge was the last survivor of the 5 sons of Prince Grigory (Gregory) Nikolayevitch Troubetzkoy (Councillor of State) and Maria Constantinovna Bouteneff.
Following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution that toppled the dynasty of the Romanov Tsars, the Troubetzkoys were forced to flee from Russia. All persons of nobility were in serious danger of death during this time, perhaps especially if they were serious Orthodox Christians. The threat was similar to the situation about 125 years earlier in France, although death in the Bolshevik Revolution was often preceded by long imprisonment and tortures.
Eventually, the family came to settle in France (which by this time was a more accepting society), although not without its difficulties for such refugees. There were very many who had sought refuge there. It was in France that Serge Grigorievitch received his higher education, and where he graduated as an agricultural engineer from the Grignon University (École nationale supérieure d'Agronomie de Grignon) in Paris. After this, Serge moved to the United States of America.
Princess Lubov Alexeievna Obolenskaya was born in 1912, also in Moscow, Russia.
Obolensky is the name of a princely Russian family, descended from the Rurik Dynasty. Their name is said to derive from the town of Obolensk in the Upper Oka Principalities along the Oka River, not far from Moscow.
Just as did the Troubetzkoys, so the Obolenskys fled from the face of certain death after the Bolshevik Revolution, and they settled first in Paris, France. Largely because of this mass migration, the 1920s and 1930s came to be considered the silver age of Russian literature. Paris seethed with intellectual, cultural and religious genius. Luba was forever influenced by Father Grigorii Spassky, and she developed a deep devotion to the Orthodox Church. At 16 years of age she wrote in her diary :
November 16, 1928. Today after school, I prepared my religious homework and took the metro by myself to the theological Institute. Metropolitan Evlogy and Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna cross-examined me. After supper we went to ROY [Russian Orthodox Youth] and sang with Kedroff. There was a lecture about Chekhov, followed by dancing and tea.
At the end of the 1920s, Luba moved with her family to live in New York City, in the USA.
Marriage in the USA
In February, 1933, Prince Serge Grigorievitch Troubetzkoy married Princess Lubov Alexeiëvna Obolenskaya in New York City, where the young couple soon settled. Their wedding was a grand social event in New York society, and it received a great deal of coverage by the social media. Both their families were related, and they kept close ties during their emigration from Russia, following the Bolshevik takeover, as they moved around the European continent and America (several or many moves characterised of the lives of many who were forced by the revolution to emigrate). Serge even claimed to have been present at his wife’s baptism in 1913, much to Luba’s mortification. Nevertheless, the musings in her early diaries indicate that all her life, she had eyes only for Serge.
Serge Grigorievitch and Luba Alexeiëvna received from the Lord one son, Alexis, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Maria, who inherited the princely titles. All three remained active in the life of the Orthodox Church.
Serge’s professional career was largely devoted to the sale of farm machinery. During World War II, he was employed by the US State Department and sent abroad on loan to the French government as part of the “Marshall Plan”. He assisted in plans for the country’s post-war agricultural reconstruction. After the war, he served in the US Air Force Reserve, and he retired in the rank of Major.
Move to Canada
In 1950, Serge and Luba settled in Montréal, Québec, where Serge worked for a major agricultural machinery firm. Upon arrival in Montréal, they quickly became active parishioners in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul there. They proved to be useful in a multitude of ways. Church services were never to be missed ! Luba faithfully attended weekly Lenten services, and she sang the bass line in her peculiar low voice. At the same time, they both served the diocese. A few years after their arrival, Serge Grigorievitch was elected to the parish council as one of the assistant wardens of the cathedral. In the early 1960s, he was also elected to the archdiocesan council. It was in these positions that he played a significant rôle in facilitating the transfer of the archdiocesan see from Toronto back to Montréal, and also in the expansion of the cathedral building in Montréal. He additionally assisted Bishop Sylvester in his immigration from France and his resettlement in Canada. With the restructuring of the governance of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in North America (called “the Metropolia” for short) in the time of Metropolitan Leonty (Turkevich), Serge also became the Canadian Archdiocese’s first lay representative (from 1964 to 1971) to the Metropolitan Council of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in North America ("Metropolia") later to be known as "The Orthodox Church in America". During this period, it was also customary that either the clergy or lay vice-chairman of the All-American Church Sobor would necessarily be from the Archdiocese of Canada. As a result, Mr. Troubetzkoy served as lay vice-chairman of the All-American Sobor in 1963. At the 1967 Sobor, he was again nominated to be vice-chairman; but he declined this nomination in favour of another Canadian delegate.
Lac Labelle, Chapel of Saint Sergius
Soon after moving to Montréal, Mr. Troubetzkoy purchased a farm in the Laurentian Mountains (about a 2-hour drive to the north of Montréal), on the shore of Lac Labelle. There, next to the home of his family, he also established a domestic chapel in the name of Saint Sergius of Radonezh. This move soon opened a way for several other families to purchase summer homes near to the Troubetzkoy family. One of these was the family of Raphail and Sophia (Sonya) (born Tolstoya) Lopoukhine (although this family bought property across the lake from most of the other families). Besides the summer home of the family of Father Alexander and Juliana Schmemann, the family of Father John and Marie Meyendorff also established a summer home nearby. Thus, the chapel came to serve not only as a family chapel, but also as a summer chapel for the group of Orthodox Christian families who have established summer homes at Lac Labelle, and for other visitors. Labelle soon became a haven and retreat where many would come together in the summer to relax and rejuvenate themselves (both physically and spiritually) for the daily challenges of the year ahead. Summers in Labelle have been (and continue to be) a crucial revitalising force in the lives of many, over several generations. Without Serge Troubetzkoy’s foresight in creating the extended family and church community there, the comfort and joy that it has provided to so many would not have been possible. It will doubtless live on as his legacy for generations yet to come, thanks to the Troubetzkoy family.
In about 1954, there was a pastoral visit paid by Bishop Nikon of Toronto. It was a memorable visit for those who were then children, because the children had to recite by heart the Nicene Creed for Vladyka Nikon. They managed to do this very well, the children say, because of having had daily lessons with Father Alexander Schmemann, who already had begun to be present there in the summer-time. The services, of course, followed the old-style calendar, and the children recited in Slavonic. There was not yet any English in the services in those days. Such was the immediacy and fulness of Orthodox Christian living in this family and others in this idyllic place, that the children were able to have "zakon Bozhii" (catechism) every day with Father Schmemann. They recall that they had built a sort of shelter made from pine boughs in the forest, of which they were very proud. This prompted Father Alexander to continue the daily lessons in this shelter. To this day, they can recall his calm and resonant voice as he held the youngest on his knee with one arm, while waving away a mosquito with the other. Occasionally, one of the two cows would stick its head into the shelter out of curiosity. They clearly recall also that the cows and the work horse “Pitou” regularly attended the Divine Liturgy. They would stand unwavering behind the chapel and peer into the back window of the Altar. They would appear there as soon as the singing began. The children (now adults) further recall that what is presently forest was only cow-pasture fields in those days, where the now elusive cepe and milkcap mushrooms (which have since disappeared) could be found in profusion. At that time, the children would be able to get on their knees and lap up water directly from the fresh springs that flowed there. During that particular visit, Vladyka Nikon was able to rest for a time ; and a photograph exists, in which Vladyka Nikon, wearing his billowing "podriasnik" (cassock), is playing "Gorodki" (a Russian version of Bocce, which uses sticks).
From the 1960s, Luba spent many hours, typing documents, and generally assisting Archbishop Sylvester in French/English/Russian translation work. Besides this, those in the parish who had no means of transportation could always rely on Luba to take them where they needed to go. During these years, Serge devoted his vision, energy, organisational ability and initiative towards the building of the new iconostas, and to the construction of the new residence and “Kostuchenko” hall which was attached to Saints Peter and Paul’s Cathedral Church, and also to the historic residence next to it. He also provided the initiative in developing the fundraising drives to achieve all this.
During her trips to New York to see her mother, Luba would also visit the aging Metropolitans Anastasy (ROCOR) and Leonty (OCA). They entrusted her with messages to each other, so that Luba was able cheerfully to provide a sort of private courier service between the 2 metropolitans. At that time, it was difficult for the 2 bishops to meet personally. No-one ventured to stop her.
It is told by Matushka Juliana Schmemann in her book "My Journey with Father Alexander" that one summer, after one of the mid-week Divine Liturgies, the Chapel of Saint Sergius burned down:
The wind was fierce that day so the fire was spectacular. Neighbors and the whole community rushed to form a chain from the well to the chapel. In an effort to save the house and the barn close to the chapel, the well was emptied and the fire put out. The surrounding buildings were saved but there was nothing left of the chapel except part of the bell tower and the icon of St. Sergius to whom the chapel is dedicated. Alexander and Liuba Troubetzkoy drove to Montreal to break the news to her husband Serge who worked there during the week. He listened to the news, paused for a moment and said, "So we will build a new church" and the work on the new chapel began immediately. The very next Sunday after the fire we celebrated Divine Liturgy in a tent.
Such is the nature of this man, who might well be called (in every good sense of the expression) “a prince of a man”. About his wife, Luba, the same could be said, and together they behaved as a team.
Retirement ; move to USA ; continuing service
After his retirement from secular employment in 1970, Serge and his wife Luba moved first to live in Syosset, Long Island, and then later to live in Sea Cliff in New York State. Serge continued to serve the Church actively. He was appointed to serve as Secretary to the late Metropolitan Ireney, and to be the manager of the OCA’s Chancery in Oyster Bay Cove (Syosset), New York. Eventually, he assumed the functions and responsibilities of serving as the Archivist of the OCA. After the retirement of Metropolitan Ireney, he continued his service as Secretary to Metropolitan Theodosius, along with his other functions at the OCA Chancery. It was in his activities as a historian (particularly of his family’s legacy) and as the Archivist of the Archivist that his labours reached their fullest fruition.
Deeply interested in the study and propagation of history throughout his life, Serge painstakingly and continuously compiled several chronicles of his family’s history, some of which have now been published in post-Soviet Russia. He also wrote and published many articles on Church history in both secular and religious periodicals. Additionally, his labours in organising the OCA’s archives provided the foundation upon which the work of the OCA’s Department of History and Archives continues to this day.
"Family Chronicles" is the main work by Serge Grigorievitch. It is concerned with the history and life of the Troubetzkoy family and their relatives before World War I, through the end of the 20th century. Serge Grigorievitch based his writing on family memoirs and correspondence which he had, himself, collected and archived. This work is divided into 5 major parts, which contain 14 chapters related to the different periods in the history of that century. The Chronicles are written in Russian, and they include historical photographs from the family archives. The book includes childhood memories about life as it was lived at the Russian country estate before the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, and it continues with the family’s emigration and life in Europe and North America in consequent years. It culminates with the building of the Saint Sergius of Radonezh Chapel in Labelle, Québec. Also included in the work (as 2 excursuses) are the memoirs of life in Russia (starting at the beginning of the year 1898) written by Prince Vladimir Petrovich Troubetzkoy, and by Princess Lyubov Petrovna Troubetzkoy-Obolensky. In the final 2 chapters of the book, there are included some personal memoirs of Olga Tolstoy-Rodzianko, and materials devoted to the memory of Father Alexander Schmemann and his service at the Saint Sergius Chapel in Labelle.
In May, 1975, Alexandr Isayevich Solzhenitzyn (who was in his second year of exile and still living in Switzerland) was invited by Archbishop Sylvester to visit in Montréal during Holy Week. At this time, he was trying to decide where to establish residency. When he flew off, virtually the whole world speculated upon his whereabouts (e.g. one headline from “le Figaro” reads “Mon isba au Canada ?”). Even most parishioners were not aware of Alexandr Solzhenitzyn’s presence in the Temple at that time, because he stood in the Altar. It was on Bright Monday that Father Alexander Schmemann (who had flown from New York to Montréal on Sunday night) took him to Lac Labelle and then to Ontario, in order to visit and to talk. Alexandr Solzhenitzyn had heard Father Schmemann’s “Voice of America” broadcasts in the Soviet Union, and Father Alexander had met him when he arrived in exile in Western Europe in 1974. They had spent some time there, talking about Russia and Russian history and many other things. Now, while in Labelle on the Monday, they visited socially with Serge Troubetzkoy, and there remain photos of this visit. Then, driven by Serge Schmemann to different rural places (to avoid the media), the two continued to talk incessantly. Serge Schmemann later wrote that “what Solzhenitzyn wanted from my father was an instant transfer of all the Russian history and ideas that had been denied him in the Soviet state”. A conversation (albeit brief) with Mr. T. would supply some of this, certainly. During this visit, there is another anecdote regarding the property-search of Mr Solzhenitzyn.
One area in which he was looking for suitable property was in the vicinity of Ottawa. The Priest Alexis Vinogradov was taking him around some of the shopping areas of the city. While they happened to be in a shopping-mall, they met Pierre E Trudeau in a barber-shop. Father Vinogradov offered him the opportunity to speak with Mr Solzhenitzyn, and he readily accepted. The two engaged in an extended conversation then and there. This conversation would have been important to the Prime Minister. Nevertheless, soon afterwards, Mr. Solzhenitzyn moved to Vermont in the USA, to teach and to write.
From the time of his retirement as Secretary to the Metropolitan, and as OCA Archivist in 1983, “Mr. T”( as he was affectionately called by chancery staff-members and others) was named OCA Archivist Emeritus. Even in retirement, he continued his work in the archives on a part-time basis.
Repose of Luba
On 27 May, 1991, Serge’s beloved wife Luba reposed in Christ peacefully and unexpectedly on a Sunday afternoon during a nap. She was 76. After her repose, funeral services for the Princess Lubov Alexeiëvna Troubetzkoy (née Obolensky) were offered at Our Lady of Kazan Church, Sea Cliff, New York. Afterwards, her body was interred in the cemetery of Saint Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania.
On the occasion of his 85th birthday, on 15 December, 1991, Mr. Troubetzkoy was awarded the Order of Saint Innocent by Metropolitan Theodosius, in recognition of his long and faithful service to The Orthodox Church in America.
Because of his love for and devotion to Christ and the Church, “Mr. T” continued to provide invaluable assistance to the archives’ staff, and to share his vast knowledge and experience until 1997, when his deteriorating health made his regular presence at the chancery impossible. However, since his encyclopaedic mind remained sharp almost to his final days, he continued to inspire and provide wise counsel to members of the Department of History and Archives. He did not live far from the chancery ; and his daughter Maria not only lived with him, but she also worked in the chancery and helped in the archives. Contact with him for consultation was easy. He could still occasionally visit the archives, and the staff could easily visit him or telephone him.
Mr. Serge Troubetzkoy’s cheerful, humble and noble manner, his selfless willingness to assist in any situation, his intelligence, and his tact all earned him the love and respect of very many persons throughout the world. He was always willing to listen, and he treated everyone with equal respect. His kindness and gentility in all situations were truly inspiring. It can certainly be said that he was a man who had no enemies.
Repose of Serge
On Sunday, 26 October, 2003, in Valley Cottage, New York, Prince Serge Grigorievitch Troubetzkoy, Archivist Emeritus of The Orthodox Church in America, reposed peacefully in Christ, at the age of 96.
Funeral services for “Mr. T” were offered at Our Lady of Kazan Church, Sea Cliff, New York. There was first a memorial service conducted by the Archpriest Leonid Kishkovsky on Monday evening, 27 October. On Tuesday evening, 28 October, Metropolitan Theodosius and 6 priests served the funeral service. Then, on Wednesday, 29 October, the Memorial Divine Liturgy was celebrated in this Temple by Metropolitan Theodosius and concelebrated by 9 priests. The homilies at these services eulogising Mr. Troubetzkoy were preached by Metropolitan Theodosius, and the Archpriests Sergei Bouteneff, Leonid Kishkovsky and Alexis Vinogradov. These services were followed by interment next to his wife, Luba, in the cemetery of Saint Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania. The interment was presided by Metropolitan Herman (Swaiko).
For decades, Mr. Troubetzkoy had faithfully served The Orthodox Church in America in many capacities, in addition to his work as OCA Archivist. He served as Secretary to the late Metropolitan Ireney and retired Metropolitan Theodosius, but these simple titles do little to help us understand what was the real extent of his labours, service, and love in Christ in the Orthodox Church. Truly a believing Orthodox Christian, his life and work revealed this love for Christ.
Much of the previous information is thanks to an article written by Alexis P Liberovsky, who was the “apprentice” of Prince Serge in archival work. After the retirement of “Mr. T”, Alexis (who had completed the necessary studies) succeeded him in the responsibility of serving as the Archivist of The Orthodox Church in America. Many other details and photographs have been furnished by their son and remaining daughter of the Troubetzkoys, Prince Alexei and Princess Elizabeth (Saika-Voivod). Their sister Princess Maria has already reposed in the Lord. Of course, just as their parents, they do not usually use these titles, but they are none the less real. As their parents, they live up to the heritage of their ancestors.
Schmemann, Matushka Juliana, "My Journey with Father Alexander", 2nd ed. (Montreal : Alexander Press, 2007), pp. 91-92.
Additional information :