Personal Stories: To Walk the Godsend Path


Interview with Nun Tabitha (Davidovich)

Tamara Davidovich dreamed of becoming a nun throughout her entire life. However, she did not take the vows until she retired, having endured many hardships and strengthened her faith. Her monastic name is Tabitha.
Mother Tabitha, there was a persecution of the Church when you were a child. Did you know anything about the Orthodox faith at that time?
There were thirteen kids in our family. I was the youngest one. When Dad returned home after the war where he had fought as a partisan, he was already very ill and did not live long. My mother was left alone. There were fewer of us at that time than before the war because some of the kids had died.
I went to school four kilometres from our village Sosny, Luban district, Minsk oblast. It was hard for me to study – I was unable to remember anything. They simply kept moving me from one grade to a higher one. My mother was a believer so she used to tell me that I should learn the Our Father, hoping that it would help me.
There was no church in our village. That was why I got baptised in Luban when I was nine.
I remember how my mother would prepare everything for Pascha on the Great Saturday: she would do the table and cook a festive meal; and she would not allow anyone to sleep during that night. We all would go to church on great feasts. Once we went to church on the Holy Trinity Day. My brother soon returned home in order to get ready for his work. I came to him and asked him to take me with him but he refused. I was standing outdoors and crying for a long time when I saw a cloud which sat right above our house. There was a thunderstorm that night. My brother hid under an oak tree that stood in the field. A flash of lightning struck him and he died.
When I was 18, I moved to Soligorsk where my sister lived, and then my friend and I came to Minsk in order to work as builders. Soon I enrolled to a course of telegraph operators. I was unable to learn anything at first. Almost everybody had already mastered that profession but I was still unable to do anything. Then I began asking God for help, and a miracle happened: I learned to type quickly and without looking at the keyboard. I spent six years working as a telegraph operator in the Staff of Air Force, and then twenty-seven years in the “Aeroflot”. That is what God’s blessing means.
When did you start attending church regularly?
I began to attend the Holy Spirit Cathedral. That was the time when my life started to change. For instance, I could no longer cut my hair in a trendy fashion and wear fancy hats. My colleagues noticed these changes and asked why I had changed so drastically. My husband and my children approved of my visiting the church. Certainly, I did my best putting everything in order at home so that I could go to church.
I would pass by a building under construction on my way to work. I did not know what kind of a building it would be but I felt deep inside my soul that it was going to be a church. It turned out to be the restoration of the church in honour of St Mary Magdalene. I was cleaning my house during the Holy Week but something was wrong. I went out of my flat and directed my steps to that church which had already been functioning. My soul brought me here. I started crying as soon as I entered this church because I recalled my sins. When I walked out of the church after the service, I stopped near a woman who was weaving a wreath of flowers. She asked me if I wanted to help her. I agreed and we went on to look for some green plants. Then my daughter and I started to attend the services at St Mary Magdalene Church.
Mother Tabitha, how should a Christian deal with hardships?
If one takes his cross and follows the Lord, this road is not going to be easy, it is a path of thorns. My path to God resembles iron in the hands of a blacksmith. My life was also filled with His mighty blows. There were moments when I felt proud or offended or unjustly treated...
When my husband died, I was overwhelmed with sorrow and asked my daughter and her husband to let me go and become a nun. They replied that I was spending days in church, what convent did I need after that? My daughter’s husband who is a priest even tried to discipline me, and this made me angry with him. I wanted to complain to someone about him. My spiritual father told me, “Why do you grudge against him? He is leading you into the Kingdom of Heaven...” This revelation dawned on me, it seemed like a fresh world outlook to me. I became more humble and patient; I started to trust the Lord more than earlier. I came to realise that if I had taken up my cross, I had to carry on. We may encounter difficulties at times. We should go through everything so that our souls would find peace.
Soon there came another blow: my daughter got severely ill, she was diagnosed with a blood tumour in the brain. It happened far from home, when she and her husband were in the Czech Republic. This was the day of the Dormition of the Mother of God. I was cleaning the church and all of a sudden I felt that something was about to happen. My son-in-law called me and asked me to pray because my daughter Helen was very ill and practically hopeless. Of course, I prayed and cried.
I went to church with my three-year-old grandson on that day. He ran away from me and hid behind a belfry, and he started running here and there as if he were playing catch-up with someone. Then he told me, “Here’s my mum.” I asked him, “What is she doing?” He answered that she was walking around. I was astonished. My daughter fell ill so far away but her soul was already here, and had no obstacles in doing so. How could I not believe in miracles after that?
Then my daughter was transported home, she lay still for a long time, and she was catered to round the clock. People prayed for her everywhere: in the Czech Republic, Italy, Minsk, in various churches and monasteries. It was not long before Christmas that I came to the church, approached an icon of the Mother of God and said, “O Mother of God, we keep praying for my daughter day and night but we do not know what is best for her salvation. May everything happen according to God’s will.” That night, my daughter passed away to the Lord God. She was 30.
There are few people who can retain a peaceful soul after such trials...
One cannot transform oneself in an instant. One needs prayer, confession, and communion in order to change his or her mental state. If we do not practice them, irritation and impatience accumulate. Some people are surprised why everything is so bad. In fact, it seems that nothing is predisposed to be bad but bad things still happen. One should be skillful enough to walk along the path given by God. If we do not go along this path, we will not find the peace for our souls. Moreover, we should feel what God sends us.
How did you finally manage to become a nun?
One morning I was woken by a woman wearing monastic clothes who was standing by the door and looking at me fixedly. I understood that I had to follow her. I got up and said, “Lord, where should I follow her?” Suddenly, the telephone rang, and it was the rector of our church in honor of St Mary Magdalene, Archpriest John Khoroshevich, who asked me to come to church. I came to the church. Father John took me by my hand and led me straight into the sanctuary. He blessed me to work in the sanctuary – in the Holy of Holies... In the meantime, Father John asked me if I did not mind becoming a monastic. I replied that I had had that desire for as long as I lived. Even when my children were small, I wanted to become a nun. Whenever I saw a film about a monastery on TV, I would cry – probably because my soul wanted to go there.
After this conversation with Fr John, I wrote a petition to Metropolitan Philaret. When His Eminence visited our church during our patron saint’s day, he asked me whether I was ready to be tonsured. Certainly, I was spellbound and gazed out of the window in silence. Father John said, “You used to say you were ready.” I turned to him and said, “Of course, I am. There can be no doubt about it.”
Nuns Hilaria and Tabitha came from St Elisabeth Convent in order to inform me about the procedure of monastic tonsure. Father John asked His Eminence to allow me to continue my obedience in St Mary Magdalene Church. His Eminence also blessed this.
I became a nun on November 6, 2010, and was assigned to St Elisabeth Convent.
Did you feel anything special after your tonsure? What have you learned in these three years of your monastic life?
First of all, I felt peace in my soul. As soon as I was tonsured, I felt love towards all people, I simply wanted to embrace them all. When I came to the Convent for my first meeting of the monastic sisters, they all looked so dear and nice for me. I try very hard to preserve this feeling for fear of losing God’s grace.
I have learned in these years that it is of utmost importance not to trespass your obedience. I cannot say that everything was fine from the start: there have been times when it was difficult for me to fulfil my duties. I see how busy all the sisters at the Convent are, and I have always wanted to help everyone. I was given the obedience to read the Psalter and to work in a church shop. I thought, “If only my leg was okay, I would have helped someone else, too!” My spiritual father saw my eagerness to help and said, “Stop. And do not grudge.”
Once I hurried to help the sisters who were sorting sorrel. As soon as I thought that I was in a hurry, I stumbled and broke my arm. No one called me to do that work, it was my own initiative and the result of my pride. The Lord humbled me down. He knows better where I should be and what I should do. If Father blesses me to do a certain kind of work, I should do my best to carry out this obedience.
Did you have to say no to certain worldly activities?
Sometimes I think that I used to do more good in the past, I had the zeal to do the deeds of mercy. Good works mean more for God than prayer. All people must know that.
Mother Tabitha, what would you advise the people who have only recently crossed the threshold of the Church?
Some newcomers are offended when someone elbows them in church, and this may even be the sole reason for their changing their parish. I wish people did not change their parishes because there may be other temptations in another place. Perhaps, it is God who wants them to go to this very church, and it is the devil who does not want it... Sometimes such people even quarrel with the “offenders”... This negative load keeps accumulating, and the person does not reform himself. It seems that as long as one does not go through sorrows, nothing good is going to happen. I believe that each person should take some time before going to bed in order to analyses how they spent the day, what they accomplished during that day, and ask the Lord to bless the next day, to make them capable of not sinning and not offending anyone.
The monastic life is very hard, and sometimes, perhaps, you need someone’s support. Who helps you to grow in faith?
Certainly, my spiritual father, Fr John, helps me. If I forget about one of my sins, the Father will point it out wisely. I praise the Lord for having such a spiritual father. His wife, Matushka Maria Khoroshevich, will always help me and support me in a minute of distress. I am grateful to her for her understanding and useful advice.

However, our main helper in faith is the Lord Himself. Once, on a patron feast’s day (August 4) – it was early in the morning and we were decorating the pathway in front of the church which was still closed – we heard male voices singing in the church. Other women also heard these voices. We all turned out heads in surprise because we knew that the church was empty. The heavenly hosts were also celebrating St Mary Magdalene Day, it seems.

CONVERSATION

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