Personal Stories: Three Sisters at the Convent

Nun Nymphodora: I am surprised how Saint Elisabeth showed me my path in life. When I came to Minsk to study at the university, I had no definite plans for my future life. I did not think about becoming a nun. My sister and I were brought up by our grandmother who was a believer. I went to church once a month. I did not know anything at all about the life of St Elisabeth. When I first came to Minsk and saw the sisters of mercy doing their obedience on the streets, I wanted to help other people like they did.
When I finally settled in Minsk, I came to SS Peter and Paul Cathedral where I got to know Father Andrew. Then I visited a meeting of the Sisterhood. I learned more about St Elisabeth when I started visiting this place, the Convent. It was a construction site at that time. I was amazed to learn that I was born on the day of St Elisabeth.
I considered myself to be part of the Sisterhood because I attended its meetings but I did not have any obedience yet. I often came to the basement church of St Nicholas to pray. I remember how I travelled from my native town to Minsk with a strong intent to work at the Convent. I fell asleep and had a dream or some strange feeling that the train was going to Alapayevsk.
I wanted to have the name “Elisabeth” as my new monastic name but I was tonsured with a different name. It was difficult even to pronounce it at first. I did not know anything about these three saints – Menodora, Metrodora, and Nymphodora. It came as a great surprise to me. On the day of tonsure, when everything was over, I was very happy and grateful to my holy patroness, or, to be correct, to our holy patronesses. We felt that even our attitudes towards each other changed after the tonsure. The two other sisters – Nuns Menodora and Metrodora – became so dear to me. Our holy patronesses were sisters by blood, and this might have united the three of us. The communication gap that we had had with Nun Menodora when we first came to the Convent and were assigned the same obedience was healed thanks to the prayers of the holy martyrs. They continue to help us to get over various obstacles painlessly. I am grateful to God for having such holy patronesses. Unfortunately, I cannot say that my life resembles theirs to any extent, and this makes me sad.

Nun Menodora: I was named Tatiana at baptism. I learned about this saint when I was in my fourth year at school. It was the first time since the perestroika when Sunday schools were allowed, so I started attending a Sunday school. Our teacher gave me a small book containing the lives of Martyr Tatiana and Martyr Irina (intriguingly, my own sister's name is Irina). I was amazed to have both lives under one cover. I also learned that it was customary to give a child the name of the saint commemorated on the day of his or her birth. I asked my mother, “Why didn't you name me according to the Orthodox calendar?” St Tatiana Day is January 25, and I was born on June 11. Later the Lord revealed to me that June 11 is the birthday of Holy Martyr Princess Tatiana Romanova. There are no accidents with God, and God certainly has a plan concerning one's name.
My mother had a story she kept silent about for a long time. She was born prematurely. It happened that when my grandmother was pregnant, she ran after a cow across the field, fell on her belly and gave birth to my mother right there in the open. Everyone was sure that the child would die, and my grandmother had strong inflammation. The baby lay on a bed waiting for death to come; even a coffin was ready. Nevertheless, my grandfather had a dream that night: a Guardian Angel appeared to him and said, “Name the baby girl Vera (Faith), and if you have faith that she survives, she will survive.” They sent for a priest who baptised my mum with the name Vera, and she survived.
I became a nun thanks to the prayers of St Euphrosyne of Polotsk. I visited the convent in Polotsk twice, each time staying for a week there, working and praying. And then I came to our Convent.
My favourite saint is St Ambrose of Optina. I hoped very much that I would be given the name Ambrosia during the tonsure. However, our Metropolitan never gives male names to nuns so chances were slim. I prayed before the tonsure asking to be given an ancient name. As a result, I received a name that hardly anyone could remember at first.

I have felt the connection with our saints since the day of our tonsure, and I feel that they pray for us. People generally pray to these three saints for unity, for resolution of family conflicts, of civil conflicts, of interfaith conflicts. The relics of these holy martyrs were brought to our convent from Holy Mount Athos half a year after our tonsure. Regardless of how unworthy we might be, our patron saints continue to pray for us. As far as we are concerned, we pray to die on one and the same day because we are afraid to die separately...