Posts tagged Alaska
It is with pleasure that I announce to all of you a new, forthcoming documentary on Orthodoxy among the Yup’ik by Dmitry Trakovsky. Here is the press release:
After you’ve read that, if you’d like a foretaste, go here:
Please consider supporting him in his endeavor.
In January 2010, I published an article about Fr. Jacob Korchinsky, who is being considered for canonization by the Russian Orthodox Church. Fr. Jacob spent many years as a priest in the United States and Canada (as well as Mexico and Australia, among other places) before ending his life as a martyr under the Soviets. What follows is that original 2010 article, with some minor revisions.
Here is an account of Fr. Jacob Korchinsky’s first five decades, from Michael Protopopov’s fascinating 2005 dissertation, The Russian Orthodox Presence in Australia:
Jakov Kosmich Korchinsky was born into a family of landed gentry in 1861, he attended the Elizavetgrad Secondary School and then a four year course to become a teacher. In 1886, Jakov married Varvara Yakovlev. Whilst working in diocesan schools, Jakov was recognized as an excellent teacher by the Ruling Bishop of the diocese, Archbishop Nicandor of Kherson and Odessa, and ordained a deacon on 8 November 1887. Whilst a deacon and still teaching, Fr Jakov enrolled at the Odessa Theological Seminary which he completed in 1895. Fr Jakov was then invited to teach in the missions in Alaska by Bishop Nikolai of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska and the young deacon and his wife set off for the Americas. On 25 March 1896 Fr Jakov was ordained priest and began his missionary work in Alaska. Within two years Fr Jakov had been awarded his first ecclesiastical distinction for “converting to Orthodoxy more than 250 savages.” In 1901, he was again recognised for building a church whilst doing missionary work in Canada. By 1902 the Korchinskys returned to Kherson because of Varvara Korchinsky’s failing health and Fr Jakov was appointed rector of the Resurrection church in Bereznegova on the Black Sea. In 1906 he was appointed rector [of] the Protection church in the Kherson prison.
After two years in the prison church, Fr Jakov reapplied to return to America and was appointed to the St Michael parish in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania. Whilst in Pennsylvania Fr Jakov was awarded the gold pectoral cross by an Imperial Decree. On 25 March 1911, the Korchinskys were relocated to Newark, New Jersey, where Fr Jakov was appointed rector of the St Michael church and visiting priest to parishes in Erie, Carnegie and Youngstown. In the years immediately prior to his appointment as missionary to the Hawaiian Islands and the Philippines, Korchinsky was also Dean of Pennsylvania, a trustee of the Orthodox Orphanage of North America, Vice President of the Russian Emigre Society of North America and a member of the Imperial Russian Palestine Society.
And he still had another 30 years to go. Korchinsky was one of the jewels of the Russian Mission in America, one of those super-priests who covered vast territories and founded numerous churches. In 1900, he was sent to Edmonton, Alberta to become the first permanent parish priest in Canada. The same year, he visited Shandro, Alberta, and baptized 33 children in a single day. You get the sense, from reading about Korchinsky’s life, that this sort of event was rather commonplace for him. In his November 26, 1906 report to the Holy Synod, St. Tikhon wrote of Korchinsky, “He did much to convert the heathens to the Christian Faith and returned many Uniates to the Orthodox Church. He set the foundation for parish life in many places, built churches and assisted the unfortunate with his acquied medical knowledge.”
He founded churches in the United States, too. At the very least, I know that he was the founding priest of the Nativity of Christ Church in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1915. The same year, Korchinsky was elevated to Archpriest, and he relocated to Hawaii. From Orthodox Wiki’s excellent article on Hawaiian Orthodox history:
In 1915, an official request by the Russian Orthodox community in Hawaii and the Episcopal Bishop of Hawaii, Henry B. Restarick to the Holy Synod in St. Petersburg; a priest was dispatched that same year to Hawaii (with the blessing of Archbishop Evdokim (Meschersky) of the Aleutians) to pastor the large population of Orthodox Russian faithful. He establishsed permanent liturgical services in Hawaii and on Christmas December 25 (O.S.) / January 7 (N.S.) 1916, Protopresbyter Jacob Korchinsky celebrated the Divine Liturgy at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral in Honolulu. Thus Orthodoxy was re-established in Hawaii.
While in Honolulu, writes Protopopov, Korchinsky happened to meet a group of Russian Latvians who were sailing from Australia to Egypt via Honolulu and the brand-new Panama Canal. They told him that there were Russians in Australia; not long afterwards, Korchinsky read this in the Vestnik (the official publication of the Russian Mission in America, January 1916):
[I]n Australia, there live thousands of Russian people, who are spiritually ministered to by a Greek priest who visits once a year. His services are conducted unwillingly and without a sense of piety, even though he receives a large amount of money for his services. It has also been reported that a self-styled “priest” has arrived in Australia from North America who has exploited the unsuspecting Russians with excessive fees for baptisms and weddings, so much so, that they complained to the police and the “priest” was arrested.
Korchinsky had heard enough. He wrote to the Russian Consul-General in Melbourne, who asked Korchinsky to come to Australia immediately. He arrived in March of 1916. In the months that followed, he visited 750 families and 500 isolated individuals, baptizing 16 children along the way (all these numbers are from Protopopov). But he contracted malaria due to the excessive heat, and in July, he returned to Russia. He wrote this to his bishop, Archbishop Evdokim Meschersky:
We have elected a committee to oversee church life, but my illness brought on by the excessive heat, has caused me to take to my bed and has deprived me of being of any further use… I most respectfully plead that Your Grace does not forsake the Russian Orthodox in Australia and especially their next generation of youngsters. I beg that Your Grace may raise the question of the Church in Australia at the forthcoming All Russian General Council and if it be appropriate to appoint me as the permanent priest for Australia.
The Holy Synod ended up placing Australia under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Tokyo. Korchinsky, meanwhile, needed money. He had spent all his own funds on his missionary work. All the while, his wife and three-year-old daughter had remained in America, and Korchinsky wanted to go to them. He was given permission, and money, but then World War I intervened. Korchinsky was assigned to be a chaplain at the military hospital in Odessa, serving there from December 1916 to August 1917. From Protopopov:
Upon being demobilised from military service, Korchinsky was again faced with the problem of having nothing to live on. On 29 August 1917, he again wrote to the Holy Synod asking that he be assigned a pension, as he was so poor that he needed to live in a rural village where the folk fed him out of compassion. A second resolution was made by the Holy Synod for a pension to be granted to Korchinsky, but no documentary evidence is available to confirm a pension ever having been paid. Nor is it known if he returned to his family in Pennsylvania.
One way or another, Korchinsky’s family made it back to Russia. About his family… At some point amidst his travels, probably in 1913 or 1914, Korchinsky spent some time in Mexico City. While there, he adopted an orphaned infant named Dominica. Here is the story, told by the girl’s daughter in Faith, a Russian religious periodical, dated May 2006. The original in Russian, which I can’t read, so I used Google Translator:
Jacob Korchinsky was not the actual father of my mother, he was her adoptive father. In 1912-1916. He was the rector of the Orthodox Church in Mexico City, the capital of Mexico. There he gave the girl in foster homes, from a poor family of Spanish origin. In 1916-1917 grandfather returned to his home in Odessa, along with a girl (my mother was then year 3-4).
The translation obviously isn’t great, and the dates aren’t precise, but the gist is clear enough. (And there are more details if you follow the above link and can read Russian. Google Translator has some issues with Russian, unfortunately. To our Russian-speaking readers: if you have a moment and can do a quick translation, please let me know.)
Korchinsky stayed in Russia through the Revolution and the terror that followed. He was arrested on June 23, 1941. Two months later, like so many of his fellow priests, he was executed. He was 80 years old.
Based on all this, it seems to me that Fr. Jacob Korchinsky was indeed a saint, just like his fellow American priests and Russian hieromartyrs Alexander Hotovitzky, John Kochurov, and Seraphim Samuilovich. Korchinsky’s is a remarkable, multicontinental story which has not yet been told. If any of you have more information on Korchinsky, please email me at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.
Editor’s note: Raymond A Bucko, S.J. is a Jesuit Catholic priest, professor of anthropology, chair of the social work, sociology and anthropology department at Creighton University, Omaha Nebraska. He completed his doctoral work in anthropology at the University of Chicago in 1992. His dissertation was “Inipi: Historic Transformation and Contemporary Significance of the Sweat Lodge in Lakota Ritual Practice.” He entered the Jesuit order in 1973, earned an masters of divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley in 1983, was ordained that year and completed a Masters in Sacred Theology the next year at Regis College Toronto. He first worked with Native Americans in 1974 and later served as a consultant for the National Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Ad Hoc Committee on Native American Ministry from 1994 to 2007. He continues to work in this field.
Father Bucko’s original research on Saint Peter the Aleut was for a conference on religion and violence on November 14, 2005. He subsequently published his presentation as “Peter the Aleut: Sacred Icons and the Iconography of Violence” Boletín: The Journal of the California Mission Studies Association. Robert Senkewicz Editor. Volume 23 no.1 Pp. 22-45. Spring 2006. Reprinted in: The Contexts of Religion and Violence. Journal of Religion & Society. Supplement Series 2. Edited by Ronald A. Simkins. The Kripke Center, 2007; Pp 31-48. http://moses.creighton.edu/jrs/2007/2007-3.html (PDF version – http://moses.creighton.edu/jrs/pdf/2007-3.pdf).
Following a reference from a colleague in Finland he found the initial disposition of Ivan Kiglay in the library of congress card catalogue as: Istomin, A. A., James R. Gibson, Valeri i Aleksandrovich Tishkov, and Institut *etnologii i antropologii im. N.N. Miklukho-Makla*i*a. 2005. Rossi*i*a v Kalifornii : russkie dokumenty o kolonii Ross i rossi*isko-kaliforni*iskikh sv*i*az*i*akh 1803-1850 : v dvukh tomakh. 2 vols. Moskva: Nauka. The actual volume was borrowed from the Georgetown University library. To download the original deposition document in Russian, click on this link:
To be entirely clear: This is the source from which all other accounts of St. Peter’s martyrdom are derived. But until now, it has been virtually unknown to Orthodox Christians, who have relied on much later, secondhand versions of the story. We at SOCHA have had a copy of this document for some months, but we (and Fr. Oliver in particular, who can read Russian) haven’t had time to get a translation done. We are grateful to Fr. Bucko for providing one. This initial translation was done by Mr. Gleb Coca, a Moldovian Muskee Fellow at the Creighton University school of business in September 2010. Please note that this is an initial translation only: it needs to be checked and revised by others familiar with the Russian language. But rather than wait for a more polished translation, I (Matthew) thought it best to publish this initial version, along with the original Russian account, with the hope that some of our readers would be inspired to offer their own expertise to produce an authoritative translation.
The bracketed small Roman numerals in the text indicate endnotes.
Testimony of Ivan Kiglay, port worker from Kadiak, regarding the capture by Spanish of a trading unit of RAK [Russian-American company] in 1815, [regarding] death of a dweller of Kadiak Chukagnak (St. Peter Aleut), and regarding his escape to the island Ilimena. Ross, May 1819.
In 1819 year, May, to the castle of Ross, of Kadiak Region, village Kashkatskovo, Ivan Kiglay was brought from the Ilimena Island on the small ship with the similar name, who was interrogated with a translators from Kadiak – Ivan Samoilov and Jacob Shelekhov, testimonies as follows: he was delegated by Tarakanov from Saint-Kentina, with others from the trading unit from Kadiak on 15 kayaks, to come to the service of Company of Tarasov, and were delivered on English small ship, named “Foresta” to the Ilimena Island, where they were trading beavers. The manager of this branch of the Company – Tarasov – was not perceiving the trade as profitable and was not hoping for recovery in that island, so he decided to use his kayaks to move on other islands: Saint Rose and Ekaterina and later to the land shore of California. Because of the fact that in the Tarasov’s kayak it happened to be a hole and his Kayak started to fill with water, and because the weather was pretty fresh [cool], we landed at Cape Bay Saint Peter, were we have been kept by the weather.
On the next day a soldier came from the mission in Saint-Pedro, and told to Tarasov, the recently, on the island of Climant, 2 Kadiak dwellers ran away from Tarakanov. An award was declared for bringing them back. Later, although the weather was proper to departure for the island of Ekaterina, Tarasov decided to stay and to wait for those 2 Kadiak dwellers. On the fourth day of staying, about 20 soldiers on horses approached in silence and arrested Tarasov and all the other members of the crew [.] They treated them inhumanly, tortured a lot of people using hatchets, and to one of the Kadiak dweller from village Kaguiatskovo , named Chukagnak, they have hacked his head. After they have stolen all the beavers and their personal belonging, they were transferred to Sankt-Pedro Mission, where those 2 Kadiak Dwellers, who escaped from Climant, had been caught. Missioners and the leader of the named above mission (who’s name he does not remember), made a request to all the Kadiak dwellers to convert to catholic religion, for what they have replied that they have already converted to a Christian religion on Kadiak, and they do not want to convert to any other religion. In a short time, Tarasov and other Kadiak dwellers [crew members] were transferred to Saint Barbara. Though he (Kiglay Ivan) and wounded Chukagnak, were left in the mentioned mission, were kept with Indian criminals in the prison for several days, without food and water.
On that night the chief of the mission brought the order to convert to religion, although they did not do that, despite the critical situation that they faced. On the sunrise of the next day a religious clerk[i] came to the prison, accompanied by betrayed[ii] Indians, and called them out of the prison; Indians surrounded them, and by order started to cut (chop) Chukagnak’s fingers by articulations, from both hands and [after that] arms, and in the end cut his stomach (abdomen) [revealed his intestines], by that time, he was already dead.[iii] That should have happened also to Kiglay, but at that time to the priest was brought a paper (he does not know from where and from whom). After reading that, [the priest] ordered to bury the body of the dead Chukagnak from Kasguiatskovo in the same place, and he [Kiglay] was send back to prison, and in a short time after that he was send to Saint-Barbara, where he have not found anybody from his crew nor Tarasov, who had already been sent to Monterey.
Later on that autumn and winter (which will be in 1815), those of port workers from Kadiak, who run away from Tarasov in different places were found and brought to Saint-Barbara, and some of them with kayaks, and those 2 who were in the mission in Saint-Pedro, all together 10 people including Kurbatov. They were assigned to work as well as other Indians, kept for crimes[iv] in handcuffs; the agreement among all of those from Kadiak was to escape from Saint-Barbara and to get to Francis port in their way away from the land, and [to head] to Ross, but it was unclear if it will happen.[v]
He, Kiglay Ivan, agreed to escape with Kaguiak dwellers Atash’sha Filip, decided to use other means to escape, what they managed to do, they has stolen a kayak and ran away using that, got to the same cape bay Saint Peter, where they were captured, moved to Ekaterina Island, from there to the island Barbara, and from there to the island Ilimena, that happened in a short time because of the good weather. While their arrival to Ilimena, and while they lived there, the local inhabitants were glad to accept them. They trained themselves in catching birds, called Urillas, they used to eat their meat, and their skin they used for clothes for them and for Indians. His friend [Kiglay’s friend] Attash’sha Filip from Kaguiatsk, in one year after arrival to Ilimena, has died. In the autumn of 1818 near Ilimena island appeared 2 Spanish 3-masted [big] ships, stayed 3 days and on easy wind, were coming to the land on small boats, Indians were collecting herbs and berries with good taste for them, while ship was staying, when [other] ship were approaching, or people were coming, they were hiding themselves, helped by Indians. Later a 2-masted ship came, they [Spanish] let Kiglay know that he could join them on the ship, but none of them could speak Russian or Kadiak, so he refused.
While interrogating Kadiak Dweller, Kiglay Ivan, the translator was the dweller of Kadiak region, village Misakovskii, Ivan Samoilov, by his will his son put his hand.[vi]
While interrogating Kadiak dweller, Kiglay Ivan, the translator was the dweller of Kadiak region, village Chiniatsk, Jacob Shelekhov, who signed by himself.
Fr. Bucko wishes to note that this is an initial translation only. Corrections or insights into this translation are gratefully accepted; please send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Once again, to download the original deposition document in Russian, click below:
[i] Ad Litteram, he calls that person a “spiritual person”. It is an old Russian. I don’t know how they were calling it in old Russian, but today they would call a priest differently. Also consider the fact that Kiglay testimony originally was translated form Kadiak language into Russian, and this is the second translation.
They refer to the spiritual clerks twice in the text, once as “Spiritual person” (which I translated as spiritual clerk), and second time as “spiritual Father”. For “Priest” it is usually used another word, and “Father” (spiritual or saint Father) is closer to a way how a priest is being called in Russia. A person is way too broad and general. I understood it as a reference to person who has something to do with a religion, and formally involved in it, by wearing some sort of clothes which make it distinct.
I would say that they were trying to show the appurtenance to some other religion of that person in charge of the execution, but it is not necessary to be a priest. And because Kiglay did not know details of other religions, he might have used a broader or a more general term, for people related to spirituality or church, but it might not be necessary a priest.
As we read before that, it is said that MISSIONERS and the leadership of the Mission asked them first to take the catholic religion. So it might be that by “spiritual person” he referred to a missioner, or something higher in rank than missioners (otherwise he could have repeated the word missioners). To keep it short - Spiritual person is related to the church or religion (I would say in a formal visible way, like wearing clothes or have the attitude of others). For “priest” it is used another word. “Spiritual person” can also refer to a priest, it is just a broader term. Also later referrals to this text which I have found online, translate this word as a “priest” to the modern language.
[ii] The word “betrayed” was written on above the line of the regular testimony. Also the word “betrayed” may be interpreted from Russian as “converted”
[iii] In the text I cannot see clearly that it was by order of the religious clerk. It is stated that it is by order, and in that sentence only clerk is mentioned above.
[iv] The word “for crimes” was written on above the line of the regular testimony
[v] The note in the book says that according to Tihmenev, part of Kadiaks managed to escape and after staying for 4 days without water and food in the water , they found themselves in Ross.
[vi] In the original text it is being put in square brackets to be deleted