March 17, 2015

Helen Machankova: A Neomartyr (+ March 15, 2013)

By Hieromonk Theologos

Last July a small group together with the Bishop, having heard the story about Helen, chanted a memorial service for her soul, near the sea, under the pine trees of a ruined ancient Christian church with beautiful mosaics, which we had just swept and were in amazement over.

The entire coast of Asia Minor testifies to the eternal life of our faith and language. There Helen's friend Anna recounted to us her last days. Later the priest added his testimony. Let this brief narration be a Memorial that we dedicate these days to Helen.

Helen Machankova was born in the great city of Barnaul in Siberia on August 18, 1977. She went to southern Asia Minor to work, like many of her compatriots, in the tourist shops where millions of Russians visit every year. She was an accountant and beautiful. There she met a local whom she married, according to the Islamic custom, in a mosque. Her family in Russia were atheists. Her husband considered her a Muslim and was proud of her, but she began to despise him when he was glad to hear that Muslims were killing Christians in Syria.

Many of her Russian friends would regularly go to the only church that operated in southern Asia Minor, in a large neighboring city. There Anna directs the choir. Helen also began to attend church, asking to learn how to pray and to have explained what takes place during the Divine Liturgy. Then, on 6 January 2013, her husband seriously beat her and she left her house and went to live with Anna. They went to church together and then she felt a change within her, and was sad that she wasn't baptized. She was amazed by the love shown to her by the priest and the parishioners. Those who weren't Christians she began to view differently, without hatred. Anna suggested that she be baptized, and she accepted. The priest counseled her how to attend church, how to pray, and he advised her to read the Gospels. With her friends they discussed the faith and the holy martyrs a lot, and she listened to everything carefully. Later she travelled to Russia where she stayed for two weeks with her family. She went to church there also, and purchased and brought back with her small icons. She complained to her parents why they didn't baptize her. Her mother told her that they lived as atheists, but she could be baptized if she wanted. They even gave her a pendant with an icon of Saint Seraphim of Sarov.

On March 8, 2013 she returned and lived with Anna. The next day she encountered her husband as she went to work. He saw the pendant and asked: "You changed your faith?" She responded: "Yes." He then began to insult her and blaspheme because she betrayed Allah. He told his friends and they responded: "You think a marriage in a mosque would make her a Muslim?" Her husband began to meet her every day after work, or he called her, and he threatened to kill her. Anna expressed her joy that Helen confessed Christ, but told her that it was dangerous.

Those days Helen was reading the life of Saint Matrona, and together with Anna they would drink Holy Water every morning. She would see the priest often, it was Cheesefare week and she was going to be baptized on Pascha.

On the morning of March 15th she narrated to Anna a dream she saw that night: Behind a large open window there was a man with a very good and beautiful look. Helen approached him and saw at his side many beautiful animals and behind him was the sea. He told her that all these things belong to him, since he created them. Then he opened his hands, saying: "Come to me, my daughter." He embraced her and gave her his peace, and she became calm because her husband had threatened her that night over the phone and she was afraid to go to work.

Anna narrated to us that they prayed together, drank Holy Water, then Helen left doing her cross. At 3:00pm she called Anna and left a message as if nothing was wrong. Later Helen told the niece of her husband that he asked for them to meet and Helen was going to meet him. "Whatever happens, happens," she said. These were her last words. He received her at the house and he slaughtered her with a knife. He told the police: "This was my offering to Allah."

Helen was buried in her homeland, in Russia. May her memory be eternal, together with all the Neomartyrs.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.