January 10, 2022

Saint Smaragda Onishchenko of Nizhyn (+ 1945)

St. Smaragda of Nizhyn (Feast Day - January 10)

Juliana Avraamovna Onishchenko, later known as Smaragda, was born on January 2, 1858 in the village of Markovtsy, Kozeletsk district, Chernigov province.

Her parents were Abraham and Mary. They came from a Cossack family. The family had seven children. When Juliana was seven years old, her father died of a serious illness, so the family was in a difficult situation. Little Juliana was often ill, her mother did not even have hope that her daughter would survive, so a coffin was already prepared for the girl.

In 1863, at the advice of a local priest, her mother took her to a school for orphan girls at the Vvedensky Monastery in the city of Nizhyn. She had only a coffin for her property. Mother Smaragda recalled her early years:

"In the monastery I received both an upbringing and an education. I learned to draw, knit, embroider, paint, sing, read."

After successfully graduating from college, she entered the Vvedensky Monastery as a novice, where in 1876 she took monastic vows, was renamed Smaragda, and eventually became a dean of the monastery.

In 1914, after the death of Abbess Valentina, the sisters of the monastery unanimously elected Smaragda as their abbess. For a long time she did not dare to take on this obedience and agreed only after the requests of the sisters and prayers in front of the revered icon of the Mother of God. Having become abbess, she did not cease to show deep humility: she did not move to the chambers of the abbess, but remained to live in her former cell. Despite her high position, the nun continued to work on an equal footing with all the sisters.

In 1922 she was arrested during a campaign to confiscate church valuables. During interrogations, she behaved calmly. After many hours of interrogation, torture and beatings, the investigators thought that Mother Smaragda had died. The nuns were allowed to take her body. But when the nun was brought to the monastery, she turned out to be alive. In the morning, the confessor was again taken to prison. Despite the complete absence of concrete evidence, the court, held on 13 May 13 1922 in the city of Chernigov, sentenced her to three years in prison. Numerous requests from parishioners of the Nizhyn churches for her release from prison were evidence of the common people's love for Mother Smaragda.

After serving her term of imprisonment, the abbess returned to her monastery and immediately began to repair the monastery buildings.

In 1927, the Vvedensky Monastery was finally closed, its churches and premises were transferred to an artillery warehouse, and the nuns were forced to go home. Eighty elderly women who had nowhere to return, led by the abbess, were relocated to Saint George Monastery in Kozeletsk.

In 1930 Mother Smaragda was arrested "for anti-Soviet agitation." She was held in custody in a cold cell, which ultimately ruined her health. She was released due to lack of evidence.

After her arrest, she and four sisters settled in the town of Kozeletsk in a private apartment. According to the recollections of her contemporaries, the nun "was an earthly angel, there was nothing earthly, worldly in her, she was noble, silent, and brought the peace of Christ to people."

During the Great Patriotic War, when it became possible to open churches and monasteries, she returned with her sisters to her native monastery. They found the monastery in ruins, but in the fall of 1941 the Vvedensky Cathedral was opened, for which windows, doors, an iconostasis, etc. were made by the efforts of the sisters and pilgrims. Eighteen nuns gathered in the monastery. The priest of the monastery, Archpriest Vasily Bugaevsky, who miraculously escaped during the years of persecution against the Church, began to hold regular services.

In September 1943, the Vvedensky Monastery was closed again, this time the abbess was forced to move to Chernigov. Mother settled not far from the Trinity-Ilyinsky Convent. In her conversations with the sisters who asceticised with her, the nun often recalled her native Vvedensk Monastery, and said that the time would come when monasteries and churches would be opened, and her remains would rest in Nizhyn, where most of her life passed.

She died on January 10, 1945. Foreseeing her imminent death, she asked to be buried in the monastery cemetery, but the coffin was to be buried shallowly, since she would have to be moved twice. Her grave was looked after by the sisters of the closed Svyato-Vvedensky Monastery.

In 1969, the city authorities of Chernigov decided to close the monastery cemetery and build a park in its place. Relatives were offered to transfer the bodies of the deceased to the newly opened cemetery "Yalovschina". Then they remembered the prophecy. It did not take long to dig, since the coffin was only one meter deep. When the nuns of the closed Chernigov Trinity Convent, headed by the future abbess of the Eletsk Convent of Chernigov, Abbess Ambrose (Ivanenko), opened the Saint's coffin, they found that her body was incorrupt. On May 8, 2012 she was officially canonized by the holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. On May 3, 2014 he relics were brought to the Vvedensky Monastery.