"After my death our beloved Church abroad will break three ways .... first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us ... then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow ... what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church." St. Philaret of NY 1985

Abbess Evpraksia Reposes

RocorMP website:

Russian Inok  №54 (217) February, 2007


With the death, on Wednesday July 19th 2006, of the Most Rev. Abbess Evpraksia (Pustovalova), another page was turned in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. Matushka Evpraksia was one of the few remaining links to Imperial Russia, the Russian Emigration in Manchuria and Metropolitan Philaret (whose relics are incorrupt). With her passing the Australian Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church has truly been orphaned.

Lydia Pustovalova, as Matushka was christened, was born at 1am on 8.4.1919, in the township of Vyatka in Russia to a truly righteous couple, Valentina and Nicola (Nicholas), a couple that not only never had an argument, but also had never raised their voice in dissent! Upset by her belated arrival, Matushka Evpraksia always considered her birthday to be on the Feast of the Annunciation – her favourite Prazdnik. However everything in our lives has deep meaning and her real birthdate on its Afterfeast and the Synaxis of Archangel Gabriel was truly significant, as she would subsequently, from an early age, desire to lead a monastic, angelic, way of life.

When only a few months old, Matushka moved with her parents to the town of Ekaterinburg in the Urals, where the family lived for the next 4 years. She well remembered the boarded-up, ill-fated, building in which the Royal family were brutally murdered, which was not far from their own home. Matushka Evpraksia’s first conscious memory related to this period, when at the tiny age of 2?-3 years, she would be placed in a barrel while her parents worked in the fields during the day. She humbly bore this “imprisonment” and would spend hours watching in fascination the ever-changing sky, acquiring from such an early age the desire to ignore the earthly and raise her heart and mind solely to the spiritual realm. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.

While in Ekaterinburg, Matushka became seriously ill with scarlet fever and diphtheria. Antibiotics did not exist. Her father was away in the war. Her mother, Valentina, who had already lost 2 children Ludmila aged 3 years and Alexander at 12 months, now faced another trial. Lydia in her delirium would repeatedly cry out “for whom is this coffin – I don’t want to die?” As the crisis waned this cry would change to an equally painful one: “I’m scared that I’ve been deprived of my grave!” By God’s mercy Lydia survived. She grew up on black bread moistened with a little water and sweetened with sugarine as there was nothing else to eat at home. Matushka’s mother later repented that she was very close to despair at that time.

When the family was reunited, they were able to migrate to Manchuria. Valentina’s cousins already resided there. The Pustovalovs lived at various railway settlements, where Nicola worked as a civil engineer. Later they moved to Old Harbin.

On completion of secondary school, Lydia entered university, subsequently completing a Bachelor of Commerce and Economics and surviving yet another illness – tuberculosis. It was at this stage of her life that Lydia first met Archimandrite (later Metropolitan) Philaret Voznesensky, a figure that left the deepest and greatest impact on Matushka’s life. She would even ask of him that he completely and wholely accept her under his strictest spiritual guidance, but was to hear that this was neither possible (as they did not live under the same roof) nor beneficial. But the spiritual bond formed at that time remained to the end and while alive, not withstanding the pressures of his position, Metropolian Philaret always corresponded with Lydia. Not long before Matushka’s father’s death ( Nicola lay on his deathbed suffering from cancer of the liver) Archim. Philaret, while visiting this humble family, draped his black winter coat over Lydia’s shoulders and led her to her dying father with the words: “Nicholas Nicholaevich, accept the Abbess!” This was prophesized some 20 years ahead of time.

There were many times when Divine intervention preserved Matushka’s life and health. As a small child she suffered no ill-effects when a heavy railcarriage window slammed down on her delicate fingers. Later, working as a secretary in an office she was approached by the cleaner for the keys to the boss’s room. As she stood up and moved to the side, a bullet sped past, killing outright another secretary typing directly behind Lydia!

In 1962 Matushka and her mother left Manchuria for Australia. They settled in Sydney and here she would have to work, painting designs on porcelain crockery and vases, or folding towels, to repay the value of her ticket. This did not deter her from her desire to lead a monastic way of life. Metropolitan Philaret considered transferring her to Lesna; later he thought to set up a new monastic community in America, but finally gave his blessing for Lydia to enter the All-Saints Convent at Kentlyn, Australia. Her elderly mother blessed her whole-heartedly, saying that even the best, happiest marriage could never raise a person to the spiritual heights that monastic life and pure virginity would. On December 22 1969, on the feast of the icon of the Holy Theotokos of “Unexpected Joy”, Matushka, accompanied by her mother, who said that “wherever the needle goeth, so does the thread!” permanently settled in the Convent. Here Matushka carried out many obediences- she sang on choir, cleaned and decorated the Church, collected the mail, did errands in town, renovated icons in disrepair, as well as looking after her mother, who shared the same cell with her. After 3 years and a brief 10-day illness Lydia’s mother and Staritsa (as Fr. Michael Klebansky so called her) quietly passed away at the age of 81 years. Matushka was distraught and was even briefly hospitalized to recover from the shock of bereavement.

In 1979 Sr. Lydia, after being a novice for 10 years, developed cancer. After an operation and brief period of convalescence she was tonsured on the 24th of December 1979 into the Small Schema by Metropolitan Philaret, who was in Australia for a youth convention. This coincided with the Namesday of Matushka’s grandfather, Daniel. Metr. Philaret chose the new name for Matushka, Evpraksia, because he so loved the life of St. Evpraksia. Matushka remained a Nun for 5 years. A Sister at the Convent, in broad daylight, once saw a shining gold Cross over Matushka, while Archimandrite Arseny, when he visited, always considered her to be the Abbess of the Convent. Abbess Elena Ustinova, not long before her death on Good Friday 1984, also told m. Evpraksia that she wanted her to be the next Abbess. On the feast of the Myrrh-bearing women, May 12th 1984, Matushka Evpraksia was chosen and raised to the rank of Abbess.

During her 22 years as Abbess of the Convent, Matushka completed the building of the new Nun’s quarters and Church in honour of the Kazan Icon. The new iconostasis was completed and the church was fully consecrated by Metropolitan Vitaly. The entrance to the Convent was decorated by a beautiful archway. A new belfry was added. Only she did not see the hall come to fruition. During this time, Matushka faced many trials and tribulations. She was the youngest by age of the Sisterhood and not all were prepared to submit to her leadership, often judging her actions and once even submitting her to a “court enquiry”. However Matushka was the embodiment of patience, humility and love, and with these virtues she conquered all the trials. With her God-fearing and forever God-seeking heart she would start every day at 4am with fervent, tearful prayer and supplication for all the world, the Church, the Sisterhood, her benefactors, many people asking her to intercede in their illness (and ALL received cure), and those in dissent with her or those that she felt that she had in some way offended. In her meekness Matushka could not offend or discipline others and would always hasten to first ask forgiveness. Her favourite phrase was from the 50th psalm: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise”. Another was from the 4th antiphon: “By the Holy Spirit is every soul given life, and in purity it is exalted, it is illuminated by the Triune Unity in mystic holiness”. But the phrase that Matushka repeated the most, almost daily, was : “What will be will be; What God has determined will be” and with a beautiful, serene smile she would add the words of Metropolitan Philaret: “What God has predetermined is ALL good”. The rest of the day Matushka preferred to devote to spiritual reading, mainly of the Holy Fathers and St. John of Kronstadt, who brought peace to her wearied heart, in the isolation of her cell. Having attained the gift of plentiful tears, Matushka also was given the rare gift of unceasing prayer – m. Maria, her cell-attendant many a time witnessed that Matushka, in her sleep, continued to pray, supplicate and recite psalms. It is no surprise that, not long before she was rewarded by our Synod with the right to wear a second Cross (one that found its way to her from Mt. Athos), Matushka was visited in her cell by St. Serafim of Sarov. The day after having been given the Cross, Matushka was visited, while she was awake, by the Holy Theotokos Herself, Who held the Cross over Matushka, as if to say that She would help her carry its weight.

Matushka Evpraksia’s health all her life was never very good. Towards the end she became more and more feeble, spending most of the time in her cell in prayer and rest. A week before her death Matushka developed a cardiac arrhythmia, which necessitated a 3 day sojourn to hospital. On discharge she seemed to pick up, but while in the car, returning from a cardiology review on July 18th, she suffered a massive stroke that paralysed the left side of her body and face. Close friends came in multitudes to visit the ailing Abbess, to ask her forgiveness and receive her final blessing. All the Sisters were individually blessed by her from her hospital bed. Father Boris Ignatievsky was able to give her Holy Communion almost immediately in Accident and Emergency and also the next day, the day of her death, in the ward. Late in the evening, Fr.Vladimir performed the service of Holy Unction, in which Matushka participated fully and asked for his blessing at the end, although obviously very exhausted. On Wednesday 19th July Matushka suffered 2 more strokes and it became clear that the end was approaching. She remained conscious, tightly grasping the hand of m. Maria, her cell-attendant, till just 1 hour before her repose. Her breathing then became laboured for that hour, after which time she started to fatigue. This was noticed by m. Maria. She blessed Matushka with the wooden Cross that hung around her neck, brought it to her lips, then folded her right hand, made the sign of the Cross on her forehead, chest and shoulders and Matushka quietly reposed.

Matushka’s body was brought to the Convent, draped in monastic attire, for the vigil to the Kazan icon of the Holy Theotokos, the Convent’s second feastday. All night the Sisters read the Psalter in two hour shifts, continuing during the break between Divine Liturgy and the commencement of the burial service at 1pm. Archbishop Hilarion presided with 9 other priests and one deacon taking part in the very moving service. It conveyed the triumph over death of this tiny, seemingly insignificant person who was now entering her eternal Pascha. The Cross carried at the head of the procession to the Convent’s gates seemed weightless and triumphant in its victory and many people expressed that they did not feel sorrowful but rather felt paschal joy! 

Matushka’s day of repose was on St Sisoe the Great, a significant early monastic figure, the third day was on the Kazan Icon’s feastday; her 20th day falls on her Namesday, while the 40th is on the Forefeast of the Dormition, on which day we also celebrate the prophet Micheus. Not by coincidence, his icon was given to Matushka the day she was made Abbess and she always considered him to be her protector and benefactor.

Abbess Evpraksia knew that she would die soon. She had mentioned to a parishioner that she would not live to the next feastday (the Kazan Icon was approaching next) and had placed a new, beautiful white with gold trim ribbon in the New Testament to mark the chapter that would be her legacy and will to the Sisterhood and Church as a whole (Ephesians ch.4):
“I Therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love;
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
One Lord, one faith, one baptism
One God and Father of all, who is above all, through all, and in you all”.

Everyone who knew or met Matushka, even total strangers, felt that Matushka was special – she attracted all through her meekness and love. Now we have a direct intercessor for all of us before our Lord God. May God grant Abbess Evpraksia eternal rest in the Kingdom of Heaven.