by Subdeacon Nicholas Nagorny
Times can be tough, and Saint Paul noted in his second epistle to the Christians in Corinth how difficult his ministry was. Saint Paul prefaced his comments about nightmares of tribulations, needs and distresses with necessity of “much patience” (II Corinthians Chapter 6, verses 1-10). The Church proclaims this dire section of II Corinthians with the reading of the miracle of Jesus raising from the dead the only son of the widow in the town of Nain. The widow was crushed by the loss her only son, and faced a life of lonely tribulations as a widow. The response of Jesus was direct and powerful. Her son was brought back to life.
Times of tribulation and needs and distresses were mentioned by my parents when I was very young. My father grew up in the terror of the 1930s Soviet Union. In 1938, sixteen members of the Nagorny family were eliminated in the genocide in the Ukraine. Yezhov was head of the secret police. During World War II, my father was in Germany as a hard-pressed worker. He had to wear a badge on his chest, entitled “Osten”, an easterner, or a slave worker. One day he took it off, and was beaten by the Gestapo, the Nazi police. My mother lost two brothers in the war. She worked in Frankfurt, Germany, and the city was devastated by Allied bombings. The end of World War II did not stop the tribulations in Germany. My father was a “DP”, a displaced person. He was trying to escape Soviet police roaming in the American occupied territory. These times were of survival, and also of doing something more.
From this tumultuous time, I had a window- a small one inch by one inch photograph: a photograph of my father and mother before a fog-enshrouded Russian Orthodox Church in a park like setting. I knew the photograph was taken when they were newlyweds. I did not know the date of marriage, nor location. There were no wedding pictures, just stories of a place called Bad Homburg. I started with the one by one inch picture. I found the highest rated photo restorer on Yelp in Manhattan. Months later the photo was masterfully sized two and half times larger and was digitally cleaned of the photograph’s scratch marks. A master frame-maker in Hoboken was chosen. This restored framed photograph was now more than a window, for I saw the faces of my parents. My mother was happy and fashionable in dress, and my father was tall and athletic in bearing. The times caused great distress, but a new beginning was starting.
Another mystery remained, the befogged image of the church in the park behind my parents. The Russian Orthodox Synodal jurisdiction website directory of Russian Orthodox Churches in Germany was scrutinized. There is a Russian Orthodox church in Bad Homburg, Germany! The church was named Church of All Saints and it was really a chapel in a public park: a chapel of just monthly services and with an assigned priest, Fr. Dmitry Ignatieff. I fretted how to communicate with the priest, but the website noted he understood English, and I rushed off an email. Days later Fr. Ignatieff responded and said we were, “lucky”. On Sunday September 22, 1946 Andrey Petrovich Nagorny married Hermine Katherina Blum with Fr. Leonid Kasperski presiding. This was the eighteenth entry in the 1946 parish registry, and there were two groomsmen. The groomsmen were my uncle August and an unknown, Mr. Michael Manshun.
The All Saints chapel was now so clear to see. From Google aerial views and from digital stock photos in high resolution color, the chapel revealed a nineteenth century fairyland embellishment of the Russian Orthodox style church. So jewel-like was the outside decorative work that the Internet tourist sites, Expedia and TripAdvisor gave it high ratings. Czar Nicholas II was at the consecration and the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky attended this chapel. Why did this little chapel have such a famous attendee at the consecration? The “Bad” in Bad Homburg was the answer. Our English word bath is related to the German word Bad. Bad Homburg was a spa town, and a destination spot for the Russian aristocratic nobility to relax at therapeutic mineral springs. My parents married in a “spa chapel”!
I noted in my email to Fr. Ignatieff that someday, God willing, I will be in Bad Homburg, Germany and walk in the public park to attend a church service in the chapel of All Saints. My mother and father in that tumultuous time of 1946, in the house of God, started a new household of God. The restored photographs of my newlywed parents and the chapel of All Saints represent moments in our household of God that need to be handed down. My daughter Nicole will receive the framed photographs as her bequest to her children’s children representing the stories of our family in times of necessity.
The discovery our parents, grandparents, ancestors having had times of tribulation, distress and calamities are reminders of the power of endurance. Those spiritual events molded their lives and can be guideposts to our children’s children. Below are the restored pictures of my parents and the chapel of All Saints, Bad Homburg, Germany.