Commemorated on July 20
Mother Maria was born in Latvia in 1891. Like many of the pre-Revolutionary Russian intelligentsia, she was an atheist and a political radical in her youth, but gradually came to accept the truths of the Faith. After the Revolution, she became part of the large Russian émigré population of Paris. There she was tonsured as a nun by Metropolitan Evlogy, and devoted herself to a life of service to the poor.
With a small community of fellow-believers, she established “houses of hospitality” for the poor, the homeless, the alcoholic. She was also known to visit Russian émigrés in mental hospitals. In 1939, Metropolitan Evlogy sent Fr. Dimitry to serve Mother Maria’s community. Fr. Dimitry proved to be a partner, committed even unto death, in the community’s work among the poor.
When the Nazis took Paris in 1940, Mother Maria, Fr. Dimitry, and others in the community chose to remain in the city to care for those who had come to count on them. As Nazi persecution of Jews in France increased, the Orthodox community’s work expanded to include protection and care of the most helpless. Fr. Dimitry was asked to provide forged certificates of baptism to preserve the lives of Jews and always complied. Eventually, this work led to the arrest of Mother Maria, Fr. Dimitry, and their associates.
Mother Maria was sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp, while Fr. Dimitry was sent to Buchenwald. After great sufferings, they both perished, along with others from their community who followed them.
It is believed that Mother Maria’s last act was to take the place of a Jewish woman who was being sent to death in the gas chambers, voluntarily dying in her place.
Mother Maria and her companions were glorified by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 2004.
A full account of her life and death is given on the site of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship.
Troparion (Tone 1) –
Through the sufferings which the saints have endured for Your sake,
O Lord, we beseech You
to heal all of our infirmities,
O Good Friend of Man.
Kontakion (Tone 8) –
As witnesses of truth and preachers of piety,
let us worthily honor through divinely inspired chants:
Dimitry and Maria, George and Elias,
who have borne the sufferings,
the bonds and unjust judgment,
in which like the martyrs
have received the imperishable crown
By permission of www.abbamoses.com