WAY OF THE ORTHODOX
Fr. Vladimir Evsukoff
At a time when the light of true Christianity has been all but
extinguished by the spirit of the world, how rare it is to
encounter a torch-bearer, someone able to guide the faithful
through the encroaching darkness, And how great that darkness seems
when death unexpectedly blows out the torch. So it was with Fr,
Vladimir Evsukoff whose tragic death two years ago at the age of 37
left his many parishioners of the Holy Protection Cathedral in
Melbourne profoundly shaken. And not only his parishioners but also
a great number of others, for he was a torch-bearer whose burning
love for Christ had inspired and encouraged many on the path of
As a simple lay priest Fr. Vladimir did not perform any outstanding ascetic
feats, nor was he a brilliant theologian, Rather, it is his example of a
life of self-sacrifice for Christ which qualifies him to be called a
spiritual hero of our time, Among the young, pampered generations it is
very unusual to find such self-sacrifice, even though this is required of
all Christians, For this reason the memory of Fr. Vladimir deserves to be
kept alive and the example of his life set "on a candle stand," so that
even after death, his torch may continue to burn and inspire others with
love for Christ.
Fr. Vladimir spoke little about his life. Growing up in Europe
during the war years, he had a difficult childhood and was spared
the misfortune of being spoiled, His mother left him when he was
still young and he was raised almost as an orphan by his
grandparents. It was only in the '50' s that he saw his father for
the first time in Australia. His grandfather was a reader in the
church and his grandmother was very pious. It was from them that he
received the spark of a spiritual life which, over the years,
steadily grew into a burning flame.
His fondest memories were of his seminary years (1961-1966)in
Jordanville. There his heart was at home, and Holy Trinity
Monastery remained a spiritual home for him for the rest of his
life. He entered whole-heartedly into the seminary life with an
enthusiasm tempered by sobriety. He was a great admirer of
Archbishop Averky of blessed memory, whose sermons made a deep
impression on him.
Upon graduating from the seminary, he made a pilgrimage to Mt. Athos and
the Holy Land. Returning to Australia, he met his future Matushka. Within
two years after they were married, he was ordained to the priesthood and
assigned to the parish "Joy of All Who Sorrow" in Geelong. There he served
until 1976 when he was transferred to the Holy Protection Cathedral in
Melbourne. Both in Geelong and Melbourne, Fr. Vladimir inspired many to
draw closer to Church. So many of the Russian emigres in both cities had
become luke-warm in their faith; likewise many of their children understood
little Russian and were Orthodox by birth rather than by conviction.
Through contact with Fr. Vladimir their love for the Church was re-
kindled. The younger generations were especially attracted to Fr. Vladimir
who was always concerned for the Orthodox instruction of youth--concern
that their faith be meaningful and active and that their church attendance
be not mere habit for the sake of ritual, but a gateway to communion with
the living God. Every other week Fr. Vladimir held a Bible-study in English
which regularly drew as many as 20 to 30 young people, For most of the
participants, it was the first time they had heard the basic teachings of
the Orthodox faith explained in a language they could easily understand. It
is no wonder so many of them began to take an active part in the church and
to lead a conscious spiritual life.
In his love for Christ and His Church, Fr. Vladimir was an ardent
missionary. He purchased a small printing press which turned out,
among other things, "Protection Leaflets" similar to church leaflets
so widespread in Holy Russia; they explained the meaning of various
Church feasts, points of Orthodox doctrine and information on Church
life. Fr. Vladimir dedicated the work of the press to St. Xenia,
Fool-for-Christ, whom he greatly venerated. Under his direction the
leaflets and other spiritual books were translated into English and
spread among Australians, not a few of whom became Orthodox.
During the church services, Fr. Vladimir became entirely engrossed in
the prayers and his fervent spirit and enthusiasm were warmly
communicated to his flock whom he exhorted to be attentive. He would
not allow the reading of the Gospel to begin until there was absolute
silence in the church. Fr. Vladimir attempted to make the church as
conducive to prayer and as spiritually uplifting as possible. He bought
many new icons and regilded the church vessels as well as replacing
worn vestments and church coverings. The outward adornment of the
church however, was always secondary; its main purpose was to aid the
inner adornment of the heart.
Warm and loving, with a ready smile, Fr. Vladimir was also strict
concerning matters of the faith. He did not hesitate to upbraid
parishioners for being late to service or' being lax in keeping the
fasts. He was very strict with himself and never missed a single
service. His Matushka remembers that once during Great Lent Fr.
Vladimir fell very ill --from weakness he had to hold onto the walls as
he walked around his room, In spite of this, he went to church to serve
the Presanctified and did not break the fast even to drink some water.
Fr. Vladimir was one of those rare, tireless workers in Christ's
vineyard. His activities touched upon all aspects of church life. He
was at once a sower scattering seeds far and wide, a fisherman
continually letting down and drawing up his nets. His
self-sacrificing activity was apparent in the many things he did
which were, one might say, "Beyond the call of duty": Almost every
Saturday during Great Lent, for example, after the church service,
Fr. Vladimir would make for his parishioners a huge pot of "monastic"
borsch--Jordanville style. On Pascha he and Matushka Barbara would
invite all those who worked for the church to their home to break the
fast. Afterwards Fr. Vladimir would drive home those who needed
rides--to all parts of Melbourne. He would then return to the church
and clean it up in preparation for the evening service, All this
after having just finished a long fast with its long services and
having eaten nothing during the whole of Passion Week.
Fr. Vladimir was also active in founding the Australian branch of
Orthodox Action, whose purpose is to help persecuted Orthodox behind
the Iron Curtain. He felt a strong tie to the suffering brethren in
Christ and tried to communicate this to others.
The above gives by no means a complete picture of Fr. Vladimir's
life. It is enough however, to see that when the heart is turned to
Christ and when there is a willingness to sacrifice oneself, it is
possible even as a lay priest of a large city parish to maintain a
high 1evel of spiritual life oneself and to draw others to the same
ideal. Various letters written by Fr. Vladimir's spiritual children
after his death testify that he indeed succeeded in igniting hearts.
One such letter reads in part: "There was that deep spiritual bond
which I underestimated, which I felt towards the priest who received
me into the Church, confessed me, guided and instructed me, and
showed such pastoral concern for the new member of his flock .... He
was a real rock to me. Above all, he inspired me with his strength,
his fervor, his zeal, his single-minded dedication, and his love of
It is, of course, a great tragedy that Fr. Vladimir's life was cut
short just as it seemed to be in full bloom. Nothing, however, happens
without God's allowance. So many people were spiritually dependent
upon Fr. Vladimir, so many looked to him for guidance and inspiration.
Perhaps now it is time for them to take Fr. Vladimir's life as an
example and become themselves torchbearers who, having been ignited by
Fr. Vladimir, are now ready to spread the light to others.
One of Fr. Vladimir's spiritual children has written: "Fr. Vladimir
was a very hardworking and enthusiastic priest, and a very zealous
advocate of the Holy Orthodox Faith .... If ever a man was a great
lover of Christ and guided by the Holy and Life-giving Spirit, Fr.
Vladimir was such a man."
May Orthodox Christians everywhere be inspired and motivated by Fr.
Vladimir's example, inspired to be independent Christian workers,
torch-bearers of genuine Orthodox Christianity in an age of darkness.
Article from Orthodox America (Many years have passed since his tragic
death in a motor accident - his life was cut short whene he was on his way
to serve the Sunday Liturgy. May his memory be eternal!)