Friday, December 24, 2010

Newcomers From Russia Are Reviving a Church

Olga Komenko’s girlhood memories live within the walls of the domed and cupolaed Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity at Pennsylvania and Glenmore Avenues in East New York. There, she danced Thursday evenings away with other young parishioners at weekly socials, wrote letters to servicemen during World War II and was married in 1944.

Now 90, Mrs. Komenko sees the church playing one more major role in her life.

“In my time, I hope it’s there,” said Mrs. Komenko, a lifelong resident of Brownsville, Brooklyn. “I’ll be buried out of there.”

For years it seemed unlikely that the church would survive long enough to fulfill Mrs. Komenko’s wish.

The churchgoers who helped to sustain the parish in the first half of the century were Russian immigrants and their families, once a sizable presence in the neighborhood. Now most have dispersed.

Mrs. Komenko recalls weekend services, in her youth, when the building was filled with worshipers. But by the turn of the century, she and a few elderly friends were often the only parishioners standing for the two-hour Russian-language service beneath the church’s high ceiling, the iconography on its walls darkened with age and neglect.

New York’s history is recorded in its desolate churches, where once-packed pews have given way to eerie silence after the children of immigrants followed opportunity beyond the neighborhoods that had defined their parents’ and grandparents’ lives. But the Church of the Holy Trinity may be one that has a happy ending, as its congregation, like the city itself, is refreshed by a new generation of immigrants looking for a new start.

The Russian immigrants — many of whom were raised without religion, under a Communist regime — have been enticed back to the old church by a priest who has seen in Holy Trinity a chance to bring both Russian Orthodoxy and a community back to life.
Read the rest here.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I went to this church when I first moved to the United States. Used to take the subway from Queens to Alabama Avenue. I'm glad it's functioning and being revived.