Here’s a review from Randy Hay–
Here’s a review from Randy Hay:
Review of Dimitriâ€™s Cross by Helene Arjakovsky-Klepinine (Conciliar Press, 2008)
â€œWe have seen strange things today,â€ people said when they saw Jesus (Luke 5:26).Â The same is true, to some degree, of the lives of all the saints; Christ Himself is in them, and so their lives are do not follow the â€œnormalâ€ course of human existence.Â Â Â
Thus Orthodox hagiography plays a crucial and unique role in the world, manifesting the lives of the saints to all generations.Â â€œRemember your leaders,â€ St. Paul says (Heb. 13:7); â€œEncircle Sion…encompass her; tell her story in her towers…consider her bulwarksâ€ (Ps. 47:11-2 LXX).Â Each hagiography is unique, as each God-bearer and each author is unique.
I find saintsâ€™ lives written by other saints particularly fascinating (for example, Athanasiusâ€™s Life of Anthony, Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian by Elder Paisios)…and the story of St. Dimitri Klepinine, written by his daughter, is wonderful in its own way.Â I canâ€™t think of any other hagiography written by a close family member.
Dimitriâ€™s Cross tells the story of this humble Russian priest who lived in Paris during World War II.Â He ministered to many poor and down-trodden people; when the Nazis began rounding up Jews he took it upon himself to write baptismal certificates for those in danger.Â The Gestapo eventually discovered what he was doing and sent him to confinement and eventually the death camp Dora, known as the â€œMan-Eater,â€ where he reposed under brutal conditions.
St. Dimitri was zealous in his efforts to save Jews.Â He didnâ€™t wait for people to come to him for aid; he sought out those whom he believed needed help.Â (Interestingly, the Nazis were not as thorough as one might expect in whom they sent to the death-camps; having a Jewish-sounding name might be sufficient cause.)Â Â The certificates he signed starkly consigned baptismal witnesses committing perjury to the flames of hell; one Jewish lady insisting on actually being baptized when she realized what the priest was about to do.Â
The saint was an associate of Mother Maria Skobtsova, who has also been glorified; that is an interesting sub-story.Â The picture of life among the Russian exiles in Franceâ€”St. Sergius Institute, the YMCA and Russian student movement, figures such as Nicholas Zander and Sergius Bulgakovâ€”is fascinating too.
The author of this hagiography never saw her father after the age of four, and her memories are unfortunately few.Â However, he wrote a number of letters home before his death, which are presented in this volume, along with photos and a sketch he drew of an improvised chapel when he was in confinement in France.Â
I found the photo of him and his wife with the author quite poignant, along with the last words he wrote his family, on the day he was transported to Dora.Â â€œRejoice…we will be together soon.â€