Clergy during repressions times…They were judged and deported, humiliated and repressed, exposed to injustice and mocked, but with their steady faith, with their undisplayed courage, they managed to preserve vivid light of Orthodoxy in our land, to maintain the warmth of prayer in the hearts of this nation. Now, weakened by years and illness, these witnesses of those times leave us, one by one, heading to the Lord…So few of them are still alive… Among those who still continue to serve at the Lord’s Altar is the clergyman of the Meeting of the Lord Church in Chisinau, Archpriest Vasile Gulivati, who reached venerable age of 85 on the 9th of July.
We met in the church, after the Divine Liturgy. Father Vasile came up to me, from the Altar, white-haired, slightly bent forward, stepping carefully and slowly, as his heart disease doesn’t allow him to move quickly. From the very beginning he impressed me by his refined language, careful wording, compound, very aptly formulated phrases, lent talk, almost in whisper, caused by weakness and illness, and his kind eyes sparkling with life. At his venerable age, father has wonderful memory, remembering moments and events from his biography even in the smallest details. This is how I understood that his priesthood was not mere chance of life, but true vocation.
“I was born in a family of laborious, hard working, God fearing peasants who regularly attended Church services and respected all fasts. There were 14 children in our family, 2 of them died. We lived in good understanding and love. Probably, the education my parents gave to me, the love for Holy Church with which I grew up in my family, brought me to priesthood. I remember myself, a small child, grazing cattle on the outskirts of the Niscaneni woods in Calarasi area. And because I often used to go to church and hear the words of the priest, I would take my shirt, button it on my neck, making a gown out of it, then take a pebble or a clot, and tie it with a string, to imitate a censer, and move it slightly, saying the words I used to hear during church services. It seems to me that in that remote time God called me, lighting brighter and brighter the flame in my soul, the desire to become a priest. When I was about nine years old, I read the First Hour in our church of Selistea Noua village, near Calarasi, Lapusna county. I always had love of church and priests. Once I went with my father to the Patron Feast of Hirbovat Monastery, and I saw the service of vesting the Archbishop. I felt so much love then, that I told my father I was not returning home. Father listened to me, and several monks who were sitting nearby, outside the church, also heard our discussion. Seeing that I was crying and didn’t want to go home, they advised my father to talk to the monastery’s treasurer. They took us to the refectory, that is to where the monks take meal, and I heard them sing the Axion of the Mother of God, and I felt even deeper love of God and Church. Father had to pay some money, so that I could attend the monastery school that prepared priests. And father said that I should become a priest in a village. This is what he said… We started to gather necessary documents, but then the war started, and all my plans ruined”.
The war and what followed after it changed his entire life and took a totally unexpected turn in the life of that boy who was burning with desire to serve God. Father Vasile remembers:
“It was hard time, especially after 1944. My brother was taken prisoner while he was coming back to his family, from the Romanian army, and he was taken to the camps of death. He was first taken to Iasi, to a big camp there, and then they put many of them in carriages and taken to Siberia. The train passed trough Calarasi, and he left a small letter, he just threw it in the train station, and it was found and brought to his wife, to our family. It said: “Father and mother, forgive me, for they are taking us to Russia, to a camp. After the war, if God grant, we will meet”. He remained there… There, if someone was ill and powerless, they threw him into a big hole, and he would desperately move his weak hands there, seeking help from people, until he would pass away there… After the war, after Basarabia was occupied by bolsheviks, they treated us very badly: priests, statesmen, teachers were arrested, judged, maltreated, and taken to Siberia. They organized colhozes, they took the people’s land and forced them enter colhoz. Those who refused were beaten up in cellars, there was much injustice then, and very many bad things were done by those who occupied Moldova – communists, bolsheviks. They closed our churches, monasteries that we inherited from our forefathers, from our princes, they arrested priests… Another brother of mine was taken to the soviet army. He was sent to Germany, he was smart and learned the language there, and he met a young girl there, from the American side. They dated, he visited her parents, and she visited our family here. For that he was arrested and sentenced to 25 years of prison, and 10 years of deprivation of rights. And then the communists’ hatred unfolded onto our family… The party activists from our village would call us spies, saying that my brother betrayed the soviet motherland. We were persecuted, they confiscated all our property. When the tyrants came to confiscate my brother’s property, they counted all forks and dishes, and they took the part they considered belonged to my imprisoned brother. My mother… was crying for Costica who died in the death camps, and she cried for Alexandru who was sentenced to so many years of imprisonment, then she started to cry for me… Seeing my mother crying, I went out to seek justice, and I was taken and judged on 17th March 1950, then sentenced to 10 years of concentration camps. My dear mother wept for me as well… I didn’t find her when I came back, she moved to the Lord, but I still see her tears…
He was released before term, after Stalin’s death. Only in 1957 Vasile Gulivati came close to realizing the dream of his life – that of becoming a servant of the Holy Altar. He entered Odessa seminary. After graduation he sought a way to realize himself in different churches in Izmail region, intending to stay together with some of his seminary colleagues. However, he didn’t stop there. In addition, he had a family problem then. As father Vasile recollects, he married out of love, “I sought physical, rather than spiritual beauty, and I took a wife from a different village, but it seems that she wasn’t coming from the right family, she lacked the qualities that a priest and his wife should have. Because there is strong relation between the priest and his wife, this relation is faith and love”. Thus, after numerous attempts to edify a God-pleasing family union, the family collapsed, although they had two children. This delicate family situation, along with the continuing persecution of the Church, determined father Vasile’s further life. He worked at Chisinau tractor plant, then in other placed.
He was ordained deacon in 1970, and sent to his first ministry – to the church in Budesti, Chisinau suburb. In 1988 father Vasile was ordained priest and appointed to Colonita church. After about half a year people from Milestii Mici, Ialoveni district, came and insistently asked him to come to their recently reopened parish and be their priest. They knew him from the time when he served deacon in Ialoveni church, where many people from suburbs used to come for services. Father Vasile remembers how he was brought to that holy shrine:
“The church was locked, its walls whitewashed, it had a roof, but there were no icons, no holy vestments, no books – everything was stolen, the Holy Table was missing, there was nothing. So I rolled my sleeves and started to work. We took out much earth from inside – it had been brought by water; we worked very hard. This is how I started my service there – with borrowed vestments, with torn church gonfalons, with no books and icons. We made a table in the Altar, the iconostas was devastated, its icons were stolen. Only one icon of the Lord and one of the Mother of God were preserved. So we made a table in the Altar, and we celebrated Vespers, Matins, Acatists, baptismal services, etc. With God’s help and with the support of people, especially a man with much faith and big heart, Gologan Grigore who then was director of Association of those well-known cellars and wine brands, may God rest his soul, we started this work and we managed to finish it. And God gave me so much joy, that not all priests can experience, because in 1990, in September, Patriarch Alexy II visited us.
Father Vasile remembers remote events in so many details. He had found out that Patriarch would come to Chisinau to ordain two archimandrits, and the Archbishop asked him to take the Patriarch to famous cellars of Milestii Mici, the pride of Moldova. His Holiness Alexy II was met with utmost hospitality, which the Patriarch witnessed himself. Even now father Vasile remembers in detail, who accompanied the Patriarch, which metropolitans and where from, he names all officials who participated in the delegation, describes the beautifully ornamented breads with which His Holiness and guests were met, what food and sorts of wines were served, what was discussed. It was then that father Vasile was awarded a church distinction and promoted Archpriest.
Now being known at the Patriarchy, father Vasile went to Moscow and easily obtained what was necessary for the church. In the eve of the Resurrection of Christ he embellished the Church and even wept of happiness, “how the Church was vested like a beautiful bride”. However, the Lord’s will for father Vasile was different, and he didn’t enjoy that beauty long. Soon he got ill, and while in hospital, another priest was sent to Milestii Mici, while father Vasile was transferred to Malcoci. Although this made him sad, father Vasile obeyed the archbishop’s order, and for about 20 years he performed his pastoral obedience in this new parish. He did very much for this holy shrine, embellished and cared for it like for his own child. He hoped that this place would be of his repose, but, again, the will of the Allmighty was different for His beloved priest. A venerable elder, father Vasile was appointed to serve in the Meeting of the Lord chapel of Moldova State University, a church that he loved very much and where he had celebrated many divine services together with an old friend of his, ever-commemorated Archimandrite Ermoghen (Adam). Father Vasile says about this:
“I am happy here, I found soothing and peace here. The rector of the parish, father Octavian Mosin, priest Mihail and priest Constantin respect me. I pray to the All-Merciful Lord that He blesses me and them – that they reach my age with fear and love of God, that they are always strong in faith, strong in temptations that come onto us from the godless devil. I am happy with what God gifted me, with my health, although I am a bit sickly, but the Lord strengthens me and I can celebrate Divine Services.
Father rector Octavian Mosin deeply respects this worthy elder, and says that very few young priests have the same zeal, fervour, responsibility, and love for the holiness, as father Vasile Gulevati. His endeavour during his priesthood was appreciated with all church distinctions, starting with Bedrenita, and finishing with the right to celebrate Divine Services with the Holy Doors open till the prayer “Our Father…”.
On his anniversary, when father Vasile worthily reached honourable age of 85, all clergy of the Meeting of the Lord church, his spiritual children, parishioners, wish him most heartily that All-Merciful God strengthen him, the Mother of the Lord fervently intercedes for him, wiping every tear from his time-tempted soul, and greet him at the Gate of Heaven.
Long live, father Vasile