This article on the twin hieromonks of Vyritsa was published in Arguments and Facts (Russian) in 2014. The fathers have since received Doctor of Theology degrees in 2015, and were awarded “doctoral crosses” by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.
Hieromonks Kirill and Methodius are graduates of the Polytechnical Institute, and are doctoral candidates. However, they declined a career in America, choosing instead to serve God and man in Russia, near St. Petersburg.
They even ate their candy synchronously
In their childhood Stasik and Zhenya were young pioneers, read The Last of the Mohicans, and wrote in their diaries, “The Pale Faces are the Americans and the Red Skins are the Soviets. The leader of the Red Skins is Brezhnev.” They watched with beating hearts films about the Great Patriotic War (World War II), and prepared themselves to serve their Motherland. They brought perfect marks home from school, were in wrestling tournaments, and amazed everyone around them with their rare unanimity in everything. “They even ate their candy synchronously; they opened the wrappers at the same time, and at the same time put it in their mouths and chewed. I don’t recall a single incident when they ever argued, never mind fought with each other,” relates the brothers’ mother, Liudmila Ivanovna.
“We read abstracts from the same notebook, the brothers themselves said. “This has nothing to do with the fact that we are twins. For example, a pair of twin boys also lived one story above us, but they went to two different schools. But we never parted from each other. That we live in complete harmony is not our own merit. It’s God’s gift.”
Their father, Professor Anatoly Zinkovsky, and their mother received their decision to become monks with hostility. Nevertheless, the moment of their tonsure was for their parents a moment of truth… “The thing is that when I was pregnant the doctors did not know I was expecting twins,” Liudmila Ivanovna says. “After the first boy was born, I said that I was having birth pangs again. The nurse just waived her hand. Nevertheless, the doctor came and understood that another child was coming. The twins’ birth went on for a whole day and night. And when the second son appeared in the world, he didn’t breathe for a few minutes. I was terribly worried. Finally the head nurse brought me the swaddled twins and said, “Don’t worry mamochka, everything’s fine with your Kirill and Methodius!” After twenty-some years I forgot that phrase, but during the tonsure I understood that this is God’s will.”
The brothers serve in Vyritsa, south of St. Petersburg. Here amidst the mighty, ancient pine trees stands the Church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, and in a chapel next to it rest the relics of the twentieth-century ascetic, St. Seraphim, wonderworker of Vyritsa (1866-1949). When this locality was occupied by the fascists, one of the German officers, who had heard that there was a clairvoyant elder living in Vyritsa, came and asked St. Seraphim, “How soon will our forces take over Moscow?” “Never,” answered the elder. “You will lose the war.” The elder spoke with the officer in German; before monasticism the saint was one of the wealthiest merchants of the Russian Empire. His company had ten foreign affiliates, and he often travelled abroad. He wrote, “Brothers, I have not found a better country than ours. Nor have I seen a better faith.”
The elder’s prophecy
As students, Frs. Kirill and Methodius had also been abroad many times. And after brilliantly defending their dissertations, they were offered year internships in either the United States or the Netherlands. They declined, electing instead to study in the theological seminary and become monks.
The brothers were greatly influenced by a meeting with Priest John Mironov, who baptized the twenty-one-year-old Stas and Zhenya. He has been their spiritual father ever since. “Father John says that his whole life he has never met a single bad person. This is despite the fact that three of his brothers and his sister all died of hunger in the camps where they had been taken along with their mother after the head of their family was put in prison for refusing to join the collective farm. One day in winter, Fr. John, still a little boy, meandered around the camp barrack with his mother and shook the lice from his head. When he saw the insects on the snow he asked, “Aren’t they cold?” In the war, the young Vanya [diminutive of John] was an artilleryman, and he advanced to Konigsberg. After the victory he came to Vyritsa for advice from St. Seraphim, and became the saint’s spiritual son. Now he has blessed his own spiritual sons to serve in Vyritsa by the relics of the wonderworker.
Justifying their names of the holy equal-to-the-apostles Kirill and Methodius, the brothers continue the tradition of scholarly monasticism and are finishing their work on their doctoral dissertations. Each one is writing his own, but they always ask each other for advice. Incidentally, the brothers wrote their theological dissertations in Oxford. But the main work that their spiritual father blessed them to do is to take care of orphans.
Seventy years ago, during the war, the fascists built a concentration camp in Vyritsa for children, where hundreds of little ones perished from hunger, cold, and disease. “Then, our children died because of the invasion of a foreign enemy. But now in Russia thousands of children are perishing because of their alcoholic or drug-addicted parents; the children’s homes are filled to overflowing with children whose parents are still alive,” the brothers say as they wag their heads in unison. Once, Stas and Zhenya wanted to war with evil. By becoming monks, they chose the most complicated and sure path for this—to oppose evil with Love. Several years ago they organized a shelter for orphans with complex diseases. And on the site of the camp where the fascists killed children, Hieromonks Kirill and Methodius plan to found a monastery for men. They believe that they will be able to do this; after all, St. Seraphim of Vyritsa foretold that in this place there would be not one but two monasteries.
Before I leave, I have to have my trip certificate stamped. Father advised who to see for this. “If they don’t find the stamp, have them call me.” “Forgive me, but you are… who?” “I am Kirill,” he smiles. Despite the local people’s hints, I still can’t figure out who is standing in front of me. Or more precisely, I don’t try. I just delight in the miracle that two people are like one, because they live in total harmony. And I see that others around them experience the same feeling as they hurry over to receive the fathers’ blessing. One little girl runs up to one of the monks with her stuffed animal kitty. “Pet him and listen—he sings!” And they all laugh together resonantly.
The ancient pines rustle. Evil is somewhere far away. But here, there is Love.
Hieromonks Kirill and Methodius are now the father-confessors of the St. Seraphim of Vyritsa Children’s Mission. They also teach at the department of pedagogy and educational theory at the Russian Christian Humanitarian Academy in St. Petersburg.