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Tamara Antonovna Mihailoff 1920-2001

by Priest Andrey Somow

We have come here today, to say good-bye to our newly-departed sister in Christ Tamara Antonovna Mihailoff. She was a long time member of our Parish, of our Sisterhood and of the Church Council. We came to pray for her soul at the time when her soul is beginning its journey into the Kingdom of Heaven. We also came to express our sympathy and condolences to her son Nicholas, her daughter Tatiana, and their friends.

“I weep and I wail when I think upon death – behold this beauty, fashioned after the image of God, is lying in the tomb”… These words, written by John Damaskin were heard earlier, during the service. We do weep, we do feel sorrow and grief when death comes upon our relatives or friends and takes away from us our love-ones. It is only natural that we feel grief and sorrow when it happens. In spite of all the consolations of the Church, we can’t avoid such grief, while losing a beloved, – treasured so much by us. Even Jesus, Himself, wept at the tomb of dead Lazarus before resurrecting him to life. Let us give in to it as such a grief should be considered sacred, but at the same time, we should remember St. Paul’s words addressed to the Thessalonians: “You should know the truth about those who have died, so that you will not be sad, as are those who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again; so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have died believing in Him!.. Cheer each other up with these words!”

Our newly departed sister, Tamara, not only believed in Christ, she also followed His commandments. She loved God and she loved her neighbors. A few weeks ago, on the Sunday of the Last Judgment, we heard Jesus promise to – “invite those who have fed and clothed Him and visited him in His human guise of the poor, the prisoner and the sick, to enter the Kingdom of Heaven’. This invitation is conveyed to our beloved, newly-departed servant of God, Tamara.

Tamara took care of strangers. She invited many of the newcomers – the Russian immigrants. She fed and clothed them, and often supported them financially. When hundreds of those newcomers from Russia were filling our church on Sundays, Tamara initiated that the Sisterhood would give free lunches for those of them, who didn’t have money to pay for them. For many years, she traditionally hosted her fellow Canadian coworkers in her home on Pascha. She also loved to invite many friends of the parish into her home and pleased them with the numerous special dishes of Russian and Chinese cuisine which she prepared professionally, and reflected her genuine feeling of joy in cooking. She loved people and was happy to please them whenever she could. Whatever she did for these people, she did for Christ – pleasing Him as well.

During the war, Tamara suffered in China while she and her family were imprisoned in a concentration camp. She had to take care of herself and her loved ones but her compassionate heart forced her to assist also others who needed her help. Whatever she did for these fellow-men, she did for Christ, helping Him to make a better world.

Here, in Vancouver, Tamara regularly visited and took care of sick people in hospitals; elderly parishioners of our Church in their homes and in Homes for the Elderly; as well as those in Extended care facilities. She was instrumental in bringing clergy to these people so as to make sure they would be well provided with the Holy Gifts, Holy Unction, or just the prayers for the sick. Whatever she did for these ill and suffering people, she did for Christ who suffered for all of us paying the ultimate price for our Salvation.

It is our firm belief that because of the above, our newly departed sister will be indeed, “invited to enter the Kingdom of Heaven”, as promised by Christ “Indeed, whenever she did good for one of the least important of these brothers of Christ, she did it for Him!”

We, at our parish were privileged to have Tamara Antonovna in our midst. It will be very difficult if not impossible to substitute her within our parish community. We are very much aware that her departure is an immeasurable loss. For many years, she has quietly but very actively worked, constantly sacrificing herself, her time and her financial resources for the benefit of our church. Her love towards our church was boundless.

Since her retirement from the Banking profession in the eighties, Tamara Antonovna became more and more involved within the life of the parish. She worked in the Ladies Auxiliary doing whatever was needed – often some jobs which nobody else wanted to do. She always was ready to help and to assist others – especially Olga Petrovna Fetissoff, Together, they worked in harmony, preparing the vestments for the church, beautifying the church with flower arrangements for the important events e.g. Patronal feasts, Pascha, or the Nativity of Christ. She especially loved to bring flowers for the altar table – her favorite were roses.

For many years Tamara Antonovna was serving as the Sisterhood Treasurer, keeping her financial books in an immaculate condition. She was elected President of the Sisterhood for the year of 1994 and achieved very beneficial results for that year, the year of the 70th Jubilee of our Church. She was involved in the preparation and execution of the Sisterhoods Bazaars – very important events in the life of our community.

Tamara Antonovna was also deeply involved in the spiritual life of our church. She attended most of the services, and not only the regular services but also private – served to order, e.g, needs. She was involved in the periodical cleaning of church articles: icons, books, banners, censers, candle-stands etc. There probably is not one thing around in this church which she had not touched with her caring hands. In 1987, the parish experienced some financial difficulties and there were no funds available to pay for a janitor. Tamara volunteered to clean the church after each and every service and did the cleaning without pay, for an almost full year.

In 1995 and the consecutive years of 1996 and 1997, Tamara Antonovna was elected “starosta”, the Church Warden, and in this function she was very successful. Besides her primary responsibilities in the church, she shopped for candles, supplied rose-oil and wine, baked “prosphoras”, and even washed the altar clothing and towels. There was no work which she ever refused to do for the Church. Most importantly, she never waited until someone would ask her to do something which needed to be done – she had a special intuition to foresee it It was a great pleasure to have her around, to work with her, or just to accept her offered assistance. She will always be remembered for her goodness. There are no adequate words to express our gratitude and appreciation – may God reward her in His Kingdom.

While working so hard for the benefit of our church, Tamara Antonovna did receive awards from the Church Hierarchy. In 1995, she was awarded a “Gramota” by the Ruling Bishop of the Archdiocese of Canada, the Right Reverend Seraphim, for her long involvement in the Sisterhood and work in the Church Council. During the celebration of  the 75th Anniversary of our church, Tamara Antonovna was awarded again, this time by His Beatitude, the Most Blessed Theodosius, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All-America and Canada who installed on her the Order of St. Tikhon, the Patriarch of Moscow, the highest ranking award for a lay person in Canada which was well deserved for her tireless work for our church, within the Orthodox Church in America. Glory to those who sacrifice themselves for the good of the church community, Tamara Antonovna was one of them, she will always be remembered by those of us who were lucky enough to meet her and to appreciate her wonderful personality.

Our Father Who art in Heaven, Thy will be done! Forgive the trespasses of Your servant Tamara and receive her soul among the righteous in your Kingdom. Amen.

TAMARA ANTONOVNA MIHAILOFF (1920 – 2001) Memory Eternal

Tamara Antonovna was bora in Harbin, Manchuria in 1920. Her father Anton Lihodzievsky worked on the Far Eastern Railroad as an accountant, traveling from Harbin to Vladivostok. Her mother Vera from Byelorussia was a teacher. Tamara grew up traveling by train on holidays and often talked about beautiful wild flowers and mushrooms along the train tracks. Her father had a sulky and horse which they loved to ride. They also had a pet cow, a setter dog and a very feisty tame rooster who sat on Tamara’s shoulder during meals and ate what was given to him. She had a happy childhood. Later, she and her mother Vera Illarinovna moved to Tientsin where at 19 she got married to Nicholas Michailovich Mihailoff, a young electrical engineer. They honeymooned in Peking. One year later their daughter Tatiana appeared on the scene. Two years later, the Japanese occupied Tientsin and the young family was sent to a concentration camp for three years. In camp, Tamara worked very hard, often trading jobs with other women for a bar of soap. Her husband Nick, was the electrical engineer for the camp, keeping generators, etc., running for which work he was allowed to stay with his wife and child. After the war, Nicholas was transferred by his firm to Tsingtao, a summer resort city very much like Vancouver, surrounded by mountains and beautiful beaches. Nicholas Jr. was born there and the family, mother, father and two children, two grandmothers and an aunt lived through the Chinese revolution. In 1952, Tamara and her family got permission to immigrate to Canada. They arrived, all wearing fur coats at White Rock via Hong Kong, Los Angeles and San Francisco on May 5th, 1952. Both Tamara and Nick started work at the Bank of Commerce from which she retired after 35 years. The family joined the Holy Resurrection church as soon as they arrived in Vancouver. She remained a faithful member ever since. She is fondly remembered by her two children and many long time friends for her generosity of spirit, kindness, her most hidden sense of humor and her endless ability to listen. She loved camping and the outdoors, walking, collecting mushrooms, and gardening. She was a ardent bowler, an excellent cook and an accomplished seamstress and knitter. Each of us had fond memories of Tamara and her children have a million of the by Nick and Tatiana – children.

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