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Fr. Andrey Somow – Tatiana M. Somow – 100th birthday

Tatiana M. Somov100th birthday

Despite of continuous development and steady improvements within the medical profession there are still not too many people, who by the grace of God have the opportunity to celebrate their 100th birthday. Tatiana was blessed to become one of them.

Tatiana Mihailovna Somov (nee Bourda), was born on September 27, 1901 in St. Petersburg, Russia. She was the youngest child of three in the family of Dr. Michael and Claudia Bourda (nee Houdsinski). The family lived in Odessa, at the Black Sea, in Ukraine. Dr. Michael Bourda was a renowned physician and had a rather large medical practice in the city. He also taught internal medicine at the local university.

Since the age of four, Tatiana was educated at home by three tutors: Russian, French and German. In order to enhance fluency in these three languages, all members of the family spoke French on Mondays and Tuesdays; German on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and Russian the rest of the week. Thus Tatiana learned these three languages in her childhood. Her older siblings, brother Vsevolod and sister Natalia, both much older, were out of the parents’ home when she entered high school in 1911. During WW I, Vsevolod joined the Imperial army and became an officer in the artillery.

Tatiana graduated from the high school in 1918 during the turmoil of the Bolshevik Revolution, just prior the siege of Odessa by the Red Army for the first time. The older generation of the Bourda family fled to Istanbul, Turkey. Tatiana didn’t follow them. Instead, being in love, she got engaged to a junior lieutenant from the Russian Imperial Airforce, and followed him to the Airbase at Simferopol, at Crimea. In 1919 the White Army pushed the Bolsheviks out of Odessa, and the Bourdas returned back from Istanbul just in time to bless Tatiana to marry her fiance, the lieutenant Ivan Y. Musatov. The newlyweds then moved back to Simferopol where he was stationed with his squadron. In effect, Tatiana followed her husband to war.

In early 1920, the Bolsheviks occupied Odessa for the second time, and the Bourdas fled again to Istanbul, in Turkey. In the meantime, in Simferopol, Tatiana gave birth to her first child, a son, who was named Alexey, in memory of the Prince Alexey, the son of the last Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II. Little Alexey and his parents Ivan and Tatiana, were evacuated by the French navy among the thousands of members of the White Army under General Denikin, after they were forced to give up the last piece of Crimean territory to the overwhelming forces of the Red Army, in October 1920. They came to Istanbul and linked there with Tatiana’s parents. Her brother Vsevolod joined them too, forced by the events to leave his wife Sophia and daughter Helen in Moscow, in the newly established Soviet Union. Later, he moved to France where, by that time, already, his sister Natalia and her husband had settled. Vsevolod’s family luckily enough were able to come to France too.

In the years after the emigration hundreds of thousands of Russian refugees who found themselves in Turkey spread all over the Europe, and later, the whole world. Tatiana and her husband Ivan received both the Landed Immigrant status and scholarships from the Czechoslovakian government, and went to Prague to study at the University. Tatiana chose to become a lawyer, her husband – an engineer. The son Alexey stayed in Istanbul with the grandparents.  After some time, when Tatiana became pregnant again, she decided to travel to her parents in Istanbul. Her second son Andrey was born there, in 1923. Later, she returned to Prague in order to continue her studies at the University. It was quite common among the Russian emigrants in those days that the grandparents took over the responsibility of bringing up their grandchildren, in order to provide for an opportunity for their own grown married children to get the so necessary education in the new homeland.

In Istanbul, the Bourda family included Dr. Michael Bourda, his wife Claudia, her sister Emily, and two nannies, who took the responsibility for the care of the grandsons Alexey and Andrey. Everything seemed to work well, but in 1924 the Turkish government decided to expel most of the Russian immigrants from the country. The Burda family moved to Romania, to the City of Kishenev. Shortly after this relocation Dr. Burda had an unexpected heart attack and passed away. His widow Claudia took her grandsons Alexey and Andrey, and her sister Emily, and together they moved to Paris, France, into the house of her son Vsevolod.

In the mean time Tatiana and her husband were still studying at the university, and were not able to take their children home. Besides this, their marriage went sour, and there were already signs that it might not survive. Eventually, they did separate and later divorced, as had been assumed correctly by the family. According to the judgement, the custody of their children was divided between them – the custody of the older son Alexey was passed to the father and of the younger Andrey to the mother.

Tatiana moved from Prague to Bratislava (Slovakia), where she began working in the library and was able to bring her son Andrey from Paris to her newly established home in 1929. This reunion didn’t have a long duration. Tatiana became ill with tuberculosis and was treated in a special hospital for a quite long time. Her son Andrey was admitted into a Russian Residential School in Moravska Trebova. He later moved with the school to Prague, and graduated from the High School in June of 1941, two weeks before WW II broke out there.

Tatiana remarried in 1938. Her second husband, Pavel O. Somov, a Civil Engineer by profession, moved from job to job throughout the country of Slovakia, as he was building bridges, dams and roads. In 1951, the family finally established permanent residence in Bratislava. They lived there till Pavel’s death in 1984.

Tatiana’s son Andrey, fled Czechoslovakia in 1968, and brought his family to Canada. They lived first in Ottawa, and then settled in Surrey, B.C. He worked for the Canadian Government in Vancouver. He sponsored his mother Tatiana, and she arrived here in 1985. She lived in her son’s family home for 11 years enjoying very much her new home. She became a Canadian Citizen in September of 1989, almost as a gift for her 88th birthday. Tatiana became disabled after breaking her hips (left in 1996 and right in 1998). After the second fall, she spent seven weeks in VGH (Vancouver General Hospital), lost a lot of weight, and almost died. Thanks to God’s will, she survived this ordeal, and she was admitted in the Brock Farni Extended Care facility in Vancouver. On June 1, 2000, Tatiana was relocated to the Dainard Pavilon at Surrey Memorial Hospital, where she has happily lived since.  It has been in this challenging environment that Tatiana began to learn to speak English, acquiring her fourth language when she has great difficulty seeing!

Like children of similar Russian families of that day, Tatiana was formed in Orthodox Church life, and she raised her family in a similar way – as much as the turmoil of the time would permit. As she knew and still knows by heart many melodies, prayers and liturgical texts, so it is with her son Andrey, who later became a deacon and a priest of the Orthodox Church in America. As life in the Church was part of her nature, so it was with her son. For instance, as a child he was taken by her to Church in Bratislava, in Slovakia. There he started serving in the altar, and became an altar-boy. As it happens, he served for Igumen Nikon (de Greve), who later became Archbishop of Toronto and Canada, for the “Metropolia” (now OCA).

There is a characteristic combination in Tatiana M. Somov of elegance, noble manners, hospitality, interest in those around, and awareness in world affairs: a strong character, practicality and a sense of humor.  All of this was shown as she attended the Divine Liturgy in her wheel-chair at Holy Resurrection Church in Vancouver, during the Altar Feast, and at the dinner afterwards.  Tatiana, elegantly dressed, was feted and toasted by those who knew her, and by those who just met her.  She responded to comments in all her four languages, directed the singing during the prayers, and expressed her gratitude to all.  On departing, she and Anatole E Portnoff (a parishioner with a similar history), exchanged greetings in Russian, and, in parting, touchingly kissed each others’ hands.

The celebration of her 100th birthday reflects on the life of many thousands of Russian emigrants, and encompasses the whole era of Russian history of the 20th century. She is one of a few Russians still living, who saw with her own eyes the last Emperor of Russia Nicholas II and members of his family, and now, the renewal of her native land, and even the canonization of this Emperor and his family. May God grant her many more years!

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On the occasion of the celebration of her 100th birthday on September 27, 2001, Tatiana Somov received congratulatory messages from:

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace, London

Prime Minister of Canada, the Honorable Jean Chretien

Governor General of Canada, the Honorable Adriene Clark, Rideau Hall

Premier of British Columbia, the Hanorable Gordon Campbell

Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, the Honorable Iona Campagnola

Local MP-s and MLA-s, and others.

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