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Aleksei Pavlovich Levitsky


Aleksei Pavlovich Levitsky was born on March 30, 1896 in the town of Yuzapol near Odessa. His father was a farmer. In 1915 he was drafted into the Imperial Navy’s Black Sea Fleet, where he spent nine months. Then he was transferred to the German front. God was merciful and he was never wounded. He was miraculously saved from enemy bullets three times. At the end of March 1917, his regiment was left without relief and was dissolved.

Aleksei Pavlovich returned home safely. In May of 1923 he married Eugenia Andreyevna. The civil war brought the Levitsky family many trials and dislocations. Finally Aleksei Pavlovich followed the advice of a friend and decided to move to Canada, hoping to find there a peaceful life for himself and prepare the way for his family, i.e. his wife and three very young sons.

No one could foresee how long this separation would be. In accordance with the Canadian immigration authorities, Aleksei Pavlovich was to temporarily work on a farm near Edmonton. Canadian farmers gladly hired Russians to work on their fields – for $50 per month, at a time when Canadians were being paid $180 per month… Aleksei Pavlovich sent his first $50 to his wife.

Soon he found out that the government was willing to sell 160 acres of land for $10 to anyone who wished to work it – clear-cut the virgin forest, uproot the stumps and destroy the bushes. Aleksei Pavlovich was not afraid of difficulties, so he spent his $10 and became a property owner. Very quickly, armed only with an axe and a shovel, this Russian peasant transformed a taiga into a clean field of five acres. Soon after that a fortuitous circumstance occurred: a certain Galician proposed that Aleksei Pavlovich sell his land in exchange for a house in Edmonton and $500. The new homeowner began to rent out rooms, at the same time never ceasing to work for his family who were still in the homeland. Two years later a suitable buyer for his house was found, and this convinced him to seriously begin dealing in real estate.

After living in Edmonton for twelve years, Aleksei Pavlovich decided to move to Vancouver, which attracted him by its mild climate and by the dazzling opportunities to buy and sell houses. He moved in 1946 and immediately became a parishioner of the Holy Resurrection Church. He never did abandon the dream of reuniting with his family, to whom he continued to send money and material goods, which enabled his sons to build an attractive two-story house. I remember very well how many times we together composed petitions and various inquiries both for the Soviet Embassy and for the Canadian immigration authorities.

Finally, after a 38-year separation, in April 1965 his wife Eugenia Andreyevna arrived in Vancouver. Aleksei Pavlovich’s joy was never ending. Then after various difficulties he succeeded in bringing his son and the son’s entire family for permanent settlement. He sold his own home and replaced it with a two-story house, so as to be as close as possible to his son, daughter-in-law, grandson and granddaughter.

In church life Aleksei Pavlovich’s generosity was limitless. One remembers how in our church we were using old, rickety chairs. Then one Sunday we came to church, and we all gasped when we saw the straight rows of new Viennese chairs! They were a gift from A. P. Levitsky. During the construction of the new iconostasis, there was no money for the upper tier of icons; Aleksei Pavlovich ordered a full set of icons at his own expense. He also bought new purple drapes for the windows of the upper hall.

No one ever had to ask Aleksei Pavlovich, his business experience and concern for the church told him when and how to show initiative. The St. Vladimir Theological Seminary received from him a gift of $10,000. Bishop Gregory told me how in the Diocese of Alaska there wasn’t enough money to finish building the Seminary. “What is to be done?” – said the Bishop to the parishioners. “It is imperative to go to Church and pray that the Lord God would help.” They prayed, and a few days later the mail brought a cheque for $10,000 from A.P. Levitsky, a man who at that time was unknown in Alaska… Isn’t this a miracle! Even in his final years, Aleksei Pavlovich continued to bestow extraordinary gifts known only to the Crippled Children’s Society, the Salvation Army and other charitable organizations.

Bishop Gregory of Alaska with Mr. and Mrs. Levitsky at the blessing of the new Rectory in 1985

To their own Holy Resurrection Church the Levitskys gave two further truly royal gifts, the first of which was the beautiful new home for the Rector and his family. One remembers how at the general meeting of the Russian Orthodox Society one of the questions discussed was the renovation of the old rectory. Many felt that the house should be completely renovated, others that only repairs be done. A minority of the members wanted to build a new house. It looked like these conversations and disputes would be endless. Here Aleksei Pavlovich spoke. “You have said that to build a new home would take $65,000, so Eugenia Andreyevna and I put our heads together and decided to donate that sum. Build a beautiful new house.” …For some time all those present virtually lost the gift of speech. Then everyone got up and began applauding enthusiastically, expressing heartfelt gratitude and recognition to the dear benefactors. There has never been such rejoicing in our hall as on that day.

One should note that in the end the costs of building the house reached $94,000, which Aleksei Pavlovich put in the treasury of Holy Resurrection Church without any objections. The second “royal” gift was the bell-tower, the idea of which (it is important to note) came from Eugenia Andreyevna. Once, as she was leaving Church on a Sunday, she asked Aleksei Pavlovich why there was no church bell, and he asked: “So you want there to be a church bell?” and her reply was “Yes, this I want” – “Very well,” said Aleksei Pavlovich, “I’ll order a bell.” He ordered a bell from Europe. Soon afterwards it became clear that it would be necessary to build a special bell-tower. Aleksei Pavlovich ended up paying $27,000 for the bell-tower, in addition to the $9,000 for the bell. Together the new house and the bell-tower project cost the Levitsky family $130,000.

Mr. and Mrs. Levitsky with Bishop Joasaph

Once, when I was visiting him in hospital, he confided in me: “I am not afraid of death, Anatoly Yefimovich, but I would like to live to the day when I could see the new house, the bell-tower, and to hear the church bell. May God grant me to live until that day, then I can peacefully die.” “Aleksei Pavlovich,” I said, “you will live to see that day by God’s mercy, and I am convinced that soon you will be well. You will see the new house and you will hear the bell.” A smile came to his face. Soon he returned home, where, surrounded by the loving care of Eugenia Andreyevna, he quickly got better, and the Lord God let him see the consecration of the new house and of the bell-tower, with its clear bell that announces the love of God, love Aleksei Pavlovich had in gratitude for all His great mercies during his long and difficult earthly life. When he heard the church bell, Aleksei Pavlovich cried and said that this bell reminded him of the church bell back in his native village. We will always remember this kind and capable man, a true Christian, great family man and generous giver. May the Lord God rest him in the dwellings of the Righteous.

A.E. Portnoff

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