Recently, some Alaskans made the long trip to Russia to see the home of a beloved orthodox saint.
At the end of August, a group of about 16 people from all over Alaska went to Russia. This trip wasn’t a normal vacation, but a sanctioned pilgrimage by the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska.
They traveled through at least 12 time zones to reach the Russian community of Kadom, which was the home and birthplace of Saint Herman of Alaska. One of the younger members of the trip was Triston Simeonoff. When he arrived in the rural town, he was struck by how familiar it seemed.
“In the town that we were in, Kadom. It made me feel it was still at home. It was just like Ahkiok. Dirt roads, kids running around freely, riding their bikes, playing outside.”
One purpose of the journey was to share stories of St. Herman and Alaska with locals. The Saint came to the Kodiak Archipelago in the late 1700s and lived out his life there. For Walter Simenoff, Triston’s father, being able to go to St. Herman’s birthplace and tell people about his life was special.
“It was very emotional to see people that just heard about St. Herman over there.”
Going to the community that shaped such an important figure in Simenoff’s life made St. Herman seem more real.
“When you see it with your own eyes where he was from you can believe he is a saint now and it all fills the space where you were wondering about.”
The group also had another charge, to deliver four holy relics to Russia. The relics consisted of the remains of St. Herman. Father John Dunlop, a Russian Orthodox Priest from Kodiak, was entrusted to transport them. He kept the relics on his body near his heart throughout the trip until they were safely delivered.
Dunlop felt a sense of purpose throughout the journey.
“I think it was a real sense of mission that we were uh bringing a piece of Alaska and a piece of history and even saint Herman himself, back to he had left. Almost like a homecoming.”
The group didn’t just bring holy relics to Russia. They also brought a lot of smoked salmon to present as gifts, which they ran out of pretty quickly.
The entire journey lasted about two weeks. Father Dunlop says he hopes another trip can happen next year. He also said there was some discussion of hosting a group from Russia in Kodiak.