Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Feast of Saint Natalia: Early 70's in Russian San Francisco

This particular collection was snapped at 2678 McAllister Street in San Francisco, in what appears to be the early 1970's. All the women featured were part of the old-school Sisterhood gang at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox church at 1520 Green Street in San Francisco.

Natalie Vasilev and Holy Trinity Sisterhood women, taken in the early 1970's at 2678 McAllister Street in San Francisco
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Natalie Vasilev, Olga Licin, and Holy Trinity Sisterhood women, taken in the early 1970's at 2678 McAllister Street in San Francisco

The original Sisterhood women were all White Russian widows—so, unfortunately, most had already, um, gone onto their Eternal Reward by the time I came along. Nonetheless, I do cherish a few happy memories of rainy Sunday mornings in the Holy Trinity kitchen, watching the last holdouts cheerfully cook pirozhki and gossip in Russian. Sometimes they also served at Christ the Saviour at 2040 Anza Street.

Natalie Vasilev, Tasha Thomson aka Natalie D. Moore, Rhea Thomson aka Marie Thomson, Sean Sarsfield, and Elena Vasilev at 2678 McAllister Street in San Francisco

I think these photos were taken to commemorate Natalie Vasilev's "Namesday." You can read more about her here. Natalia Feodosievna Vasilev née Mitrofanenko was named for Natalie—of Aurelius and Natalia fame—thus, her Name Day (or namesday, as my family always called it) falls on October 8th. The date makes sense, given the still-formidable tans in evidence.

Natalie Vasilev and Holy Trinity Sisterhood women, taken in the early 1970's at 2678 McAllister Street in San Francisco

I love the cock-eyed framing in these pictures. Dutch Angle, I think they call it. Was it a consequence of this particular camera? I don't think these namesday snaps were taken with a Kodak Instamatic. Maybe the next model up?

Father Roman Sturmer and his wife, Xenia in the early 1970's at 2678 McAllister Street in San Francisco

At the head of the dinner table is priest Father Roman Sturmer, alongside his ecstatic-looking wife, Xenia. Born in Russia, they escaped during the Revolution, and spent time in the Philippines before emigrating to San Francisco to take up ministry at Holy Trinity. You can read more about Roman Sturmer here. He was also the subject of a biography, although I don't think its been published yet.

Olga Licin, Natalie Vasilev, Roman Sturmer, and Elena Vasilev at 2678 McAllister Street in San Francisco

I'd love to know what happened right before they snapped this one.

Roman Sturmer, Xenia Sturmer, and Olga Licin at 2678 McAllister Street in San Francisco

Natalie's flat at 2678 McAllister Street was—of course—eventually sold off, remodeled, and resurrected as a million-dollar condo. You can see its present incarnation here. I wonder if the current residents experience any old Russian lady hauntings.

And if anyone out there is a fan of the Holy Trinity Sisterhood—these legendary ladies of the past—please leave a comment. We'd love to hear from you! :)

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