James Hogan, a friend at the Mayhew Animal Home in London, has a personal link with a convent in Kaluga in Russia, where the Orthodox nuns take very much to heart our responsibility for vulnerable creatures.
Although a small group of nuns moved to the village of Baryatino in the Kaluga region in 1993, the convent was not officially established until 1995, when it was set up around a church in the village and the church and convent were dedicated to the honour of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin.
The nuns care for some sixty cats. They are neutered by a local vet, but the nuns take responsibility for other treatment, as these photos show:
Sister Anastasia, pictured above and whose self portrait is at the top of this post, sends the following report on their work:
I began to love cats when I came here to the monastery. I would like all cats, as well as all dogs, to be well fed, healthy and loved by everybody. It gives me much pain to see hungry, freezing cats, with marks of injuries, waiting for mercy from us.
There is a habit of getting rid of cats or dogs by leaving them to die in the street or, for instance, bringing them to the doors of our monastery. People think that nuns must be kind and wouldn’t let these poor creatures die. Sometimes, coming out from our cell building in the morning we will see on the doorsteps “a gift” – a box of kittens. Or we see a stray but pedigree cat wandering around the house…
It so happened that over 60 cats have found refuge in our monastery. Their past is common: foundlings, victims of people’s irresponsibility and cruelty. So, we had to set up facilities for them: organize cats’ kitchen, use the old boiler room for them, get familiar with local veterinarians. We even invented a new post – cats’ manageress, or koshkalary – and that is me.
Every morning, during a short period between the morning sermon and meal, I rush to clean bowls and put out their food. The main item in our cats’ diet is porridge –kasha – based on chickens’ heads broth which we receive from the owner of a local poultry plant. In the daytime, I cook the meals, inspect and treat sick cats, clean their surroundings.
Cats have their own community, or family. It’s practically impossible for strangers to fit into this family. We are trying to sterilize foundlings early; the vets in Kaluga clinic operate on our cats free of charge and we pay only for the medications. After the operation, we take care of them in our cells for ten days. The treatment of one cat costs more than 1000 roubles – about $ 35. We also treat them against parasites. But it’s impossible to find “adopters”, even for healthy, pedigree and beautiful cats.
As is well known, cats are fastidious and self-willed animals. Some of them won’t live in the family and we have to take that into account. The happiest cats live in the nuns’ cells; over 45 cats live in the outbuildings.
Now you cannot imagine Baryatino without cats. They are under every bush, round every corner, almost in every cell. At least here we want to protect our cats from the cruel world and live in harmony with Gods’ creatures. But it’s still a long way to achieve full harmony, especially in the present crisis, which causes a lot of difficulties to support this flock. We would greatly appreciate any financial or other material support for the monastery and would be praying for those generous and merciful people.
Probably my concerns might seem ridiculous if one thinks of those who abandon children, of old people, invalids. But let us remember these holy words: “Blessed are those who are merciful to cattle”. If a man will show mercy for a helpless creature, he is sure to be merciful towards a child or an old man.
~ QCA sends our compliments and thanks to all at the Baryatino convent for their compassionate care of all God’s creatures. The crisis to which Anastasia refers is a fire which destroyed part of the convent. We are holding everyone in the Light.