Archbishop Alypy of Chicago

Biography of Archbishop Alypy (Gamanovich)
of Chicago and the Detroit Diocese


His Eminence, Archbishop Alypy, was born on December 19, 1926, in the village of Novaya Maiyachka, Kherson Province, U.S.S.R. His name in the world was Nikolai Mikhailovich Gamanovich. The village still exists within the borders of the independent Ukraine. His parents were Mikhail and Liudmilla (nee Martynova). His father was a blacksmith, having learned this trade, along with his brother, from Vladika's grandfather.

Vladika's parents saw to it that he was baptized, but most all churches in the area had been closed by the Soviet authorities; Vladika did not have much of an opportunity to attend services in his youth. He remembers that his grandfather took him and one of his sisters to church in Kherson in 1938 or 1939.

Vladika's grandfather and grandmother had grown up in the village of Novaya Maiyachka, but the family did not remain there long after Vladika's birth. During these early years of Vladika's life, the still new Soviet regime began enforcing collectivization, as well as the policy of 'raskulachivanie,' that is, the expropriation of property from any prosperous owners. Many were forced to leave their ancestral homes and wander about the countryside, surviving as best they could. The Gamanovich family finally settled in the village of Fedorovka, where the young Nikolai attended a four-grade elementary school. He continued his education at an eight-grade school in the neighboring village of Kucheryvo-Volodimirov.

When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union during World War II, they sought to take advantage of the inhabitants of the areas they conquered by utilizing them as slave labor; there was a great labor shortage in Germany due to the many young men serving in the armed forces. The forced laborers from the Soviet Union were known as 'ostarbeiter,' or 'east-workers.' All told, nearly 2.8 million civilians were transported from the German-occupied areas of the Soviet Union to work in Germany. When Vladika was almost 16 years of age, a German officer approached the mayor of the village his family lived in, and 'suggested' that the mayor should select fifteen young men to be sent to Germany as 'ostarbeiter.' Vladika was one of the fifteen that were selected.

Torn from his family, Vladika was transported to Germany; leaving behind his father, mother, three younger brothers and two younger sisters. He ended up in Berlin, where he worked in a truck factory, on a farm, and finally, in a cemetery. While working in the truck factory, he lived in a labor camp that was constantly under guard, and he and his fellow workers were escorted to and from work under guard. When he was finally assigned to work in the cemetery, he was transferred to the 'Ostavsky' labor camp. In this camp, the workers were not kept under guard, and they took the subway and trolleys to their work assignments. During his time at the 'Ostavsky' camp, Vladika also was able to attend Church services from time to time; it was on such a visit to Church that he met Hieromonk (later Archimandrite) Kiprian (Pizhov) of the Saint Job of Pochaev Brotherhood.

The Saint Job of Pochaev Brotherhood was from the Monastery of Saint Job of Pochaev, which had been located in Ladomirova, Czechoslovakia. The Monastery was founded in 1923 by Archimandrite Vitaly (Maximenko, later Archbishop, +1960). Archimandrite Vitaly had directed the famous print shop of the Pochaev Dormition Lavra prior to World War I. The newly independent Polish government arrested Archimandrite Vitaly and threatened him with execution; he was finally pardoned and expelled from Poland upon intervention by French Prime Minister Clemenceau and Patriarch Dimitry of Serbia. He went to Yugoslavia for two years, and then to east Slovakia, where he founded the Monastery of Saint Job of Pochaev to minister to large groups of Orthodox Christians who had only recently returned to their ancestral Faith from the Unia. In 1934, Archimandrite Vitaly was consecrated to the episcopate and sent by the Synod of the Church Abroad to the United States. His successor as Abbot of the Monastery was Archimandrite Seraphim (Ivanov, later Archbishop of Chicago, Detroit and Midwest America, +1987). In 1944, the Brotherhood was forced to flee from the Monastery by the advance of the Red Army into East Slovakia; from the Monastery, they went to Berlin. It was after the Brotherhood had arrived in Berlin that the young Nikolai Gamanovich met Father Kiprian. In his youth, Vladika Alypy had read some books of Lives of the Saints, which had belonged to his grandfather. From these books, Vladika had gained some understanding of monastic life. During one of his meetings with Father Kiprian, the young Nikolai expressed a desire to join the monastic brotherhood of Saint Job of Pochaev. He was accepted by Archimandrite Seraphim, and left the worldly labor camp illegally on February 3, 1945 to begin the spiritual labors of the monastic life. Five days later, on learning that the Red Army was only 80 miles from Berlin and advancing swiftly, the Brotherhood fled to southern Germany. After the capitulation of Germany in May of 1945, most of the Brotherhood went to Switzerland. Some members, including the novice Nikolai, Igumen Nikon (Rklitsky, later Archbishop, +1976), and the novice Peter (later Archdeacon Pimen) had to wait in Germany until August of 1945 for visas. While in Switzerland, two members of the Brotherhood, Archimandrite Seraphim (Ivanov) and Archimandrite Nafanael (Lvov) were consecrated to the episcopate. In fact, several hierarchs of the Church Abroad have come from the Brotherhood of Saint Job of Pochaev: Metropolitan Vitaly (Ustinov), First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad; Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko, +1960) of Eastern America and New York; Archbishop Seraphim (Ivanov, +1987) of Chicago, Detroit and Midwest America; Archbishop Nafanael (Lvov, +1986) of Vienna and Austria; Archbishop Nikon (Rklitsky, +1976) of Washington and Florida; Archbishop Lavr (Skurla) of Syracuse and Holy Trinity; Bishop Agapit (Kryzhanovsky, +1966) of Goiania, Vicar of the Diocese of Sao Paulo and Brazil; Bishop Philip (von Gardner, +1983) of Potsdam, Vicar of the Diocese of Berlin and Germany; and, of course, Vladika Alypy.

On September 23, 1946, the novice Nikolai was tonsured a riassophore monk and given the name Alypy. Only a few months later, the Brotherhood left Switzerland for the United States, where they settled at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York. At Holy Trinity Monastery, riassophore monk Alypy performed various obediences along with the other monks, but his principal work was as an iconographer under the direction of Father Kiprian, the most famous iconographer of the Russian Diaspora. On March 19, 1948, along with two other riassophore monks, Lavr (Skurla, later Archbishop) and Flor (Vanko, later Archimandrite), riassophore monk Alypy was tonsured a mantia monk by Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko). On December 3, 1950, he was ordained to the diaconate by Metropolitan Anastassy (Gribanovsky, +1965), and on July 4, 1954, he was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko).

After graduating from Holy Trinity Seminary, he served as an instructor there, teaching Church Slavonic, Greek, and other subjects. During his years teaching at the Seminary, he compiled a grammar of Church Slavonic-Grammatika Tserkovno Slavyanskogo Yazika (Grammar of the Church Slavonic Language), which was published by the Monastery in 1964, and reprinted in 1984 [this work has recently been translated into English and is available from Holy Trinity Monastery Bookstore - webmaster]. This work is still used as the text for Church Slavonic at the Seminary. Vladika continued his education at Norwich University between 1968 and 1970, earning a Master's Degree in the Russian Language.

In addition to his teaching duties, he also continued his work in iconography. Together with Father Kiprian, he painted the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Jordanville, as well as the Synodal Cathedral of the Mother of God of the Sign in New York City. On his own, he painted the Saint Sergius Cathedral in Cleveland, Ohio; the Church of All Saints of Russia in Denver, Colorado; and the 'new' Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral in Chicago, which can rightfully be considered the masterpiece of Vladika's iconographic art. Vladika Alypy also painted the icons used in the Glorification Services for Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco, and Saint Jonah of Hankow, as well as the iconostases of the Holy Dormition Cathedral in Detroit, Michigan, St. Vladimir Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Saint John Chrysostom Church in House Springs (Saint Louis), Missouri. Vladika also painted the icon over the Royal Doors of the Saint Panteleimon Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

In 1974, then Igumen Alypy was nominated as a candidate for the episcopate by the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad at the request of his former Abbot, Archbishop Seraphim (Ivanov) of Chicago, Detroit and Midwest America. Upon his nomination, he was elevated to Archimandrite. He was consecrated to the episcopate on October 20, 1974, as Bishop of Cleveland, Vicar of the Diocese of Chicago, Detroit and Midwest America. The consecration took place in the 'old' Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral in Chicago (on Kedzie Avenue), and was presided over by Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky, +1985), assisted by Archbishop Seraphim (Ivanov), Archbishop Vitaly (Ustinov, now Metropolitan), and Bishop Lavr (Skurla, now Archbishop). Vladika Alypy administered the Chicago Diocese during the last few years of Archbishop Seraphim's life, and upon Archbishop Seraphim's repose, he was appointed as ruling Bishop of the Diocese.

In 1991, Vladika was elevated to Archbishop. In 1994, he was appointed to head the Diocese of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand. Due to a health problem, the Australian government was reluctant to grant Vladika permanent resident status; due to this, as well as to many petitions from the Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral Parish and throughout the Diocese, the Synod of Bishops decided to allow Vladika Alypy to remain as head of the Chicago, Detroit and Midwest America Diocese. In 1998, the Synod awarded Vladika the right to wear the diamond cross on his klobuk.

The fall of the communist regime in Russia allowed Vladika to visit his family after nearly 50 years. In 1992, Vladika traveled to the Ukraine to visit his brothers and sisters. He visited again in 1996. Vladika's sister has also visited him in Chicago.

Church life in Chicago was greatly revitalized by the building of the new Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral, which was completed in 1990. Vladika labored greatly to build the new Cathedral, having designed it himself; he also oversaw the construction of the new Cathedral, and the new Parish Hall. His labors towards the building of the new Cathedral were culminated in 1995 on the Feast of the Holy Protection of the Mother of God when the new Cathedral was consecrated. Metropolitan Vitaly, Archbishop Antony (Medvedev) of San Francisco and Western America, Archbishop Lavr, and Bishop Hilarion (Kapral, now Archbishop of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand) of Manhattan traveled to Chicago to join Vladika Alypy for the Consecration Services. Another milestone was the Parish Feast in 1996, when the Glorification of Saint Jonah of Hankow was celebrated in the Cathedral. Vladika Alypy presided, joined by the newly consecrated Bishop Michael (Donskoff) of Toronto, Vicar of the Diocese of Montreal and Canada. Other important events were the visit of Bishop Agafangel (Pashkovsky) of Odessa to the Cathedral in April, 1999, and the 8th All Diaspora Youth Conference, hosted by Vladika Alypy, the Cathedral and the Diocese in August, 1999.

1999 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral Parish, the 45th Anniversary of the Chicago, Detroit and Midwest America Diocese, and the 25th Anniversary of Vladika Alypy's archpastoral service to our Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. The Diocese ruled over by Vladika Alypy consists of three Cathedral parishes (Holy Virgin Protection, Chicago; Holy Dormition, Detroit; and Saint Sergius, Cleveland), and 19 other parishes located in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. The Diocese is served by some 30 members of the clergy, and three monasteries and two convents are located within the Diocese. Also located within the Diocese is the ORPR Camp, the children's summer camp of the Diocese. Vladika serves as Honorary Chairman of the ORPR (Organizatsiya Rossiskikh Pravoslavnik Razvedchikov - Organization of Russian Orthodox Pathfinders), which was founded by his predecessor, Archbishop Seraphim (Ivanov). Vladika Alypy is held in high esteem by the parishioners of the diocesan Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral, and by all the faithful throughout the Diocese as well. Vladika is greatly beloved and respected, and his flock prays that Vladika is able to continue his archpastoral service to the Holy Church for Many Years! Eis Polla Eti Despota!

Michael Woerl
July, 1999


1986-1987 Worldwide Church Directory of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Orthodox Way Publications, Denver, Colorado 1986.

Two conversations with Archbishop Alypy - Chicago, May and June, 1999.

Dallin, Alexander. German Rule in Russia, 1941-1945. London, 1957.

Seide, Georg. Monasteries and Convents of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
Monastery of Saint Job of Pochaev, Munich, 1990.

A special thanks to Igumen loann (Magramm) for translation.

Books by ORI

The Rise of Bogomilism
The Rise of Bogomilism
Orthodox Interventions
Orthodox Interventions
For the Peace from Above
For the Peace from Above
ORI Catalog
to ORI
ORI Catalog

  Join; the ORI community