St. Andrew's Church in Moscow is a community of Christians who seek to
History of St Andrew's
The Story of St. Andrew's : Part 4. Revolution and Rebirth. In this, the final part of the series, Jean Coussmaker tells us about the events at St. Andrew's from the Revolution to the present day.
The Norths' Story.
While in St. Petersburg, Frank North married a member of the congregation, Margaret Caird Birse. She was born in Russia of Scottish parents, and was bilingual. One of her brothers, Arthur Birse, became Churchill's Russian interpreter in World War II. (Frank was born in England and never learned Russian; perhaps he was too busy grappling with the Dissenters!)
In "The Smiths of Moscow," Harvey Pitcher records an interview with Herbert, the Norths' son, who remembered vividly the events of 1917. "The Bolsheviks set up a machine gun post in one of the attics, and we spent nearly a week in the basement with no light and little food. On emerging from the house at the end of the fighting we found many spent cartridges in the courtyard and two large pools of blood."
As times grew harder, "Churchmen" and "Dissenters" alike were grateful to Frank and Margaret North, who remained in Russia until March 1920, when, after arranging for the evacuation of the British community, they were permitted to board the last train going to Helsinki. They had visited those held in prison, protested to the authorities about cases of ill-treatment, and had themselves been imprisoned several times. Frank North apologised that on one Sunday the church had been closed, due to his arrest. He and his wife converted part of the parsonage into a canteen, buying food on the black market to feed the weak and destitute; Herbert remembered helping his father pull a sledge round the villages outside Moscow, in the search for food. Both Norths were later awarded the CBE for their services to the community, and Frank North accepted the Helsinki chaplaincy which was renamed "Helsinki with Moscow," a sign that St. Andrew's was never relinquished. In the years before a permanent chaplain could be appointed to Moscow, the chaplain from Helsinki used to try to come to Moscow once a month, often taking services in the British Embassy. The Church Registers list regular visits from clergy and Bishops.
During the time that St. Andrew's was closed for worship, the parsonage was used for brief periods, first as the Finnish Embassy, and then as the Estonian Legation. The church itself was used as a hostel, and was eventually allocated to Melodiya, the State Recording Company, as recording studios and offices.