Tomorrow Russia will remember the "martyrs of the pandemic". Mother Anastasia, aka Nina Artemeva, continued her dual profession, religious and medical, until the end. She entered the monastery as a 70-year-old. Married twice, she had two children. For her, medicine makes the Gospel current: "love your neighbor, even if he is dirty, injured or bloodied".
Moscow (AsiaNews) - Tomorrow, July 15, Russia will observe a day in memory of the doctors and healthcare personnel who lost their lives due to the coronavirus, sacrificing themselves for the good of all.
In St. Petersburg, the list of 56 "martyrs of the pandemic" begins with a well-known and loved character, the professor of surgery Nina Artemeva, consecrated with the monastic name of mother Anastasia, who passed away on June 8 for Covid-19. Faithful to the very end to her dual vocation, Nina-Anastasia died while taking care of the nuns and sick people in the monastery of Saint John in Karpovka.
Although well known, the news about mother Anastasia is not found on Wikipedia, or on other websites. The woman never gave interviews, as she did not consider her life extraordinary, even when she continued to perform delicate surgical operations as an Orthodox nun.
As in many other Russian monasteries, the Easter liturgy in Karpovka was celebrated in the full presence of religious and lay people, with the result of a general coronavirus infection, which the 84-year-old mother tried to remedy in some way, before being her herself hospitalized in intensive care, where she gave up on the day of Pentecost.
Born in 1936 in Uljanovsk, the city of Lenin, Nina had dreamed of becoming a doctor since childhood. Transferred to Leningrad, she finished her medical studies, marrying Nikolaj, a fellow student. While finishing her surgery specialization, she gave birth to a son, also Nikolaj (see photo 2, Nina with her son). Her husband could not tolerate Nina's desire to continue her scientific career, and they soon divorced; in a second marriage she married Mark Lanskij, a colleague in hospital surgery, with whom he had her second son Ilja.
In 1984 Nina defended her doctorate in intestinal surgery, and became famous for the operations of rare difficulty that no one had the courage to perform, with a method of her own. She was particularly loved for the constant care of every patient, which she did not want to delegate to anyone. In 1990 her second husband died, and in the same year a chapel was opened in the hospital on her initiative. During the Soviet years, nobody knew her as a religious person.
Her husband's death prompted her to get closer and closer to the Church, and at almost 70 years old Nina decided to leave medicine and enter the monastery, taking the name of Anastasia. Sister Tatjana recalls that "it seemed that she had decided to go to war, to save the world".
A priest who accompanied her in her conversion, Father Andrej (also a doctor) explains that "one enters the monastery to die worthily, giving one’s life to God; it no longer matters how many years one still lives, because one is already together with the most totally loved one, with Christ. "
Mother Anastasia also explained that "medicine is a practical possibility of realizing what is written in the Gospel, of loving one's neighbor, even if he is dirty, wounded or bloodied". Of course, her patients and the many who knew and admired her began to come to visit her in the monastery, creating a true "soul healing" movement.
Eventually the superior of the monastery allowed her to continue to perform surgery, and they equipped an operating room in the monastery of Saint John, under the silent and watchful gaze of the icons. On Saturdays mother Anastasia dedicated herself to patients, even for simple consultations, without an appointment and without compensation.
The civic memory, in this case, is accompanied by a religious memory, which recognizes the first and best holiness of human heroism itself: the story of Mother Anastasia is not over, because she will still be able to do great good.