In Memoriam: Alumnus Archpriest Alvian Smirensky & Matushka Helen

His Eminence Archbishop Michael (center) along with Fr. Terenti Wasielewski (left), rector of St. Nicholas Church, Fr. Alvian Smirensky (right), Dn. Michael Burdikoff (far right), parish altar servers, and the St. Vladimir's Men's Choir, Dec 2011His Eminence Archbishop Michael (center) along with Fr. Terenti Wasielewski (left), rector of St. Nicholas Church, Fr. Alvian Smirensky (right), Dn. Michael Burdikoff (far right), parish altar servers, and the St. Vladimir's Men's Choir, Dec 2011Memory Eternal!

Archpriest Alvian Smirensky, 88, and his wife, Matushka Helen [Kefeli] Smirensky, 84, fell asleep in the Lord in adjoining beds at Albany Medical Center within hours of one another on Sunday morning, December 10, 2017.

Father Alvian received his diploma from St. Vladimir's Seminary in June 1957. His diploma was retroactively "upgraded" to the Master of Divinity degree in 1976, as were the diplomas of many of the Seminary's earlier graduates. Father Alvian then came back to St. Vladimir's as a part-time student in 1991, and graduated with the Master of Theology degree in May 1995. His thesis was "Matrimonial Legislation in Imperial Russia." 

Father Alvian was born on May 11, 1929 in Harbin, China to Sophia and Nicholas Smirensky. He attended elementary school in Japanese-occupied Manchuria. With conflict increasing between Japan and China, Alvian emigrated with his mother, Sophia, in September 1939, where they settled in San Francisco. He graduated from Saint Ignatius High School in San Francisco in 1948 and later from the Merchant Marine Academy. He served as a naval officer in the Korean Conflict from 1951-1954 on the Destroyer USS John A. Bole. He retired from military service with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. After service in Korea, he moved to New York City to attended St. Vladimir’s Seminary from 1954-1957, and was ordained as a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church on September 13, 1958. Father Alvian served in the U.S. Naval Reserve as a chaplain and as a parish priest in a number of locations, including Sts. Peter & Paul Orthodox Church in Meriden, CT; the Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Wayne, NJ; Saint Basil’s Orthodox Church in Maplewood, NY; Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church in Cohoes, NY; and Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Albany, NY. When Father Alvian retired from parish service, he became attached to the Holy Wisdom Temple, New Skete Monastery. He also served in State government, retiring in 1991 as Director of Information Services for the New York State and Local Retirement Systems.

Matushka Helen was born on November 3, 1933 in Prague, Czechoslovakia to Michael and Elizabeth Kefeli. Helen and her extended family lived in Prague through the German occupation and World War II. They left Prague prior to the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia and lived in a series of displaced persons camps in Germany until November 1949, when, with the sponsorship of the Tolstoy Foundation, Matushka Helen emigrated to the United States with her family and settled in Nyack, NY. She received an undergraduate degree from Barnard College in 1957 majoring in Russian Regional Studies. Later in life, after many years of working in libraries, Matushka Helen completed her Master of Library Science degree in 1985 at SUNY Albany’s School of Library Science. She was a member of the Beta Phi Mu International Library and Information Studies Honor Society. She was employed as a cataloger at SUNY Albany and retired as a senior librarian from the New York State library in 1996. She served as the New York State Library’s representative to the CONSER Operations Committee for a number of years. Matushka Helen loved to read and knit afghans for family and friends and for sick and abused children. She knitted more than 160 afghans.

The Funeral for Father Alvian and Matushka Helen will begin at 10:00 a.m., followed by Divine Liturgy at 11:00 a.m. at New Skete Monastery, 273 New Skete Lane, Cambridge, NY. Interment will follow in the New Skete Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be in their memory to the National Health Law Program ( or to New Skete Monasteries ( To offer condolences to the family, please visit Arrangements are with the McClellan-Gariepy Funeral Home, Inc., Salem.

May the memory of Fr. Alvian and Matushka Helen be eternal.