Blessed Olga (Michael)

Blessed Mother Olga (Michael) of Kwethluk

An icon of Blessed Olga at Fr. Michael Oleksa’s house

During my visit to Alaska this past summer, I lived for about a month along the Kuskokwim River in the Yukon Delta region.  Near the end of my stay, I was given the opportunity to spend some time in Kwethluk.

There I lodged with the village priest and his family, whose house was near the old village church where Matushka Olga and her husband, the priest Fr. Nicolai Michael, spent many years.  The people of Kwethluk have built a new, larger church a few hundred yards away and no longer meet in the little one where the Fr. Nicolai served.  However, the old one is adjacent to Fr. Nicolai and Mat. Olga’s graves.

Blessed Olga was a native Alaskan born February 3, 1916, and departed this life forty years ago on November 8, 1979.  She is venerated as a saint throughout Alaska, as well as in some Orthodox parishes in the Lower 48 due to her loving and pious life, her generosity, the miracles associated with her departure, and the experiences people have had with her after her death.

Her favorite place to stand in church was just below the icon of Archangel Michael on the north side of the nave (see photos below).  So, it is fitting that she passed away on the day that we commemorate the Archangel Michael and all of the heavenly hosts.

When she died, the region was experiencing brutal winter weather.  The ground was frozen solid – it seemed it would be impossible to bury her.  Additionally, travel to the funeral would be difficult and dangerous due to the cold.  However, on the day of her funeral, the sun came out and quickly melted the snow and thawed the ground.  People were able to travel to Kwethluk for the funeral and summer birds even arrived, singing their songs during the funeral.  The day after her funeral, the brutal winter returned as if nothing had ever happened.

During her life, she was the village midwife and seemed to have a sixth sense for when women were pregnant, even within the first days of their pregnancy before the women themselves knew.  Like most of the women of her generation, she was generous and loving.  She provided clothing to those who needed it, sowing what was lacking.

She is venerated today as a healer of women who have experienced abuse and trauma.  Caring for such people during her life would not have been unusual, since it is a struggle in Alaskan village life.  One woman, whose testimony has been recorded, described Blessed Olga visiting her in a dream, massaging her, and healing her in soul and body from abuse.  As the Akathist to her says,

You revealed the Northern Lights as a sign of God’s power to create great beauty where there had been only darkness and desolation.

I’ve attached pictures below this article of the church that the Michaels served in.  It has been preserved exactly as it was when both Fr. Nicolai and Mother Olga were there.  As can be seen in some of the photos, it is in need of repair.  At this time, however, there is no fund set up for repairs.  Hopefully, when her canonization as a saint draws closer, some work will be completed and the old church will be transformed into the St. Olga Chapel.

A little booklet with her Akathist can be purchased here.

Holy Mother Olga, pray to God for us!

The nave of the old church
The icon Bl. Olga always stood next to
The iconostas inside the old church
The old church and graveyard
The old church
Blessed Olga’s grave
Me next to Bl. Olga’s grave
The old church and Fr. Nicolai’s grave
Matushka Olga’s grave and the old church
Prayer to St. Olga

8 thoughts on “Blessed Olga (Michael)

  1. Thank you very much for this post, it is very informative, Blessings from Italy 💖😇🙏

  2. findwritingservice... January 22, 2020 — 9:18 am

    I have read the whole article about Blessed Olga. But, mostly, I paid attention on the icon. It is well painted. Can anybody tell me the name of the artist?

    1. I don’t know the name of the iconographer who completed that icon. It is well-painted, indeed, and was probably done by somebody in Alaska since Fr. Michael Oleksa has several icons I observed in his home that appear to be painted by the same artist’s hand.

    2. It’s painted by Alexey Gomartely who used to live in Alaska, he does wonderful iconography.

  3. Thank you for the beautiful article! What is the significance and meaning of the bowl of water Matushka Olga holds in some of her icons? I would appreciate your help, and thank you!

    1. Sarah, forgive me, but I don’t know what the bowl symbolizes. Blessed Olga was a midwife, so maybe it has something to do with that. But I don’t know anything about the art of being a midwife, especially in Alaskan villages several decades ago.

      1. When she attended births, she would usually have only water and a towel – midwifery bate bones basics.

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