Archpriest Alvian and Helen Smirensky fell asleep in the Lord on Sunday morning, December 10, 2017, in adjoining beds at Albany Medical Center within hours of each other.
The Smirenskys had been married for 59 years, having met and married in New York City while she was attending Barnard College and he was attending Saint Vladimir’s Seminary.
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, he emigrated with his mother Sophia in September 1939, settling in San Francisco, CA. He graduated from Saint Ignatius High School in 1948 and later from the Merchant Marine Academy. He served as a naval officer in the Korean Conflict from 1951 until 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 Saint Vladimir’s Seminary from 1954 until 1957. He later completed a second master’s degree at Saint Vladimir’s. He was ordained to the priesthood by Metropolitan Leonty on September 13, 1958.
Father Alvian served in the US Naval Reserve as a chaplain and as a parish priest in a number of locations, including Saints Peter and Paul Church, Meriden, CT; Holy Resurrection Church, Wayne, NJ; Saint Basil Church, Maplewood, NY; Saint Nicholas Church, Cohoes, NY; and Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church, Albany, NY. After retiring from parish ministry, he was attached to Holy Wisdom Temple, New Skete Monastery, Cambridge, NY. 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. She was predeceased by her sister, Lisa. She is survived by her brother, George Kefeli and his wife, Joan, of Thornville, OH, and their children Drew Kefeli and Natasha Lattin, as well as by her sister Lisa’s children, David Springer of Austin, TX and Eric Springer [Lisa] of Melbourne, FL. Matushka 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, she emigrated to the US 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, she completed her Master of Library Science degree in 1985 at SUNY Albany’s School of Library Science, where 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. She also loved to read and knit afghans for family and friends and for sick and abused children. She knitted more than 160 afghans.
The Smirenskys are further survived by three children: Nicholas Smirensky [Lynn] of Delmar, NY; Anna Patka [Carl] of Albany, NY; and Maria Smirensky [Richard Van Wie] of Stuyvesant, NY. They are also survived by three grandchildren: Isaac Patka [Justine Aloise] of San Diego, CA; Emily Patka [fiancé Angel Solis] of Brooklyn, NY; and Sophie Patka of Albany, NY.
Funeral services will be celebrated at New Skete Monastery, 273 New Skete Lane, Cambridge, NY at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, December 13, followed by the Divine Liturgy at 11:00 a.m. Interment will be in the New Skete Cemetery.
The family would like to extend their deepest appreciation to the staff of the Emergency Department and the ICU at Albany Medical Center for their kindness and compassion in arranging for Helen and Alvian to be together during their last few hours.
May the memories of Father Alvian and Matushka Helen be eternal!