February 10, 2024

The Least of These

The Least of These

A sleepy summer morning. Teenagers – they range from 14 to 18 – drowsily crawl out of their army tents and stumble over to the washstand. Some form a line for the toilet. Swifts swish through the air overhead. The day promises to be hot. Two boys on kitchen duty set out to peel potatoes while the rest form a circle for calisthenics. Fluttering atop the two flagpoles standing in the clearing are the flags of Russia and the Spas Military-Patriotic Association.[1]

In 2014, the local Orthodox eparchy for the Volga-River city of Samara opened Pobeda (Victory), a children’s educational center. Father Dionisy, rector of St. Matrona’s Church, was put in charge. In addition to his clerical position, he is known for his “After Lights Out” podcast, in which he talks with adolescents. Under Father Dionisy’s leadership, free singing, drawing, and dance classes were offered. As it turned out, only girls were interested in these activities.

In 2015, to attract boys, the center established a club focused on military skills and patriotism: Spas.

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