Alexander Dolitsky: In a church in Rome, an angel appeared and conveyed a message of peace

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome. Photo credit: Livioandronico2013, Creative Commons


One day in the spring of 1977, shortly after my departure from the former Soviet Union as a political refugee to the West, I was browsing in the streets of Rome in the vicinity of the Pantheon church (the Pantheon is a former Roman temple and, since AD 609, a Catholic church).

Suddenly, during my random walk, I found myself facing a large wooden medieval door of a small and noticeably aged Gothic-style church. With some effort, I opened the thick door and slowly walked into the church. There was no one in the sanctuary; it was dark, a slight scent of burnt candles was present in the air. I did not realize I was about to experience something that would inspire and captivate me for the rest of my days.

Just a short moment after I entered the church, the large door slowly opened behind me and a petite young woman dressed in a light gray sweat-shirt hoodie and slim-fit pants of the same color walked in. She was wearing the hoodie over her head and I could only glimpse the tip of her nose. She passed by me gracefully, like a ballerina, not turning her head in my direction. She leaned on one knee on the floor, crossed herself, lowered her head and silently prayed holding her hands tightly to her chest. It was an inspiring scene.

As she prayed, a gentle light shone through the Gothic-style rose windows of the Church. I felt lightness, peace and love in the air, penetrating every cell of my physical being. “She is an angel, a paragon of virtue,” I thought to myself.  She silently prayed for a few minutes, then stood and walked out as gracefully as she had entered. The light in the church slowly vanished; I was in darkness once again. I stood alone in an empty place of worship.

Throughout the 47 years after this mystifying event, I have wanted to believe that the appearance of this petite woman in a small church in Rome was perhaps an angel of peace. She was my angel; she descended to Earth and appeared to me as a messenger of God. In this little church, she was silently conveying to me, “You are at the beginning of an uncertain and difficult journey in search of freedom, liberty and happiness; you will be fine, you will persevere in the face of difficulties, believe in yourself.” And I did.

In their book War and Anti-War (1993), authors Alvin and Heidi Toffler observed:

“… between 1945 and 1990, the earth enjoyed a grand total of only three weeks that were truly war-free.” From 1990 to present day, revenge, anger, hatred and endless wars have continued to plague the world. To stop the progression, humanity must believe and strive toward goodness, peace, tranquility, compassion and a sense of purpose. Our leaders must unite to stop the turmoil and tumultuous events occurring throughout the world. Doing otherwise results only in a future of continued hatred, war, devastation and death.”

Indeed, living in a new compassionate way with each other and in a new peaceful reality is difficult and challenging. But living in the past of hatred toward each other is even more difficult and destructive for human existence.

Alexander B. Dolitsky was born and raised in Kiev in the former Soviet Union. He received an M.A. in history from Kiev Pedagogical Institute, Ukraine, in 1976; an M.A. in anthropology and archaeology from Brown University in 1983; and was enroled in the Ph.D. program in Anthropology at Bryn Mawr College from 1983 to 1985, where he was also a lecturer in the Russian Center. In the U.S.S.R., he was a social studies teacher for three years, and an archaeologist for five years for the Ukranian Academy of Sciences. In 1978, he settled in the United States. Dolitsky visited Alaska for the first time in 1981, while conducting field research for graduate school at Brown. He lived first in Sitka in 1985 and then settled in Juneau in 1986. From 1985 to 1987, he was a U.S. Forest Service archaeologist and social scientist. He was an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Alaska Southeast from 1985 to 1999; Social Studies Instructor at the Alyeska Central School, Alaska Department of Education from 1988 to 2006; and has been the Director of the Alaska-Siberia Research Center (see from 1990 to present. He has conducted about 30 field studies in various areas of the former Soviet Union (including Siberia), Central Asia, South America, Eastern Europe and the United States (including Alaska). Dolitsky has been a lecturer on the World Discoverer, Spirit of Oceanus, andClipper Odyssey vessels in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. He was the Project Manager for the WWII Alaska-Siberia Lend Lease Memorial, which was erected in Fairbanks in 2006. He has published extensively in the fields of anthropology, history, archaeology, and ethnography. His more recent publications include Fairy Tales and Myths of the Bering Strait Chukchi, Ancient Tales of Kamchatka; Tales and Legends of the Yupik Eskimos of Siberia; Old Russia in Modern America: Russian Old Believers in Alaska; Allies in Wartime: The Alaska-Siberia Airway During WWII; Spirit of the Siberian Tiger: Folktales of the Russian Far East; Living Wisdom of the Far North: Tales and Legends from Chukotka and Alaska; Pipeline to Russia; The Alaska-Siberia Air Route in WWII; and Old Russia in Modern America: Living Traditions of the Russian Old Believers; Ancient Tales of Chukotka, and Ancient Tales of Kamchatka.

A few more of Dolitsky’s past MRAK columns:

Read: Russian Old Believers in Alaska live lives reflecting bygone centuries

Read: Russian saying: Beat your friends so your enemies fear you

Read: Neo-Marxism and utopian Socialism in America

Read: Old believers preserving faith in the New World

Read: Duke Ellington and the effects of Cold War in Soviet Union on intellectual curiosity

Read: United we stand, divided we fall with race, ethnicity in America

Read: For American schools to succeed, they need this ingredient

Read: Nationalism in America, Alaska, around the world

Read: The case of the ‘delicious salad’

Read: White privilege is a troubling perspective

Read: Beware of activists who manipulate history for their own agenda

Read: Alaska Day remembrance of Russian transfer

Read: American leftism is true picture of true hypocrisy

Read: History does not repeat itself

Read: The only Ford Mustang in Kiev

Read: What is greed? Depends on the generation


  1. Many Christian, educated and productive people left the Soviet Union, an atheist/socialist empire for Western Europe and the US for religious, political and economic freedom. Only to find a few decades later that the roles have reversed. The US and Europe have become atheist, authoritarian police states, with electronic monitoring of every communication of their citizens to censor and cancel freedom and prosperity, unheard of technology by the previous Soviet authorities. As a reborn nation Russia moved on from the failed socialist experiment and went back to it’s Christian roots, while we disintegrate into social decay, corporate socialism, while our elites and politicians profit from starting endless conflicts and wars worldwide. Accumulated corruption ended the Soviet Union, as it is now ending the old American Republic.

  2. My personal experience is Alaska is like this: In moments when I feel thankful, attenuated with God’s love and at peace it is then exactly I experience significant spiritual attacks or become aware of the consequential spiritual harm. Alaska is is a small population. Alaskans love to gang up in a particular individual to defeat the person and even any hope for the future. We have a wrestling among evil creatures in high places. That, has not yet gone away. However, “…Greater is He who is in you than he that is in the world”. 1John 4:4

  3. If this story was told in anything other than a religious context, people would laugh and tell him he was either hallucinating or had a mental breakdown of some type. But never mind, he was in a church so it’s perfectly believable/rationale and has social license.

  4. A beautiful event in the old temple. What we are experiencing today are not true wars. Corporations pretending to be our governments can not declare war. These are mercenary actions on and offshore for the profit and gain of warmongering foreign interests. All public offices are occupied by subcontractors, unregistered foreign agents. Their headquarters is in Washington DC.


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