In 1963, the rector (1954-19750) of holy Trinity monastery in Jordanville, New York State, Archbishop Aveky approved the creation of departments, representatives and leadership groups from among the membership of the St. John of Kronstadt Foundation. About that time, His Grace wrote a letter to Helen A. Genet (1900-1995) and Alexandra I. Merger authorizing them to promote the creation of the Home of St. John of Kronstadt in Los Angeles to serve as a shelter for retired, aging Orthodox Russians in California.
Merger was born in 1905 and grew up in Kronstadt, a town on the Baltic sea shore. She had to abandon her studies and leave Russia, following her older sister and her family after the communist revolution. They first fled to Norway then to Czechoslovakia. She came to the United States in 1950. Once established, she continued to help older Russian emigres in finding food and shelter when she could. Her wish was to create an environment, a home where they could end their days in comfort and a family surrounding with the warmth of a home. Raising funds to acquire such a home this moment. An energetic worker, Alexandra I. Merger allocated much of her time and effort to this goal.
At first, in the seventies, a hard working group of volunteers under the guidance of Alexandra Merger raised and accumulated sufficient funds to buy a residential home on mariposa Avenue. The original home could accommodate five residents. The large movie industry provided employment. Soon the demand exceeded the home capabilities. Continuing her effort, by the late seventies, Alexandra merger acquired two adjacent properties on Serrano Avenue in the area. One was donated by a widow, Marianne Perepelkina in exchange for life time care. The other was bought from Humanity Calls, a non-profit organization. In 1980 Alexandra merger becomes the official Los Angeles representative of a New York based, religious non-profit organization, St. John of Kronstadt, incorporated and recorded the two properties as a single parcel in the name of the corporation.
Continuing with her plan and enlisting more community support, A. merger and her talented treasurer, Lena Evash, develop a 20 room adult care facility on the two lots. By 1982 the newly built home opens its doors under the name of Saint John of Kronstadt. The beginning and the completion of the project are celebrated with Bishop Laurus from New York area and local clergy blessings during a religious service on the grounds in the presence of a large attendance followed by a luncheon.
Hollywood has undergone many a change since then, but the area is still dominated by small cottages. The St. John of Kronstadt Home seems to fit perfectly in the area what with its one story structure and red tile roof; it gives the appearance of a larger family home. Let us face it. It is exactly that, a large family home. Located on a quiet street, blending with environment. Like many houses it is surrounded by a wrought iron fence. Open the gate and enter a small attractive garden with blooming flowers and manicured planters. Follow the walk path leading to the main entrance. Once in, you would never think in terms of an institution, but rather that you are visiting the home of a friend. The furnishings help to enhance this feeling of home comfort.
A long hallway continues from the entrance foyer. Its walls display paintings, many depicting a Russian theme. On the left, a large living room with its traditional “red corner”, displaying religious icons and a small altar, where once a month is celebrated a divine liturgy and special services, molebens. It is furnished with soft furniture, a Persian carpet, pictures on the walls, curtains on the windows and bookcase in the corner with a selection of books. On the left, the office of the “mistress” (the administrator) liana Vertelkina, in charge of the Home. The office does not differ much from a home office if it were not for the volume of documents of a distinctly business flavor. Absent there is the cold Spartan feeling typical of an institution of this kind. Walking further along the hallway, on the left, a door opens to the dining hall: in the corner a large icon with a votive light.
Tables with gay colored table cloths, awaiting a large family for their next meal. Adjacent to the dining hall, a bright kitchen, equipped with all the latest equipment. The guests are offered four russian style meals. Two cooks and helper work there using only fresh produce of good quality.
Further down the hall, the laundry room, the common showers and 18 individual rooms and a large one for two people provide the necessary living comforts.
The residents must be ambulatory; canes and walkers may be used. Wheelchairs are acceptable on a temporary basis should a resident be in need of one. Bathing, dressing and grooming assistance is provided to the residents as needed. It goes without saying that particular attention is devoted to residents taken ill or those returning from a stay in a hospital.
A doctor or therapists visit the Home regularly; in case of need specialists are invited or in urgent cases 911 may be summoned.
The Home provides an on duty person around the clock, seven days a week. Three employees provide services in day time, two on the second shift and one on nights. Each room is equipped with telephone and an emergency call button. All individual half-bath rooms are equally equipped with emergency call button. Each resident can always summon for help should he or she require it, be it by phone or the emergency button. The person on duty will respond. The office emergency panel lights up when a call for help comes in signaling the source of the call. Also a light comes on above the door leading to the room in need of assistance.
The residents prefer usually to move in with their own furniture. It is hard an aged person to abandon his or her familiar surroundings. Environment continuity is very important to them. The Home will supply the furniture when so desired. There is always an excess of furniture available. Liana Vertelkina frowns on moving in with very old or damaged furniture. Please note that Home receives donated furniture, but only when suitable and on good condition. As a result the rooms are pleasantly furnished. Each room has it own half-bath with a wash basin and toilet. Only one room has its own shower.
A family ambiance is emphasized. The residents do live a family life. Birthdays and name days are observed. The person of the occasion receives a small present and a cake which is shared with every one, and for those who so desire a glass of wine.
The holydays a celebrated in a joyous atmosphere, recalling the old Russian traditions. For Christmas tree with toys and lights is set up in the living room. The local scout troops comes, sings Christmas carols and distribute presents. A special dinner is served. The same occurs for Easter with Kulitches, colored eggs and Cheese Paskha. The most remarkable celebration taken place at New Years with champagne toasts, music and dancing. Although it does not take place at midnight, nevertheless it is a particularly joyful occasion.
There are other entertainment: playing bingo, domino etc, lectures, group singing. Guest performers come and give small concerts.
Such activities render age limitations less noticeable. Residents can entertain guests or go out when they wish. Of course just as they would do it at home, they must notify of their time of return and whether they expect to be fed. On Sundays transportation is provided for those desiring of attending church services.
Living conditions are pleasant and comfortable in the Home. What is important that as they grow older the residents can rest and relax. They are given attention, care and are relieve of life daily concerns.
The Home is governed by a board of directors under the presidency of Michael G. Plautin. For the last twenty two years, M. G. Plautin and his wife Nina have dedicated their time to the Home which has prospered thanks to their efforts. At this time M.G. Plautin is retiring although he and Nina will continue to support the Home. The presidency is being taken over by Sergio Bazarevitsch who has been a director for over twenty years following in the footsteps of his father Nikolay, vice president, while he was alive. Sergio is an upstanding and successful member of our community.
The Board of Directors primary concern is the raising of funds for the Home, a non-profit organization. Unfortunately the residents can only defray 60% of the costs. Maintaining the Home in top condition and operational costs requires considerable funding. Contributing organizations make regular donations. The society of St. John of Kronstadt in Los Angeles has been organizing fund raising event-lunches and concerts-for over thirty years. Besides raising funds, such events allow the Home to maintain an extended and continuing living contact with the community of benefit to all. Any one wishing to help or looking for retirement accommodation for an aging relative or friend can contact the Administrator Liana Vertelkina at (323) 466-6467 or visit the Home at 655 N. Serrano Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90004.