There are hundreds of images of the Virgin Mary, and lots of those we know little of. However, their stories let us see how close the Mother of God is to common folks.
There is a village called Nizhnya Ozeryana in the eastern part of today’s Ukraine. It is located to the west of the town called Merefa, Kharkiv Oblast. There is a river called the Ozeryanka, which gave the village and the icon, which appeared here, their names.
There wasn’t any human habitat here back in the 16th century. There were meadows on both shores of the river, owned by a local priest by the name of Theodore. He had an apiary on his farm. One of the locals was cutting grass on the priest’s meadow when he suddenly heard someone moan. He bent to see where the sound was coming from and saw an icon of the Mother of God in the grass. It was unclear how it had appeared there. Unfortunately, the man noticed that his scythe had cut the icon in two. He took the icon home with caution but when he woke up the next morning, he couldn’t find the icon anywhere in his house. The icon lay on the same place where the peasant had found it. But – oh the miracle! – it wasn’t cut. It appeared that the icon had coalesced again. There was a barely noticeable scar that reminded that the icon had been cut in half. Additionally, there was a lit candle and a water spring running nearby.
The newly discovered icon was small, 16×13 in. Both the Most Pure Virgin and Baby Jesus wear the same royal crowns. The Virgin wears a red tunic and a blue headscarf. Baby Jesus sits on her left arm. He blesses the faithful with his right hand and holds the Gospel in his left hand.
The soul of the Rev. Theodore was filled with joy when he learned of the apparition of the icon on his property. He carried that happy news to Bishop Theodosius of Belgorod and Oboyan. The bishop blessed him to build a church in honour of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God on that place. The holy icon was placed in the church. It immediately started making miracles. After praying in front of this icon, people would leave the church comforted.
The news of the wonderworking icon of the Mother of God spread all over the East Ukraine and even farther. For instance, the Lord cured Archimandrite Sebastian (Yukhnovsky), the Father Superior of the Holy Dormition Svyatogorsky Monastery. He heard about the newly-discovered icon and went to pray in front of it from his monastery on foot. The archimandrite had fallen severely ill but as soon as he learned about the miraculous apparition of the icon, he promised to walk there and pray in front of it. According to your faith be it unto you (Matthew 9:29): These words of the Holy Scripture were made true, and the archimandrite was completely healed. The Rev Theodore told the happy archimandrite that he was dreaming of establishing a monastery in Ozeryanka. The archimandrite was quick to support this God-pleasing undertaking.
The monastery was established in Ozeryanka in 1711. The existing church in honour of the Nativity of the Mother of God was expanded and decorated. They built another church in the monastery and consecrated it in honour of the Nativity of St John the Baptist. A refectory and cells for the brothers were built, too. The holy place was circled with a fence. That was how Theotokos Pustyn came to be.
The icon drew crowds of people to the monastery. The monks made numerous copies of that icon, some of which turned out to be wonderworking.
Thousands of pilgrims visited the Ozeryanskaya icon of the Most Pure Virgin. The news of the new icon spread over the Russian Empire. New miracles were added to the list of miracles that this icon performed every day. Miss Bardakova, who had been possessed by a demon, was cured. Two sisters received healing from their eye disease. A lame man from Liptsy started walking… There were mass miracles during cholera epidemic outbreaks in Kharkiv in 1833, 1848, and 1871. The monks walked with the wonderworking icon from house to house, while the city dwellers were praying for deliverance. The Mother of God saw their contrite hearts and rescued them from the severe illness. The water spring that flowed on the place where the icon appeared turned out to be salubrious, too. Nikita Pavlov, a merchant from Kharkiv built a chapel over it at his own cost. He expressed his desire to transport the wonderworking Ozeryanskaya icon to Merefa and return it with a procession every year.
The church and the chapel were destroyed in the 1930s. The Bolsheviks attempted to block the miraculous holy spring, too. However, it was always able to make its way back to the surface. The influx of the faithful didn’t stop. Miracles continue to happen there even nowadays. One such miracle happened to an old lady from Dnipro Region, who was unable to walk due to an illness. Her relatives brought her to dive into the spring, after which she rose to her feet and walked back to the car. A man from Sumy came to Ozeryany with his mother because he couldn’t get there on his own: He had worked at a chemical plant and lost his eyesight as a result of an injury. When he washed his face with pure holy water, he began seeing things.
The wonderworking Ozeryanskaya icon was lost in the early years of the Soviet rule. It was recreated only in the 21st century and consecrated in September 2010 on the place where the first icon appeared. Since then, the icon is located in Holy Protection Monastery of the Diocese of Kharkiv.
A chapel with two copies of Ozeryanskaya icon of the Mother of God was consecrated on the place of the ruined chapel in 1995.
Feast days: November 12 and May 5 (movable date).
Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds