• Churaevka Village-Connecticut's Russian Past

    August 5, 2023
    St. Sergius Chapel

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    Many travelers who visit Connecticut and a cool Summer night in her forests, feel they have been transported to the Michigan Upper Peninsula or the Canadian countryside, as the climate is mild, and one of seclusion.

    Southbury's Russian immigrants at the turn of the twentieth century felt the same way.

    Fleeing the horrors of Lenin's Marxism after the 1917 Russian Revolution, a group of Russian artists fell in love with a 150 acre plot in Southbury, near the Pomperaug River.

    The village was settled in 1923 but designed in 1920 by two Russian writers, one of those writers just happened to be the son of literary royalty. Ilya Tolstoy is one of those founders, the son of Leo Tolstoy who wrote War and Peace. Ilya became fascinated with this area in Southbury that reminded him of his summer home in Russia, reported i95rock.

    Ilya invited his friend George Grebentschikoff to see the land and George fell in love with it also. Ilya came from wealth, George did not but Grebentschikoff was a well respected writer.

    The two set out to build a home for Russians in the U.S right in Southbury and ran ads in NYC newspapers inviting others along. 20 Russian families joined Ilya and George in Southbury. What they created, still stands today and you can see the 46 cottages, Russian Orthodox church and the church amphitheater just a short drive from Exit 13 or 14 off I-84. The village has three roads; Russian Village Road, Kiev Drive and Tolstoy Lane.

    Interesting enough, the village is less than an hour's drive to the famed Sikorsky helicopter plant in Stratford. Igor Sikorsky owned land in Churaevka Village. He paid for the construction of the St. Sergius Chapel.

    The statue above is of Sviatogor, the legend of the Russian giant who stood almost 8 feet tall and weighed 300 pounds. He protected the churches in Russia after Vladimir the Great Christianized Kievan Rus.

    Amphitheater outside the Russian Orthodox Chapel

    Actor/Playwright Michael Chekhov also lived in the village. He was the nephew of the famous playwright Anton Chekhov. Michael appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound in 1945.

    Tolstoy, who found the area first, fell in the love with the way the Connecticut hills reminded him of the Russian countryside and set up a home in Southbury in 1923, reported ConnecticutHistory.org.

    Grebenstchikoff purchased much of Tolstoy’s property in 1925, buying an additional 100 acres of property nearby the following year. He envisioned Southbury as a summer retreat for Russians living in New York and the surrounding area. It was customary in Russian culture during this time for the upper classes to have summer homes, but few immigrants could afford such luxuries on the salaries they drew after arriving in America.

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    L Todd Wood

    L Todd Wood, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, flew special operations helicopters supporting SEAL Team 6, Delta Force and others. After leaving the military, he pursued his other passion, finance, spending 18 years on Wall Street trading emerging market debt, and later, writing. The first of his many thrillers is "Currency." Todd has been a national security columnist for The Washington Times and contributed to One American News, Fox Business, Newsmax TV, Moscow Times, Novaya Vremya (Ukraine) the New York Post, National Review, the Jerusalem Post, Zero Hedge and others. He is also founder/publisher of CDMedia and editor-in-chief of Tsarizm.com. For more information about L. Todd Wood, visit LToddWood.com.
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