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Saint Olga of Alaska (Whirledge) Icon - S607

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Saint Olga of Alaska (Whirledge) Icon - S607
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Saint Olga was born on February 3, 1916, in the Yup'ik village of Kwethluk, Alaska. Her family herded reindeer, and Olga (Arrsamquq, her Yup'ik name) loved spending time in the mountains as a child, playing with her six brothers.

She married her husband, Nicolai Michael, in January 1935. She gave birth to her first of 13 children in November of that same year. Three of their children died in infancy, two around the age of three, and eight survived to adulthood.

Olga served her community as a midwife and a healer. Her daughter Anita described her presence as "low-key" and calm, going about her business without making "a big deal out of it." In Yup'ik culture, such women were known to have strong faith, and Olga was no exception, practicing traditional medicine in her village coupled with her Orthodox faith.

In 1962 Olga's husband was ordained a priest, and she gained the title of "Matushka" (priest's wife). She began serving their parish in this important motherly role. She is known to have memorized major church services, baked the eucharistic Prosphora bread, made vestments, organized events in the life of the parish, and provided hospitality for guests.

She continued to care for the children of the village, compassionately providing clothes and food whenever it was needed. Through example, rather than punishment, she taught discipline, and was a true mother and grandmother to the community. She passed on the Orthodox faith to the children of her village, as well as the traditions and stories of their culture.

In the late 1970s she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her health returned for awhile, but she declined in 1979. In preparation for her death, she gave away her possessions and instructed her family how to carry on her responsibilities. She reposed peacefully on November 8, 1979, on the feast of the Synaxis of the Angels. Miraculous events surrounded her funeral: being November in Alaska, travel was dangerous and many who desired to attend were not able. But on the day of the funeral, the weather became mild, ice melted, and even thr ground softened so her grave could be dug. Fair weather birds even appeared. The following day, winter weather returned.

Many children born afterwards in the village were named Olga in her memory. In Orthodox fasion, her veneration started from the grassroots, spreading from local veneration in Alaska to the rest of North America and the world. Women who suffered abuse found healing at her gravesite. She has become known as an intercessor for mothers and midwives; many Orthodox women have an icon of St. Olga present while in labor.

On November 9, 2023, Saint Olga's glorification (canonization) was authorized by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America. Her formal glorification service will take place at a time to be determined. Her feast day was established on November 10.

This icon is offered by Legacy Icons with the permission of the iconographer, Brian Matthew Whirledge.


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