Mother Maria with her son Yuri. He stood with her till the end and helped people in need. Yuri died at the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp.

Mother Maria with Father Dimitri. He was her confessor and the chaplain. Both helped many Jews among others by forging baptismal certificates. Father Dimitri died at the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp.

Maria Skobtsova
(1891-1945)

Maria Skobtsova was born as Elizaveta Yurievna Pilenko into an aristocratic family in 1891, but she is better known as Mother Maria of Paris. Until the age of 32, she described herself as an atheist, then she married a Bolshevik, and after divorce she took solace in Orthodox Christianity. In 1918, after the Bolshevik Revolution, she was elected deputy mayor of Anapa in Southern Russia but soon the White Army took control over the city and the new government put her on trial. She was cleared of all charges by Daniel Skobtsov, her future husband. When the Red Army was approaching Anapa she decided to flee the country with her whole family, and through Georgia and Yugoslavia ended up in France. From her relationship with Daniel, she had three children: Gaiana, Yuri and Anastasia. Sadly the marriage with Daniel did not stand the test of time, and Maria devoted herself to helping the people in need in Paris. In 1932, after an official church divorce, she took a vow and took the name by which she is best known – Maria. One caveat on her part was that she would not be locked up in a convent but would be able to work for the needy. In a rented house, she created an energetic church community in which she helped refugees and the poor, and organised theological discussions. In Mother Maria’s life these two elements – service to the poor and theology – went hand-in-hand. For her the most important thing was helping, not praying. After the occupation of France by the Third Reich, Mother Maria continued her activity, also helping Jews whom she sheltered, helped to obtain baptismal certificates and organised their departure from the country. In February 1943 Mother Maria, her son Yuri, Fr. Dimitri and their collaborator Ilya Fondaminsky were arrested by the Gestapo. Mother Maria was sent to Ravensbrück in Germany, where she endured for two years, but due the bad conditions she passed away in March 1945. Her canonisation was celebrated in May 2004 at the Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky in Paris.