St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church
Stratford, Connecticut
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR)
Early History of St. Nicholas in Stratford

With the overthrow of the Russian Imperial Government in 1917 and the ensuing Civil War, many Russians fled for their very lives in pursuit of freedom to various countries throughout the world. In the late 1920s, a number of Russian immigrants settled in Stratford, Connecticut, and here they sought a place to freely worship God in the traditional Orthodox manner—as their forebears had done since the foundation of the Russian Church, at the dawn of the second millenium AD.

Lake Street church, 1931

A house was purchased at 37 Lake Street, with the support of the founders of the parish. These included: Igor I. Sikorsky, the famous aviation pioneer; Captain Boris V. Sergievsky, a test pilot; and Professor Nicholas N. Alexandrov. The first services were conducted in this humble house-chapel in December 1929. Worshipers stood in the living room—the choir, in the kitchen—and the clergy, in the dining room, which served as an altar.

Igor Sikorsky
Boris Sergievsky
Nikolai Alexandrov

Hieromonk Panteleimon (Nizhnik) briefly served as the parish's first rector before leaving Stratford to help found Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York: a major center of prayer and activity for the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia. In 1930, the parish welcomed a new rector, Father Stephan Antonuk. Through his dedicated efforts, the parish outgrew its humble beginnings on Lake Street—and with the generous support of parishioners and other donors, a plot of land on nearby Honeyspot Road was secured.

Fr. Panteleimon
Fr. Stephan with congregation

On the parish's tenth anniversary (1939), the new grounds were consecrated by Archbishop Vitaly of the Eastern American diocese, and money was collected to build the present structure. In 1941, the cornerstone was laid based on plans prepared by architect Alexis E. Boldakoff (who also designed the aforementioned monastery's chapel). He imagined a church in the twelfth-century Novgorod style, topped by golden cupolas. The completed building was consecrated in November 1942 by Metropolitan Theophilus and Archbishop Vitaly.

This milestone was indeed significant. The building's historical form testified to the founders' respect for their Russian Orthodox heritage; at the same time, the construction of such a building in twentieth-century America expressed the founders' commitment to their new home, and their hopes for their children and grandchildren, as both Orthodox and Americans.

Father Stephan would remain the rector of St. Nicholas parish for thirty-eight years in all, after which he was elevated to the episcopacy as Bishop Ioasaph of Edmonton (Canada).

Alexis Boldakoff
New church, 1942
Fr. Stephan conducts a wedding
Bp. Ioasaph

To be continued… (We are still working on this page!)