Matushka Olga Michael was born on February 3rd 1916 in Kwethluk, Alaska, on the Kuskokwin River. She married the village postmaster and manager of the general store. The marriage was ‘arranged’ and at first was very difficult. Gradually her husband became more kind and more influenced by her faith. He later became the local Orthodox priest. Of the 13 children to which Olga gave birth, only 8 survived. She was to have over twenty grandchildren.
Olga’s was a poor family and she showed great compassion in this poor and remote community. As a child Olga had known trauma and sexual abuse and as the village midwife she alone, outside the victim’s family, noticed signs of domestic and sexual abuse and cared for the victims and helped the women address it.
Olga’s Orthodox faith inspired her life. Someone who knew her wrote: She didn’t talk a lot. She just would go ahead and do what was needed… in order to help anyone with just about anything… She used to make traditional fur boots and parkas as donations to… other communities… which were trying to raise money. It was said that she was a living icon of healing care for those on the margins.
For Olga and members of her community faith was rooted in the created world. Unusual signs of changes in temperature, or unexpected weather patters surrounded Olga’s funeral. An Orthodox priest from Alska comments “the cosmos still cooperates and participates in the worship the Real People offer to God.”
A moving vision of Olga is described years after Olga’s death by a woman who had suffered severe sexual abuse in childhood. While in prayer the woman had a dream of Olga leading her through a forest to a clearing with a barabara (a traditional communal dwelling of Olga’s people). Inside, St. Olga assisted her through a process of healing and gave her some fragrant tea to drink. Afterwards, they went outside and looking up at the northern lights, St. Olga said, “the moving curtain of light was to be for us a promise that God can create great beauty from complete desolation and nothingness.”
Be inspired by women like Olga, who have courageously faced abuse and poverty and helped others. May they have a significant part in the Calendars of the saints of the Church.