St. Xenia and the Gleaners of Leningrad
This text is, above all, a grateful testament to a local saint’s continued liveliness. It is a new hagiography, a story of a woman who gave away everything—her house, her money, her possessions, and even her name—who wandered homeless, and who has helped people resolve desperate situations ever since. Retelling the fragmented stories of how people asked for her intervention, and of how, through their actions, new mycelia of power grew on the ruins of the Soviet socialist state, I hope that this essay helps opens a loophole: a space between naïve faith and sociological faithlessness in which we might understand today’s miracles without crushing them by the secular objectivist gaze. Looking through this loophole, this essay retells some of stories I heard about the Soviet collapse and about how people survived it: about gleaning the planned economy’s rubble, chance connections, personal ties, Divine Providence, fast fortunes, and the enclosure of fields.