The establishment of a Communist government in China after World War II, caused the Russian communities of such major cities as Harbin, Shanghai, Peking etc. to leave the country in the late 1940s and 1950s and settle in Australia, the United States and South America.
Throughout the early 1960s, Russian families from the Chinese provinces were being caught up in the Cultural Revolution and evicted from the lands they occupied since the early 1930s. These people, mainly Cossack families who did not wish to live under the Bolsheviks, settled in Singkiang Province, China's most western province, and Northern Manchuria. Many of these people returned to the Soviet Union, but others were able to migrate to the West, especially Australia.
Upon arrival in Australia, Russian migrants from Trehrechie were able to successfully settle into such existing parishes as Geelong, Cabramatta and Rocklea. However those coming from Singkiang Province, China's most western region, whilst in the main settling in Dandenong, did not become an integral part of the Melbourne parish. At first, some of the new arrivals joined the church choir and children attended the Melbourne parish school; however, it soon became evident that the cultural differences of this predominantly rural group precluded it becoming part of the more urbanised Melbourne community.
The Right Reverend Anthony Medvedev, Bishop of Melbourne, suggested that the new arrivals should retain their own traditions by setting up their own community. This became a reality in 1962 when the bishop arranged that clergy from the Melbourne parish would visit Dandenong, where the majority of the migrants had settled, and celebrate Divine services for them on the spot. At first services were held in private houses and then a more permanent place was found in the garage of the Metlenko family, where services were held for a number of years.
Archbishop Anthony Medvedev
Bishop of Melbourne
Bishop Anthony celebrated the first service in Dandenong himself, and thereafter Fr Tychon Kiryczuk and Fr Dimitry Simonow came, taking turns. The first church warden became Peter Ivanovich Metlenko. In 1963 a group of migrants from Trehrechie also settled in Dandenong and boosted the numbers of the community. By 1964 the community was able to buy two blocks of land in Morwell Avenue, Dandenong South for 1,600 pounds.
The Dandenong community was a dependency of the Melbourne parish for a time, but within a year the fledgling community was able to have its own priest, Fr Alexander Safronoff.
Priest Alexander Safronoff
On 20 September 1965, Bishop Anthony wrote to the Primate of the Russian Church in Australia, Archbishop Sava Raevsky recommending Safronoff for ordination and raising the possibility of having a second parish in the Melbourne area. This was agreed to and Father Alexander was ordained on 17 October 1965.
Blessing of the foundations
In 1966 the parish turned to building a hall on the Morwell Avenue land, which temporarily became both church and Sunday school. Work on the solid brick hall continued throughout 1967 and services were held there until 1982, when the parish finally moved into their purpose built church.
Building of the church
In April 1977 when Fr Alexander Safronoff left to live in the USA, Archbishop Theodosy Putilin invited a retired cleric, Archpriest Dimitry Simonow, to minister to the parish in Dandenong. Despite his age and poor state of health, Fr Dimitry undertook to minister to the Dormition parish in Dandenong until he became the victim of a car accident in December 1981 and was forced to retire from the active ministry.
Archpriest Dimitry Simonow
On 18 June 1979, Archbishop Theodosy Putilin officiated at the laying of the foundations of the Our Lady's Dormition church in Dandenong. Although the occasion was a joyous one for the diocese, within the parish there had been a great deal of conflict as to where the church should be built. This had led to a split in the parish and the parish council became alienated from the affections of the parishioners, most of whom simply stopped paying their membership fees and consequently lost any opportunity of changing the status quo. This situation continued until the 1983 annual meeting of parishioners when a new parish council was elected and gradually the rift in the parish was healed.
Archbishop Theodosy Putilin
Blessed the foundations of the Dormition church in 1979
Blessing of the Crosses
In January 1982, Fr Michael Protopopov, was transferred from Geelong to become the rector of the parish, and has remained in that position to the current day. On 19 August 1982, Archbishop Paul Pavlov ordained Peter Metlenko to be deacon in the parish of Our Lady's Dormition in Dandenong. Fr Peter continues to serve the parish to this day and was elevated to the dignity of protodeacon in 2002, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of his ordination.
Achbishop Paul Pavlov
Consecrated the church in 1986
Commencing in 1985 the parish employed a Greek iconographer, Mrs Anastasia Tsims, to decorate the walls and ceiling of the church with appropriate frescoes, in the traditional Russian style. This work was completed in 1988 in time for the celebrations of the millennium of Russian Orthodoxy. As a special offering to God in gratitude for the millennium, the parish contributed to the erection of a gilded altar for the sanctuary of the church.
On 11 January 1986 Archbishop Paul Pavlov officiated, together with the bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Australia, the Right Reverend Vasilje Vadic, at the consecration of the Our Lady's Dormition church in Dandenong, Victoria.
Archpriest Nicolas de Carleton
Curate 1999 - 2010
Over the years a number of additions were made to the original building. In 1983, a vestry and robing room were added adjacent to the sanctuary. By 1985, as the number of regular parishioners increased, the original porch of the church was enclosed to form an atrium, thus enlarging the church by another 16 square metres. In 1994 a baptistery was added to the northern side of the church, with facilities for full immersion baptisms of both adults and children. Finally in 1996, to comply with safety regulations, another addition was made to the southern side of the church matching the size and architecture of the baptistery. This addition provided wheelchair access to the nave of the church and incorporated a bookstore for the sale of religious books, icons and artefacts.
Today the parish consists of 250 families most of whom are regular worshippers. In addition to the church, the parish also possesses a hall with seating capacity for 200 people, a presbytery, a parish school with 9 classrooms and a large hall registered as "The Russian Community Centre," with seating capacity for 1000 people.