Saint Matushka Olga (Arrsamquq) of Alaska.

Saint Matushka Olga (Arrsamquq) of Alaska. 8x10” Egg tempera and gold on panel. 2024.

Matushka Olga Michael was a Native Alaskan of Yup'ik origin (Arrsamquq was her Yup'ik name).  She is the first North American woman and first Yup'ik person glorified as a saint by the Orthodox Church. Her husband Father Nikolai Michael was the village postmaster and manager of the general store, and later archpriest. She memorized major church services, baked the eucharistic Prosphora bread, made vestments, organized events in the life of the parish, and provided hospitality for guests. Serving her community not only as a priest's wife, but also as a midwife. Matushka Olga gave birth to 13 children of her own (8 of whom survived into adulthood), many of whom she gave birth to on her own without the aid of another midwife.

She continued to care for the children of the village, compassionately providing clothes and food whenever it was needed. Through example, rather than punishment, she taught discipline, and was a true mother and grandmother to the community. She passed on the Orthodox faith to the children of her village, as well as the traditions and stories of their culture.

Matushka Olga was known for her empathy and caring for those who had suffered abuse of all kinds, especially sexual abuse. While her family was poor, she was generous to those who were poorer, often giving away her children's clothes to the needy. She was known for her ability to tell when a woman was pregnant.

In November 1979, she died of cancer after a years-long battle. When Matushka Olga died, many people from miles around wanted to come to her funeral, but since it was November, the winter weather made it impossible. But a wind from the south brought warm weather, thawing the ice and snow to make the trek to Kwethluk possible. When the mourners exited the church to take her body to the graveyard, a flock of birds followed (all Alaskan birds migrate south in late summer). The ones who dug her grave found that the ground, too, had thawed. The evening after her funeral, the normal harsh winter weather returned.

Saint Matushka Olga (Arrsamquq) of Alaska. 7x9” Egg tempera and gold on panel. 2024.

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