Father Guri (Demidov), Orthodox Hermit

Father Guri (Demidov) was a solitary monk who struggled at St. John the Baptist Skete, Kentlyn, New South Wales, Australia between 1960 and 1992.

Born in 1894, Fr Guri was a monastic in Harbin, China. Due to the cultural revolution, however, he moved to Australia, arriving on October 5, 1960, as a refugee. On arrival, he took up residence at St John the Baptist Skete, having been vacated the previous year. Living in a small, one room tin hut surrounded by thick bush he became its first, and only, monastic inhabitant. Fr Guri was devoted to prayer and craved solitude, and found both in the 18 hectare grounds of the skete, often attending daily services at the nearby Convent of Our Lady of Kazan.

In his search for silence, and in imitation of the monastic hermits of the Egyptian and Judean deserts, Mount Athos and the vast forests of Russia, Father Guri cleared out a natural cleft in a nearby sandstone rock face, making a small, cramped cave in which he would spend many hours reading prayers and using his prayer rope. This was his favourite retreat after communing at the Divine Liturgy. Only God and the holy Angels were witnesses to his prayerful vigils and struggles.

Father Guri was reputed to have had an extensive library on the ascetic life and hesychastic prayer (the use of the Jesus Prayer – the foundation of Orthodox Christian ascetic prayer). He would often laboriously copy excerpts from the writings of the Holy Fathers on the ascetic and spiritual life in small school exercise books. These anthologies, the fruit of his prayerful reading and spiritual struggles, he would give away as a blessing to those whom he felt would benefit from the wisdom of the Holy Fathers.

Over the succeeding years Father Guri laboured with Michael Sorokhin, together with volunteers from the Russian Orthodox community in Sydney, to erect a small brick building containing six monastic cells surrounding a large central room that was intended to be part of a large monastic church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. It was not to be completed. He waited alone, praying that others would join him. Old age eventually forced Father Guri to move from his beloved isolation at the Skete to a small hut in the Convent grounds, and finally to the Saint Sergius Nursing Home, Cabramatta.

Fr Guri reposed at 98 years on the 23rd of August, 1992. This faithful monk is buried in Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney.
guri cave
Father Guri’s small cave, scene of his many hidden vigils and spiritual struggles, has been cleaned of the dirt and rubbish accumulated since his departure. A floor has been laid, overhanging rock walls strengthened, and icons and a burning lampada installed. Sanctified by Father Guri’s prayers and tears, this sandstone cleft, the Skete’s first ‘church’, has become a place of pilgrimage and quiet prayer for growing numbers of visitors to the Skete.
http://orthodoxwiki.org/Guri_%28Demidov%29
skete_reconstruction02
On Bright Tuesday, April 16/29 April, 2008, His Grace Archbishop Hilarion blessed a granite plaque commemorating the commencement of the rebuilding and restoration of St John the Baptist Skete, Kentlyn.

see also http://orthodoxwiki.org/St._John_the_Baptist_Skete_%28Kentlyn,_New_South_Wales%29 , http://www.rocor.org.au/?p=826

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