St. Xenia and the Gleaners of Leningrad
Xenia Cherkaev

“This perfect essay is a portrait of a fleeting moment, post-socialist, and pre-monopoly capitalist. It illuminates a very recent time, still present but already shrouded, when excess and desperation held hands and a new economy of faith was born under the benevolent patronage of St. Xenia, who was called by the name Andrey Fedorovich.”

— Claudio Lomnitz


“A both mystical and prosaic story of a city and its protector saint. Cherkaev says Xenia the Blessed was a fool for Christ; she is a fitting sentinel for a people who, in the enduring absence of certainty and security, remain fools for hope.”

— Nina Serova


This essay is a serendipitously written hagiography, a grateful testament to St. Xenia’s continued vitality. And it is a kind of stockpile. The stories collected here were not gathered through the deliberate study of post-socialist miracles, but gleaned from many years’ conversations with people who lived through the unraveling of Leningrad. They are held together only loosely, bound by the chance relationships their tellers formed as they scavenged the ruins of what had once been the Soviet state, as they built lives and spun ventures from a planned economy’s rubble.