Friday, June 27, 2008

Ivan Kraskin and Two Degrees of Separation from a Saint!

Ivan Kraskin and Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

I was looking through some photographs I had scanned into the puter and realized ... I was at two degrees of separation from a real saint! Well, nearly. But the Albanian nun is well on the way - beatification in 2003 being the first step to canonization!

We were staying at 'Bianca's Garden' in Malate, Manila, a couple of years back. The pension is a converted 1920's Spanish mansion, filled with tribal artifacts. Famously it has a large shady tropical garden and pool. And, more to the point, a 24 hour kitchen - for re-fueling after big nights out!

'Bianca's Garden' Pensione, Malate, Manila

The Garden of 'Bianca's Garden' Pensione, Malate, Manila

Interior of 'Bianca's Garden' Pensione, Malate, Manila

We struck up a conversation with an elderly and very adventurous traveler, Ivan Kraskin. He was passing through the city to catch a tramp steamer to Borneo to see orangutans. And turned out to be extraordinary in so many ways, not the least of which was speaking eleven languages: English, Russian, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Swedish, Arabic, Chinese and Japanese.

After a few wonderful and quite emotional days with him in which we shared as much of our lives as we could fit in, we exchanged contact details - but didn't expect to hear from him again. Happily a letter arrived from New York a couple of months later, with the photograph of the Ivan and the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta - more extraordinariness!

We began corresponding. But I haven't heard for a bit and fear the worst. It stops me writing - which is silly but still.

I realize that life isn't always necessarily about the big stuff. It can be just momentary encounters. Certainly I've thought a good deal about Ivan Kraskin, seemingly out of proportion to the time we all had together. I wish he'd been a greater part of my life.

I suppose the thing is recognizing when you are in one of these moments and carpe diem ('seize the day'). Or the price can be a deep regret.


  1. Thank you so much for that post! Its a great story and im glad you shared it. Great blog.

    Dave G

  2. thanks david. the post has been a bit of a work in progress - i keep adding photos and expand on the general thrust of what i was originally thinking about - travel and it's unexpected riches. good to hear from you. take care. nick

  3. I have a third-degree relic of Mother Teresa. When I was in seminary, we helped to print and bind the manual for the order that she founded. She sent each of us a holy card personally addressed to us in her handwriting and with her signature. I got it valued about 10 years ago and they said that it was worth $250. I said that I would wait until they made her a saint and get it valued again.

  4. hey chris. wait and it could be the (minor) equivalent of winning the lottery! good of her to take the trouble to do it personally! by the way, what does her writing look like - saintly/extravagant/??? take care. nick

  5. Mother Theresa does not deserve the respect that gets heaped upon her.

    She associated with the corrupt and wealthy including Haitian dictator Jean Claude Duvalier and fraudster Charles Keating.

    She believed that the suffering of the poor was a good thing:

    "I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people."

    That's a pretty fucked-up philosophy if you ask me.

    There is evidence that medicine and pain-killing medication were withheld from her patients because of some twisted Christian logic about the nobiity of suffering.

    She was either deluded or cruel or both.

    For some reason many people seem to tolerate dubious morality and behaviour when it is all dressed up with a crucifix and a halo.

    I recommend you read 'The Missionary Position' by Christopher Hitchens.


  6. I am friend of Mr. Ivan Kraskin and he is a very good friend of mine.
    He is the same one of the picture you posted!
    I printed this page that you wrote about him, plus the pictures of him and Mother Teresa.
    If you need more info about him you can contact me.