March 11, 2022

Timofey Prokhorov, Ost-West Friedenskirche / East-West Church of Peace

photo by an unknown photographer
as on website ruspole
This is the story of an inhabitant of the Rostov region of Russia, who in 1943, almost 50 years old, traveled with the retreating troops of the German army westward and after much wandering in 1952 ended up in Munich, Germany, where he near the former airfield Oberwiesenfeld built a cottage, a church and a chapel.

Life and works

Timofey Wassiljewitsch Prokhorov was born in January 1894 in Fedulov, a farm 12 km southeast of the village of Bagaevskaya in the Rostov region of southern Russia. 

He grew up in a fairly wealthy family. As a young man, he was soon familiar with the tractors that could be used in farming, but in the now emerging Soviet Union, farming was done collectively. So young Timofey became a coal merchant who delivered coal to people's homes by horse and cart.

He married and the couple had two children.

photo from website
photo from website
In 1941 the German army invaded Russia. Timofey was then too old to be drafted into military service. After some lost battles, the Germans began to retreat and in 1943 Timofey joined a retreating group en route to Austria. At the time his wife was pregnant with a third child.

The website of the friends of the East-West Church of Peace describes in detail that he did this at the behest of the Virgin Mary who appeared to him one evening in a column of light ¹. She told him to leave his family to set up for her a church of peace for east and west. And so he did.

photo by unknown photographer,
as on website Issuu

A journey of many years, ending in Munich

The website referred to above also tells how Prokhorov's journey went and what he did to support himself. With the retreating soldiers he traveled through Russia, Poland and Czechoslovakia to Austria, where he had to continue alone. He stayed for a while in Neukirchen, where in the autumn of 1944 he met Natascha, a woman from Russia whose husband had disappeared and who now became partner of Prokorov.

Together they went to Italy and in 1945, when the war was over, they returned to Austria, where they ran a bakery for a year and a half. Then they went to work for a farmer in Graz. Here they were given a roof in a barrack, which they used half as a house, while Prokhorov arranged the other half as a kind of church. 

However, in 1950 the peasant tore down the barrack, and Prokhorov realized that this was not the church he was supposed to erect for the Virgin Mary. After a time of fasting, he had a vision in which Mary said that the church had to be resurrected in Munich., Germany.

The journey to Munich was difficult, on the way they were arrested to be transported to Siberia, but managed to escape. In 1952 Natascha and Timofey finally reached Munich.

A place to live and build a church and a chapel

the church
this picture and the next four courtesy of Franz Kimmel

They were now in the town where the church was to be built, but where to begin......

The aforementioned website of the friends of the East-West Peace Church of Peace says that Timofey went to the police to ask about documents to stay in Munich. However, he was arrested on suspicion of illegal border crossing and was jailed.

After two weeks of fasting, the Virgin Mary appeared to Timofey and she told him that Oberwiesenfeld was the place and that he would be free the next day. He became free indeed and Natascha and Timofey  proceeded to the place indicated.

the living house

Oberwiesenfeld, traditionally a landing place for balloons and airships, became an airport for civil aviation in the early 1900s and was used for military air traffic during the war years 1940/45. After that it remained unused, although after the war much rubble was dumped, caused by the bombing that had hit the city.

Timofey and Natascha could make  good use of this material to lay the foundation and put together stone walls of the church they were going to build. In addition to working on this project, they succeeded in getting a six-hour a day job in a nearby cemetery, which provided them with some income for the time being.

While they were laying the foundations, a police officer came by to ask what they were doing. Timofey replied that they were building a church, to which the officer said it was not allowed. Timofey remained calm and stated that it was God's will, after which the agent said he would provide them with a registration form, which indeed happened a few days later.

ceiling of the church

The church, that was first realized, got an elongated rectangular structure with a gabled roof. Left and right more or less square extensions were added, each with a four part gabled roof. The entrance, the nave and the extensions were crowned with turrets, each with an iron cross. Clearly a simple structure, without any reference to Russian-orthodox or classical European religious buildings. 

The church was furnished with all kinds of ecclesiastical attributes and a ceiling covered with silver  paper. The building was not consecrated in an ecclesiastical way, because no denomination in Munich wanted to participate in such a ceremony. Timofey also did not want baptisms or weddings to take place in the church. Because he attended a priestly training for some time, he could wear a cross and the habit of a priest.

Timofey and Natascha used the church as a shelter until construction of their home, a simple barrack-shaped building, was completed. This shelter, by the way, did not have running water and toilet facilities.

 in the center the chapel dedicated to 
the Archangel Michael

The couple also built a chapel dedicated to the Archangel Michael, whom Timofey had seen in a vision one misty morning, addressing a crowd of thousands.

In between all the construction work, a garden was gradually established. There they grew fruits and vegetables, which they partly sold to visitors to earn some income

Gradually, the site became known in a small circle. Visitors came to help Timofey and Natascha with donations and food.

another view of the interior of the church

In the 1960s the site became known all over Munich, most notably when it was announced that the city would host the Olympic Games in 1972. In the mid 1960s places were designated for the construction of new sports facilities. The site with the church was in one of those places and should disappear.

The local newspapers paid much attention to the possible demolition of the church. Timofey, now known as Väterchen Timofey (Daddy Timofey), became a local celebrity. A signature campaign was launched to preserve the building and after an on-site visit by an advisory committee, the architect changed the location drawings in such a way that the site could continue to exist.

And today (March 2022) the site still exists, but the relationship between East and West has not become more peaceful because of Russia's war with Ukraine.

In 1978 Natascha died at the age of 82. Timofey would outlive her for more than 25 years. 

Mrs Gerner, a woman also from Russia, would assist him in the management of the church, chapel and garden during those years. She also arranged for Prokhorov's children to visit him several times. In 2002, the then mayor of Munich, Christian Ude, arranged that Prokhorov was admitted to a nursing home. In the same year an association of friends of the East-West Church of Peace was founded.The home of Timothy and Natascha was transformed into a modest museum.

Timofey Wassiljewitsch Prokhorov passed away on 14 July 2004. He was 110 years old.

the tomb of Timofey
picture from website proza
* Website of the Association of friends of the church
* Article (May 2020) on the weblog of Sela Miller
* Article (2021)  on website Proza by Anatoly Gurevich Kholodyuk
* Article (2016) on website Issuu (interview with Serge Kaiser, founder of the association of friends)

* Video (May 2021) by livingmunich (YouTube, 11'57")\

 * Video (March 2013) by Josef Neukirchen (YouTube, 10'02")  

* YouTube has more videos of the church, including a 1961 British Pathé production (1'22")

¹  Several passages from the website of the Association of friends contain accounts of events as reported by Timofey Prokhorov, but not verifiable. In this post I follow these accounts without further discussion, as this article focuses on the emergence of the church as a singular architecture. The article by Kholodyuk on website Proza includes critical notes.

Timofey Wassiljewitsch Prokhorov, 
Ost-West Friedenskirche
Spiridon-Louis-Ring 100. 
München, region of Upper Bavaria, federal State of Bavaria, Germany
can be visited daily

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