Obituary – Irina Ivanovna Sofronitskya, 1920-2020

Irina Ivanovna Sofronitskya A living link with the history of the Scriabin museum and with the family histories of Scriabin and Sofronitsky has passed away.

Irina Ivanovna Sofronitskya died on Thursday August 20, 2020. She would have reached her 100th birthday on September 28.

She was born in 1920 in Leningrad. Her younger brother, Nikolai, died in the 1970s. Her father was arrested and executed in 1937. Her mother was a woman of great erudition who spoke several ancient languages, including Sanskrit.

Irina Ivanovna moved with her mother and brother to Moscow after the siege of Leningrad. Having inherited her mother’s love of old languages, she set about translating patristic texts.

Contact with the Catholic church in Moscow led to a dramatic and permanent conversion: at the moment of the Elevation of the Host during a communion service, she felt a hand upon her and a demand that she kneel.

Her frequent visits to the church of St. Louis led to her arrest by the KGB in 1947 and a sentence of twenty-five years imprisonment in a labour camp for ‘contacts with foreigners aiming to damage the interests of the Soviet Union.’ She managed to receive the eucharist in secret while in the camp through a Father Viktor who was in the neighbouring (men’s) camp.

Irina Ivanovna was released along with many others after the death of Stalin in 1953. After her return to Moscow she met and married Alexander Vladimirovich Sofronitsky, son of the great pianist and interpreter of Skryabin. She began to work at the Skryabin Memorial Museum in Moscow. Possessed of an all-embracing spirituality which affected every aspect of her life, she felt that the music of Skryabin brought her nearer to God, and was able to take up her religious practice again. She remained on the staff of the Museum for many years and can be seen on the film of Vladimir Horowitz’ visit to the Museum in 1986, notably with her close friend Elena Skryabina-Sofronitskaya.

She developed a passionate attachment to the Museum’s earlier director, Tatyana Shaborkina, and to her mother-in-law Elena Skryabina-Sofronitskaya, whose childhood home the Museum had been. Irina Ivanovna remained a deeply committed Catholic; but unlike certain eminent philosophers, she saw no difficulty in finding God in the music of Skryabin, especially in the performances of her father-in-law, and her love of Skryabin’s music, of Vladimir and Elena Sofronitsky and of the Catholic Church stayed with her until the end. Her opposition to Skryabin’s relationship with Tatyana Schloezer and to Sofronitsky’s second marriage was implacable.

Irina Ivanovna’s profound spirituality was not only for Catholics: it was open and alive to all whom she encountered. She had the rare gift of meeting the individual before her with complete honesty and respect without the slightest compromise of her own faith. Despite her illustrious connections and the fascination of her long experience, she remained an utterly simple and self-effacing character, who detested self-advertisement.

Thanks to the Catholic Church of St Louis of the French in Moscow for many details in the above biography.