IN VIEW OF LATER DEVELOPMENTS,
IT SEEMS PROVIDENTIAL that, although not of British stock, I
should have been born in England, a privilege the value of which
I was to realize only in later years. My father, of Russian origin
and Bulgarian nationality, had met my mother at Geneva, where
he was studying medicine, my mother having left her home University
of Berlin to pursue her French studies in Switzerland. Owing
to the different marriage laws obtaining in both countries, they
decided to marry in England. So it happened that I was born in
Hove, on September 20,1901. By way of compromise between the
Orthodox Church of my father and the Judaism of my mother, I
was baptized in the Church of England and received my first,
very deep impressions of Christianity in a Low Church milieu.
Though German is my mother tongue, I began English in a kindergarten
at the mature age of three, and went to various schools, mainly
in London, till I was ten.
As my father died young, my mother decided to return to Germany
to her parents. Here a German education was superimposed on my
English foundations. As my mother had been one of the first,
though not the very first, students at the University of Berlin,
she wanted me to have the same classical education she had received.
So I was sent to one of the best schools of the German capital,
and learned Latin and Greek with great delight.
In choosing a career, I was
torn between my two heritages. Was I to be a doctor or a teacher?
Fortunately, the question was decided by our financial position
which did not allow me to go in for so expensive a training as
the medical. As I had a good command of English, I decided to
study English, mathematics, physics and philosophy at the University
of Berlin, where we lived. Only I could not take my doctorate
there, owing to my queer combination of subjects; so I went to
Marburg for that. After six years I was proud possessor of the
Prussian Diploma for Secondary School Teachers, taken in Berlin,
and a Dr. phil. (Ph.D.) of the University of Marburg, with a
thesis on the British post-war novel. From 1929 to 1933, I taught
at various schools in Berlin and the neighborhood, continuing
my English studies in my spare time with a view to becoming a
university lecturer in that subject.
Meanwhile, one of my early
childhood wishes was by way of finding fulfillment. I remember
quite distinctly, at a time when I could scarcely write myself,
being thrilled at the sight of an adult's notebook filled with
hieroglyphics from cover to cover. How I wished I could do the
same-write my own stuff, I mean. I had written my first poem
in 1926, and now made my debut, though not yet a Catholic, in
a Catholic teachers' periodical with an essay on some of the
abuses of the educational system then prevailing in Prussia.
Other essays on educational subjects followed, and as I was at
the same time elaborating my thesis, I was kept fairly busy.
In 1932, Tauchnitz published my first book: Neue Wertungen im
Englischen Roman, on the English novel of the twentieth century.
My future seemed assured. But
then I had not reckoned with party politics. Alas, or rather,
thank God, my mother was a Jewess, and I lost all my prospects
of making my way in Germany. Then I bethought myself of the land
of my birth and early years, which I had revisited only once,
in 1927, previous to an important examination, to "brush
up my English." After making some very valuable contacts
in Switzerland, I went to London and started at the bottom of
the ladder again. It took exactly eight years for me to recover
what had been mine in Germany, a university degree (a B.A. from
the University of London with first class honours in German and
subsidiary Ethics), a good position at a secondary school, and
publication of another book.
Yet how much more had been
granted to me than I had lost! For one thing, I now possessed
a second country with whose language and culture I was thoroughly
familiar-a year's studentship at Westfield College, University
of London, had given me an insight into English student life,
while a series of lectures and war work of various descriptions
brought me into contact with members of different social classes.
But, above all, in November of 1939, I had found the Faith.
This was the culmination of
a search which dated from 1930. Before that year, in spite of
my childhood impressions in England, religion had been more or
less dormant in my life. The Berlin of my school and university
years provided no suitable atmosphere for the pursuit of God,
especially for one whose relations were Jewish and whose friends
for the greater part were agnostics. Yet even then the need for
a Supreme Authority in life and morals made itself felt. Together
with others of my generation, I questioned the validity of the
then prevalent philosophical relativism, and even went as far
as to doubt the reality of my own authority as a teacher. However,
it was only in 1930 that the pursuit began in earnest. I began
to study Catholic as well as Protestant theologians, and the
experience of exile only served to intensify my desire for Absolute
Truth. ~ This led me from the Evangelical branch of the Church
of England, with occasional visits to Nonconformist services,
via the Buchman group to High Anglicanism which, as with so many
others, proved a stepping stone to the Catholic Church. However,
it took the whole weight of Jewish persecution-how we laboured
to rescue as many Jews as we could from Germany, my own mother
among them!-and the agony of the early months of the war till
I was prepared to take the final step.
My real life began on March
7, 1940, and with it a reorientation of all my powers. I was
then doing part-time work at an excellent school in Sussex, the
Burgess P.N.E.U. School, and had sufficient leisure to study
and live in the light of the Faith. The first practical result
of the mental and spiritual strengthening was a renewed occupation
with a book on National Socialism, which I had begun at Westfield
College and had never finished because it would not "come
right." Now I experienced the truth of the saying that without
the Faith we can do nothing, and as a corollary, that with it
we can do everything. What had seemed so difficult before, to
explain the nature and rise of National Socialism to myself and
others, became easy. Considered as a heresy, National Socialism
lost both its evil power and its fascination. I was fortunate
in finding a publisher, Burns, Oates & Washbourne. In 1941,
The Heresy of National Socialism appeared, with a foreword by
His Grace, the Archbishop of Liverpool.
It was well received, and its
author turned to subjects of more immediate interest to a recent
convert-subjects connected with the new life that was growing
within her. Spiritual subjects became my main concern, and articles
of mine were published by Blackfriars, Carmel, the Franciscan
Annals, the Tablet, and the Catholic Herald. Meanwhile, encouraged
by my spiritual director, I wrote an account of my spiritual
Odyssey entitled Two Passports and No Home, which however, together
with two plays- a nativity play, The King's Quest, and a full-fledged
five-act play, The Five Talents-have not yet been published.
The Five Talents was written when already a higher call had sounded,
and the apostolate of prayer had revealed itself as even-more
effective than that of the pen.
In September of 1949, I entered
a Benedictine Convent in Belgium. We are preparing a new foundation
of Benedictines of the Byzantine rite who by prayer, study, and
the recitation of the Divine Office in Slavonic, labour for the
union of the Eastern and Western Churches. We work under the
guidance of the Benedictine monks of Chevetogne, Belgium, who,
for the past thirty years, have devoted themselves to this apostolate
and are known throughout the Catholic world as the editors of
the periodical Eirenikon.
Whether I shall be allowed
to write again, I do not know. I leave the decision to my superiors.
What I do know is that this work for the reunion of the churches
is what God wants of me now. And that is all I need to know.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: In 1955, Miss
Marinoff was back in England as a member of a conference on Christian
ethics held at Downside during Low Week. The papers contributed
to this conference, hers among them, were edited by John M. Todd,
and published by Burns, Oates & Washbourne in 1956 under
the title The Springs of Morality.]