Alexandra Zezulin

Alexandra Zezulin (née Shohov) was born in Thessaloniki, Greece on June 12, 1931, to White Russian émigrés.  Her father, Leonid Gavriilovich Shohov, was a lawyer educated at St. Petersburg University. He was a magistrate implementing land reform in pre-revolutionary Russia. Her mother, Alexandra Alexandrovna Shohov (née Kupreyanov), was a graduate of the Smolny Institute for Noble Young Ladies. After the Revolution, she worked as a German language teacher. Leonid Gavriilovich joined the White Russian Army and evacuated to Greece in 1921. Alexandra Alexandrovna was able to join him in 1926. They married on November 18, 1926; their oldest child, Panteleymon, was born on September 27, 1927. They did not become Greek citizens and had Nansen passports issued to refugees from the Russian Civil War. They hoped to return to a non-communist Russia.

Mrs. Zezulin was very ill as a child, nearly dying of pneumonia in 1932 and was given little chance of survival. She had to re-learn how to speak. She also suffered from chronic malaria. Mrs. Zezulin started helping her parents by cleaning and cooking at an extremely young age. It is hard for us to understand how difficult life was. For example, she used to make briquettes out of ashes by hand, in the process damaging her hands with the caustic mix. She started elementary school in Greece. As the war went on, there was no place to have classes anymore, the schools were all converted to hospitals.

The Shohovs lived in Greece during the Great Depression and World War II and experienced significant hardships. Fleeing the communist threat, the family evacuated from Greece to Austria and was in Vienna at the end of World War II. They survived exhausting walks, long uncomfortable train journeys with railroad cars overflowing with refugees, and bombings. Perhaps the most terrifying experience for the family was running from the burning part of Vienna about to be occupied by Soviet troops in May 1945. After the war they went to Bavaria, seeking a fertile farm area with food. They worked on several farms as field laborers, baling hay, picking hops, and caring for cattle. The work was arduous, and Mrs. Zezulin suffered injuries to her back and foot. Mrs. Zezulin and her brother were able to attend German school. While they did have schooling, it was truncated and inconsistent, leaving gaps that led both siblings to be voracious readers and learners in an effort to compensate.

The family decided to leave Germany because they feared that the Soviets would advance through Europe. They first applied for permission to emigrate to Argentina. Alexandra Alexandrovna then learned that the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) was relocating to New York and with it, the Kursk Root Icon. The Shohov family decided to come to the United States, and the U.S. documents arrived two days earlier than those for Argentina. The Shohov family arrived in the U.S. on July 17, 1950 on the ship General Harry Taylor. Mrs. Zezulin missed the much-anticipated graduation celebration of her German high school as a result. She was the first person in the family to get a job in the U.S., working in a factory gluing in paste jewelry components. The factory was a true sweatshop, without air conditioning. Mrs. Zezulin was also the first person in the family to obtain a driver’s license, and throughout her life was happily ready to give rides to people.

Mrs. Zezulin married Sergej Zezulin, an immigrant from Czechoslovakia of Russian descent, on July 12, 1953. Mr. Zezulin had served in the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Army and came to the U.S. in 1948. He was a 1952 graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  He helped build St. Seraphim of Sarov Russian Orthodox Church in Sea Cliff. Mrs. Zezulin was active in the parish throughout her life, in the sisterhood and on the parish council.

Mrs. Zezulin pursued a college education with determination and studied at several institutions, including, prior to her marriage, at Hofstra, and Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia. After her marriage she held a series of jobs on Long Island, including at Republic Aviation, where she calculated the speeds and thrusts of airplanes. The Zezulins bought their first home in Sea Cliff when their first child was born. Mrs. Zezulin developed a passion for photography, setting up a darkroom in the basement. Later the Zezulins built their new house.  She took up many other pursuits, becoming an incredibly good cook, she sewed and knitted beautiful clothes and blankets for children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She spoke Russian, Greek, German, French and English, loved playing Scrabble and doing the New York Times crossword.

With her husband’s tremendous support, while raising four children, Mrs. Zezulin completed her B.A. and M.A. in French at C.W. Post. She was a language teacher; she taught French at Friends’ Academy for several years and then taught French, German, and Latin at Buckley Country Day School. She taught Russian at St. Seraphim of Sarov parish school and was the head of the girls’ camp at Camp NORR (National Organization of Russian Explorers). She was always doing something for others. The last things she loved to do in the final days of her wonderful life that touches us so deeply, included driving, shopping for toys, playing Scrabble, knitting, feeding people and talking on the phone.

Mrs. Zezulin died at home on July 25, 2023 after a brief illness; she was preceded in death by her husband, the love of her life. She is survived by four daughters, thirteen grandchildren, twenty great-grandchildren, and her brother’s two children.


St. Seraphim Russian Orthodox Church
131 Carpenter Ave.
Sea Cliff, NY 11579