Funeral Tribute

Service BookletPrayers for Irina were lifted at St. John’s Cathedral in HK:

English Service @ the main Cathedral officiated by:
Reverend Hugh Phillipson

Russian Orthodox Service @ St. Michael’s Chapel officiated by:
Father Anton Seraphimovich

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
my last thread, I shall perish on the shore.
But swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son
shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
and having done that thou hast done…
I fear no more.

John Donne

A Tribute to Irisha expressed at the Cathedral Service by:  Joseph Pereira


“Thank you all for joining me today to Celebrate Irina’s Life.

Irina Antonia Sitnicova-Smolina… Irisha to me, touched our lives in her distinctive way and I believe, her bright spirit, will continue to do so through the many fingerprints she left in them.

She will always remain close in our memories and hearts as the beautiful, intelligent and caring woman that she was, immensely proud of her Country and her Cossack lineage, even when such fact would sometimes expose her to hardships.

Her strength and determination was forged and grew from the guidance of her close-knit family, her inquisitiveness and strong sense of self. Irina loved to learn, to explore and was a star student from her early days, a fact that; together with her height and good looks, made her a target for school bullies who kept pushing and abusing her on a regular basis… no matter how much her Grandmother would appeal to the teachers.

As tall and as strong as she was, Irina was born with a faulty “self-defense” gene and was simply not able to physically hurt anything willingly… She couldn’t throw a punch if her life depended on it.

But, she never forgot the price she paid for persevering to be the best… Instead, she used this inner-anger to fuel her determination to succeed and along the way, always fought to protect the rights of those in abusive situations; whether animal or human and many in HK have been blessed by her actions and stubborn determination to do so.

Like our dog “Maximilian Mozart”; simply Max to us, for example… A young pure-bread German Shepherd that had been locked in a small cage, abused by unscrupulous breeders until they were raided and shut-down by the Police, who was nothing but a lump of hairy bones that could hardly walk when Irina saved him a couple hours before he was scheduled to be put-down. I just rolled my eyes when I saw her carry this hairy smelly bunch of bones into our car and wondered to myself, what on earth is she thinking???

But she wasn’t “thinking” … She knew her “NORTH” and was doing what she did best… She was caring and loving ALL life instinctually. And of course, she nursed Max back to the healthy and beautiful 4 y.o. 51 kilo (112 lbs.) mountain of a dog that he is today.

They bonded through the process… both remaining loyal and by each other’s side until the very end. Together, they formed an awesome sight; two mighty “Russian Bears” which; although both peaceful and loving, often seemed to intimidate more than attract those that crossed their path.

Irisha was immensely creative and everything she touched bore fruit and became beautiful… starting with her beloved daughters.

To the Garden; which she transformed from a field of weeds to planting beds that blossomed into beautiful flowers.

To the Sewing Machine; which she masterly used to craft her uniquely designed shoulder bags out of old neckties and other creations.

To recycling and refinishing discarded furniture she would find along her walks, to molding clay; which she used to create the most intriguing figurines and Christmas dolls.

To the Kitchen; where she loved to bake deliciously aromatic breads… Baking bread was as sacred a ritual as praying in this Cathedral to our Irisha…

She would have Chopin or Mozart or one of her favorite Russian Ballads softly playing in the background and loud voices were strictly forbidden in her kitchen as she kneaded the dough, softly talked with it and shaped each loaf into life most of which she then would share with friends and neighbors.

Yet, for all of her persistence, excellent upbringing, education, loyal character, professional expertise and diversified skills, she wasn’t able to significantly break-through Hong Kong’s professional “wall” and most often wouldn’t even hear back from the many HR departments or recruiters she tried to work with…

This fact deeply hurt her even as she tried to hide it deep inside herself.

Like all of us, Irisha desired to be DESIRED.
To be useful and wanted.

So, she loved St. John’s and all of the people within it that welcomed her with open arms and made her feel loved and worthwhile.

People like Reverend Hugh Phillipson officiating this Celebration and his wife Ruth… her team-mates that serve the CLARES and all of you here today.

It was the highlight of Irina’s day to be here as often as she could to contribute to the CLARES and to pray for God’s protection and guidance in her life.

She asked for very little, I believe she deserved everything and now with God; her purpose fulfilled, she is whole and complete.

And so, to Irisha’s St. John’s Family, to all of our dear friends and her Russian family here today, let us REJOICE for her spirit even if it hurts us to do so… for I have no doubt that is what she would want us to do.

May our Irina’s passage from this hectic place to the Peace of God’s side, be a Celebration of Life that brings HEALING and HARMONY and BLESSINGS to all that knew and cared for her.

Finally, know that your presence, your prayers and your unfaltering support continue to be COMFORTING and UPLIFTING to her Bright Spirit, to her family and to me.

They do make a difference and…

We are immensely grateful to you all.”

Copyright, Joseph Pereira 2017-2020

NOTE: The CLARES is a 55+ year-old St. John’s organization, that raises funds for charities through their recycled article sales…

About JP
"There is nothing to be found in a beehive that is not submerged in a bee. Yet we may explore a bee forever and still never find a hive..." Kevin Kelly's - Out of Control

4 Responses to Funeral Tribute

  1. Patrick Gillot says:

    Beautiful and loving Joe. I did not have the privilege to meet Irina but I now know her as the magnificent human being she was, thanks to your tribute. I pray for you and for her.


  2. JP says:

    Thank you my dear friend Patrick for being with us at the service and for your caring words. I will never forget your kindness.


  3. My heart breaks for you Joe, for Irina’s bright and beautiful beam of light cut short, and for her two girls that will have to grow into beautiful women without their loving mom… A very touching tribute to her life, you wrote. So many dreams cut off… Wishing you the strength to continue on with a purposeful life as Irina certainly would have wanted you to. My deepest condolences again.


    • JP says:

      Dearest Cecilia, thank you very much for your condolences and kind words. I am fortunate to have your caring and support my dear friend.


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