St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church stands in the forest of the South Koochiching unorganized territory in Koochiching County, Minnesota, about 35 miles northwest of Hibbing. I made a five hour drive from the Red River Valley to photograph this place at peak fall color in October of 2015.

An autumn drive through the Iron Range to reach this place is a treat like few others I’ve ever experienced. The small communities along the drive have a particular character — adorned in the color of rust, it’s almost as if they’re carved into the landscape, and in some places, they are. Working-class neighborhoods line the streets, where men and women work largely blue-collar jobs, equally at home operating heavy machinery as they are working with their hands. A dugout on a local baseball field shows two shades of paint, one layer applied decades earlier, beneath a more recent application, and a banner reads “Spartans.”

I turned north off of Highway 169 between Grand Rapids and Hibbing, where the highway winds past granite outcrops, and aged piles of boulders and mine tailings dot the landscape, and it was very clear that this part of northern Minnesota is the home of can-do people. I was soon in an unending wilderness and I’ll admit, thoughts of what might happen in the event of a car breakdown or an adverse weather event were not easy to banish from my mind.

The last forty miles took nearly an hour as I drove on a winding, undulating, two-lane forest highway in a hard rainstorm that seemed to spring up out of nowhere. The drive took me through Togo, Minnesota, home to an abandoned public school, and finally I had arrived at this place.

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

I was surprised first and foremost to discover this church in excellent condition. I had seen a photo of it on Google Earth, and it appeared to be in deteriorating condition. As it turns out, this church has undergone at least two restorations — one in 1995, and another in 2011-2012. There are two metal plaques on the front of the church listing donors for both projects. The restorations, in light of the remote location, are another example of the determination of the people who inhabit this part of Minnesota.

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

The sign reads:

Built in 1917-18 by the Lucachick & Sorokie families and many other neighbors. The church land was donated by the Lucachicks and the cemetery land by the sorokies.

Work still to be done: window sills & frames, replace the front doors with original design wood panel doors, repair the dome, repair various interior features and foundation.

Please send your tax deductible donation to: St. Peter & St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

Todd Lucachick
18469 Sugar Lake Trail
Cohasset, MN  55721

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches are fairly common in northern Minnesota, North Dakota, and across the border in Manitoba, too.

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

Technically, this church is located in Bramble, Minnesota, which is an unorganized community — really, more of a rural cluster of residences than a town.

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

If you enjoy churches like this, please consider ordering our hardcover coffee table book, Churches of the High Plains.

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2017 Sonic Tremor Media

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13 thoughts on “St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

    1. Oh there is a marvelous story of how that Church was rescued in 1968 and restored, with an Episcopal priest from Grand Rapids and an Orthodox priest from Hibbing working with an art professor from Augsburg College to paint icons to create the Iconostasis, and how old Archbishop John from (originally Riga Latvia) and Chicago came to bless the restored Church. I’d love to work with anyone interested and the local connections in sharing stories and I even have some photos of the interior. I’ve been by there a half dozen times over the last 25 years.My address is on my website at

    1. Andy, are you a relative of my Aunt Mary Woitel Kosiak, born 1904? She was married to Steve Kosiak, and had seven children. Lived on a farm in Pinconning, Michigan.

      Sharon Louise

  1. So happy to see this lovely article. My mother Eva Woitel attended this church with her parents John and Tyklia (Kraynik) Woitel, brothers Andrew and Michael, sisters, Mary and Rose. Eva is 98 yrs old and living in Rolling Meadows, IL
    Sharon Louise Presto, Eva’s daughter

    1. So nice to know that Eva is still alive. I met her on several occasions. She is a cousin of my late father, Matt Woitel. His parent were Andrew and Pearl (Perushka) Woitel. My grandfather helped build the church. In the enrty of the church, there is a picture of a wedding party with several Woitel’s in it.

  2. My wife’s grandparents were the Kuryla’s and homesteaded in 1905 on the county line on Hwy 65. Her grandmother is pictured in the wedding picture in the church holding her mother who was a baby at the time.

  3. To cousin Barbara…..I was up there during one of the restorations I contributed to in honor of my dad, Nicholas Woitel. Was the time George Diachok was in charge.
    Kelly Woitel

  4. The Little Bramble Church will be celebrating 100 years on 8-18-2018. Look forward to seeing you all in Bramble!
    Todd Lucachick

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