Alexis, Bishop And Hieromartyr Of Voronezh And Those With Him 4 of 5

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However, in spite of this second "Buyevtsy" trial, the movement was not annihilated, and a second generation of priests took up the struggle for True Orthodoxy.

Meanwhile, Bishop Alexis was still alive. Archpriest Sergius Shukin recalls an encounter he had with him in the summer of 1936: "We were sent by convoy to the Ukhto-Pechersk concentration camp (in the far north). The transfer took almost a whole month, since every two or three days we had a stop at the following points: Kharkov, Orel, Syzran, Vyatka and Kotlas. In Kotlas the railroad ended and we were conducted further on barges along the Northern Dvine and Vychegda to the harbour of Ust-Vym. From there we were taken on camp trucks to the various camp points.

"At first on this convoy there were no clergymen: it was a mixture of political and criminal exiles. But at each stop our convoy changed - some left, others were added. And at Syzran we were joined by Archbishop Alexis, formerly of Voronezh and Kozlov. He was an old bishop, about 65 years old, tall and of a large build, with an unhealthy colour in his face. But the most extraordinary thing was that Vladyka was carrying with him two large and heavy suitcases. The other people in the convoy had only a single bundle with dry bread and clothes, so as not to attract the attention of the criminals. But the important thing was each carried his bundle himself and put it under his head at night.

"It was quite natural that the appearance of Vladyka with two suitcases became of immediate interest to the criminals in our cell. My companions and I made the acquaintance of the Archbishop and advised him to be careful, especially at night, when the criminals went hunting for other people's things. But Vladyka did not feel well and, shrugging his shoulders, replied: 'What can I do? Let them take them... All the same I will sleep at night.' Then we decided that we would take turns at night and watch over Vladyka's suitcases... The criminals were very dissatisfied with this turn of events and in the morning did not conceal their anger, but God preserved us from trouble...

"The same evening we were brought to the station for the further journey. Such transfers the NKVD always arranges at night, so as not to attract the attention of the local inhabitants. My companions carried Vladyka's suitcases and we were loaded into one of the compartments of a 'Stolypin' wagon....

"Under the Tsarist government people in such convoys received hot food twice a day, but under the Soviets they were given only a 'dry ration': 400 grams of black bread, 20 grams of sugar, and a piece of herring. Water was given only twice a day, morning and evening. Therefore, receiving in the morning a cup of water and after this some salted fish, those in the convoy were tormented with thirst the whole day.

"The whole way Vladyka lay and dozed. He spoke little and rarely; it was evident that he felt ill, and he ate nothing. Of course, both the wagon and the surroundings acted on him in an oppressive manner. The next day, when we arrived at the station of Kotlas, we were separated from Vladyka. Although he was heading for the same Ukhte-Pechersk camp, he was put in a different transfer barracks and we didn't see him again.

"Judging by the physical condition of Vladyka Alexis, the camp regimen was beyond his strength. He could not work, and therefore he could expect the worst rations: 300 grams of bread and once a day a watery soup. Even if people could have sent him food parcels, it wouldn't have been right away, until he could let them know his address. There was no thought given to the diet of prisoners, either; the food was the most crude and monotonous. One has to suppose that Vladyka could not survive long in such conditions. Such was the camp system of the NKVD in order to deliver them from those incapable of work..."

In 1937 Bishop Alexis was transferred to a prison regime, on October 9 he was condemned to be shot by a tribunal of the UNKVD of the Leningrad military district, and was shot in the region of Medvezhegorsk on November 3, 1937 (new style). Before his execution he was tortured. His body was found, together with about a thousand others, most of whom had been brought from Solovki to work on the Onega - White Sea canal, in Sandomorch, Karelia.

The Soviet press recorded the continued existence of True Orthodox Christians in the Voronezh area for decades to come. Thus Komsomolskaya Pravda for September 15, 1937 noted that young women had "recently founded a 'secret monastery' - 15 girls from two neighbouring collective farm villages immediately became nuns in it." Again, Soviet sociological studies conducted at the end of the 1950s found continuing pockets of True Orthodox Christians in the Voronezh, Tambov, Lipetsk and Michurinsk regions.

One of the survivors of those years, the ROCA Abbess Margarita (Chebotareva), recalls: "In 1933 we still had our parishes in places, non-sergianist parishes: the priest Fr. Pantaleimon served at Kolodez station. He was strong, even as a psalm-reader he had not accepted renovationism, and he did not accept sergianism. Fr. Emelyan served in Malysheva, and Fr. John Sklyarov in Ulyanovsk, while Fr. Jerome [who in 1933 made me a ryasofor-nun and blessed me with his prayer-rope] served in the village of Ivanovka.

"And then on one night [in 1935] all the priests were arrested. And there was a fifth with them, an old man, who was exiled. They were betrayed by a woman who was considered a nun. She came to sing with us. They said of her that she was a traitor, and we were so afraid of her, we were trembling. She was called Helen. She used to say that she was driving everyone into the Kingdom of Heaven. And it seems that they paid her for it. They were in prison for nine months, and there was a closed court which lasted for three days.

"In that night they also took Matushka Triena. In the world she had been Tatyana Petrovna Kumskaya, she was a nun of the Pokrovsky monastery. And so they came in the night, looked everything over, rummaged around, and took her. I remained with the sick Mathushka Iegudila. They didn't touch me or the sick woman. We were betrayed by a nun from the Pokrov monastery. She knew Matushka Triena, they were from the same monastery. She had been in prison, and they forced her to become a traitor there. So she came to us. Her excuse was that she wanted a book to read. We had a crack in the door, she went up and had a peek. The priests used to come to us. Fr. John would serve, once three priests served. Then, when Hieromonk Jerome came, he tonsured two nuns and made me a rassofor-nun. And the authorities knew about it. Once they brought a child to us, and Fr. Pantaleimon added a prayer to his [renovationist] baptism. Another time a sick woman had to be given communion, and the nuns also asked to have communion. The authorities knew about that, too. They began to tell Matushka Triena that there had been a baptism in her house. But she was from a monastery and was used to being truthful in everything, so she replied like a child that they had not had a baptism, but had only made an addition.

"The trial took place in the Metrophanes monastery just before Pascha. It lasted for three days, and I went each day. I was pleased because they had interrogated me and they said that interrogated witnesses could be present. So I remained and heard everything that they said. I heard one sergianist priest say that he had not served [in the sergianist church] by conviction, but because it was his profession - and they released him.

"But Fr. Pantaleimon, he was such a zealous priest. He accused everyone: one was unmarried, another was not wearing a cross. He was very careful to see that everything was in order, according to the law. And they gave all the priests eight years - but to him they gave ten. He did not return, nor Fr. Jerome, nor Fr. Emelyan."

Abbess Margarita continues: "In 1937 I received the little schema from Hieromonk Anthony from Tolshevsky monastery. He served secretly from one house to another. He tonsured many into monasticism, including Matushka Marionilla. Before the war Fr. Anthony was often with us. Once someone ordered forty days' prayer for a dead person, so he was with us for a whole month serving every day. Matushka Iegudila and I began be letting a room, but then someone gave us the frame of a house and we ourselves built a little house, and he served there. And when the war came to us, in 1942 he and three monks dug out an underground hut in a shed in Uglyanka and there constructed a church with an altar. It was a secret monastery. Three monks lived with him: Fr. Raphael, Fr. Gabriel and Fr. Angelist, old men whom he had tonsured into monasticism. And they were such workers! They never left the dug-out and slept there. Fr. Anthony was always expecting the Germans. He said that when the Germans came they would open a monastery in Tolshakh. But the Germans never got as far as Uglyanka. And then a Judas was found who betrayed them. On the feast of the Circumcision, 1946 they were arrested. They told us that Fr. Anthony was tied to a carriage drawn by a horse, insulted and tortured. He died in prison on April 17, 1946.

"We had to suffer much during the war: hunger and cold and bombardments, indescribable. I wandered around with two sick nuns. Matushka Iegudila died in 1942. I remained with the sick Matushka Triena. She lay in bed with dropsy for three years. She did not get up at all for seven months. When she died in 1945 I entered into obedience to schema-nun Marionilla.

"The three of us began to live together: Matushka Marionilla, Matushka Agnia and I. Matushka Agnia had been Anastasia in the world, she was born in 1901, and was an orphan. She had been with Matushka Marionilla since the 1920s. She had been tonsured into the little schema by Fr. Anthony, and into the great schema by Fr. John Andreyevsky. She died in 1971.

"At this point Fr. Nicander came to us. He was an archimandrite, the rector of the Zadonsk monastery. He had been in exile for eighteen years, and in 1945 came to us. Matushka Marionilla trusted him, received communion with faith, and then we all began to go to him. A person would be dying, they would come to give him communion, he would become joyful and peaceful and would die. But some doubted. Matushka Marionilla died in 1952.

"In 1952 I received the schema from Archimandrite Nicander…"

The last three leaders of the Voronezh community of True Orthodox Christians before the fall of communism were Archimandrite Nicander, Hieromonk Hilarion and Hieroschemamonk Ambrose. They were all buried in the same plot in Voronezh cemetery.

Protopriest Ioann Ardalionovich Andreyevsky, later Hieromonk Hilarion, was born in 1875 in the village of Golyshovka, Voronezh province, in the family of a priest. He finished his studies at the Voronezh theological seminary. In 1901 he was secretary of Archbishop Anastasius in the Annunciation Metrophanes monastery. After the death of the archbishop in 1913 he joined Archbishop Tikhon of Kaluga, with whom he remained until 1920, when he became priest in the Nativity church on Chizhovka in Voronezh and rector of the Resurrection church on Kamenny Most, being nicknamed "Voskresensky". In 1922, during the struggle with the renovationists, he was deprived of his parish, arrested and sent to a camp. In 1925 Archbishop Peter appointed him spiritual father of the penitent renovationists in Voronezh. Until 1928 he lived in the position of an exile, but served as rector of the Resurrection church, being one of the initiators of the union of the Voronezh diocese with the Josephites. He was arrested on May 10, 1928 and on August 31 was exiled for three years to Kinimekh in Central Asia. When Bishop Alexis heard of Fr. John's arrest, he came the same day to the church where the priest had been serving and comforted his grieving flock. After his release he was (on October 12, 1931) deprived of the right to live in twelve places, being confined to a definite place in the Central Black Earth region for three years. In 1930 he was again arrested. He spent 28 years in the camps and exile.

Abbess Margarita writes: that he was released in 1956. "At that time no one said where he was, and none of the believers except two knew. But they revealed the secret to me because of my sick nuns. Then it became possible to write, and Fr. Nicander sent letters to him. Fr. John knew Fr. Nicander from when he had been rector of the Zadonsk monastery. And I also wrote about all my perplexities to Fr. John. And then Fr. John sent a letter of twenty pages answering all my spiritual questions….

" He returned from his last period of exile in 1956 as a terribly sick man: he had terrible pains, a hernia and sclerosis...

"He served secretly in the city of Voronezh. He especially loved the Divine Liturgy…

"Fr. Hilarion had two daughters. The chekists forced them to isolate their father from the believers, and for this service they promised them a flat. But the chekists did not gain anything. For his refusal to compromise they called him 'hard-nut'. Fr. Hilarion served until the last day of his life.

"On the feast of the "Praise of the Mother of God", 1961, Fr. Hilarion was already lying on his deathbed, and he wanted to receive the Holy Mysteries. About five people gathered in his flat. And suddenly there appeared a chekist (they did not leave him in peace until his very death), who went in and began to write down the names of all the people in the room. Two managed to hide, and one was arrested and interrogated... On Great Thursday the NKVD came again and carried out a thorough search. They were looking for believers, but found no-one except those living in the house. Because of the impossibility of inviting any assistant to come that day, Fr. Hilarion had to serve the all-night vigil with the Passion Gospels alone. The great tension with which his last days were accompanied told on him, and on June 13/26, 1961 he died. Before he died he said:

"'I am sinful in everything, but I have not departed one iota from Orthodoxy.'

"He called Fr. Ambrose, handed to him the keys of the administration of the church with the words:

"'Since the day of the Church schism, canonical Orthodoxy, this golden living thread, has not been broken. I hand over all the Church's affairs to you until the appearance of an Orthodox bishop. And you must look for one!'

"Then he put his cross on Fr. Ambrose...

"The believers considered Fr. Hilarion to be a pillar of Orthodoxy..."

Hieroschemamonk Ambrose, in the world Andrew Antonovich Kapinus, was born in 1887 in the village of Krasnopolka, Malovisovsky uyezd, Kherson province into a large peasant family of which he was the youngest child. Andrew became an orphan when he was only twelve. He remained in the care of his elder brother. From this time he earned his bread himself by pasturing oxen.

"From early childhood," writes Abbess Margarita, "he loved the church; since he had musical talent, he began to sing on the kliros. The old people rejoiced on listening to the orphan, whose singing came from the heart. This was implanted in him by his mother: one of Andrew's undying reminiscences of his childhood was sitting on his mother's knee while she read the Jesus prayer and sang psalms and troparia, while tears streamed abundantly down her face. Evidently the prayers of the mother were heard by God, and He did not abandon the orphan.

"In 1906 Andrew entered military service. And since he was tall and well-built, he served in the Semyonovsky regiment. He often reminisced about this, and often used to recount to all of us the following story: the Tsar-batyushka often used to inspect the discipline of the Semyonovsky soldiers together with the Tsarevich. Once, on a certain feast day, the Tsar asked the young Tsarevich:

"'What should we give to each soldier - a ruble or a chocolate?'

"The young Alexis replied: 'Both a ruble and a chocolate.'

"After completing his military service, Andrew re-enlisted and went to Petrograd, and then to the war... And soon the bloody revolution began. Andrew was pursued by the Bolsheviks because he had been on the side of the Whites. He hid in a women's monastery and there served the priest. A little later [at the beginning of the 1920s] he left for St. Onuphrius' men's monastery in his native Kherson region. Here he received the tonsure with the name of Anubius. The monastery was soon closed by the Bolsheviks, and he began to serve as a hierodeacon in Kiev [until 1928]. When the disturbances in the Church began and they began to serve only in the Ukrainian language (the samosvyaty), he had to leave yet again. Then a hierodeacon whom he knew, Fr. Irinarkh, invited him to his house in Serpukhov, where half the churches were renovationist and half Orthodox. There he served [until November, 1930] under the omophorion of the truly Orthodox pastor, Bishop Maximus."

In 1929 Fr. Anubius was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Demetrius (Lyubimov). On November 15, 1930 he was arrested and on February 5, 1931 was sentenced to five years in the camps. He was sent to Vorkuta in the far north.

"The work was very hard," continues Abbess Margarita, "and consisted in tree-felling. If one didn't fulfil one's work norm one did not receive any bread. According to Fr. Anubius' account, he was saved by a bath which fortunately happened to be there.

"After being released [in the middle of the 1930s] he arrived in Astrakhan and earned his living by repairing shoes. But soon he was arrested again [in 1937, was sentenced to five years in the camps,] and was freed only in 1945 [or 1943]. Then he arrived in Voronezh.

"Here Archimandrite Nicander was serving secretly. He also had only just returned from exile. Fr. Anubius' request to be received into his community put the archimandrite very much on his guard - the times were terrible, and people were being arrested on all sides on the basis of denunciations. And for that reason Fr. Anubius' was not received. But soon he was again arrested [on January 4, 1951, and on September 15, 1951 he was sentenced to ten years in the camps]. He remained in the camps until 1955.

"In 1956 Archpriest John Andreyevsky returned from exile. Fr. Anubius was again in Voronezh and again requested to be received into the community. Now he was not refused. After a short time serving together, Fr. John asked to be tonsured, and Fr. Anubius tonsured him with the name Hilarion. Then Hieromonk Hilarion secretly tonsured Fr. Anubius into the schema with the name Ambrose.

"When Fr. Hilarion died, Fr. Ambrose vested him and buried him. Then he started serving in the Voronezh community. He also had to look after other parishes which for various reasons had been left without a pastor. He tonsured those who wanted it. Everything was done secretly... Remembering the blessing of Fr. Hilarion, they began to look for an Orthodox bishop...

"Fr. Ambrose died on October 1/14, 1966, without being able to hand over to anyone the affairs of the Church... The Voronezh community was orphaned.


End of part 4
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