Igumen Barsonuphius (Grigoryevich? Yurchenko) was born to a prosperous family in the village of Lozavatka, Mikhailovsky (according to another source, Elisavettgrad) uyezd, Kherson province in a peasant family in about 1880. He finished his studies at a missionary seminary. Until 1905 he worked as a teacher in the city of Alexandria. From 1907 he was a novice in the Kiev Caves Lavra. He was tonsured in the Lavra. From 1915 to 1920 he was a teacher in the Birzyukov monastery in Kherson diocese.
In 1918 he was almost shot by a band of Bolsheviks who demanded a large sum of money from the community under threat of death. The whole brotherhood had already been made to stand against a wall, waiting to be executed, but the sum of money demanded was somehow found and they escaped death. It was wonderful to hear Fr. Barsonuphius relate the unusually joyful condition he was in when he was so overcome by a foretaste of eternal life that death became something desired, he longed for it to come about as soon as possible. And how great was his disappointment when he did not achieve this aim because of the remission of the execution.
For a short time the community was subjected to the common lot of looting and repression. Then, under cover of night, Fr. Barsonuphius ran away and hid in the house of his brother. However, he was arrested and imprisoned in terrible conditions in stuffy, damp basements, where his cassock rotted away from the damp and, besides other sorrows of imprisonment in that terrible time, there were so many insects exasperating the prisoners that they had to be scraped off like rubbish.
After a time, in 1921, Fr. Barsonuphius was released and was appointed by Bishop Onuphrius (Gagalyuk) to a parish in the village of Verkhniye Vairaki, near Elisavetgrad, where by his sincere and zealous service he soon won general respect both among the lay believers and among the clergy.
The rise of renovationism revealed him to be a firm warrior in defence of the truth of the Church and a fearless exposer of the schismatics. Therefore the diocesan hierarch, Bishop Onuphrius, appointed him missionary in the struggle against renovationism for the whole Alexandria region. Having received this assignment, he arrived in the city of Alexandria, which is part of the Elisavetgrad diocese. At that time there was no Orthodox church in the city. Moreover, none of the true believers was well-known. Fr. Barsonuphius appeared in the cathedral during the Liturgy, which was being celebrated by the renovationists, and stood unnoticed at the back. He was tall, with a big beard and was dressed in monastic garments with a staff and prayer-rope. His attractive outer appearance fully corresponded to his inner beauty. Since he could not fail to be noticed, at the end of the Liturgy he was surrounded by the believers, who were already worried by the creeping in of innovations into the church, which had been exposed by certain zealots of piety. One of them had a book of the canons of the Ecumenical Councils. From it they could see that the actions of the renovationists were not canonical. But the authoritative voice of the Church was necessary. Therefore the first questions put to Fr. Barsonuphius were: Was he Orthodox? Who was he? Where did he come from? And what joy there was when they learned the answer to this burning question. But at that point the unknown Fr. Barsonuphius was invited by one of the above-mentioned zealots of Orthodoxy to his house, where others had also gathered. There the real church situation was finally clarified: Fr. Barsonuphius told about his appointment to the Alexandria deanery and read the epistles against renovationism of Bishop Onuphrius and others. A discussion took place on how to take if only one church from the renovationists. But this unexpected joy did not last long. Having learned the state of affairs in his new mission, Fr. Barsonuphius returned to the place of his former service, where he was arrested and taken back to Alexandria, where he was put in prison. There he remained from the autumn to the beginning of the Great Fast. The only contacts with him consisted in the above-mentioned zealots of Orthodoxy taking it in turns to bring him parcels (food, etc.). That was in 1923. In the Great Fast Fr. Barsonuphius was released from prison. By that time, the above-mentioned group of people, who had started to build up an Orthodox parish, had grown into a large community, which after several attempts succeeded in getting the civil authorities to transfer one of the four renovationist churches (which already fairly empty) to them. Fr. Barsonuphius was appointed the superior of this church, which was in the name of the Protecting Veil of the All-Holy Mother of God.
It was from this time that Fr. Barsonuphius' most active ministry began. The servant of God attracted everyone to himself by his unusually welcoming manner, his sincere love, his attentiveness to everyone, his kind, meet and humble manner and by his irreproachable personal life in fasting and unceasing prayer and abstinence in all things (on Wednesdays and Fridays the whole year round, and throughout the Great Fast, he ate nothing before the evening, and in the first week of the Great Fast and in Passion Week he did not eat for three days). During services he was attentive and concentrated, completely immersed in prayer. In the parish church services were conducted according to the monastic typicon, but they were not exhausting. One would go in on a weekday while he was serving and would hear his gentle voice from in front of the altar, and a certain peacefulness and compunction filled one's soul. The comparatively large church soon began to fill up with believers from all ends of the city. The rumours about what had happened in the church of the Protecting Veil and about the unusual batyushka spread far, even beyond the bounds of the region, and at almost every service there were people from the environs. Many who had attended the service went to Fr. Barsonuphius' flat for advice, asking what to do so as to have a right church. And they received the instructions they needed. Each of his services contained a simple edifying sermon, and in these sermons he fulminated against evil, the vices of everyday life, calling people to repentance. The truth was made clear and the lie of renovationism was exposed. The believers were exhorted not to condemn their brothers who had got caught in this or that net, but to pray for them. And in general batyushka used every opportunity to edify the people: whether during needs, or at feasts, over a cup of tea, the conversation always revolved around current church events or soul-saving themes. Many wanted to invite batyushka to their homes, and so invitations to a cup of tea were not uncommon. On these occasions batyushka would speak or read from the Gospel, especially for young youths and virgins, in whom he stirred up a desire for the truly Christian life. He would often read from the works of Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov.
Very soon all the renovationist churches became empty and a large part of the city's clergy repented, while in the region out of eighty renovationist parishes there remained even less than ten. In fact, there was an extraordinary revival of church life in the city. Fr. Barsonuphius went to Patriarch Tikhon on church matters, and, since he was a hieromonk, he was raised by his Holiness to the rank of igumen (in 1923). When he returned, his flock rejoiced at the patriarchal blessing, and were strengthened by his reading his epistles concerning the condemnation of the renovationist higher church administration in the church.
This greatly enraged the remaining renovationists, and especially the GPU. A group of renovationists was formed in the city led by Bishop John (Slavgorodsky) and a priest by the name of Chorny (who was, if not an open stooge of the GPU, then at any rate one of their co-workers who often visited that institution). This group, together with the city authorities, took measures to strike a blow at Fr. Barsonuphius and the community he led. But the religious exaltation had reached such proportions that the authorities decided not to undertake direct measures to liquidate the whole of the movement. Fr. Barsonuphius was arrested several times (in 1923, 1924 and January, 1925), and there was even an open trial attended by a great mass of people, in which Fr. Barsonuphius replied so wisely to the lawyers' ingenious questions that it served for his yet greater glory without engendering any serious consequences except, it seems, for a monetary fine. The trial was summoned because of the baptism of a child which had been carried out, supposedly, without the prior registration by the civil authorities - an omission that used to be punished with great cruelty.
Although the above-mentioned renovationist group had three empty churches, including a cathedral, it received permission from the authorities to use the single Orthodox church (of the Protection), supposedly on equal terms. In order to realize this aim, they with their bishop at their head came to the Protection church on Lazarus Saturday not long before the beginning of the service, demanding the hand-over of the keys of the Protection church on the basis of the instructions of the central authorities. Since rumours about the forthcoming invasion had already filtered into the community, the church was closed and the keys hidden. Up to a thousand people gathered. Some had come earlier to do confession (because of the large numbers of those wishing to do confession they were told to come before the service), while others had begun to assemble because of the rapidly disseminated rumour about what had happened in the Protection church. The whole of this huge number of people, who could not fit even into the spacious area around the church, strove to defend the church. They did not allow the renovationists even as far as the doors. The local authorities, who opposed the Orthodox in every way possible, came to the aid of the renovationists in all kinds of local communist organizations, including the komsomol and the mounted police. But all of these were unable to frighten or disperse the gathered people, who consisted mainly of fearless women tightly pressed to the main doors. Finally the fire-brigade appeared and drove the Orthodox away from the doors with their water cannons. Then the renovationists and their helpers went to the doors and with the help of locksmiths broke the locks.
The next day "Bishop John" entered the church and was met with "Many years, Master!" while the Orthodox stood to one side, shouting: "Wolf in sheep's clothing" and other names appropriate to his activities. From the moment the renovationists took control of the church it emptied. On the most holy days of Passion Week and Pascha the Orthodox were left without a church. The community was still strong at that time, and measures were immediately taken to obtain the return of the church to the Orthodox. An enormous number of signatures were collected, representatives of the community were elected and began to act. First they went to the regional centre of Kharkov. But since it was from there that permission for the renovationists to seize the church had been given, no positive results were obtained. They appealed to Moscow. And there with great efforts, after several journeys, and with the help of acquaintances among the powerful of the communist world, they succeeded in obtaining an order for the return of the church by the feast of the Transfiguration, 1924.
At the same time, the authorities accused Fr. Barsonuphius of being the organizer of the people's rebellion. To create a case, they also arrested several members of the parish council and group of fifty, including some women. Fr. Barsonuphius was arrested in the following manner. After midnight representatives of the authorities arrived at his flat, knocked insistently at the door, burst in and carried out a search. As a result of the search they supposedly found a packet with material implicating Fr. Barsonuphius in the organization of the rebellion. The packet turned out to be in the bed of the future Archimandrite Nectarius, who happened to be sleeping there that night and who was also arrested. It was obviously a forgery, and Fr. Barsonuphius, when presented with it, said as much:
"It's a forgery. You brought it here."
The investigator said something crude and laughed. Then he ordered Fr. Barsonuphius to dress quickly. Within a few days not only Fr. Barsonuphius, but all those who had been present in the flat were arrested and imprisoned in the local jail. The case lasted for more than three months with many interrogations and threats, but it was so mendacious that when it was passed to the so-called higher instance, it was terminated and all the prisoners (who included Fr. Nectarius) were freed after three months in prison.
On the second day after his release, Fr. Barsonuphius was again serving at the feast of the Transfiguration to a double general joy: the church had been recovered from the renovationists and batyushka had been released. And again batyushka's activity continued in the same spirit and with still greater power. But again not for long.
On the eve of the feast of the Nativity of Christ, in the same year, Fr. Barsonuphius was arrested during the night by the GPU and immediately despatched to Kharkov. The local GPU refused to tell the community where he was. But they guessed: representatives from the community went to Kharkov and obtained his release. He returned from Kharkov around the New Year, but again not for long.
Now something quite unexpected happened. Fr. Barsonuphius' activities had aroused the envy of the clergy, all the more since rumours began to increase that the community wanted to see him made a bishop. This became known to the diocesan hierarch, Bishop Onuphrius. For this or some other, more serious reason, in April, 1925 Fr. Barsonuphius was suddenly and unexpectedly appointed superior in the town of Pervomaisk (Olviopol), in Odessa diocese, where there was not one Orthodox church. At the very height of the community's flowering, Fr. Barsonuphius was torn from it and sent to a remote little town under the complete control of the renovationists. In his place was appointed a protopriest who later joined the sergianist schism. Under his leadership the community became so weak that the authorities blew up its wonderful stone church and everything came to an end. Then the same happened to all the other churches. Not a single church remained in the town.
No amount of delegations, signatures of the whole community or tearful appeals before the diocesan bishop could change this appointment. The community became widowed, and bitterly lamented its lot.
At this point Fr. Barsonuphius displayed self-sacrificial obedience. Without delay, with sorrow tearing his heart, he tearfully said goodbye to his flock and went into the unknown to fresh sorrows. On arriving in the new town, he with difficulty got to the cathedral church and in the presence of the semi-renovationist superior of the cathedral made an announcement about his appointment as superior and dean of the whole district to the members of the community. The superior, Protopriest S., received him coldly, but he was quickly surrounded by the love of the community and fixed up with a flat.
News about circulated round the district already after the first service. The cathedral began to liven up. Priests and laymen arrived to consult him about moving from renovationism to Orthodoxy. Many of the laymen did not even know that their priests were renovationists.
But this church revival was short-lived. The local renovationist bishop and the GPU became alarmed. On the second day of Holy Trinity, 1926, Fr. Barsonuphius was arrested and immediately despatched to Kharkov. The petitions of the community were ignored. Fr. Barsonuphius was imprisoned in Kharkov prison, and after several months was again released, but without the right to leave Kharkov. On being released in a strange, overcrowded city, he had difficulty in finding accomodation and had to go to the GPU regularly for registration.
In this city, too, he soon won general respect and love. He visited what was almost the only Orthodox church, and sometimes had to serve in it. His service in this church, where very many clergy and hierarchs who were not allowed to leave the city were gathered, did not last long.
In 1927 Metropolitan Sergius' notorious declaration was published. This caused new disturbances among the people and gave the authorities the excuse to intensify the persecution. Part of the clergy recognized the declaration; those who did not recognize it were arrested and sent into exile, while the non-recognizers ceased communion in prayer with the recognizers and began to worship in flats. In spite of the recognition afforded by legalization, the Church was crushed. Legalization elicited a new division. Part of the clergy were delighted with it, some occupied a middle position, while those who had shown their loyalty to the Orthodox Church in the struggle with renovationism protested against it. They rejected it as being a God-hated abomination, a form of cooperation with the antichristian authorities.
Fr. Barsonuphius and a whole series of others - the superior of the Kiev Caves Lavra, Archimandrite Clement, Igumens Eustratius, Macarius, Agapetus, Protopriest Gregory Seletsky and others - rejected it and passed over to illegal service of the believers, each as best he could: either in his, or in somebody else's home. They had portable, folding altars and other necessary church utensils, and served when and where they could, most often at night. Fr. Barsonuphius was one of the decisive strugglers against the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius.
Fr. N. Vinogradov and Igumen Barsonuphius (who was then living in Kharkov) went to meet Bishop Paul, but in the course of their conversation they came to doubt in the Orthodoxy of Bishop Paul, as a result of which Bishop Paul refused to give them his blessing (Archimandrite Nectarius explains this on the basis of Bishop Paul's views being slightly to the left of the two priests'). The priests were much closer to Bishop Damascene of Staroduba.
The Kharkov Josephites made several fruitless attempts to contact Metropolitan Peter again. Among the Kievan priests, Fr. Gregory was closest to Fr. Anatolius Zhurakovsky, although they did not agree on everything. Thus when Fr. Anatolius raised the question "of the necessity of organizing the communities which have broken with Sergius" into an independent church structure, and of Metropolitan Joseph declaring himself the deputy of the locum tenens, Fr. Gregory demurred.
Archimandrite Macarius and Igumen Eustratius were sentenced to five years in prison and died in the Svir camps. According to an eyewitness who was their fellow-prisoner, they died in very difficult circumstances in the Svir camps without making the smallest compromise to the atheists. Archimandrite Clement died at the end of 1930. Protopriest Gregory Seletsky was given a ten-year term and served his sentence in the Temnikovsky camps, and then on the White Sea canal.
Fr. Barsonuphius was dean of the Pervomaisk area, and, according to the witness to the OGPU of I. Chubtsov, was also active in the Zinovievsk (Elisavettgrad), Alexandria and Kremenchug areas.
Of course, the NKVD were by no means indifferent to how people, even laymen, related to the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius.
The future Archimandrite Nectarius was twice arrested and condemned to the concentration camps. At preliminary interrogations on both occasions, in 1931 and 1935, the crafty questions were put to him: "Do you agree with the world-view of the Soviet authorities?", "Do you agree with the measures undertaken by the Soviet authorities in relation to collectivization?" and a whole range of similar questions. And then there followed such questions as: "Do you recognize the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, and if not, why? Why do you not recognize the lawful-canonical ecclesiastical power of Metropolitan Sergius? That means that you do not need the Church, you need those who do politics (indicating the names of those hierarchs who did not submit to Metropolitan Sergius). You are a counter-revolutionary, an enemy of Soviet power," etc.
So as to be sure about the truth and to avoid any self-willed actions, contact was made with Moscow, with Petrograd and with the authoritative hierarchs of the Church. By journeys or letters or messengers information was received, together with oral and written epistles of such hierarchs as Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd, Metropolitan Agathangel, Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan, Archbishop Seraphim of Uglich, Bishop Basil of Priluki, Bishop Victor of Vyatka, Bishop Alexis of Voronezh, Bishop Hierotheus of Velikij Ustiug, and other bishops and priests. Copies of letters were received even from the locum tenens of the patriarchal throne himself, Metropolitan Peter, in which this hierarch clearly and simply exposed the unlawfulness of the actions of Metropolitan Sergius. In certain of these he with Christian love beseeches Metropolitan Sergius to renounce the course undertaken by him. The writer of these lines himself listened to and read these letters, having undoubted proof of their authenticity.
All this confirmed the path we had chosen, and Fr. Barsonuphius decisively, with the aid of many believers, both in Kharkov itself and in his former parishes and in other places, supported the believers in various ways: by letters and by personal meetings. Thus as the persecutions connected with the declaration increased, and the Church that did not recognize Metropolitan Sergius was almost completely liquidated in its visible form, a community was formed around Fr. Barsonuphius which he served secretly. It consisted not only of local inhabitants, but also of people who arrived periodically from distant places: the Donbass, Kuban district, Poltava, Kherson, Odessa, and even Belorussia. He sometimes received permission to leave the town to visit relatives.
Fr. Barsonuphius' activities in this period broadened considerably. He was as it were the centre of a well-known church district. He was visited by the clergy of dissolved monasteries, by priests, monks, nuns and laymen of every age and calling. Some came to receive consolation in sorrows, others on church business, others for personal spiritual instruction.
People came to him from all over. Young people of both sexes also came. They were captivated by his words and the beauty of his spiritual life, and declared their readiness to enter upon a God-pleasing life under his direction. Such people with his blessing lived sometimes in groups, being directed in their lives by his advice. However, he never created special rules for anyone. He gave general church rules to all those wishing to live a God-pleasing life: in the morning - morning prayers and the midnight service, at lunchtime - the hours, in the evening - Little Compline with the evening prayers. He blessed the more zealous to follow the whole cycle of services. In spite of the at that time widely spread phenomenon of secret monasticism, Fr. Barsonuphius tonsured none of those who desired it, and in general did not approve of that kind of monasticism. He is known to have tonsured only one novice of the Khoroshevsky monastery who was living in obedience to an older nun. To Fr. Nectarius he said: to serve the Church, you need to have been in a monastery for at least two years. However, to all of his spiritual children who were inclined towards the monastic life he gave the instruction to live in a monastic way: to pray, to fast according to the typicon, to avoid unseemly society, not to eat meat, and to strangers not to give the impression that you do not eat it. And in general he told his spiritual children who were not near an Orthodox church, which included almost everyone, to pray the services prescribed by the typicon: Vespers, Mattins, the Hours, the Typica, together with the reading of instructions - everything that was permitted for laypeople without uttering the priestly exclamations. The prescribed readings from the Apostle and the Gospel were read. And such prayers with chanting and reading were carried out sometimes even in the presence of large numbers of people, usually at night, in the flat of one of the believers. Commemorations of the dead were arranged, and there were even cases of burials. They themselves accompanied the dead with chanting of the Thrice Holy hymn, etc. Fr. Barsonuphius approved of these acts and would serve the burial service at a distance.
However, the GPU did not slumber. They discovered both the secret services and the appeals and letters that defined the relationship of all these people to the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius. On January 1, 1931, in one night a massive arrest was carried out of the bishops that remained in freedom, the other clergy and even the laypeople who had displayed some zeal in this respect. Fr. Barsonuphius was also arrested. Only a few individuals remained in freedom; most of them went into complete hiding and sentenced to five years in the camps. In Kharkov the above-mentioned Protopriest Gregory S. was arrested, together with Bishop Paul (Kratirov) of Novo-Moskovsk, who died in prison, and others.
This time, those arrested were subjected to many and various kinds of tortures. The most common form of torture was deprivation of sleep for many days: people remained in this condition for 5, 10 and even 20 days in a row, standing or sitting under the observation of sentries who took turns at their posts. People were tortured day and night by being kicked or prodded; they did not allow them to doze off. Some were deprived of parcels, others were beaten, others were kept in solitary confinement, or in incredibly cooped-up conditions, in rooms which were full to overflowing and hermetically sealed in summer or very cold. Also, they would give them nothing to eat and then feed them to satiety without giving them anything to drink. Shootings were staged, and many other things. (Fr. Nectarius, the biographer of Fr. Barsonuphius, apart from what he saw and heard, had to endure some of these torments himself.)
The aim of all these tortures was to get answers from those arrested that were desired by and useful to the NKVD. They wished to establish the existence of a fictitious revolutionary political organization and draw as many people as possible into it. For this they needed all kinds of information, even about non-existent things, and this they tortured their victims: was he there or there, who was also there, was such-and-such a person with you, what did they say, what did they read. Or: since you are already doomed, make a clean breast of it, reveal the counter-revolutionary organization and save yourself, etc. People were summoned for interrogation and torture at any time of the day or night. If they did not get what they wanted, the torturers continued their work, forcing people to write under dictation or simply sign a prepared protocol. If they did not get what they wanted, there would be more abuse, kicking, playing with revolvers under the accused person's nose, staged shootings, etc. They would say: "You will stand here until the very Coming of Christ", "We shall hang you head down and that's not all we'll do," "Your crime is such that you will be shot in any case, but you can save yourself - we're waiting for a sincere repentance." And then it was suggested that they save themselves by revealing the counter-revolutionary organization or becoming their man: "you can pray and do other such-like things, we don't persecute the church," etc.
The upshot of all these woes was that everyone received varying sentences to various distant places and concentration camps. By the laws of those days, sentences did not exceed ten years. Usually, for serious people, on the eve of their release a further sentence was added or exile to some inaccessible place. Few returned home. Many died in unbelievably difficult circumstances. Fr. Barsonuphius received five years in the Temnikov camps, and was then transferred to the Sarov camps, where he was accomodated in the main church.
His behaviour in the prisons and camps, as Fr. Nectarius observed, was remarkable. He said with complete sincerity that prison for him was a spiritual school, and he accepted imprisonment as an opportunity for spiritual improvement, without fear and with gratitude to God.
Fr. Barsonuphius was placed in the cells of inveterate recidivists, criminals who had lost all human feelings, bandits, murderers, thieves, etc. And here his truly Christian behaviour often pacified even these beasts in human form. Some of them became so attached to batyushka that even before parting with him they sought to communicate with him by correspondence or in some other way. In the cell he behaved as a priest and a monk. In spite of the noise and shouting and swearing, and the heavy tobacco smoke, he would stand for hours in prayer with his prayer rope, as if not noticing the situation around him. Whatever parcels he received he shared with everyone. He did not descend to the environment he was in, but neither did he despise it; he forced everyone to look on him as a true servant of God. In the camps, in spite of all prohibitions, he categorically refused to do any work and did not allow his external appearance to be changed in any way: only by force was he shorn and his beard shaved off. He was never despondent, always in a state of prayer. He comforted many.
Fr. Nectarius experienced this. In the terrible conditions of prison, at first it often happens that people hurl their heads against the wall so as to drown the night of despondency by the pain, especially if they have no faith in God. And it was at precisely at such a moment that he found batyushka, both in prison and in the camp: by a simple blessing from a distance, without even a personal meeting, the mountain of his despondency fell away and he was filled with joy. His inspiringly radiant external appearance and tender approach always attracted believers to him, and a circle of those faithful to him was formed, helping each other to bear the difficulties of camp life.
During his first sentence, as he was being driven from camp to camp in unimaginable conditions, he nearly died from typhus. In Sarov he was beaten almost to death, and on leaving camp in the middle of the 1930s he was a completely hunched-up invalid, unable to walk without the help of crutches. It was difficult to recognize the comparatively young, tall, well-built Fr. Barsonuphius.
As a result of his invalid condition, and through his relatives' getting to know the authorities, at the end of his sentence he was able to return to Kharkov. Externally he had changed, but internally he was the same man. And without losing a minute he started work: the saving of souls. Once again there were services in his flat and in the flats of others; services were conducted at night; he communicated and strengthened the remaining believers. The persecution had reached the point where it was dangerous to have icons in a cooperative house, and even in private houses; it was risky for those serving in Soviet institutions even to look into a church or to cross themselves in public. Burials were now carried out with a special Soviet ritual, with music and red flags. In families children who were studying in schools often persecuted their parents who practised religious rites.
Since it was now almost impossible for a priest to walk in the streets in priestly attired and not be noticed, Fr. Barsonuphius took off his priest's clothes and took on the appearance of an old man in the usual Russian long shirt with a belt round his waist. In this way he was able to visit many of his faithful spiritual children, both in his former parishes and in other places: in the Kuban, the Donbass, Belorussia, in several towns of the Ukraine and in Odessa. His main aim in these trips was to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, take confessions and give communion. Only his faithful, who knew each other, attended these services.
Fr. Nectarius was a witness of one of these journeys of Fr. Barsonuphius. In a house surrounded by a high fence on the edge of a town, batyushka confessed people for two days, and during the night. News of his whereabouts passed from one person to another. There was not even time to eat. Other priests carried out a similar type of service in other towns. Some lived in one place without any kind of registration; only the family with whom they lived knew about them, together with those who came to the services, which were carried out sometimes in underground churches. There was such a priest in the Kharkov region. And another in the Donbass. One priest went around with a grinding lathe. One archimandrite, on returning from the camps, became a stove-repairer.
In the course of his service as a priest in the Soviet period, Fr. Barsonuphius was arrested up to 25 times. In all interrogations he behaved fearlessly, with the dignity of a servant of God. In difficult moments, as he himself said, he fell silent, praying inwardly until he received an inner reply, and without paying attention to the enraged interrogator. Then he gave a fitting reply that broke all the cunning webs of the interrogator, who then, changing his tone, praised the direct and courageous confessor.
Fr. Nectarius was in the closest communion with Fr. Barsonuphius not only while he was in freedom, but partly also in prison and the camps. After such a long time has passed, it is difficult to express in all its power and beauty the martyric path of Fr. Barsonuphius. The main thing for him was to keep the commandments of God and the canons of the Church without admitting any concessions. Nothing could make him trangress the established ecclesiastical laws concerning marriages and the burials of, for example, suicides or non-Orthodox.
He was counted worthy of grace-filled revelations and visions. Thus in the camp in Sarov, after he had been beaten, the Lord counted him worthy of an inner spiritual illumination. And during a serious illness he was transported as it were into the other world and had a whole series of visions. And there were others during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
Towards the end of 1936, while he was on a pastoral visit to Odessa, Fr. Barsonuphius was arrested and imprisoned in Odessa itself, being deprived of every means of communication with the outside world. At the end of the investigation, on May 21, 1937, he was sentenced to five years in Kolyma, the coldest part of North-Eastern Siberia. According to one source, he was released from there on June 13, 1942.
However, according to another source, Fr. Barsonuphius did not arrive at the camp. We have no information about the long and difficult journey there in railway cars. But a chance eyewitness described a person who looked just like him and who died in Kamchatka, without arriving in Kolyma. No details about his death are known.
(Sources: : Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, Noviye Mucheniki Rossijskiye, Jordanville, 1949-57, part 2, chapter 22; M.V. Shkarovsky, "Istinno-Pravoslavniye na Ukraine", Pravoslavnaya Zhizn', 48, N 9 (585), September, 1998, pp. 12-19; 48, N 10 (586), October, 1998, pp. 20, 25, 27)
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