The superior of the church in the village of Plotava, Voronezh diocese, at the beginning of the revolution was Fr. James Vladimirov. In relation to his parishioners he was like a father to his children, and exhorted them to have apiaries and gardens and in general raise their economic level. And the villagers of Plotava were noticeably more prosperous than their neighbours. The Bolsheviks called them a band of kulaks.
When Bolshevik circles in Voronezh started talking about the liquidation of the "influential popes", one Plotava villager, a Bolshevik and well-known horse thief, denounced Fr. James in those terms. Soon five "investigators" appeared at Fr. James' house and graciously asked him for permission to spend the night there, the more so in that, apart from other small matters, there was "a trivial complaint" against Fr. James, too, which they were "nevertheless obliged to look into in the morning". After supper, they chatted in a gracious manner for several minutes with the family and then advised Fr. James to go to the school for the night "so that people should not think that Fr. James' conversations had influenced the incorruptible conscience of the investigators". That was what they said to matushka.
Worrying rumours spread through the village. Late in the evening a group of about 60 parishioners arrived at the school so as to spend the night with their spiritual father and not allow him to be insulted.
In the morning, having graciously thanked matushka for her tasty breakfast, the investigators went to the school for the interrogation. The whole village was already there. The people had gathered to defend their batushka at the investigation. A machine-gun appeared at the reserve grain store. The investigators went out onto the street with Fr. James and his parish guard and went towards the store. Matushka and her 15-year-old son Alexis also came up. The senior investigator removed Fr. James' gold watch and put it in his pocket. Only then did some people notice that a pit had been dug behind the store. Fr. James signed himself with the sign of the cross and began to pray. He did not say one word in his own defence. The investigator lifted his hair and shot him in the back of the head. A part of his face was blown off. Fr. James fell into the pit. Another investigator came up and shot matushka. She fell. Then he went up to Alyosha and said:
"I think you've got nothing to live for after all this. So why waste your boots? Sit down and take off your boots."
Alyosha sat down, took off his boots, and did not get up again.
The people, terrified, fled in all directions. Some were ordered to fill in the pit. They did it weeping.
The younger son, the twelve-year-old Vanyusha, had spent the night half a verst from the village, at an apiary. One of the investigators went to the apiary. Vanyusha was not in the cabin. At the call of the investigator the boy's head turned up from behind a rock. The investigator fired. It was not Vanya who was killed, but a neighbouring boy. Fr. James' friends hurried to Vanya and told him what had happened. Vanya did not go home, but left Plotava.
This took place in 1918.
This story was recounted by Protopresbyter S.P. Tretyak, who also served the funeral service for the martyrs in their church.
(Source: Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, Noviye Mucheniki Rossijskiye, Jordanville, 1957, part 2, pp. 185-186)
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