Bishop Michael (Yershov) was born on September 17, 1911, in the village of Mamykovo in Kazan province, in a peasant family. His father, Basil, was a Bolshevik. His mother's name was Daria. The father persecuted the son and did not allow him to go to church, as a result of which he went blind. Afterwards, when he repented, he recovered his sight.
When Michael was twelve years old, he was receiving communion a church in Chistopol when an elder saw him and said:
"This lad will take upon himself the sins of the whole people."
He was tonsured into the mantia in 1927, and in 1928 was ordained to the diaconate. In 1930 he was ordained to the priesthood by the Catacomb Archbishop and future Hieromartyr Nectarius (Trezvinsky) in Kazan. He then wandered from place to place serving Christians of the Catacomb Church.
Fr. Michael's first arrest was on March 3, 1931, for the Faith and the Orthodox Church. He was condemned to eight years in prison for anti-Soviet agitation. He was arrested a second time on December 12, 1943, for church preaching; and on August 18, 1944 he was sentenced to death by shooting. He spent 81 days in the death cell; they starved him the whole time. On November 9, 1944, they commuted the death sentence to 15 years' hard labour.
Fr. Michael passed through almost all the prisons of the Soviet Gulag: Kazan, Arzamas, Vorkuta, Olga, Bannino, Sakhalin, Nagayeva, Magadan, Suman, Kolyma, Khabarovsk, Blagoveshchensk, Bratsk, Taipet...
It is thought that in the 1950s Fr. Michael was secretly consecrated Bishop of Chistopol in the camps, and in this capacity took part, according to one source, in the Nikolsky Council of the Catacomb Church in 1961 through Monk John. However, the real existence of this Council is doubted by many.
In 1958 he was released from camp in Kazan, but almost immediately was given another 25-year sentence in Potma station, Mordovia. He spent 15 years in irons. All his hair and the hairs of his beard were pulled out one by one.
Bishop Michael possessed the gifts of healing and prophecy. He healed many criminals, possessed, lame, blind and sick people, and gave them instructions on how to live well. He healed the withered hand of John Kokarev and the legs of Basil Kalinin, who had lain without moving for three years. He came up to him, took him by the hand and said:
"Get up and walk."
He healed Gregory Rusakov's leprous face, which was already stinking, and took the whole crust from his face.
A.S. Dubina reported that Bishop Michael died in camp on June 4, 1977. According to another report, however, he died in a special prison hospital on June 4, 1974.
However, his relatives heard that he had been transferred to the Kazan special psychiatric hospital. It seems that the secret was let out by the procurator of the town of Kazan when he was receiving his relatives. It is possible that the authorities wanted to hide him from the believing people because of his great popularity - he was known as "the Tsar of Mordovia" and people came to catch a glimpse of him through the barbed wire from all over the Soviet Union. Bishop Michael himself prophesied that they were going to hide him, and he ordered them not to believe the story of his death. All his spiritual children were convinced that he had been hidden away in a psychiatric hospital so as to be annihilated there.
Bishop Michael was a fervent opponent of the Moscow Patriarchate. According to Eugene Vagin, he believed that it was wrong to have any contact whatsoever with Moscow Patriarchal churches.
(Sources: Les Cahiers du Samizdat, April, 1978; Russkoye Vozrozhdeniye, 1978, N 4, pp. 39-42; Schema-Monk Epiphanius (Chernov), Tserkov' Katakombnaya na Zemlye Rossijskoj (MS), 1980; I.M. Andreyev, Russia's Catacomb Saints, Platina: St. Herman Monastery Press, 1982, chapter 42; Chronicle of Current Events, no. 32, p. 80; Bishop Ambrose (von Sievers), "Episkopat Istinno-Pravoslavnoj Katakombnoj Tserkvi", Russkoye Pravoslaviye, N 4 (8), 1997, pp. 14-15; "Katakombnaya Tserkov': Tainij Sobor 1948g.", Russkoye Pravoslaviye, N 5 (9), 1997, pp. 20, 27; I.I. Osipova, Skvoz' Ogn' Muchenij i Vody Slyoz", Moscow: Serebryanniye Niti, 1998, pp. 180-182, 259)
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