Batyushka had an attack of nerves and was too frightened to remain there. So when a neighbour with children who lived about ten houses away came into the house, he took hold of her like a little child and said: "Take me to your house!" She took him to her shed, where they made a hole out of straw and put Fr. Nicetas there. He lay there for three months without straightening up; he just cut out a little chink with his knife to see the light, and prayed. The mistress of the house did not always bring him food; if she didn't bring him bread, batyushka would remain hungry. After these three months he could hardly stand on his feet, he continually fell and could hardly comb his hairâ€¦
It was difficult to find a refuge for batyushka. Some feared to have him in their house, others were in a dangerous situation for one reason or another. On the house-owners there lay a particularly heavy burden of responsibility, and during the secret services, which took place, of course, at night, they usually didn't so much pray, as watched. There were false alarms - but, alas, not always false. The secret had to be kept so strictly that, for example, if two people came to batyushka they were not allowed to talk to each other about it.
The situation was so dangerous that Fr. Nicetas' parishioners decided to move him to another region 50 kilometres away, where they thought it would be less dangerous. But to move 50 kilometres was easier said than done. A simple matter of a walk by foot was turned into a complicated operation. Fr. Nicetas with his big beard was very conspicuous, so he had to pretend to be a hunched-up old man with a pile of bast shoes on his back going to the bazaar. The roads were covered by the police, so they had to go along a path through the fields of rye. Boys went out in front to see whether it was safe for batyushka and those accompanying him to leave the village. By the time the boys returned, two policemen were already on guard along the path; if batyushka had tarried just a little longer, he wouldn't have got throughâ€¦
But when they arrived in their destination, the village of Sobolyak, another difficulty awaited them. It turned out that the woman had invited Fr. Nicetas only in order to serve some kind of need, and not at all in order to give him a place to stay. Those accompanying batyushka, his devoted spiritual children, were so filled with sorrow at the prospect of leaving him that they couldn't restrain their tears. "What are you crying for?" said the mistress of the house. "Take your batyushka back with you!" She was frightened of taking him. Now it was time to weep for batyushka, whose legs were covered in blood after the long and dangerous journey. He was too weak to return, and besides, returning was very risky. The woman's heart softened when Fr. Nicetas foretold the return of her husband, from whom she had had no news for a long time: "Write down the date and the time, and make ready a parcel for the prison - your husband will be alive." And indeed, after some time she received a letter from her husband, and he himself soon appeared with a wounded arm.
Fr. Nicetas returned to Sanchuk region and lived in a village nicknamed "Pig's clearing" with an old woman. When she left the house, batyushka would lock it from the inside on hook, which the old woman would open on her return by pushing a stick through the hole. Once when she was away some people came up to the house and began to knock and push on the door: "It's locked from inside, she's not opening up - it's obvious she's dead!" Fr. Nicetas was standing behind the door holding the hookâ€¦ Alas there were few in whose hearts were preserved the words: "I will not give the Mystery to Thine enemyâ€¦" There were far more who would give away the mystery than keep it; they would either make a denunciation or let the cat out of the bag. This woman suffered because of that.
One nun of the Catacomb Church, remembering that time, says: "Can a man living in freedom stand what a hunted man experiencesâ€¦?" It is hard for us to understand now how real and terrible that threat was. 40 people suffered for Fr. Nicetas at one time (according to another source - 30 at first, and 10 later). Batyushka went from place to place, they couldn't catch him, so they began to arrest his spiritual children. One woman was arrested just for giving him some cream. It seems that in her simplicity she didn't think of hiding that from the persecutors. They tortured those whom they arrested, beat them, demanding the addresses where batyushka was hiding.
Among those arrested was Matushka Catherine Golovanova. She was arrested twice. The first time they came and tried to torture her to reveal where Fr. Nicetas was; two policmen dressed in civil clothes took her to the house which they had under surveillance - an elderly man and his wife were living there. On seeing matushka, they rejoiced, and the wife, thinking that matushka was accompanied by her own people, started to talk joyfully. Matushka couldn't stop her because the police were careful that she not give her any sign. The woman gave away the secret of Fr. Nicetas' whereabouts: "O Matushka, dear one, how are you? You know, we accompanied Fr. Nicetas like this: we hung a bag full of shoes on him and he wentâ€¦" Matushka finally succeeded in winking at her, the woman stopped short. "Well, why have you stopped?" asked the searchers. "I remember nothingâ€¦" "We'll lean on you now - you'll remember." They took off their outer clothing, under which, as under a sheep skin, was the inner wolf - policeman's uniforms and guns. But it was already late, and the exhausted police wanted to go to sleep. One was dozing at the table, the other was at the threshold - he was evidently guarding the door to prevent matushka running away. Matushka waited and waited, then she opened a window and ran away. She was on the run for half a year, and then they arrested her again. "Well, then," they said, "how did you run away?" "How? Well, they were sleeping and I thought: why should I simply sit here, I opened the window and left." "You did well," they said. But now they didn't doze. They condemned all forty at one go (according to another source - thirty at the beginning). Matushka Golovanova was the chief culprit. They really gave it to her at the interrogation: many years later Matushka S. saw scars from the interrogations on her back.
They tortured them so much that some of them couldn't stand it and revealed the addresses where they could find Fr. Nicetas; but it seems that the pursuers had so despaired of catching Fr. Nicetas that they didn't believe them even when they told them the truth.
At the trial one woman in her simplicity said: "If you let me go, I'll go to Fr. Nicetas again the same day." Not believing her, they said: "We've
been looking for him for so many years without finding him, and you'll find where he is in one day?!"
They gave Fr. Nicetas' parishioners sentences of many years in length. Matushka Golovanova was given twelve years, two of them in a lock-upâ€¦
While Fr. Nicetas' spiritual children were going to suffer, he himself had another thirty years of suffering and wanderings ahead of him. And he was surrounded by the sufferings of the people; the war tormented Russia, their own Russian people tormented the Russian people. So often they would go up to door, enter as if they were the masters, say to the servants of God: "Time's up!" and take them away, together with their last possessionsâ€¦
Batyushka came to Shamakovo in Kiknursky region. The father and two sons were at the front, the mother of the house remained with the young children. They had taken everything away, so they boiled the tea and the soup in the mortar, they didn't even have any spoons. The sated man is no friend to the hungry, but in this house batyushka was given a refuge - God preserved himâ€¦
And it was amazing that what the majority of the Russian adults had forgotten how to do - keep secret, the children in these families where Fr. Nicetas was concealed were able to do.
Later, when they were grown up and had preserved this great secret of love and faithfulness in their hearts, they rememberd how Fr. Nicetas had brought them up - he taught them about the life to come. He said to the children: "If I didn't believe in the future life, I wouldn't be hiding, but would go out onto the street and walk, or go by carâ€¦ This temporary life passes, and however long you live you'll have to answer at the Terrible Judgement. These are only temporary sufferings. Let us endure. Prepare yourselves - perhaps you'll have to suffer.
At confession he insisted: "Be meek and humble, do good works" - and they received these instructions with all their heart, both his big and his small spiritual children. The seed fell on good ground, and these words did not remain simple words. There are no meeker or humbler people in Rus' than the children of these secret batyushkas, the children of the True Orthodox Church - and there are no firmer, more unshakeable people in Rus' than theyâ€¦
Fr. Nicetas loved to joke, especially with children. He loved to read verses; the kids would come in and batyushka would meet them:
There was a fight in the yard, The bull fought with the pigs. The chickens went onto the attack - A bloody battle began!
There were verses on more serious themes, about Lenin and Stalin:
They've lost the whole of Russia, The two mad foolsâ€¦
And so Fr. Nicetas went from house to house in that most terrible time. He lived in one family where he served in a hut which the neighbours passed on their way to get water. The service was going on while behind the wall the neighbour's bucket was tinkling as he went towards the well. The owners just couldn't understand how they hadn't been caught. Batyushka did think of settling with an old woman from his parishioners. But the enemy was everywhere; her sister was caught and sentenced to ten years for refusing to vote. He had to leave againâ€¦
It is known that Fr. Nicetas did not allow people to enter the collective farms or to vote. One could say: did he not demand too much from his spiritual children, if they were threatened with prison for that? In our lukewarm time we have different ideas, and it's not done to remember the example of St. Sophia, who blessed her three children to torments for Christ. That was the position of Fr. Nicetas and other catacomb priests. It looks strange when compared with the mass of Soviet clergy, who from the ambon blessed their children to go and vote, so as to give their voices for the communists, for "the ideal man" - Stalin, who blessed their flocks to lie and be hypocritical without limit, and to carry out all the demands of the antichristian authoritiesâ€¦ They will say: Fr. Nicetas and those like him were strict! But did they really love their flock more, did they really care for it more when they blessed the Russian people to deliver themselves into the most fearful slavery that has ever been seen on earth?
The absolutely rightless Russian slaves laboured on "the great constructions of communism" until they fell dead. These same slaves, turned into living frozen skeletons, mined gold in the mines of Kolyma in 50 degrees of frost and looked for opportunities to cling to the boxes in which the bosses warmed themselves at the stoves, so as to gulp down, if only for a moment, the warm air, getting in return for that gulp of warmth a kick up the assâ€¦ In earlier historical periods, the learned historians tell us, masters valued their slaves and took care that they were well-fed. But there was no point in these masters feeding their slaves: in place of the one who died of hunger several more would comeâ€¦
And one of the forms of this unheard of slavery was the collective farm.
One of Fr. Nicetas' parishioners left the collective farm. They arrested her and began to ask her about everything: why she didn't go to the elections, why she didn't go to the church. That [Sergianist] church was necessary for the Soviets - to make them obey Soviet power, whose herald it was.
They gave her eight years, although she had four children. The person who took her away from her children received half a pound of oil. But the workers on the collective farm worked without being paid. The milk went to the milk factory, and the oil - to the executioners and above - to their bosses and the bosses of bossesâ€¦ It was real slavery; which was why they persecuted those who did not want to enter slavery so cruelly And in spite of the fact that those on their own were threatened with prison, the collective farm-workers envied them and said: you live like tsarsâ€¦ Although there was not much to envy: they didn't let the cow of the private worker into the field, he had to pay 200 working days for the right of keeping a goat. It came to the point that in one village the president even said to one person who did not want to enter the collective farm: your land is not yours - it belongs to the collective farm; don't you dare to cross the threshold! If the old house was destroyed, they didn't allow them to build a new one or even repair the old one. They had to lay new foundations or replace rotten blinds secretly, at night. Once Fr. Nicetas' parishioners nevertheless succeeded in building a new house, and they had to roll it onto the site of the old one - as if it had always been there.
They will say: Fr. Nicetas was too strict, insisting that his spiritual children did not enter the collective farms and kept their individual holdings. Yes, on the background of the general mindless obedience the refusal to enter the collective farm was a podvig which involved the bearing of sorrows, sometimes up to prison and death. But did not those who blessed the Russian people to obey the antichristian authorities condemn them to worse sufferings even here on earth, not to speak of eternal life? And what if all the batyushkas - or at any rate the majority of them - had acted as Fr. Nicetas did? It would probably have been harder to drive the Russian people into this yoke: after all, the people were waiting for the decisive word of the Church. Nevertheless, there were many Russian people who put up a firm spiritual resistance to the violence of the satanists. Of course, these spiritually strong people were able to find for themselves true pastors, but, on the other hand, you could equally say that it was precisely these true pastors who nurtured and educated such a strong flock.
Only gradually did the renovationist clergy re-educate the Russian people, training them all to think that for the sake of the preservation of life one could surrender one's faith - and as a result the people lost both faith and lifeâ€¦ "He who wishes to save his life will lose it; while he who loses his life for My sake and the Gospel's will save it" (Mark 8. 35).
In her childhood Matushka S. had a friend, who once went to a neighbouring village and did not return home. Matushka went to look for her; someone told her that the police had taken the girl in the field and put her in a tarantass. They let her out five days later. On meeting Matushka S. the girl said:
"Don't give the impression that you are friendly with meâ€¦"
"Oh, what happened!"
Then she said that for three days and nights they had not let her eat or drink or sleep, and every night they interrogated her. They asked her: why don't you join the collective farm, why don't you marry, why don't you go to church? This concern that citizens should visit the sergianist church was very characteristic of Soviet power. And do you know such-and-such? they continued to interrogate her. When she replied: "no" or "I don't know" to all the questions, they threatened her that they wouldn't let her out until she had signed that she would point the finger at such-and-such and such-and-such. The young victim, who was in her nineteenth year, couldn't hold out and signed, and now she was frightened of speaking with her friend.
The investigator appointed a place of meeting in the thickets by the river, saying that a piece of paper or a cloth attached to a branch would signify the place. When she came for the meeting, she said only one thing:
"I know nothing, I don't know themâ€¦"
"But you know such-and-such, and such-and-such. Go and listen to what they're saying!" were his instructions.
Unable to endure such a life, the girl got a passport and went to her aunt, where she joined a sewing factory. After some time her mother went to see her daughter. But on the first evening a policemen appeared to check her documents.
"Well, stay for a month," he said kindly.
Exactly a month later he appeared again. Unable to leave again, the frightened woman, knowing what this meeting held in store for her, tried to hide under the bed, but even there the policeman spied her out and ordered to come out. And he led her, knee-deep in the snow, saying all the while:
"Oh, I'm so sorry for you, the way you're walkingâ€¦"
Pity did not prevent this state criminal from being incarcerated in Perm. During the interrogations they kept asking her:
"What is your faith?"
"I'm an Orthodox Christian."
"So you're Orthodoxâ€¦ No, tell us what faith you adhere to."
"I believe in the Lord Jesus Christâ€¦"
"No, what is your confession of faith."
The poor woman couldn't make out what they were wanted from her and finally she blurted out:
"I'm a True Orthodox Christian."
"There - you should have said that long ago!"
They gathered from her that she belonged to the Tikhonite tendency. They gave her ten years. Such charges as: belonging to the True Orthodox Church of the Tikhonite orientation still produced long sentences. In 1958 a nun of the Catacomb Church was condemned on such a charge, and there were many like her.
At the same time that they were condemning the mother of the girl to ten years, they also took her acquaintance. The investigator began to ask:
"Well, tell us: did you go to secret batyushkas?"
"But she went to your place and received communion in your place," suddenly said the woman.
The investigator laughed. Some time ago he had gone to a village, claiming that he was a secret priest and, what is more, the son of the Tsar,
Alexis Nikolayevich, who had supposedly been saved and received priestly ordination. When some trusting visitors decided to fast in preparation for communion, the mistress of the house said:
"You sleep here, and batyushka over there in that room. Don't disturb him, he'll be sleeping the whole nightâ€¦ The women couldn't stand it, after a time they looked through a crack in the half-open door - they very much wanted to see how the holy batyushka was praying, and to be joined to his prayerful spiritâ€¦ But "batyushka" wasn't at all thinking of praying, he was in deep sleep, spreadeagled over the whole width of the bed.
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