(Sources: "Le Monastere de Solovki", L'Orthodoxie, 41, December, 1991, pp. 14-21; Boris Shirayev, "Uteshitelnij Pop", Pravoslavnij Kalendar, St. Petersburg: Satis, 1996, pp. 203-211)
Protopriest Alexander Sakharov, from the Petrograd diocese, died on Solovki in 1927. Another priest Fr. Alexander took part in secret services on Solovki in 1929.
The Petrograd priest Fr. Michael Yavorsky was first in the Solovki camps and was then condemned for ten years. He did not return.
(Sources: Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, Noviye Mucheniki Rossijskiye, Jordanville, 1949-57, part 2, pp. 71, 227; Za Khrista Postradavshiye, Moscow: St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1997, p. 51)
Fr. Michael Glagolev served as a priest on the other side of the river in Moscow. Once he was told that there was going to be a dispute on a religious subject in a theatre. Lunacharsky himself would be speaking. Fr. Michael's parishioners urged him to go. They said it was necessary to fight for the souls of the young. Otherwise they would say that he had nothing to say and was giving up. Fr. Michael did not want to go, he felt that no good would come from it. But he had to carry out his duty. So he went.
The theatre was packed with people. Lunacharsky spoke ardently against religion and God. In particular, he said that the soul did not exist. Notone of the exact sciences confirmed its existence. It was comical to believe in such a thing in the age of radio and electricity. All talk about the souland the spirit was the raving of fools...
Fr. Michael could restrain himself no longer. He got up.
"Allow me, my friends," he said, "to tell you of a dream I had recently. I dreamed of our deeply respected commissar, Anatoly Vasilyevich Lunacharsky, whom I wouldn't want to offend by my story - God forbid! I know him to bethe most intelligent man, I have never had the slightest doubt about his remarkable qualities...
"Well, then, I had this dream that our dear Anatoly Vasilyevich had died..."
As he said this, a deep silence descended upon the crowd, as in a church. Then, without hurrying, he continued:
"You know, a dream can bring such sorrow Well, okay. Our Anatoly Vasilyevich had donated his body to an anatomical theatre. Of course, it doesn't matter, matter is the same with all of us. Let Soviet students study on my dead body...
"And so they laid the mortal remains of him who was once our dear Anatoly Vasilyevich on an anatomical table and began to cut him up, divide him up into bits. It didn't take long for the young but curious hands to cut the body up. There again, it's not every day a commissar comes your way... We-ell, soon everything had been divided up into its constituent parts. And they found the stomach, and the heart, and the tongue, and the brains. But then they looked for the soul and mind, and they just couldn't find them... What a commotion there was!..
"Well, let's suppose that there is no soul in a dead body, but you would think the mind could be found! After all, it was clear to everyone that our dear deceased one - the Kingdom, hm, hm, of heaven to him - was a very, very clever man. But hard as they tried, they just couldn't find his mind. And
after this, here you are talking about the mind... How embarrassing it was! I woke up covered in sweat... Lord, forgive me, how stupid dreams can be."
For two minutes the whole hall laughed, with a joyful fire in the tired eyes of the people. But Lunacharsky didn't like it at all. The discomfiture of religion that he had counted on hadn't happened. Two days later, the chekists came to Fr. Michael at night. He was exiled to Solovki. That wasin 1926...
On Solovki Fr. Michael once said: "The Bolsheviks do not so much fear weapons as faith, and ideas. But how can a real priest not be their enemy? Look, it's laughable to say it, but they're very frightened of us old men
[there were more than two hundred Orthodox priests on Solovki at that time.] How that can be was well explained by someone: the most explosive thing in the world is thought and faith." He was shot together with S.A. Grabovskyand D.M. Shipchinsky in the autumn of 1929. He did not recognize Metropolitan
(Source: Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, Noviye Mucheniki Rossijskiye, Jordanville, 1949-57, part 2, p. 225; Ikh Stradaniyami Ochistitsa Rus', Moscow, 1996, pp. 109-112)
In the summer of 1929 there came to Solovki about thirty nuns. The majority of them were probably from the monastery of Shamordino, which was near the renowned Optina hermitage.
The nuns were not placed in the common women's quarters, but separately. When they began to be checked according to the list and interrogated, they refused to give the so-called basic facts about themselves, that is, to answer questions about their surnames, year and place of birth, education and so forth.
After shouts, threats and beatings, they were placed in solitary confinement, and were tortured by hunger, thirst and deprivation of sleep; that is, all the usual methods of pressurizing them were applied. But the nuns remained unbending and were even bold enough - a phenomenon very rare in the concentration camp - to refuse any kind of forced labour.
After several days, I, together with Professor Dr. Zhizhilenko (the secret Bishop Maximus of Serpukhov) were called to the chief of the Sanitary Division. We were confidentially ordered to conduct a medical examination of the nuns, with a hint as to the desirability of recognizing them as unfit for labour, so as to have an official basis to free them from forced physical labour.
It was the first time in the history of Solovki that the administration found itself in such a complicated situation. Usually in such cases they acted very severely and cruelly. After a serious beating of those who refused to work, they were sent to the punishment island of Anzersk, from where no one ever returned alive.
Why these rebel nuns were not sent to Anzersk we could not understand. We gave this question to the chief of the Sanitary Division of the whole camp. He explained to us that the silent, restrained protest of the nuns was not in the least like the protests with which the administration was used to dealing. These latter protests were usually accompanied by a scene, shouting and hooliganism. But here there was silence, simplicity, humility and an extraordinary meekness.
"They are fanatical martyrs seeking suffering," the head of the Sanitary Division explained. "They are some kind of psychic cases, masochists. But one becomes extraordinarily sorry for them. I cannot endure to see the humility and meekness with which they bear the pressure. And I am not the only one. Vladimir Yegorovich, the chief of the camp, also could not bear this. He even quarrelled with the chief of the Intelligence Division and he wants somehow to soften and iron over this matter. If you find them unsuitable for physical labour, they will be left in peace."
When I went out to the barracks where the nuns were being kept, I saw extraordinarily sober women, peaceful and restrained, in old, worn-out and patched but clean monastic garments. There were about 30 of them. One could give their age as an "eternal thirty", but there were both older and younger ones. In all their faces there was something from the expression of the Mother of God "the Joy of all who Sorrow", and this sorrow was so exalted and modest that I was involuntarily reminded of certain verses by Tyutchev. Their meek appearance was of a spiritual beauty which could not but elicit a feeling of contrition and awe.
"So as not to upset them, I'd better go out, Doctor," said the chief of the assignment who met me, who should have been present as a representative of the medical committee. I remained alone with them.
"Good day, Matushki," I bowed down low to them. In silence they replied with a deep bow to the waist.
"I am a physician. I've been sent to examine you."
"We are well. You don't need to examine us," several voices interrupted me.
"I am a believing Orthodox Christian, and I am confined in this concentration camp as a prisoner for Church reasons."
"Glory to God," several voices again replied to me.
"Your disturbance is understandable to me," I continued, "but I will not examine you. You only tell me what you have to complain about and I will assign you to the category of those incapable of labour."
"We are not complaining about anything. We are quite healthy."
"But without a definition of the category of your inability to work, they will send you to extraordinarily difficult labour."
"All the same, we will not work, whether it be easy or difficult labour."
"Why?" I asked in astonishment.
"Because we do not wish to work for the regime of the Antichrist."
"What are you saying?" I asked, upset. "After all, here on Solovki there are many bishops and priests who have been sent here for their confession. They all work, each one as he is able. Here, for example, there is the bishop of Vyatka, who works as a bookkeeper at the rope factory, and in the lumber department many priests work. They weave nets. On Fridays they work the whole twenty-four hours, day and night, so as to fulfill their quota extra quickly and thus free for themselves a time for prayer in the evening on Saturdays and Sunday morning."
"But we are not going to work under compulsion for the regime of the Antichrist."
"Well then, without examination I will make some kind of diagnosis for you and give the conclusion that you are not capable of hard physical labour."
"No, you needn't do that. Forgive us, but we will be obliged to say that this is not true. We are well. We can work, but we do not wish to work for the regime of the Antichrist and we shall not work even though they might kill us for this."
"They will not kill you, but they will torture you to death," I said in a quiet whisper, risking being overheard; I said it with pain of heart.
"God will help us to endure the tortures also," one of the nuns said, likewise quietly. Tears came to my eyes.
I bowed down to them in silence. I wished to bow down to the ground and kiss their feet.
A week later the commandant of the Sanitary Division entered the physician's office and, among other things, informed us:
"We're all worn out with these nuns, but now they have agreed to work. They sew and patch up clothing for the central ward. Only they as conditions that they should all be together and be allowed to sing quietly some kind of songs while they work. The chief of the camp has allowed it. There they are now, singing and working."
The nuns were isolated to such an extent that even we, the physicians of the Sanitary Division who enjoyed comparative freedom of movement, and who had many ties and friends, for a long time were unable to receive any kind of news about them. And only a month later we found out how the last act of their tragedy had developed.
From one of the convoys that had come to Solovki, there was brought a priest who turned out to be the spiritual father of some of the nuns. And, although contact between them seemed, under the camp conditions, to be completely impossible, the nuns in some way managed to ask directions form their instructor.
The essence of their questions consisted of the following:
"We came to the camp for suffering and here we are doing fine. We are together; we sing prayers; the work is pleasing for us. Have we acted rightly that we agreed to work under the conditions of the regime of the Antichrist? Should we not renounce even this work?"
The spiritual father replied by categorically prohibiting them from working.
And then the nuns refused every kind of work. The administration found out who was guilty for this. The priest was shot. But when the nuns were informed about this, they said:
"Now no one is able to free us from this prohibition."
The nuns also refused to accept any camp food. The Catacomb priest Fr. Philip Anikin and other priests brought them food out of their own meagre rations.
Fr. Philip relates that the nuns lived through the summer in the camp, but then were separated and taken off somewhere one by one. Then, according to reports, they were killed.
(Sources: I.M. Andreyev, Russia's Catacomb Saints, Platina, Ca.: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1982, chapter 4; Pravoslavnaya Zhizn', N 1 (1574), January 1/14, 1997, pp. 11-12)
In the year 1929, in the frightful concentration camp of Solovki, beginning with the end of the winter there was a great increase of scurvy, and towards spring 18,000 prisoners of the fourth division of the camp (the division that occupied the island of Solovki itself), the number of those afflicted reached 5000. I, as an imprisoned physician, was offered, apart from my usual work, to take upon myself the supervision of one of the new scurvy barracks for 500 prisoners.
When I came to this barracks I was met by a young Jewish orderly with a very handsome, lively face. He turned out to be a fourth-year medical student. To have such a qualified helper was a great rarity and an immense help. Alexander Yakovlevich Jacobson (such was his name) went around the whole barracks with me and showed me all the patients. Concerning each one, he told me in detail his diagnosis and the characteristic traits of the disease. The patients were all in a very serious condition. Rotting and pussing gums afflicted with the sores of scurvy gangrene, an immense swelling of the joints, bleeding from scurvy in the form of blue spots in the extremities were what came first to the eyes in a hasty examination. A more thorough investigation revealed that many of them turned out to have serious complications in the inner organs: hemorrhagic nephritis, pleuritis and pericarditis, serious afflictions of the eyes, and so forth. From the explanations of the orderly, I understood that he knew precisely what was what in the symptomatology of diseases, and he made correct diagnoses and prognoses.
Finding out that Alexander was working without stop 24 hours at a time, I sent him off to rest and began to go about and examine the patients alone. In the histories of their disease were registered all the so-called regular facts, that is, first name, surname, date and place of birth, and so forth; the diagnosis was set forth, and subjective complaints were registered. In view of the immense number of patients, I was forced to examine them very hastily and to make extremely brief notes. Nonetheless, my examination, which began at eight in the morning, ended only at 3 a.m., with two intermissions of one half hour for lunch and supper.
The next day I again came to the barracks at eight in the morning and found Alexander, who had already gone about all the patients, filling all my prescriptions and gathering information on the most serious cases. He had worked from 12 noon to 8 a.m., that is, 20 hours, again without stop. His face was puffed and had clear traces of serious blows. In reply to my inquiries he told me the following. At 7 a.m. the barracks had been visited by the chief of the Intelligence Division (GPU) in the camp. This chief was drunk. Going around the patients, he asked them whether they were satisfied with the work of the physician and the orderly. Some of the sick prisoners declared that the doctor had only come late at night, "glanced in" and "quickly" looked at "some" of the patients "without giving any help to the seriously ill", while the orderly had come to work yesterday only at 12 noon.
Without investigating whether these complaints were just or not, and without asking any explanations of the orderly, the chief hit the latter several times in the face and ordered me, as the physician in charge of this section, to come to him at 12 noon "for an explanation".
"Alexander Yakovlevich," I addressed the orderly, "I have to go, as you know, for an interrogation. You yourself see how many seriously ill patients there are. Even though your work has already been going on now for a whole 24 hours, could you not work another two or three hours until I return (I hope) from the interrogation?"
"Of course, doctor," the orderly replied meekly. "I will remain and look at all the seriously ill."
"Please do, for after all, you see what's what even in the most complicated cases, and I can only thank you warmly for your help. And for my part I will try to explain to the chief of the Intelligence Division that he has been unjust to you."
"Oh, don't disturb yourself about me," the orderly cried out in a lively way, "and do not defend me. I had to suffer much more difficult torments without any kind of guilt, and I only thank God for them. Remember what St. John Chrysostom said, 'Glory to God for all things'."
"Are you a Christian, then?" I asked him, astonished.
"Yes, I am an Orthodox [Christian] Jew," he replied, smiling joyfully.
In silence I shook his hand and said, "Well, goodbye. Thank you. Tomorrow we will talk. Pray for me."
"Be calm," the orderly told me in a confidential tone. "Constantly, the whole time you are at the interrogation, pray to your guardian angel. May God preserve you, Doctor."
I went out. On the way I prayed to the Lord, to His Most Pure Mother, to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, and especially to my guardian angel, fulfilling the good advice of Alexander.
Going into the office of the chief of the Intelligence Division, for the last time I mentally addressed my guardian angel with the prayer, "Defend me! Enlighten me!"
The chief met me in silence, severely. With a finger he pointed to a chair. I sat down.
"Tell me, when did you make the rounds of the patients yesterday, and why did your helper, this Jew orderly, go to work only at lunch time?"
Mentally, without words, I called to my help my guardian angel. Trying to be calm, in a quiet, even voice, without hurrying, I related to him everything in some detail. I related that by the directive of the chief of the Sanitary Division I had come to take the barracks at 8 a.m. Finding out that the orderly, after opening a new ward, receiving 300 patients, and preparing everything needed for my coming, had worked without interruption for a whole day and night, I sent him to rest for several hours while I myself took charge of making the rounds of the patients. My rounds took me from eight in the morning until three at night. And in fact, the last group of patients, in the attic, I examined only between two and three o'clock at night. The orderly, after his uninterrupted 24-hour work shift, after sleeping only three or four hours, again came to work yesterday at 12 noon, and is again working without interruption now for a second 24 hours, right up to this moment.
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