Fr. Nicholas Ivanovich Lyubomudrov was born on April 11, 1862, on Wednesday of Bright Week, in the village of Yurkino, Poshekhonye uyezd, Yaroslavl province, in the family of a reader. Fr. Nicholas was the eldest of the six children of Ivan Mikhailovich and Olga Ivanovna Lyubomudrov. Ivan Mikailovich's surname was originally Suslonov, but when he entered the theological school the head of the school changed his name to Lyubomudrov ("lover of wisdom"), considering this to be more fitting for a future clergyman.
In 1877 Nicholas finished his studies at the Peshekhonye theological school and entered the Yaroslavl theological seminary. In 1884 he finished his studies at the seminary in the first rank, which gave him the right to enter a Theological Academy. However, he did not have the material resources to do this: as the eldest son, he had to look after his poor widowed mother, and his younger brothers and sisters.
From 1884 to 1887 Nicholas served as reader in the church of the Nativity of the Mother of God on Dukhovskaya street in Yaroslavl.
On February 2, 1887, the feast of the Meeting, he married the daughter of the priest of the village of Pechelki, Sophia Petrovna Dyakonova, a teacher in a school of peasant children in the village of Abakumtsev (founded by N.A. Nekrasov). Her brother, Alexander Petrovich Dyakonov, became a professor at the Petersburg Theological Academy.
Soon Nicholas Ivanovich was ordained to the priesthood, and at the beginning of March, 1887 he arrived in the village of Latskoye, Mologsky uyezd, Yaroslavl province, where he had been appointed to serve and where he lived for almost 32 years.
Latskoye was a populous trading settlement on a main highway. It had a stone church dedicated to the Ascension of the Lord and a wooden cemetery church dedicated to the Kazan icon of the Mother of God.
Fr. Nicholas was a genuine spiritual pastor for his parishioners. His whole life in Latskoye was filled with serving his flock, with active love for his neighbour, with care for their spiritual and material needs. He developed an unusually active theological education programme, which was not confined to preaching in church and teaching the Law of God in the three-class zemsky school. Fr. Nicholas created the first library for peasants in Latskoye (it was opened in 1895), in which through his efforts books of a spiritual-moral content were collected, Russian classics, books for children, newspapers and journals.
In order to strengthen the morals of the people, intensify the struggle against alcoholism, increase culture and literacy, and instil an interest in rational methods of agriculture, Fr. Nicholas organised public readings of literature, illustrating them with slides shown through a projector. These readings were conducted on Sundays in autumn and winter from 1900 to 1915; up to 600 people attended them. Among the readers were Fr. Nicholas himself, his wife, children, and teachers at the local school.
By his sermons and public readings Fr. Nicholas waged an unceasing battle against drunkenness. He himself had been a complete abstainer since his youth, and decisively condemned the use of alcohol and smoking.
On the 10 desyatinas of church land that was allotted his family, Fr. Nicholas introduced a model agricultural economy. He had an apple orchard and an apiary. He often advised peasants on questions of land fertility, and obtained for them high-class seeds, even ordering several agricultural machines from America which the peasants used.
Fr. Nicholas did not approve of the practice of peasants' payments for church services going directly to the priest, and was in favour of state salaries for priests. He considered that receiving money for needs from poor peasants was humiliating and immoral.
This was one of the reasons why Fr. Nicholas gave his children a secular education. All eight of them received higher education.
Fr. Nicholas very much loved music, and taught himself to play the violin. He founded a harmonious choir in Latskoye in which all his children sang.
In 1912 Fr. Nicholas was appointed dean of the first district of the Mologsky uyezd of Yaroslavl province.
Fr. Nicholas' son Vladimir said about his father that he was "energetic and full of the joy of life... He was principled and demanding both to himself and to others, of a chrystal-like honesty, a lover of men, responsive. He was greatly respected by all who knew him. As a church-server he was respected by believers, and not only of his own parish... Unacquisitiveness, a complete absence of hypocrisy, a sincere desire to help people in every way he could, not to speak of his public activities, created his wide popularity. He was embarrassed by this popularity, even feared it, since he wanted to be unnoticed, an ordinary person the meaning of whose life was to live for people... Like everyone, he was not without faults, but he knew about them and tried to free himself from them. One of these faults was irascibility, which his wife, Sophia Petrovna, helped him to overcome by her exceptional tact and calm."
Fr. Nicholas' path in life was helped and blessed by two saints: John of Kronstadt and Patriarch Tikhon. Fr. Nicholas greatly venerated Fr. John, by whose prayers he may have been cured of a dangerous illness. In 1898 Fr. Nicholas fell ill with typhus. His wife, Sophia Petrovna, in spite of the fact that she was pregnant, set off for St. Petersburg and asked Fr. John to help. After praying, Fr. John said:
"Your husband will get better, and the child will be born healthy."
Fr. Nicholas indeed recovered, and the son who was born, Nicholas, was the only one of his children who lived to our days.
Fr. Nicholas was also known by Archbishop Tikhon of Yaroslavl, the future patriarch and martyr. In August, 1912 Vladyka Tikhon went round the parishes of his diocese and stayed a whole day with Fr. Nicholas.
After the revolution, Fr. Nicholas did not show his attitude to the new authorities, taking, as far as it was possible, a neutral attitude. However, the local volost executive committee decided to search the village for hidden bread, and the first house they searched - in a very crude, offensive way - was Fr. Nicholas'. They threatened to confiscate his land and property, and even openly hinted that they would kill him. Fr. Nicholas was extremely upset by the disorders around him, and his wife constantly had to calm him down.
In the spring of 1918 all the children returned to their parents for the Paschal holidays. The services for Holy Week and Pascha were conducted with special feeling and solemnity.
At the insistence of his children, Fr. Nicholas applied to Archimandrite, James, the deputy of the diocesan bishop, to be transferred to another, more peaceful village. However, Archimandrite James turned down his request, saying that he must leave the flock entrusted to him and adding:
"If they kill you, you will receive a crown of martyrdom from the Lord."
In July, 1918 rebellions by the SRs took place in Yaroslavl, Rybinsk and other cities. They were not supported by the peasants and were soon suppressed. In September the Bolsheviks proclaimed their "Red Terror" in response to the SRs' terrorist acts. In October there were a number of peasant rebellions in Yaroslavl province, one of which affected the village of Latskoye.
On October 16, 1918 some unknown armed people gathered all the inhabitants of the village on the square and called them to fight against the Bolsheviks. Then, using persuasions and threats, they formed a levy from the villagers and led them to the nearest railway station.
The mothers and sisters of those who were leaving rushed up to Fr. Nicholas and tearfully asked him to serve a moleben for their salvation. Fr. Nicholas' daughter tried to dissuade him from this, but he considered it his Christian duty, and served a moleben for their health.
The band of rebels walked slowly. After they had gone ten versts, it began to rain, they began to disperse, and by the evening of the same day all the villagers had returned home safe and sound.
Soon the activists declared that Fr. Nicholas' moleben had been a counter-revolutionary act, saying that he had served it "to give victory over the Soviet authorities".
The next day it became known that a punitive detachment of Latvian riflemen were coming to deal with the organisers and participants in the rebellion. There were even rumours that several priests in the neighbouring villages had been shot.
At that time Fr. Nicholas was staying at home with his 22-year-old daughter Olga and his 13-year-old son Vladimir. His wife was with her sick mother, but was due to return soon. The children and peasants advised Fr. Nicholas to hide:
"Batyushka, go into any hut, and you will be safe."
But Fr. Nicholas replied:
"I have not committed any crimes and I fear nothing."
Not considering himself to be guilty of anything befor the authorities, and not finding it possible to leave his flock, which would have given rise to suspicion, Fr. Nicholas decided to given himself over completely to the will of God.
Sensing his approaching death, Fr. Nicholas wrote a parting letter to his wife and children, expressing his love and gratitude to his wife for the years they had lived together and for her help in all things, and addressing each of his children with a word about their virtues and faults and some advice about their future life. He called them all to firm faith and love for each other, and blessed them all.
On the morning of October 18 (according to other sources, 19), Fr. Nicholas received a telegram from his wife and immediately went to the station to meet her. But the trains from Yaroslavl were irregular, and he had to wait the whole day there without seeing her. So late in the evening he returned home.
Fr. Nicholas' daughter Olga witnesses that that night he prayed during the night on his knees with a candle in his hands.
October 20 was Demetrius' Saturday, and Fr. Nicholas served the Liturgy and a pannikhida in the Ascension church. That morning the local council decided to shoot Fr. Nicholas. The military commissar and two soldiers were sent with rifles to the church.
At that time Sophia Petrovna arrived at the station of Shestikhino. It was night, but Sophia Petrovna decided not to wait for transport. Following a feeling of foreboding, she immediately set out to walk the sixteen versts to the village. On arriving at the church she saw the armed men. There were not many people in the church. Fr. Nicholas had just finished the pannikhida. He turned, saw his wife and said to her:
"Sonya, you've arrived..."
Sophia Petrovna said:
"They've come for you..."
After removing his vestments, Fr. Nicholas said goodbye to his wife, his children and the reader, and blessed everyone. The commissar and soldiers led him out of the village, while his wife and children walked behind. It was a frosty day, the sun was shining brightly. The streets were empty - evidently the villagers were too frightened to intercede on behalf of their beloved batyushka. On passing the Kazan church, Fr. Nicholas took off his hat and crossed himself. The soldiers ordered those accompanying him to stay where they were and led Fr. Nicholas to a cabbage garden that was on the edge of the village, not far from the Lyubomudrovs' house.
Some women who were collecting cabbage leaves saw them leading out Fr. Nicholas, hid themselves and became witnesses of his execution. Two soldier led Fr. Nicholas to a mound near the slope leading down to the river Latka and began to charge their guns. They demanded that he turn round, but Fr. Nicholas faced them, crossed himself and before blessing them said:
"Lord, receive my spirit! Forgive them: they know not what they are doing!"
Two shots rang out and Fr. Nicholas fell. The soldiers went up to him, shot him again, took his silver cross and, after quarrelling about who should take it, went to the priest's house, where the other members of the detachment were looting.
On hearing the shots, Fr. Nicholas' wife and children and several peasants rushed up to the scene of execution. The earth under Fr. Nicholas was soaked in blood, and the back part of his head had been crushed. The wife and children sank to their knees while the women wailed. One of the members of the volost executive committee said:
"A dog's death for a dog!"
This took place at 1.30 on October 20, 1918 (old style). Fr. Nicholas' burial service was carried out by three priests on April 19, 1919. He was buried in the cemetery of the Kazan church near the altar.
(Source: Ikh Stradaniyami Ochistitsa Rus', Moscow, 1996, pp. 12-21; "Otets Nikolaj Lybomudrov", Pravoslavnaya Zhizn', 48, N 2 (578), February, 1998, pp. 23-33)
In 1918, three people were shot without trial and 56 arrested in Poshekhonye, near Rybinsk. The arrested people were threatened with a revolutionary court.
(Source: Vladimir Rusak, Pir Satany, London, Canada: "Zarya", 1991, p. 29)
In 1921 Protopriest Michael Belyaev, superior of the Tsarsky cathedral, and his brother, the priest Fr. Macarius Belyaev, were shot in Rostov.
(Source: Vladimir Rusak, Pir Satany, London, Canada: "Zarya", 1991, p. 96)
In Yaroslavl diocese, several tens of parishes resisted the new ecclesiastical politics of Metropolitan Sergius and belonged to the True Orthodox Church. Fr. Leonid Rozov was the son of a priest, had graduated from seminary and was the priest of the church of St. George in Rybinsk. In a letter to Vladyka Benjamin dated November 25, 1928, he wrote: "Neither the clergy nor the believers refused to recognize Paul because they have anything against his personality, but we are all inspired by a rejection of Sergianism as a world-view, and cannot allow the imposition of this system within the bounds of the Yaroslavl ecclesiastical district."
Another confessing priest was Fr. Flegont Nikolayevich Pongilsky was born in 1871 in the village of Karyaevo, Uglich uyezd, Yaroslavl province. He finished his studies at a theological seminary and became a priest. He served in a church in Yaroslavl. On August 8, 1929 he was arrested in connection with the affair of the Yaroslavl branch of the True Orthodox Church. On January 3, 1930 he was sentenced in accordance with article 58-10 to five years' exile in the north. On August 8, 1933 he was released from exile. His son Leonid, in a letter to Bishop Benjamin of Tutayevo dated September 5, 1929 said that he was thinking of spending the winter in Petrograd with the Catacomb Archbishop Demetrius and receiving consecration to the episcopate from him.
Fr. Nicholas Nikolayevich Pongilsky was born in 1879 in Rybinsk, Yaroslavl province. He finished his studies at a theological seminary andwas ordained to the priesthood. He was superior of the church in Rybinsk. On September 7, 1929 he was arrested in connection with the Yaroslavl branchof the True Orthodox Church. On January 3, 1930 he was sentenced in accordance with article 58-10 to give years in the camps.
Fr. Basil Nikolayevich Poroikov was born in 1882 in Rostov. He was a priest and served in a church in Rostov. In 1929 he was arrested in connection with the affair of the Yaroslavl branch of the True Orthodox Church. On January 3, 1930 he was sentenced in accordance with article 58-10 to five years in the camps.
Igumen Cornelius (Alexeyevich Alexeyev) was born in 1873 in the village of Barbashi, Pskov province. He received an elementary education and was tonsured into the mantia with the name Cornelius. Until 1919 he struggledin the Spaso-Eleazar monastery. From 1919 to 1924 he was igumen. From 1924 to 1930 he was the cell-attendant of Bishop Barlaam (Ryashentsev). He lived in Yaroslavl. On January 31, 1930 he was arrested in connection with the affair of the Yaroslavl branch of the True Orthodox Church, and on March 2, 1930was sentenced in accordance with articles 58-10 and 11 to three years exile in the north.
(Sources: M.V. Shkarovsky, "Novomuchenik Arkhiepiskop Veniamin i yego ispovedaniye", Pravoslavnaya Rus', N 18 (1591), 15/28 September, 1997, p.7; I.I. Osipova, "Skvoz' Ogn' Muchenij i Vody Slyoz", Moscow: Serebryanniye Niti, 1998, pp. 282-283, 321)
In 1943 the secret wandering priest Fr. F. Smirnov was arrested. According to witnesses, he was "a fanatically active churchman". He was sentenced to eight years in prison by a military tribunal of the Yaroslavl NKVD.
(Source: M.B. Danilushkin (ed.) Istoria Russkoj Pravoslavnoj Tservki 1917-1970, St. Petersburg: Voskreseniye, 1997, p. 539)
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