Hieromartyrs And Hieroconfessors Of Central Asia And Those With Them

Protopriest Philip Shatsky, the second priest of the Kazan church of the Sarkand. stanitsa, Semirechiye region, was killed in the building of the missionary school. The school was burned down.

Protopriest Fr. Vladimir Tsidrinsky, the dean of the town of Lipsinsk, Semirechiye region, was tied by the hair to the tail of a horse which was then let into a field. Bones were all that was left of batyushka.

(Source: Vladimir Rusak, Pir Satany, London, Canada: "Zarya", 1991, pp. 24, 41)

At the beginning of the 20th century, Bishop Alexander (Kulchitsky) of Verny and Semirechiye consecrated a men's monastery of the Holy Trinity in the village of Kuturg near Przhevalsk on the Issyk-Kul lake. In the second decade of the century Hieromonks Seraphim, Theognost, Heraclius, Pachomius and Anatolius were sent there to do missionary work from Glinsk Hermitage. In 1909 Fathers Seraphim and Anatolius were ordained to the priesthood in the cathedral church of Verny, and in 1916 Hieromonk Anatolius was placed in charge of the choir of the cathedral church.

In the summer of 1916 there was an uprising of the Kirgizians, and they attacked the Issyk-Kul monastery. At that time Hieromonks Pachomius and Theognostus were there, as well as Monk Heraclius. In 1916 Fr. Theognostus was confirmed as dean and assistant of the laypeople's spiritual father. Fr. Heraclius told the story of how the Kirgizians burst into the monastery and began to demand valuables. But the monks had no treasures. The bandits shouted and raved, and finally ordered them to get what valuables they had ready by a definite day, threatening them with punishment if they failed to carry out this command. Then a part of the brotherhood left the monastery: some went into the mountains, others to the nearest settlements. Fr. Heraclius and the elderly monks remained. On the appointed day they all received Confession and Communion of the Holy Mysteries. The Kirgizians arrived in the morning and began to knock on the doors with their sabres. The monks did not open up and prayed.

"I was filled with fear," remembered Fr. Heraclius, "it was evidently not time for me to die, I was not ready. I ran to the bell-tower and began to look for a place to hide. I rushed around and climbed under some planks which were lying near the iron roof. The Kirgizians broke down the doors, went into the monastery and looted it: they smashed the icons and took away the church utensils - the chalices, the trays and the crosses. Then the execution began in the courtyard. I was lying under the roof, and I could see everything. It was very hot. The iron of the roof was glowing so much that I almost burned up. I very much wanted to drink, but I had to endure everything. The monks' noses, ears, arms and legs were cut off by sabres. They made a man like a samovar, blood was pouring out of him. I don't know how I bore all this. Then they hung one elder up head down and began to tear the skin off him. They tore it off and stuffed it into his mouth with the cry:

"'Hold it!'

"His head hung down holding his own skin. He was covered in blood. They didn't spare any of them, but cut off limbs from everyone. Towards evening, at the setting of the sun, the Kirgizians got on their horses and left. All this time I had been lying under the roof. Then people appeared from the settlements and the monks who had gone away began to come up. Then I tried to get out of my hiding place. I collapsed onto the floor of the bell-tower. I couldn't move my arms or my legs. I wanted to drink, and slid over the floor so as to get away, if only for a short distance. Finally I fell down. The brothers saw me and gave me water. We all wept. By morning the wounded had died, and we buried them. The authorities came from the town, and they decided to close the monastery [it was closed in 1919]."

The monks dispersed in different directions. Fathers Heraclius, Seraphim, Theognostus, Pachomius and Anatolius went to the city of Verny and settled in the region of Medeo on the Moknataya mountain, where they built cells and dug out an underground church in honour of St. Seraphim. In 1917, after the closure of the Verny Iveron-Seraphim women's monastery, they gave the skete on Medeo to the nuns and moved to the Aksayskoye gorge on the Maly Kyzyl-Zhar mountain, to a place which had been indicated to them by an unearthly light appearing on three successive days. (According to another version, they went to a new place in 1916 because there were too many people and they sought a more secluded life.) On the mountain they built cells about one hundred metres from each other. They dug out three caves: in one they kept food, and in the two others they prayed. (The caves exist to the present day.) The mountains the monks sowed oats, harvested hay, kept bees and, perhaps, cut little crosses and church utensils out of wood. On the other side of the gorge, across the little river, there was an apiary where an old bee-keeper lived with his children. The monks loved to be with the bee-keeper and chat with him.

We know little about Fr. Theognostus. About Fr. Seraphim we know a little more. He was the spiritual father of the skete. He had been born in Glukhov in the 1870s; his name in the world was Alexander. He was an educated man of strict life; he did icon-painting, and had a good voice.

When Fr. Seraphim was still a youth, his mother, a pious woman named Maria, had had a vision in her sleep that he would become a martyr. Another time, when Fr. Seraphim was singing some church songs, his mother saw a wreath over his head and angels with him, and she again said that he would have a martyric end. These words of his mother sank deep into the soul of Fr. Seraphim. He reasoned that if that was to be his end, what was there for him to seek in the world? And he decided to leave the world and entered the Glinsk Hermitage. There his spiritual father was Hieromonk Domnus (Agayev), with whom he retained spiritual links even after his death in 1908.

Many years later, when the monks were already living in the Aksaisky gorge, Fr. Seraphim had the following vision in a light sleep. The three of them - Fr. Anatolius, Fr. Theognostus and Fr. Seraphim - were walking along the gorge, when they saw a church. And what a church! How beautiful it was! All three of them went into the church, but Fr. Anatolius came out of the church and ran away. Five burning chandeliers were hanging in the church. One of them, the central one, began to sway as if someone were pushing it from side to side. It broke off and fell to the ground, but two chandeliers continued to hang without moving. Then Fr. Seraphim woke up...

There was communication between the sketes on Medeo and Kyzyl-Zhar; they went through the mountains on horseback. Every Sunday Fr. Seraphim would go to the nuns' skete to serve the Liturgy. Nun Magdalene remembered that when he served the Liturgy it was impossible to look into the altar - there was an unusual radiance there. And when the door of the vestry opened into the altar, it was impossible to look at Fr. Seraphim, for he was standing in some kind of radiance. At that point fear and trembling would come over Nun Magdalene, and she would have to leave the altar.

When the revolution came, terrible scenes were witnessed. Women dressed up in priests' vestments and hierarchical mitres and went round the city on carts singing and dancing. During the night Nun Magdalene ran to Fr. Seraphim in his mountainside skete. She had not yet opened the door to his cell when he met her and said:

"I know why you've come. Domnus told me:

"'Seraphim, Seraphim, they'll remove the tsar and quick-quick! everything will go to ruin.'"

One of the first victims of the repressions that followed the October, 1917 revolution was a spiritual daughter of Fr. Seraphim, Nun Eudocia. Nun Magdalene tells the story:

"This took place in the summer. Fr. Seraphim served the Liturgy in the morning on Medeo. Mother Eudocia went to him for confession and communion, but forgetfully ate a poppy-head which grew in our flower-garden. Fr. Seraphim accepted her confession, but did not communicate her, saying:

"'It's wrong, why did you eat the poppy?'

"And he sent her back to the monastery.

"Later he was upset: 'If only I had known they were going to kill her, I would have given her communion, of course.'

"In the evening some people with guns came to the monastery demanding that the general's daughter be handed over to them. The sisters were frightened and hid Mother Euphrosyne in the barn behind some sacks of flour. The soldiers, having searched for the abbess without success, took their revenge by placing the Nuns Mother Eudocia and Mother Animais against the monastery wall and firing at them. A bullet pierced Mother Eudocia's head and tore away the lower part of her face. Mother Animais was wounded in the shoulder, but soon recovered in one of the town hospitals.

"The shooting of the nuns took place in front of the eyes of the monastery sisters. Sister Theodora (Daurtseva), a close friend of Nun Eudocia, on seeing her disfigured face, suffered shock and fell ill with a nervous disorder. The bloodied and mutilated face kept appearing before her eyes. Mother Eudocia appeared to her in her sleep and said:

"'Theodora, why are you weeping, what are you afraid of? Don't weep, you can see that I am as I was.'

"After this vision Mother Theodora stopped seeing the disfigured face and became calmer."

Not long before his death, Fr. Seraphim was sitting with four nuns - Alexandra, Tatyana, Darya and Magdalene - in the flower-garden by the cross on Moknataya hill.

"Sisters," he said, "after me you will suffer great sorrows."

He gave them the Holy Gifts in a small box sewn into a cloth cover with a strap for carrying on the breast, and said:

"When you are in prison and you find out that there is a priest there, write your sins on a piece of paper and secretly hand it to him, so that he can give you absolution. When he has absolved you, read the prayers which you remember, and, having taken the Holy Gifts in a spoon, communicate."

At the beginning of the thirties all four nuns were in prison, and they had great consolation in their suffering through the Communion of the Holy Gifts which Nun Magdalene had kept under the framework of an icon.

Foreseeing his death, Fr. Seraphim said to his spiritual daughters: "I will die. I will be buried here. You come to my grave every year."

The nuns, novices and parishioners fulfilled his command...

The summer of 1921 was very rainy and a very powerful mountain torrent was formed which rushed through the town of Verny on the day of the feast of the Tikhvin icon of the Mother of God. In August, all five of the monks went to the town for the feast of St. Pantaleimon the healer. Two of the monks - Fathers Heraclius and Pachomius - spent the night in the town, while Fathers Theognost, Seraphim and Anatolius returned to the mountains. When they came up to the skete, they saw that two Red Army soldiers (one Russian and one Dungan) were tending a herd of horses. In the evening, the soldiers went to the cell of Fr. Seraphim, who treated them to tea and honey. Then Fr. Seraphim went and told Fr. Anatolius:

"They're rather suspicious. They arrived, drank tea and were silent, looking round like wild beasts. I gave them a place to sleep, but they're not sleeping, they're all the time talking."

"Look," said Fr. Anatolius, "don't say anything superfluous."

Fr. Seraphim always used to preach about the end of the world, that it was coming soon, to everyone who arrived. So Fr. Anatolius said:

"Don't make a mistake in what you say."

"What I can tell them - I'm frightened of them, my whole soul is trembling."

The three lay down to sleep, but Fr. Seraphim did not sleep. At dawn, the soldiers came up to Fr. Seraphim's cell and stuck a gun in his back.

"Anatolius!" he shouted.

At that moment they shot him twice. Then they went into the cell of Fr. Theognost, who was sleeping at that moment, and shot him point-blank. On hearing the shots and Fr. Seraphim's shout, Fr. Anatolius rushed towards the apiary. He arrived dead tired, naked, having almost drowned in the river. The soldiers ransacked the cells; evidently they were looking for money. They came away with nothing.

Fr. Heraclius, who was spending the night in the town, saw in a dream that Ethiopians were attacking the skete. In the morning some people came from the apiary into the town and told what had happened. The monks, nuns and several parishioners went to the skete, but it was three days before they arrived: the river had overflowed and carried away the footbridge. They crossed the river only on the fourth day. They found Fr. Theognost lying in his cell with his prayer-rope in his hands. Fr. Seraphim was lying in a glade, in the very place where the graves of the martyrs are now situated. Apparently he had been wounded and died from loss of blood. They dug out a grave, covered it with planks and, wrapping the monks in their mantias, buried them without coffins. They put crosses on it and planted four fir-trees beside it.

Then they went to the skete on Medeo and Fr. Anatolius served the burial service. How he wept! And they commemorated Fr. Seraphim for forty days in the cell which he had built. They did the same in all the churches in the town. There was a Liturgy every day, because he was greatly venerated by all.

On the fortieth day after the death of Fathers Seraphim and Theognostus, the eight-year-old Stefanida, the daughter of Nun Magdalene's sister, Eudocia Volkova, whose family was often visited by Fr. Seraphim, had a vision just before waking. Fr. Seraphim was walking with a joyful, radiant face, and in front of him was a burning candle on a candlestick, and behind him, also very joyful, was Fr. Theognostus. They were dressed in the same clothes they had been buried in: Fr. Theognostus in a cassock, and Fr. Seraphim with the light half-coat that he had put on over his cassock on the night of his murder. They were going to worship the Lord.

At that moment the girl was woken up by her mother. She wept:

"Mama, angels were meeting them, but you didn't let me see the Lord giving them new clothes."

They found the murderers, but the military tribunal refused to judge them. They said:

"They killed some monks, but we ourselves kill monks."

Later these two did away with some official. They were judged and sentenced to be shot.

The old bee-keeper who lived near the monks gave the following testament to his children:

"Give tea and honey with table-spoons to those who come to the funeral meals. Let them eat the honey with the spoons and commemorate the batyushkas."

In the 1950s the believers used to go for a funeral meal there after the feast of St. Pantaleimon; and, as always, they would drop in on the bee-keeper. The apiary had become state property by this time, but the bee-keepers descendants still remained there. On the bee-keeper's side of the mountain they built dachas. The bee-keepers were amazed by the arrival of the believers, and asked whether they had not already been to the graves that year. It turned out that one night they had heard church chanting coming from the direction of the graves, and saw a light on the mountain through the fir-trees. They thought it was a bonfire. They decided that the pilgrims had come ten days earlier than usual, and were offended that they had not dropped in on the apiary. In their sorrow, the next morning they poured out a small barrel of honey - we'll eat it nevertheless, they said - and themselves went to the graves. But they found no evidence that anyone had been there. Then they remembered that their relatives had said that they had more than once heard church chanting at the graves.

Metropolitan Joseph was very interested in this question, and often said in conversations that a miracle took place at the place of the burial of the martyrs, but he did not say what this miracle was. People who have made pilgrimages to this place unanimously recognize that there is a special presence of the grace of God there.

In 1922 the monastery at Medeo was closed, the nuns were expelled, and part of the buildings was torn down to be used in building works. After all that had happened, Fathers Pachomius, Heraclius and Anatolius did not remain at the skete. In time the cells of the monks were broken down for firewood and burned by charcoal-burners. At the present time there are pits where the cells used to stand.

Fr. Heraclius, whose name in the world was Sergius Matyakh, went to live in Talgar with I.D. Dmitriev. He refused to settle in his house, but built himself a cell in the garden. He was sometimes visited by the Verny nuns Alexandra, Theodora, Euthalia, Maria and Magdalene. Fr. Heraclius often went off for long periods into the mountains. In 1928 Dmitriev and his whole family were arrested and sent into exile by the Aral Sea. Not long before his arrest, Fr. Heraclius moved to the village of Sazanovka (now Ananyevo) near Przhevalsk on Issyk-Kul and settled in the garden of the family of Adrian Maximovich Dubinin, who gave the following account:

"When Fr. Heraclius arrived in Sazanovka in 1928, he did not know where to lay his head. My brother Miron took him to live in his house. He plastered and whitewashed the bath-house in the garden and settled Fr. Heraclius there. In 1929 they carried out a search in my brother's house and I took Fr. Heraclius to live with me, settling him in a small room in my house. He was already an old man. He rarely left the house and went into ever deeper reclusion in his cell. People were coming to him all the time, everyone with his own needs. He was the only such elder we had in the whole region.

"In 1936, on the eve of Pascha, Fr. Heraclius went to the neighbouring village of Semenovka, where a sick monk lived. He said he very much wanted to pray with a monk at Pascha. At that time it was like this for the feast - all the priests were in prison. They would hold them for about a week and then release them. On the Friday the shroud would be brought out, and then on the Saturday morning they - they were our own village fishermen, but they had been given authority to devastate the population - went into the church. The service was taking its usual course, and they would go straight through the Royal Doors. They'd drag the priest out of the altar, begin to roll those cigarettes, begin to smoke and - puff-puff - the church was filled with the stuff. So we ourselves served that Pascha ourselves, without a priest, as best we could.

"In the morning, when the kuliches were blessed, Fr. Heraclius came. He was joyful, all radiant. We exchanged kisses, sat down to break the fast and talk. He said:

"'Well, brother, this is my last Pascha. At Ascension I will depart to the Lord.'

"'Batyushka,' I said, 'you know, at Ascension they'll take the priests without fail. Who, then, will take you out and bury you?'

"'You will.'

"Then he gave me some oil from Jerusalem and said:

"'You'll pour this oil over me. You'll cut out a woven cherubim and cover my face with it.'

"He lay down on the Wednesday, the eve of the Ascension, and on the Thursday, the very day of the feast, he quietly died. My father and brothers and I dressed him in the vestments of a schema-monk and I did as he had showed and explained to me: I covered his face with a cherubim. The whole community came to bury him. What a lot of people! They came from all the surrounding villages. We buried him beyond the village, not far from the monks of the Issyk-Kul monastery who had been killed by the Kirgizians..."

Fr. Pachomius (in the world Prochor Petrovich Rusin) was born in 1880, a native of Kursk province. After 1921 he lived for some time secretly together with the wanderer Victor and Schema-Monk Tikhon on the Gorelnik mountain in the Medeo region. Occasionally he would go to the town and stay with the nuns. He was very quiet.

A. Nagabina recalls: "We would come after the all-night vigil and drink some tea. Matushka Euphalia would ask him:

"'Father Pachomius, say two or three words, say a living word for the salvation of the soul!'

"'Ha, ha,' he said. 'Sisters, pray. Read the Jesus prayer.'

"And that was all. Or he would serve in his cell on Medeo and the sisters would ask him:

"'Father Pachomius, today is such a great feast, say a few words!'

"And all he would say would be: 'Sisters, you must pray, truly pray. You must not forget the Jesus prayer.'"

At the end of the 1920s there was a severe persecution, and Fr. Pachomius left and lived in the town with various people. He served in secret, performing weddings and funerals in the house. He often went with the nuns to the graves of Fathers Seraphim and Theognostus. After the Liturgy in the morning he would weep and weep. Then he would cough and say:

"The Lord took them to Himself, but I knock about all the time. How good it would have been for me to have been together with them. Well, I was not counted worthy of it."

In 1935 Fr. Pachomius was arrested and imprisoned in Alma-Ata. He suffered various humilations. In 1936 he was shot.

Fr. Anatolius, the youngest of the monks (he was not yet 30 in 1921), lived for a while in Verny, serving in the All-Saints church of the Iveron-Seraphim monastery until it was closed in 1922. (It continued to function for a while after its official closure.) He used to direct the choir, write music, sing and play on the accordion. In the middle of the 1920s he left for Sukhumi, where he lived in the mountains. He continued to correspond with the Verny nuns. Then the news was received that he had been arrested and shot.

The wanderer Victor was thrown from an airplane when he was being transferred from Karaganda to another prison in a new exile in Kyzyl-Ordu. He had already been through many prisons. And so his body lies somewhere in the vast wastes of the Dzhekazgan desert, while his spirit stands before the throne of God.

(Sources: Fr. Alexander Chesnokov, Glinskaya Pustyn' i yeyo Startsy, Sergiev Posad: Holy Trinity - St. Sergius Lavra, 1994, pp. 138-143; V. Koroleva, "Alma-Atinskiye prepodobnomucheniki Seraphim i Theognost", Russkij Palomnik, N 13, 1996)

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