Isaac, Hieromartyr Of Optina And Those With Him

Schema-Archimandrite Isaac, in the world Ivan Nikolayevich Bobrikov, was born in 1865 in the village of Ostrov, Levn uyezd, Orel province, in a peasant family. In 1884 he entered Optina monastery as a novice. On June 7, 1898 he was tonsured into the mantia with the name Isaac. On October 20, 1898 he was ordained to the priesthood, and on August 30, 1913 he was appointed superior in the rank of archimandrite. He was the last abbot of Optina monastery, and was distinguished by his great calm, simplicity and by the abundance of tears he shed during Divine services. When Optina monastery was closed in 1923, several of the monks led by Fr. Isaac remained in Kozelsk, where he served in the St. George church. Together with them were the blind, the halt and the hunchbacked. Of the young monks there remained only Hieromonk Gerontius, the former cell-attendant of Elder Barsonuphius, and Fr. Raphael, the former monastery novice Rodion Sheichenko.

In August, 1929, on the second or third day after the Transfiguration, all the Optina hieromonks, headed by Fr. Isaac, were arrested and imprisoned in Kozelsk prison. Only the very old and sick Fr. Joseph (Polevoy, +1932-33) remained. Also arrested at that time were all the priests of the Kozelsk churches, many monastics, including the mother of Elder Ambrose, and also laypeople close to the Church. from Kozelsk. The arrested were sent to Sukhinichi prison, and from there to Smolensk.

In January, 1930, after the end of the "investigation", all the imprisoned were sent to various distant places. Fr. Isaac, the spiritual father of the brotherhood, Fr. Dositheus, the former treasurer, Fr. Panteleimon and many others were exiled to Siberia. There, with the exception of Fr. Raphael, they ended their earthly lives.

According to another source, Fr. Isaac was exiled to Belev in Moscow province. In 1932 he was arrested in Belev, but was released. In 1937 he was arrested in connection with the affair of Bishop Nicetas of Belev. On December 30, 1937 he was sentenced to be shot. The sentence was carried out on January 8, 1938.

Hieromonk Dositheus (Chugryukin) was from Orel province. He was an educated monk with the gift of prophecy. He was a disciple of Elder Anatolius (Zertsalov), and later, of Archimandrite Agapitus (Belovidov). His obedience in the monastery was to be the doctor's assistant. He was the brotherhood's spiritual father after their expulsion to Kozelsk.

Archimandrite Pantaleimon (in the world, Paul Timofeyevich Arzhanykh) was born in 1872 in the village of Zalipayevka, Orel province. According to another source, he was of peasant stock from Sukhinichi. He passed examinations to become a doctor's assistant at the Volhynia military doctor's assistants' school. He was tonsured as a monk in Optina on August 31, 1908, and was ordained to the diaconate on March 15, 1909 and to the priesthood on March 25, 1911. On February 6, 1914 he was appointed treasurer, and was in charge of the monastery's hospital for sick and wounded soldiers. In November, 1910 he went with Elder Barsonuphius to Lev Tolstoy at Astapovo. On November 27, 1930 he was sentenced in accordance with articles 58-10 and 11 to ten years in the camps. According to one report, Fr. Pantaleimon and two priests were killed in the village of Klykovo, some kilometres from Shamordino, sometime in the 1930s.

On December 16, 1937, Archimandrite Isaac was arrested in Belev. On December 30 he was condemned to be shot by a "Troika" of the NKVD in Tula, and on January 8, 1938, he was shot together with other Optina monks in Tesnitsky wood near Tula.

Also arrested and shot with Archimandrite Isaac was Schema-Nun Augusta, in the world Lydia Vasilyevna Zashuk. She was born in 1867 and was a highly intelligent, educated and discerning journalist. She first came to Optina Hermitage not long before the revolution of 1917. She knew six foreign languages, had a literary talent, and it was precisely she who, after the revolution, founded the "Optina Hermitage Museum", which was controlled by Glavnauka. With the blessing of Elder Nectarius she administered this museum. Before the death of Elder Anatolius (Potapov) in 1922, she was tonsured by him into the schema with the name Augusta. She was arrested together with Archimandrite Isaac in Belev on December 16, 1937 and was accused of being the abbess of an underground convent. She had to endure sixteen days of interrogations, during which time she was not allowed to sleep or sit down. When she would fall, cold water was poured over her. She was condemned to be shot on December 30, and on January 8, 1938 the sentence was carried out.

Another of the last monks of Optina was Hieromonk Barnabas. He came from a peasant family, but was well-educated. In his youth he worked in some mines where he suffered a catastrophe and lost his leg. As he was lying in hospital he decided to become a monk. According to another version, it was when he was falling down the mine-shaft that he promised to be a monk if he were saved. And miraculously, he was the only survivor of the catastrophe. God healed him, but he remained lame for the rest of his life as a result of the accident. He went to Optina where he eventually became the cell-attendant of Elder Anatolius (Potapov) of Optina, being present at the elder's blessed repose.

He was tall, had a large, black beard, and the long dark hair on his shoulders was graying. He had a special penetrating gaze; his eyes were dark, kind and shone as if exuding some inward light, especially during the Divine services. He never smiled, but his whole countenance was joyous. His sense of humour emphasized simplicity and submission to God's will. He taught complete monastic renunciation of the will.

After the closure of Optina monastery he was arrested, humiliated, tormented and banished somewhere into exile. Fr. Barnabas returned from prison homeless and infirm. The wound on his amputated leg would not heal, causing him constant and severe suffering. he did not have a false limb, and had to use a wooden stick which prevented the wound from healing. He was received with love by some kind people. By 1932 he had been ordained hieromonk and served a a tiny wooden chapel on the territory of the St. Sergius hermitage on the Gulf of Finland near the capital, which was founded by Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov.

It was there that Natalia von Kieter met him and became his spiritual daughter. She described her first confession with him as follows: "In trepidation I knelt before the analogion. For the first time in my life my soul automatically fully opened up. I clearly felt the closeness of the Lord. As the experienced elder posed me questions, forgotten sins arose in my memory. I admitted that earlier I, a baby in religion, did not even consider them as sins. But here, suddenly, they rose up as grave sins. And my soul, freed from their heavy burden, became winged with light-hearted joy and limitless devotion to the grace-bearing elder. One felt like telling him everything, because he would understand everything in the light of Christ's wisdom and love. He was not only a witness of the confession, but also a transmitter of Light and Grace. This was my first real confession. Only then did I understand what confession really is. The darkness which had been enveloping my senses began to fade away and the laws of spiritual life began to reveal themselves to me. For the first time in my life I began to strive consciously towards the Light. And I was not alone. How many other people did he also lead to that Light!"

Fr. Barnabas was known by the persecuted believers as the last carrier of the Optina spirit - the incarnation of humility and meekness. When he served he was transported into another world. He was obviously clairvoyant, a highly experienced father-confessor to whom the soul of the penitent was opened and who knew how to heal sick and tormented souls.

In the autumn of 1932 Fr. Barnabas was arrested. Two years later he was released, and immediately went into the catacombs. He served the Liturgy and received people for confession in his own little one-room cabin.

In 1938 he was arrested once more and was never heard of again. From information received it is clear that he received the crown of martyrdom then, in 1938. According to one of his spiritual children, A.S. Igovskaya, he fell ill with meningitis and died in torments.

Another Optina monk was Fr. George. One of his spiritual children, who lived with him in exile, relates the following story about him. Fr. George had just been transferred from Optina to another monastery as abbot, and happened to be going through Kaluga on monastery business. As he was walking down one of the streets, he came up to one large white house and saw a woman there, her head covered with a large shawl. She looked at him with a very sad expression.

"Batyushka," she said, "I implore you, come into this house, please. My husband is dying, and he needs to receive communion."

Fr. George went into the house and confessed and communed the dying man. He was fully conscious and said:

"Batyushka, I am a merchant. I am dying. I have four children, and I am in great debt. They're already about to sell my house. The auction has already been appointed. And my family and children will remain penniless."

Fr. George said: "Well, perhaps I can help you there."

He returned to the hotel room where he was staying and rang his spiritual son, a lawyer who lived in Kaluga. He summoned him to the hotel and told him the whole story. The lawyer took it upon himself to buy the house. The merchant died a day or two after receiving communion. When the day of the auction arrived, the lawyer was so fervent in his help that he hiked the price up to 25,000 (it was not a bad house), and the house was sold. Since the merchant's debt was 17,000, the widow was able to retain some money from the proceeds. With that she bought a small house for herself…

After the closure of Optina, Fr. George went to the Danilov monastery, and was then arrested and imprisoned. He was put in the death cell with seven other people (there were more originally, but seven remained). Every night people were taken out and killed. Once, late at night, Fr. George went out into the dark corridor, and the guard whispered to him:

"Batyushka, they're going to take you tonight, at four in the morning."

That is, they were going to kill him.

Fr. George went into the cell and told the others that they were going to take them at four o'clock. He had an epitrachelion and cuffs with him. He put them on, went out into the corridor and prayed as he had never prayed in his life. Tears poured down his face and soaked his silk epitrachelion, making it faded. Suddenly he heard a voice in his right ear:

"Batyushka! They're not going to shoot you."

He shuddered.

"Who are you?" he asked.

"I'm that merchant to whom you gave communion before his death. We don't forget a good turn."

That was all. After this voice he saw the wall opening up, and a field and woods. Then he saw the face of his deceased mother, and she said to him:

"Yegorushka, they're not going to shoot you. We'll see each other again in ten years' time."

That was all. He went into the cell and told the people there that they weren't going to shoot them, that they would remain alive. One kissed his hands, another his shoulders, a third embraced him. Joyful weeping was the order of the day. At four o'clock, in truth, they were not taken out to be shot. They were taken… to a transfer point.

Ten years later, Fr. George did meet his reposed mother. For it was then that he died of cancer in Gorky.

Monk Panteleimon of Optina was an archimandrite according to some records. In 1918, during a raid on the monastery by the Soviets, he was beheaded.

Fr. Andrew Elbson was born in 1896. He served together with Fr. Alexander Gomanovksy in the church of SS. Constantine and Helena in Moscow, and later in the church of St. Nicholas in Podkapayevsky pereulok. He was also priest of the Alexandrian podvorye. He was a spiritual son of Elder Nectarius of Optina. He did not recognize the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius. In the middle of the 1930s he was living and serving secretly in Murom. He was arrested and shot in Butovo near Moscow on September 27, 1937.

Also shot in Butovo on that day was Fr. Peter Petrikov. He was born in 1903 and served in the church of St. Nicholas in Podkapayevsky pereulok. After the death of Elder Alexis Mechiev he went to serve in his church on the Maroseika. There has been preserved a photograph of Fr. Peter in the epitrachelion of Elder Nectarius of Optina. He was exiled. In 1932, some Maroseika parishioners met him in Murom.

The sufferings of the Optina monks were shared by the nuns of Shamordino. It is known, for example, that not far from Shamordino, in one of the villages there existed a gold-weaving artel consisting of sisters from the Shamordino monastery. In 1937 they were all shot.

(Sources: I.M. Andreyev, Russia's Catacomb Saints, Platina, Ca.: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1982, pp. 302-303; Tsvetochki Optinoj Pustyni, Moscow: Palomnik, 1995, pp. 37, 171, 172-73; Ikh Stradaniyami Ochistitsa Rus', Moscow, 1996, pp. 195-197; Zhitiya Prepodobnykh Startsev Optinoj Pustyni, Jordanville, 1992; Pravoslavnaya Zhizn', vol. 41, no. 6, June, 1990; Vertograd Inform, 1 (10), January, 1996, p. 4; Tsvetochki Optinoj Pustyni, Moscow: Palomnik, 1995, pp. 165, 169, 171; Nun Anna (Teplyakova), Vospominaniya, Moscow: "Novaya Kniga", 1998, pp. 51-54; Za Khrista Postradavshiye, Moscow: St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1997, p. 26; I.I. Osipova, "Skvoz' Ogn' Muchenij i Vody Slyoz…", Moscow: Serebryanniye Niti, 1998, pp. 284, 295; The Shepherd, vol. XX, no. 3, November, 1999, p. 14)

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