Lev, Martyr Of Saratov

Lev Zacharovich Kuntsevich graduated from a theological academy and a university (where he studied law), and served the church in the capacity of an anti-sectarian missionary in the dioceses of Kharkov and Voronezh. He was well known for his zeal in unmasking the heretical errors of the enemies of Holy Orthodoxy.

During the revolution he was serving as diocesan missionary in Saratov, and was denounced by the liberal city clergy of Saratov. He was arrested and sent to Moscow, where he spent a month in prison but was finally released for lack of evidence. He never took part in politics, so the accusation that he was a member of the "Black Hundreds" was baseless.

On returning to Saratov, he did not take up his former post but declared himself "a free Orthodox preacher". He journeyed through the south of Russia and read public lectures on the themes of the revolution: "Christianity and Socialism", "The Religion of Socialism", etc.

To a missionary friend of his he wrote: "Abandon state service and occupy yourself with the public refutation of Socialism. There will be significantly greater benefit from that."

A co-prisoner of his, who witnessed his martyric end, tells the following.

The whole tragedy took place in the town of Chorny-Yar, on the Volga, where he had gone with his wife in the hope that, being near the Whites (the front was quite near Chorny-Yar), he would be able to pass over to their side and thus flee the Bolshevik horrors. But the Lord judged otherwise.

The church authorities had given him an order to read Patriarch Tikhon's epistle anathematizing the Bolsheviks on one of the Sundays. This event was widely announced among the local population, and on the day on which he was to read the epistle so many people had gathered that he had to read it, not in the church, but on the porch in front of the whole people. Of course, among the people there were many Bolsheviks who reported the event to the centre.

The front moved to and fro in the area of Tsaritsyn. The Bolsheviks raged, and special tribunals did their savage work everywhere. The cheka also came to Chorny Yar. The population was forbidden to leave their houses without special permission from the authorities. But some managed to leave the town after having been thoroughly checked by the Bolsheviks. When Lev Zacharovich's wife heard about this, wishing to help her husband leave Chorny Yar, she went to the cheka for a pass.

This wife was a very simple woman, in the full sense of the phrase "not of this world". In her simplicity she could not understand what Bolshevism was. She believed everything and everyone, as only the purest child can believe. But having fallen into the hands of the skilled masters of satanism, she, the poor wretch, could not understand what was awaiting her husband. Having listened to her request and found out from her where her husband was, the Bolsheviks rejoiced and told her that he must now come to them and they would immediately give him a pass. In fact the Bolsheviks had special instructions from the centre to search for and arrest him. But since the couple lived humbly and in isolation, rarely coming out onto the street, the Bolsheviks had not been able to find where he was.

The wife, rejoicing at this declaration by the Bolsheviks, ran to her husband to inform him of the news. After some hesitations they went together to the cheka, from where Lev Zacharovich never returned. This was between July 20-30, 1918. He was about two months in prison, being subjected to mockery and humiliation. One hour before his execution the chekists gave his wife permission to meet him, assuring her that his time in prison was about to come to an end. She wept from joy, but an hour after the meeting, as she was passing through the square, she saw her husband tied to a post and being shot by the Red Army men. On seeing this horrific scene, she went out of her mind. The peasants of the village of Staritsky all took turns in taking her in and feeding her.

During the last days of his imprisonment, Lev Zacharovich felt that his fate was already decided and wept bitterly, thinking all the time about the destiny of his defenceless and unhappy wife. He besought everyone that if he were saved he would not abandon his wife.

(Source: Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, Noviye Mucheniki Rossijskiye, Jordanville, 1949-57, part 1, pp. 193-194, part 2, pp. 311-312)

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