Reader Maximus Of Salsk And Those With Him

Matushka Anastasia Shatilova writes: "In 1996 there died the priest Fr. Theodore Martynenko, who served in a church of the ROCA in a suburb of Los-Angeles. He was a very meek man, and so humble, but at the same time very truthful and 'unbending'

"I knew him when he was the cell-attendant of Metropolitan Anastasius in Munich. Then our connection was broken, but was later renewed. I had a large correspondence with him, and as a consequence he would visit us once a year to my house in Flushing. In one of these conversations with him I clarified the origin of his family. Fr. Theodore told me that his father had been the reader in the village of Salsk, Rostov province. During the first years of the revolution his parish joined the renovationists. He succeeded in returning the whole parish to Patriarch Tikhon, and for that the impenitent renovationists drowned him. Then I told him that his father was undoubtedly a new martyr and my father [Bishop Gregory] confirmed this. I asked him to write in more detail about this exploit of his father, Reader Maximus, but he put it off and was always embarrassed by the thought that he could have anew martyr as a father. When Fr. Theodore died, his sister, who was still living in Salsk and whom he had visited about three times in Russia, found my address and wrote to me. I replied, asking her to tell me what she remembered about her father, and this is what she told me:

Her father was greatly loved in the St. George parish (there were two parishes in the village), where he was not only reader and organised a fine choir, but they also loved him for his piety and for his unfailing help to his neighbour, although his family was very poor. Also because he did a great deal in the church with his own hands - he was a talented joiner and carver.

"Fr. Theodore's sister was eight years old when they killed her father. This is what she wrote (not without mistakes): 'He was envied for his talents for God, they began to persecute him. He knew everything and bore everything in silence, but things gradually went towards disaster. He went to buy something for the house, my mama told him to buy what she needed. And so my mama couldn't wait any longer, she got nervous, and wept. The next day mama went to make a declaration to the village soviet. (They said with a smirk: he's probably abandoned you.) Mama wept, they showed her his things whichhad been collected on the river near where the cross was immersed through theice at Theophany. Mama recognised the bag, and in the bag - those things which she had told him to buy. She organised a search for him in the river. When they penetrated the ice, his walking stick appeared. Then with a hook they got hold of the body of my papa Maximus and placed it in the boat. He was frozen; his right hand was on his forehead, he had been making the sign of the cross (they drowned him). The doctors brought him home, recognised that he had frozen to death, that he was frozen. They dressed him and placed him in the room. He gradually melted and his hand fell onto his breast. I wept, I was very sorry for my papa. My God, when they buried him, they carried him on a cart for a long time, the whole village came out, the street was packed with people. The chanters chanted and everyone wept, they buried him in the grounds of the church.'

"'In accordance with my request, this poor woman sent me a photograph of her father, and also a photograph of the grave. This is what she wrote inher second letter: "In 1936-37 many clergymen suffered. In front of our eyes the car which was called "the Black Raven" arrived, handcuffed them, seized them and took them away we don't know where. In the church in which my father served, the priests John and Michael served after him. They were painfully handcuffed and seized, and taken away we don't know where. Pray for the martyrs Protopriests John and Michael'

"By the way, the same Fr. Theodore told me one extraordinary story that took place in the same Salsk, when he was there on a visit to his sister from America.

"Near the bell-tower of the local church they were doing some kind of excavations, it seems they were repairing the foundation and then they discovered a common grave with five or six bodies. Three of the bodies were incorrupt, and the rest had completely decomposed. The contemporary 'pious inhabitants' of this village, which has now already become a town, sigheda little and put them all back in the grave together! Nevertheless, Fr. Theodore insisted that they should find out in more detail who these youths were and why they had been killed. There was almost nobody left who remembered them, only a few old men could say that the youths had been very pious, but nobody knew their names. During the civil war they had climbedup into the bell-tower to witness the battle between the whites and the reds. They had all been taken for spies and shot on the spot and buried by the bell-tower."

(Source: "Chtets Maxim Martynenko i Drugiye Novomucheniki Sal'ska", Pravoslavnaya Zhizn', 49, N 2 (590), February, 1999, pp. 25-28)

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