NEW MARTYR STEPAN OF KONSTANTINOVKA (+ 1945)
By Vladimir Moss
Stepan Pimenovich Nalivaiko was born in 1898 in Konstantinovka, Melitopol uyezd, Kherson province. His pious mother had a great influence on him, and through her efforts he obtained a good church education, knew the Holy Scriptures well and loved to read spiritual books. When Stepan was nine years old, he was sent to a church-parish school where he studied for three years, after which he went to a school attached to the Gregory-Bizyukovsky monastery in Tauris province. At that time the rector of the monastery was the future Archbishop Demetrius (Abashidze), and the monastery was glorified by many monks and missionaries. Here Stepan was deeply imbued by the beauty and spiritual depth of the Orthodox services. When he was fourteen he returned home and began to help his parents in their work in the fields. But his mind was elsewhere, and in 1914, when he was sixteen, he went to the city of Genichesk, settled in a monastery podvorye, was accepted as a changer in the monastery choir and he began to study the monastic typicon in the monastery of the Korsun icon of the Mother of God. Then he returned home again, helped his father in the fields and served in church as a reader.
In 1917 Stepan was called up into the army. After some training he was sent to the Romanian front, where he was captured by the Germans and was in the “Lamsdorf” camp until January, 1918. By this time the Ukraine had been occupied by the Germans, and Euphrosyne Romanovna petitioned the occupation authorities for the release of her son. In the autumn of 1918 permission was given, but at this point a revolution took place in Germany and Stepan was not returned to his homeland. So he had to run away from the camp. Day and night he walked, through Germany, Austria, Hungary and then came to the city of Aleshki in Russia, where he received documents witnessing that he was a soldier returning home from captivity. Stepan arrived home four days before Christmas. He immediately began to serve in the church as a reader.
By this time Stepan’s father had become old, his mother was sick and Stepan decided to marry. He married an orphan from the village of Kharitina. A year later a daughter was born to them. Before Stepan’s eyes there rose the ideal of Christian asceticism, and in particular the feat of St. Alexis the Man of God, and in April, 1923 he left his wife, daughter and work in the fields and set off for Moscow.
Stepan was probably influenced in his actions by his mother, Euphrosyne Romanovna Nalivaiko, a pious peasant woman living in Konstantinovka, After the establishment of Soviet power, when the persecutions against the Church began, she began to go round the villages preaching. The authorities warned her: “Babka, stop preaching, otherwise we’ll put you in prison.” She did not obey. In the winter of 1927 they came to arrest her. She put on a sheepskin jacket, and suggested to the man who had come to arrest her that he take the second jacket. “Why are you giving it to me?” he asked. “But you will have to bring me back,” she said. “Babka, you know too much,” he replied haughtily. After the interrogation, they let Euphrosyne Romanovna go, and the same man had to bring her back. In 1929 she died in her own house, and was buried in her native village.
Stepan’s journey to Moscow took forty days. On arrivial, he confessed in the Danilov and Donskoy monasteries, and prayed God to show him what to do so as to appear before the rulers of Russia and tell them the truth of God. At that time Archdeacon Constantine Rozov died; his burial took place in the Vagankovskoye cemetery. When the people had gathered, and the coffin with the body had been taken into the church, the priest came out and said that the burial would take place on the following day. The people had not yet dispersed when Stepan went up, pronounced a penetrating sermon on the deceased, and then added: “The times are difficult, but these are the times of the deliverance of our people from sin, therefore I beseech you, do not forget God. Baptise your children. Do not live together without Church marriage. And the main thing: live according to your conscience. The time will come when the Orthodox will rise up, and God will overthrow these God-haters.” While he was speaking the police tried to arrest him, but the people stood as a wall and did not let them through. Then a unit of the militia was called up and Stepan was arrested, on June 3, 1923.
When they asked Stepan for his documents, he lifted up his shirt, pointed to his heavy brass cross and said: “Here are my documents. I have nothing more.” At the police department he refused to reply to question and was taken to the GPU. Here they suggested that he fill in a questionnaire. To the question what State he belonged to, he replied: “The New Jerusalem”, and for the benefit of the uninformed investigator explained: “that comes down from heaven”. To the question about his profession he wrote: “Reaper”. On his work: “Witness to the word of God, Preacher”. To the questions where he worked, on what means he lived and whether he owned any property, he wrote: “In accordance with the will of Jesus Christ, on everything that Jesus Christ has given”. To the question on his military rank, he replied: “Warrior of Jesus Christ”. Stepan continued to play the fool during the following interrogations.
During his investigation, Stepan was first detained in the GPU prison, and then in Butyrki prison. In prison his presence was a great comfort for the inmates. He immediately said that although he had been arrested for agitation against Soviet power, now, deprived of freedom, he did not fear to tell the investigator the truth. “Soviet power is founded on sand. Fear not and do not be depressed, the time of deliverance is near.” From the Butyrki prison he sent the investigator the declaration: “Rulers of the Russian land, I beseech you to pay attention to your people, how they are groaning under your yoke; the people looks mournfully at the ruler – and the ruler at the people. Let each of you consider: is it not fear that rules a man? And this fear is the fear of unrighteousness. Is unrighteousness stronger than righteousness? In no way, because unrighteousness rules a man so long as he exists on this earth, but when a man dies, unrighteousness also dies… Righteousness conquers even death, because it has a Kingdom and strength from before all ages and to the ages of ages. Amen. And for that reason I beseech you, rulers of the Russian land, quit trying to conquer your own land… Turn to Christ and get to know life in Him… And for that reason, if it is possible, I beseech you to transfer me to an isolated cell… and allow me some paper and ink…” A month later he was transferred to an isolated cell and provided him with paper and ink. There he continued to write epistles to the authorities, calling on them to turn to God.
Stepan was sent to Solovki, where he fell ill with scurvy and his legs were amputated. On learning of his situation, his mother, Euphrosyne Romanovna, set off to see him. Stepan was brought out to see her on crutches. They were together for several days, which helped him greatly. Three years later, at the end of his term, the investigator summoned Stepan and asked him: “Well, have you changed your convictions?” “No, I have not changed them.” “Then take another three years’ exile.” And Stepan was sent to Kazkhstan.
After three years in the city of Turkestan, another three years were added to his term. In exile he learned various trades. He rented a house and garden and brought his wife and daughter to live there. The daughter had to go to school, but Stepan was against her going to an atheist school. So he undertook her education himself, teaching her the Law of God.
In 1931 Stepan was going through his third term, his mother was dead and his father was living on his own in sickness. Stepan’s wife had to go to Konstantinovka to look after the old man. When Stepan was released, in 1932, the investigator offered that he remain in Kazakhstan, where they had a good opinion of him, and he would not be threatened with another term of imprisonment.
However, Stepan returned to Konstantinovka. The church was closed, but people poured up to him. So he gathered a church community made up of twenty people and went with papers to the authorities in Kherson, whence he immediately returned with a priest – a miracle for those days! A nun living in the village was made reader, and Stepan became the director of the choir – there was no end of people wanting to join it. The authorities began to pester Stepan. He worked as a painter-decorator and an artist. He refused to enter the collective farm, and asked for a passport to let him leave the village. But the authorities did not give him a passport, and began to persecute him. At this time his father died, and his land remained unsown. In 1934 Stepan was condemned to five years in the camps, but after he wrote a complaint, his case was reviewed and he was released before arriving at the camp – another miracle!
In 1935 Stepan was tried again, and was sentenced to three years in the camps and two years’ deprivation of civil rights. He was cast into prison in Kherson. Then, in February, 1937, he was sent under convoy to Vladivostok. On the way he wrote a complaint to Moscow. After a time there came the reply: he was acquitted and his conviction erased, while a criminal case was brought against the judge and procurator!
While Stepan was in prison, his wife and daughter moved to Simferopol, and in the summer of 1937 he came to them and set himself up as a painter-decorator. Here he visited the church in the cemetery, chanted in the church choir, and repaired the church.
On October 25, 1940 Stepan was arrested at night. A search revealed a Bible and Gospel. His passport was removed. While he was under investigation, his daughter tried to get permission to get food to him, but she was refused. He was accused of gathering church people together and conducting anti-Soviet agitation among them. He was also accused of things for which he had already served terms. Stepan rejected these accusations. On April 7, 1941 he was sentenced to five years in the camps. Before setting off for the camp, Stepan had a meeting with his daughter, at which he told her who was guilty of his arrest, that all that he was accused of was a fiction and that he was being condemned for that which for which he had been convicted earlier.
He was sent to Norilsk in the far north. During the war there was no communication with him. Only at the beginning of 1945 did they receive a letter: “Three months remain to the end of my term. If God wills, we will live together again.” His relatives sent him a letter, money and a package, but there was no reply. After a time his daughter, Raisa Stepanovna, wrote to the Gulag administration, from where she received the reply that “Stepan Pimenovich Nalivaiko died on February 12, 1945 from hunger”.