NEWMARTYR ALEXANDER OF SARATOV (+1931)
By Vladimir Moss
Alexander Antonovich Medem, was born in 1877 (or 1870) in the city of Mitava, now Elgava in Latvia. His father was Count Otto (Anton) Ludwigovich Medem, a Lutheran, a senator, a member of the State Council, who had many important government posts, in particular the governorship of Novgorod. He went to the Novgorod gymnasium, and then to the juridical faculty of St. Petersburg university, from which he graduated in 1897. However, he was not much interested in the law, and occupied himself rather on his estate in Khvalynsky uyezd, Saratov province. He sold several pieces of land that he had received from his father to his peasants at very low prices. In 1901 he married Maria Fyodorovna Cherkova, from whom he had a son and three daughters. (After the revolution his son emigrated to Germany, while one of his daughters was shot in 1938.)
Until 1918 he administered the estate of his father, and after the confiscation of the estate he rented as much of it as he could in order to work it himself. When the Civil War began, Alexander Antonovich and his two brothers agreed that they would not raise their hands against their own people and would take no part in it. In 1918 he was arrested by the Bolsheviks and was sentenced to death. However, on the eve of execution he was allowed home to say goodbye to his relatives. He was intending to return to the prison by morning, but the Bolsheviks were thrust out of the city by the Whites, and the sentence was never carried out. In the summer of 1919 he was arrested again. On returning from prison he said that he “had never prayed so well as in prison, where death can knock on the door at night, and nobody knows whose turn is next”. He was arrested for a third time in the summer of 1923. He was released at the end of October and returned home. His spiritual father at this time was Hieromonk Niphon (Vyblov).
Arrests and deprivations hardened his soul and strengthened his faith. He wrote to his son: “Only the belief that everything does not end here with our earthly existence gives us the strength not to hold on to our insignificant life at all cost and for its sake descend to the depths of meanness, baseness and humiliation. Only a man of deep and sincere faith can be really free. Dependence on the Lord God is the only dependence that does not humiliate a man does not turn him into a pitiful slave, but on the contrary exalts him… Believe firmly, without wavering, pray always ardently and with faith that the Lord will hear you. Fear nothing on earth except the Lord God and your conscience that is ruled by him. Take no account of anything else.” Because of illness Alexander Antonovich was forced to stop work. But he never worked in any Soviet institution. In 1925 his wife, Maria Fyodorovna, wrote to her son about his father: “In these years he has grown morally to an unusual degree. I have never in my life seen such faith, such peace and calmness of soul, such true freedom and strength of spirit. This is not only my opinion, which could be biased. Everybody sees it. And by this we live – nothing else. For the very fact we exist as a family in this way, having nothing except hope on the Lord God, proves it.” Alexander Antonovich was an opponent of the renovationists. From a letter to his children: “The pressure on the Church, which at one time was weakening, has again increased. Metropolitan Peter is in prison. In the Caucasus they are taking away the last churches and giving them to the ‘livers’ – those servants of the Antichrist… So far it is quiet with us… But this will probably reach us, too. In that case, of course, I will be the first to fall. I don’t fear this in the slightest, the will of God is over all. We are doing our work, and of course, if it is destined that we shed our blood, it will not be shed in vain… I bless you, my boy, to live. Live simply, honourably, in a godly manner. Never give in to depression.”
On May 4, 1929 Alexander Antonovich was arrested and cast into Saratov prison. He was sentenced by the OGPU to exile and deprivation of the right to live in six major cities of the USSR. At the moment of his release from prison in May, Alexander Antonovich became a widower, and he went into exile in Syzran with his daughters. On December 11, 1930, when he was seriously ill, he was arrested again for “participation in the counter-revolutionary church-monarchist organization, ‘The Trues [True Orthodox Christians?]’ in Syzran”.
During interrogation he categorically refused to name those whom he knew in Syzran. He was cast into the Domzak in Syzran, where his tuberculosis of the lungs sharply deteriorated. He was transferred to the prison hospital, where on April 1, 1931 he died. His daughters, meanwhile, had been trying to see their father. They were told they could see him the next day, but when they came they were told that their father had been buried the previous day – but were not told where. On April 3 the case against the deceased was terminated.