HIEROMARTYR NICHOLAS, BISHOP OF AKTAR (+ 1942)
and those with him
and those with him
By Vladimir Moss
Bishop Nicholas, in the world Vladimir Vasilyevich Parfenov, was born on June 20, 1879 in Saratov in a family of a tradesman, Basil and his wife Catherine (according to another source, they belonged to the nobility). He was educated at home. As a result of a fall from a chair caused by the inattention of his wet-nurse, he injured his spine. The nurse did not tell anyone about it, and when a hump appeared it was too late to do anything about it, and he became a hunchback; his hunch was in front and behind. Because of this deformity, when he was already a bishop, he humbly asked people to call him "little batyushka".
Vladimir’s mother was a deeply religious woman, and played a large role in the education of the five children in the Orthodox faith. Often in the evenings Vladimir would gather together all the children, ask for a stool from the nurse, lock the room so that none of the adults could enter, and ask them to pray. He himself, having made a censer out of the lampada, would walk with them around the stool, representing a Divine service.
After the death of his father in 1885, Vladimir at first studied with teachers at home, but then went to primary school.
Vladimir graduated from Kazan University and Theological Academy. He had a sister whose son, an officer in the Civil War, died in captivity near Zhitomir.
Inspired by the preaching of Bishop Hermogen (Dolganev), who had been appointed to the Saratov diocese in 1903, and later received the crown of martyrdom, Vladimir entered the Saviour-Transfiguration monastery in Saratov on January 26, 1906, at the age of 27, and was given the obedience of a tailor in the St. Alexis skete, which was also the hierarchical dacha (from 1911 the skete was renamed as the Nicholas-Trinity skete). People’s first impression of him was of someone who was weak. But this impression turned out to be false, and soon the guilelessness and meekness of the young novice won the hearts of many inhabitants of the skete.
After some time Bishop Hermogen, being the superior of the Saratov Saviour-Transfiguration monastery, tonsured his spiritual son into the mantia and called him Nicholas in honour of St. Nicholas of Myra, the wonderworker. Later, when he was already a hieromonk, the elder Nicholas recalled: “During my tonsure a dove separated from the cross which was being handed to me and flew into my mouth. For a whole year after this I felt a great sweetness in my heart.” Under the spiritual direction of Bishop Hermogen and Elder Adrian, the humble skete-dweller perfected himself in the study of the Church services and the Holy Scriptures, and also immersed himself in the reading of the patristic literature and the practice of writing verses.
In 1911 Bishop Hermogen was exiled to the Zhirovitsky monastery for resisting G.E. Rasputin. An unheard-of wave of slander against those clergy who shared the views of their exiled archpastor poured through the diocese. By this time Monk Nicholas had become clairvoyant to such a degree that other monks tried to avoid the hunchback. He was accused of being a false elder, of collecting large donations from wealthy and eminent Christians of the city, and of being close to Bishop Hermogen. After an illness he became visibly older – his face became puffy, and his hunch grew larger, it was as if it was growing into the ground. To the end of his life he never let his walking-stick out of his hands. He was forbidden to communicate with parishioners, and his friends and venerators became the elks who lived in the wood on Bare Mountain, and whom he fed with salt.
Soon, so as not to sit around doing nothing, he took upon himself an obedience – every Sunday morning he would serve at pannikhidas in the church of the Resurrection of the Lord in the city’s Resurrection cemetery, and collected alms for the skete. Besides this, Brother Nicholas took upon himself (on his own initiative) a duty that was unheard of in the Saratov area and not practised by the Church at the beginning of the 20th century – to pray for suicides according to the order of prayer established by St. Leonid of Optina.
Sorrowing over his beloved city and the people who lived in it, he no longer had the right to be silent as before, hiding in the depths of his heart the gift of wonderworking that he had received, and he took upon himself the exploit of eldership, so that the people of the Saratov land, of all ranks and conditions, should live together as one big loving family…
In the autumn of 1914 he foretold to his spiritual son, N.P. Rufimsky, that the roof of the panorama “The torments of the Christians in the circus of Nero”, which was situated in the centre of Saratov, would collapse, which it did on January 15, 1915. He also said: “Soon the whole of Russia will be like this circus.”
On November 10, 1915 Bishop Palladius (Dobronravov) of Saratov and Tsaritsyn, who knew Fr. Nicholas well from the time of Bishop Hermogen’s rule, ordained him to the rank of hieromonk and appointed him spiritual father of the coenobitical monastery attached to the church of the Passion of the Lord in Saratov. It was as if the city came to life, for it had found within itself a Spirit-bearer who constantly united himself and others with Christ. Among the parishioners could be seen venerable protopriests and swindlers, professional prostitutes and worldly ladies, thieves of all kinds and Maecenases, as well as despairing people who had lost all hope of salvation and came to the elder for spiritual support…
Fr. Nicholas not only knew the past and the future of every person whom he saw for the first time, but also saw what he was thinking about and what he was dreaming about in the innermost depths of his heart. But if someone came to him with evil thoughts, thinking to mock the grace of the Holy Spirit that rested on him, he would play the fool and make up proverbs of his own creation wrapped up in strange words. Moreover, he asked all his parishioners without exception to call him “little batyushka”.
On every day of Bright Week he would go round the work-houses and hospitals bringing Paschal offerings that he had received from wealthy citizens. He would also visit the crippled soldiers (this was during the war) and the drunkards. Many who suffered from alcoholism and turned to the prayers of the elder were healed of their drunkenness.
From the Volga region, Kiev, Moscow and other cities people would come to him for advice. There are many witnesses of his clairvoyance, the power of his prayer and profound discernment. When people would come to him from various places, and among them were some newcomers, he would usually put the visitors on one side of a table, while on the other side he put toys – cocks, chicken, parrots, cats, dogs and other birds and animals. And he would talk with the birds and animals. And in all these conversations the visitors received answers to their unexpressed and hidden questions and thoughts.
According to the witness of his novice, Alexander Mikheev (the future priest of the Holy Trinity cathedral in Saratov), “they would bring people suffering from all kinds of mental or other kinds of mysterious illnesses, and put them near the block. Fr. Nicholas would go out to them, he would not refuse. He would talk with the sick people and their relatives, pray fervently, invoke healing of the illness, reassure, instil faith and hope. He healed three or four people in my presence, and he eased the condition of many others, as I have been told.”
In 1917 Fr. Nicholas and Alexander Makheev made a pilgrimage round the holy places of Russia. They visited the Kremlin cathedrals of Moscow, the Donskoj, Novodevichi, Strastnoj, Simonov and Danilov monasteries, the Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, New Jerusalem, Optina Desert, the Alexander Nevsky Lavra and Valaam.
In 1918, following the anathema contained in the Epistle of his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, and not wishing to enter into relations with ‘the outcasts of the human race’, Fr. Nicholas went into reclusion in his native SS. Nicholas and Tikhon skete. The young priest Fr. Constantine Mikhailovich Soloviev (+1953), who had just graduated from the Kazan Theological Academy, returned to Saratov and became the priest at the skete and the spiritual son of Fr. Nicholas, his humble servant, who carried out the sacraments in accordance with the needs of the spiritual children of the clairvoyant elder.
In 1920 Fr. Nicholas met the future Bishop of Saratov Benjamin (Milov) and amazed him by his clairvoyance. He foretold the name he would receive in monasticism and told him to go to the Danilov monastery, the future stronghold of the Catacomb Church, giving him the following prayer rule: “As a monk, apply yourself to the Jesus prayer: 300 Jesus prayers and 300 Mother of Gods. My elder was Fr. Adrian, a man of lofty spiritual life. He so loved the Jesus prayer that he heard nothing worldly and did not enter into vain conversations. If someone would start talking about something vain in his presence, he would incline his head and go to sleep. But immediately someone started talking about something important, he would wake up from his supposed sleep and display the most profound wisdom. The Lord consoles monks in many ways. I will tell a story about myself. When I was being tonsured, a dove separated from the hand of the person who was handing me the cross and flew into my mouth. For a whole year after this I felt great sweetness in my heart.”
When the first closures, defilements and destructions of the churches of Saratov were taking place, Fr. Nicholas comforted his flock with the following prophetic words: “The time is not far distant when the Christians everywhere will spend their last money on restoring and rebuilding the churches of God…”
In 1920 Fr. Nicholas was raised to the rank of archimandrite. In 1922, as many priests were being arrested and there was no bishop in Saratov, Archimandrite Nicholas was elected to the rank of bishop by an assembly of laymen at the Cross church in the Hierarchical house, and on March 17, 1923 he was secretly consecrated to the episcopate in the St. Nicholas church of the skete by Bishops Job (Rogozhin), the former superior of the Saviour-Transfiguration women’s monastery, and Barlaam (Pikalov). According to one source, Archbishop Andrew of Ufa participated in this consecration. The news of his consecration was brought with great difficulty to Patriarch Tikhon when he was under house arrest. He appointed Vladyka Nicholas bishop of Atkar, a vicariate of the Saratov diocese, specially creating this new vicar-see in the centre of the city of Atkar.
As a faithful son of the Mother Church, Vladyka Nicholas did not accept renovationism. In all probability he was the only bishop in Saratov in this period (September, 1922), and fulfilled the duties of temporary administrator of the Saratov diocese.
Vladyka Nicholas served in this see until 1925, when he retired because of ill health. Bishop Nicholas lived in a monastic skete in Saratov, and was for two years in reclusion. During this time he not only prayed but also worked, making stockings. When blessing someone he sometimes gave them stockings.
He was so well-known that in his novel “The Affair of the Artamonovs”, Maxim Gorky used the image of the fool-for-Christ elder-bishop in his character of the hunchbacked monk Nicetas Artamonov.
On coming out of reclusion he continued to live for some time in Saratov. His cell-attendant was Hieromonk Pitirim, who had been James Ivanovich Ivanov in the world. In his youth he had intended to marry, but his bride died on the eve of their wedding, which so shook the young man that he remained a bachelor.
James Ivanovich wanted to see Bishop Nicholas, about whom he had heard many good things. Once he hired a cabby and went to look at him. He was sitting under an umbrella and getting ready to look at him, when Bishop Nicholas came out onto the porch of his little house, turned towards him and said unexpectedly:
"James Ivanovich, I've been waiting for you for a long time."
This event was a fresh shock for James Ivanovich. After all, he had never seen the bishop before, and the bishop could not have known anything about him. After thinking about it for a long time, he was tonsured into monasticism with the name Pitirim and then became a hieromonk and Bishop Nicholas' cell-attendant.
Between March and June 15, 1928 Bishop Nicholas carried out secret monastic tonsures together with Bishop Thaddeus (Uspensky) of Saratov.
After a time the authorities forced Vladyka to go and live in Moscow. At first he lived with his spiritual children. Then as he began to acquire more and more admirers among the inhabitants of the Zamoskvorechiye, he went from one to the other. Everyone was glad to give refuge to Vladyka.
Finally, the authorities decided to expel certain bishops from Moscow. They summoned Bishop Nicholas and gave him a choice of three cities, one of which was Kiev. Vladyka chose Kiev.
In Kiev he lived with his cell-attendant in the private house of Popov on the corner of Reznitskaya and Klovsky spusk. Nun Mariamna (in the world Princess Alexandra Lvovna Shakhovskaya) lived in one small room of this house, and the three others were let by Bishop Nicholas and Hieromonk Pitirim. Vladyka Nicholas lived very quietly in Pechersk, receiving almost nobody and not serving Divine services. He went only to the church of the women's monastery of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple.
Bishop Nicholas lived in this house for six years. During this time his admirers in Saratov did not forget him, and some of them came to see him in Kiev. The above-mentioned Protopriest Constantine was one of them. On meeting Bishop Nicholas he fell to his knees and asked for his hierarchical blessing. He told several Kievans of the holy life and spiritual exploits of Bishop Nicholas in Saratov.
Eugenia Grigorievna Rymarenko, the wife of Fr. Adrian, the future Archbishop Andrew of Rockland, relates: "Our whole family, including the children, spent the summer of 1928 in Kitayevsky Hermitage near Kiev, and there we met Bishop Nicholas. This was the vicar-bishop from Saratov; he had been exiled and lived in Kiev, receiving no one and not performing church services. We had heard much about him, about his high spiritual life, about his eldership in the skete near Saratov. We wanted very much to visit him, but this was extremely difficult. Finally we succeeded. And so gradually we became so disposed toward Vladyka that he began deciding all our questions. I remembered Batiushka Fr. Nectarius' words to me when he said:
"'Let Batiushka Fr. Adrian pray to the Lord that He incline his heart toward some Orthodox bishop and ask him about everything: now it is necessary to search for bishops.'"
Once Bishop Nicholas visited Eugenia Grigorievna's household. "I remember that Vladyka’s cell-attendant came to us and said that Vladyka had come to pray and look at Kitayevskaya desert, and that he wanted to visit Fr. Adrian. We were happy, of course, and came out to meet him. The cabby drove up and Vladyka, accompanied by his cell-attendant, came into our house. Vladyka was short and hunch-backed, but there was something unusual in his whole face: a certain goodness, spirituality. His eyes were big, thoughtful and kind, but his manner was authoritative: one felt that he was used to ruling and giving instructions. Having prayed and blessed us, he went with Fr. Adrian into his room to change his clothes, since, like Elder Ambrose [of Optina], he suffered from perspiration.
"I began to fuss about the housework, wishing to give better hospitality to our guest. And then, I remember, there was the following incident. I had a good bun, but a little pig's fat had been put in it. Should I put it on the table or not - after all, Vladyka was a monk. I thought and thought, and in the end I put it in with all the rest. And what then? Vladyka tasted everything, but didn't touch the bun!
"Then, I remember, Vladyka started to say that there are certain matushkas who hinder their batyushkas from advancing in the spiritual life. Looking at me, he asked:
"'Are you one of those?'
"I replied that I did not know what I was.
“In general, I didn't like Vladyka. I thought: 'Why did he suddenly begin to attack me?' Vladyka stayed with us and then returned to Kiev.
“Then it turned out that Vladyka's cell-attendant had forgotten some things at our house. I had to bring them out and go to Vladyka in Pechersk. I remember that I went up to the house, which was surrounded by a high fence. The gate was shut on a latch; they taught me to look for a little hole and put a hairpin into it. In this way I lifted the latch and opened the gate without ringing, so as not to draw anyone's attention to the fact that somebody was visiting Vladyka.
"I quickly went across the yard and into Vladyka's quarters. My first impression was of cleanliness, cosiness and a certain peace and quiet. One felt that everyone was living under obedience, that it was a kind of small monastery.
"Vladyka himself played the fool a little; he spoke quite sharply and sometimes joked. For example, he threw me into complete confusion by saying:
"'Do you want to stay and have lunch with us? If you want to - stay, if not - leave.'
“I didn’t know what to do and in great confusion stayed.
"Some months passed. During this time Fr. Adrian went to Vladyka, but I did not. Christmas came. The whole of our family went to congratulate Vladyka on the feasts. I remember that I had no special desire to go; I was still somewhat critically disposed towards Vladyka.
"Then, without my noticing it, I went to him more and more often, and came to like him so much that I couldn't decide or begin anything for myself without asking his blessing and prayers.
"What attracted me to Vladyka? His special way of addressing one. He could joke and laugh, but he could also listen and as it were live through all the difficulties of life at that time. He could encourage one and strengthen one's faith in the help of God and obtain this help by his prayers.
"For, you know, that was a very difficult time, especially for the family of a priest. Fr. Adrian did not have a parish in Kiev, he served together with [the catacomb priest] Fr. Michael [Yedlinsky, the future hieromartyr] in the church of Saints Boris and Gleb in Podol.
"We lived mainly on chance parcels from former parishioners from Romny. The whole time there were various unpleasantnesses. For example, a message would come from the police: the next day Fr. Adrian was to go there to clean the snow; I had to run, bustle around and get a medical certificate to say that Fr. Adrian was ill and lying in bed. Moreover, the certificate could not be from a private doctor, but had to be from the Red Cross.
"In 1929 Fr. Adrian was arrested. How Vladyka supported me, encouraged me, prayed for me at that time! By some kind of miracle Fr. Adrian was released.
“In 1931 the story with the flat began. At that time we were not living in the basement but occupied two rooms in the house of people whom we knew. But the house in which we were living had changed into a “communal living area”, so we had to find a flat from a private house-owner. But when we with great difficulty found it, it was almost taken away from us by a man who came into our flat, put a bed in one of the rooms and said that the flat was his!
“How much I went through then! Alone with two small children, and with constantly drunken people on the other side of the wall who shouted: ‘She’s hiding her pope somewhere or other’. I knew that the wife of this man was about to come from hospital with her just-born child. I understood our hopeless situation, our complete lack of rights in a juridical sense. Our landlady, of course, want to evict this man who had settled in without her knowledge and have us in her house. With her we decided that Poly (the nanny of our children, who at that time worked in a factory) could take him to court since she had the rights of a working person. I ran to Vladyka in complete despair, told him everything and said that we had to take a lawyer. But Vladyka said to me: ‘What lawyer, your lawyer is Nicholas the Wonderworker.’ I left Vladyka encouraged, with a certain hope. We served a moleben to the holy Hierarch Nicholas, and the next day Polya returned from the court and said that the case had been decided in her favour and that if, in the course of the next two weeks, the man did not appeal, he would have to vacate the flat. In two weeks the flat was freed.
"Was this not the mercy of God, Who defended our rightless family according to the laws of that time through the prayers of Vladyka! How necessary in those difficult times were such people as Vladyka Nicholas. By their deep faith and authoritative word they were able to support us who were fainthearted and wavering in faith. Vladyka always supported me in this way. We also had to suffer material hardships at that time. Vladyka somehow understood them and knew when they came. He would come to us, and after his visit you would find two roubles on the table; you would look at them as at a blessing to escape your material difficulties..
“In 1933 passportization was declared. With great difficulty Archbishop Sergius succeeded in getting the department of cults to assign Fr. Adrian to the church of SS. Boris and Gleb, and then to the Pokrov monastery, and finally to the church of Askold’s grave. If we had not succeeded in getting this, we would have had to leave Kiev.
“I worked at first as a needle-woman, and then in various libraries, and finally as director of the Narkomzdrav library. Life was nerve-wracking: constant fears for Fr. Adrian; we had constant searches, checks of the landlady’s books and questions about the priest living there, worries for the children who were studying at school, constant nervous tension at work, worrying whether my social position would be revealed, whether I would be sacked. You would return home only to find worshippers arrived from Romen. They came to see Batyushka Adrian, but officially, as it were, to consult with doctors. Again worries, one had to think about them, too, and put them up.
“And then, I remember, I went to Vladyka straight from work with the feeling that I should forget everything and calm down. But Vladyka suddenly said: “You know, we’ve salted the guerkins and packed the cabbage.” And I thought: “Well, that’s very interesting to me, I’ve had enough of everyday household cares”. But Vladyka suddenly said to me: “Yes, there you are wanting to talk about spiritual things, while Batyushka Nicholas is talking to you about everyday matters. So here you are: read,” and he gave me one of the works of the holy Hierarch Tikhon of Zadonsk, where he writes that first of all it is necessary to be kind to everyone, give him food and drink. And I involuntarily remembered all our visitors and arrivals, who bothered me so much. Yes, Vladyka was often able somehow to catch my thoughts. With great difficulty I succeeded in getting Vladyka to confess me, and I remember this with great tender feeling and gratitude.
“Vladyka was able to say to each person that which was useful for him. I remember several people once gathered in our house who wanted to get to know Vladyka. They sat and drank tea. By chance, a young married woman arrived. Vladyka went on talking and talking as if he were conducting a general conversation; but when he left it turned out that everything that he had been saying was for this person: she received replies to all the questions that were disturbing her at that time in connection with her difficulties with her husband and mother-in-law.
"I remember one incident with a deacon. This deacon, besides having a difficult general church situation, had difficulties in his family, too: his wife was against his service as a deacon. She was well-off, but she gave nothing to her husband. He was in great need and was going to pieces. At that time there was a fool-for-Christ in Kiev by the name of Seraphima. Some recognized her as such, some did not, but Vladyka Nicholas nevertheless received her when she came to him. And one day this Seraphima sent the deacon Nikola to Vladyka. He arrived in a dirty old cassock and in a very depressed mood. Vladyka comforted him, but really went for him for coming to him dressed in such a way:
"'What kind of deacon are you? You're so dirty and you're going to church and to the altar dressed like that! You have to buy a new cassock.'
"Fr. Nikola replied that he had no money. And, you know, it was very difficult to buy material at that time. But Vladyka insisted:
"'Buy a new cassock - here's 20 kopecks.'
"The deacon trusted him, said 'Give the blessing', took the 20 kopecks and left. He got on a tram and went in the direction of his church, where he had to be for the all-night vigil. But just at that moment work was coming to an end in the factories, the workers filled up the trams and the poor deacon was knocked about: he couldn't squeeze his way to the exit when he had to leave and went several stops past. Finally, he managed to get out. The poor man began to run because he was already late for the service. Suddenly two women met him:
"'Batyushka, batyushka, wait, we have something to say to you.'
"And they asked him to take them to the Florovsky monastery. The deacon took pity on them and said:
"'Alright, let's go, but quickly, otherwise I'll have no time.'
"And then they literally ran, and on the way the women told him their woes. Their brother had died and they wanted to go to the Florovsky monastery to order a pannikhida for the fortieth day. They ran up to the church in which the deacon was serving, went into it and suddenly said:
"'You know, we won't go to the Florovsky monastery, we'll order a forty-day pannikhida here, with you.'
"They went up to the priest, gave him money and asked him to commemorate the deceased man. And then it turned out that they gave so much money that immediately after the all-night vigil the deacon, on receiving his share, saw that he could sew himself a new cassock. And two weeks later he went to Vladyka Nicholas in his new cassock.
"And how much I heard about Vladyka when I visited him once in Moscow, where he sometimes went for a certain time! The son of some relatives recovered through the prayers of Vladyka, in another family the husband stopped drinking and became a good family man. One woman said that she came to Vladyka and suddenly noticed that she had lost her wedding ring. She was terribly upset, and Vladyka sent her to look for the ring on the street. She set off with complete faith that she would find it, and she found it.
"Vladyka himself suffered all kinds of everyday life unpleasantnesses. There came a time when he had to be ejected from the flat he was occupying. With great difficulty his hieromonk and cell-attendant succeeded in finding a basement and making it habitable. And again this basement was done up in such a way that on entering one felt cosiness and order; and with the blessing and through the prayers of its master, people left it having received new strength and spiritual support.”
Once the representatives of the authorities arrived in the house so as to arrest Mother Mariamna, but they did not find her at home. They ordered the landlord Popov to go to the police immediately she appeared. But immediately she arrived, Popov warned her of the danger. The nun managed to hide while Popov suffered: since he had warned her, he was arrested and sent into exile.
In the spring of 1933, Bishop Nicholas was arrested by the Kiev OGPU in accordance with article 58-10 of the Ukrainian code, and was in prison for four months together with Schema-Archbishop Anthony (Abashidze). He was accused of “taking into his house peasant pilgrims, and was closely linked with an exiled member of a counter-revolutionary organization, Igumen Hilarion (Kopyla)”. Vladyka’s cell attendants, Hieromonk Leonitus (Filippovich) and Monk Michael (Lyubimov) were drawn into the case with him, as well as the Priest Tikhon Prokhorovich, from the village of Pologi-Yanenki, Pereyaslavl region, who was living illegally in Kiev. Also arrested, for taking part in the working sections of the Kiev-Caves Lavra Council, were the monks Fr. Tertius (Tkach) and the secretary of the Council, Fr. Seraphim (Sekach). Bishop Nicholas’ fellow prisoners remembered his exceptional kindness and unacquisitiveness. He would literally share his last piece of bread with them.
He was released, and told to go to Moscow. Before leaving, he told Fr. Pitirim (according to another source, it was another cell-attendant of his, Boris Vetvitsky, a native of Saratov, who usually accompanied him to church):
"Leave immediately, we are going to Golgotha."
Before he left Kiev, relates Eugenia Grigorievna, "our universally revered batyushkas, Fr. Michael [Yedlinsky] and Fr. Alexander [Glagolev, who was also martyred] visited Vladyka. Both derived very much from this parting conversation with Vladyka and they said:
"'What spiritual strength, which we had with us in Kiev, we are losing now. The Lord is taking it from us.'
"Vladyka himself also highly valued these batyushkas of ours. He was sometimes in the church of Fr. Alexander and liked to pray with him.
"[In October] Vladyka left Kiev [via the Butyrki prison in Moscow] for Kirzhach, a little town beyond the Holy Trinity - St. Sergius monastery, more than one hundred versts from Moscow. This was the distance away he as an exile had to live."
Eugenia Grigorievna was able to visit Vladyka several times in Kirzhach. "Every such trip gave me the opportunity temporarily to forget all my sorrows, to rest and receive a new access of spiritual strength.
“Vladyka was interested in, and always asked in detail about our life, and went through everything with us. After the closure of the church on Askold’s grave Fr. Adrian was struck off the register of the department of cults “for going away”, in the future this meant the removal of his passport by the police and his exile from Kiev for a three-week period. With the blessing of Vladyka Fr. Adrian went to Nezhen, where, thanks to the fact that he had a passport in his hands, he was able to get registered and live. Of course, he could no longer return to Kiev since he was exiled and deregistered from there.
On December 29, 1936 Vladyka Nicholas was arrested for the second time, together with Fr. Pitirim and about twenty other people, and brought to Ivanovo prison. They were accused of being “active participants in a counter-revolutionary organization of churchmen in the city of Kirzhach, the so-called ‘desert church’, created on the basis of the anti-Soviet platform of ‘the True Orthodox Church’, which was active in planting counter-revolutionary groups of churchmen, uniting them in so-called ‘secret churches’.” It was said that Archbishop Theodore (Pozdeyevsky) and Archmandrite Simeon (Kholmogorov) were the leaders of this Church, and that “on the direct instructions of the leader of the organization Pozdeyevsky, in 1935 three counter-revolutionary groups, cells of the organization, were created. They were united into so-called ‘illegal house churches’ (‘sketes’, ‘communities’, etc.) under the leadership of Archbishop Kholmogorov, Bishop [Nicholas] Parfenov and Archimandrite Klimkov…”
During the interrogation the names of church-servers were mentioned. Vladyka Nicholas denied that he knew them. At the same time he indicated that “in Kirzhach I knew several people with whom I maintained close links, as having the same opinions according to ‘the True Orthodox faith’, but this was not an anti-Soviet group.” He rejected the accusation made against him.
According to Eugenia Grigorievna, he was in prison in Suzdal from 1936 on, and she was able "to receive from him his last directions and blessing. But later he was exiled to an unknown location..."
On June 15, 1937 Bishop Nicholas was convicted of being “an active participant in a counter-revolutionary group of churchmen, ‘The All-Russian Monastic Brotherhood’, and in illegal meetings of members of the organization at which anti-Soviet agitation was conducted”. Bishop Nicholas refused to plead guilty, and in accordance with articles 58-10 part 1 and 58-11, he was given a five-year prison sentence. Hieromonk Pitirim was exiled to Kazakhstan for five years. Protopriest Igor Maltsev, who was also from Saratov, and whose family were spiritual children of Vladyka witnessed: “In 1937 they (Bishop Nicholas and Fr. Pitirim)… were sent to Vladimir prison. Bishop Nicholas died in prison in Vladimir on January 7/20, 1939, according to the information centre of the UVD of Vladimir province, from heart disease.
Also convicted in “The Case of the Monastic Brotherhood of Prince Daniel, Ivanovo, 1937” were:
Monk Seraphim, in the world Constantine Maximovich Lbov. He was born in 1887 in Pavlovsky Posad, Moscow province, and was a secret monk. At the moment of his arrest in Kizhach on December 29, 1936, he was working as an accountant. He was cast into the inner NKVD prison in Ivanovo. On June 15, 1937 he was condemned for being “an active participant in the counter-revolutionary organization, ‘The All-Russian Monastic Brotherhood’ headed by the exiled Bishop [Theodore] Pozdeyevsky and Archimandrite [Symeon] Kholmogorov”, and in anti-Soviet meetings that persecuted the Komsomol member Guryanova”. He was also accused of participating in “an underground group organized by Bishop [Nicholas] Parfenov” in Kirzhach. He pleaded not guilty and was sentenced in accordance with articles 58-10 and 58-11 to five years in the camps. Nothing more is known about him.
Nun Maura, in the world Maria Dmitrievna Bogatova. She was born in 1894 in the village of Knyazevka, Atkar uyezd, Saratov province. On December 28, 1936 she was arrested and cast into the inner NKVD prison in Ivanovo. On June 15, 1937 she was condemned for being “an active participant in the counter-revolutionary organization, ‘The All-Russian Monastic Brotherhood’, and in anti-Soviet meetings that persecuted the Komsomol member Guryanova”. She was also accused of participating in “an underground group organized by Bishop [Nicholas] Parfenov” in Kirzhach. She did not admit her guilt and was sentenced in accordance with articles 58-10 and 58-11 to five years in the camps. Nothing more is known about her.
Nun Catherine (Andreyevna Dolotova). she was born in 1897 in the village of Sredneye Pogranichye, Sredne-Akhtubinsky region, Stalingrad province. On December 29, 1936 she was working as a cleaner in a pharmacy in Kirzhach when she was arrested. On June 15, 1937 she was convicted of being “an active participant in the counter-revolutionary organization, ‘The All-Russian Monastic Brotherhood’”, of “participation in anti-Soviet meetings” and of “tormenting the Komsomol member Guryanova”. She was also accused of participating in “an underground group organized by Bishop [Nicholas] Parfenov in Kirchach”. Nothing more is known about her.
From the court records: “… There existed an underground counter-revolutionary organization of churchmen and monastics, the so-called ‘All-Russian Brotherhood’, headed by Archbishop [Theodore] Pozdeyevsky and Archimandrite [Simeon] Kholmogorov on the basis of the counter-revolutionary platform of the exiled bishops, ‘The True Orthodox Church’… A series of counter-revolutionary cell-groups of the organization was created. They were united in so-called ‘illegal house churches’ (‘sketes’, ‘communities’, etc.)…”
After the beginning of the war with Germany, in 1942, Saratov was buzzing with rumours about the return of “the little batyushka”, Bishop Nicholas. It appears that people met him in the church and near the church. One of those who witnessed to this is the still-living Protopriest Vsevolod Kuleshov. Bishop Nicholas would talk with his spiritual children for a short period about their spiritual life, past or future. Others who did not know him he would “burn” with his glance, and would then disappear into the crowd, forever sealing his image in their memory…
Bishop Nicholas was canonized by the Russian Church Abroad on November 1, 1981.
(Sources: Vestnik Russkogo Khristianskogo Dvizheniya, 145, III-1985, pp. 243-245; Russkiye Pravoslavnye Ierarkhi, Paris: YMCA Press, 1986, p. 54; M.E. Gubonin, Akty Svyateishago Patriarkha Tikhona, Moscow: St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1994, p. 984; Evgenia Grigorievna Rymarenko, "Remembrances of Optina Staretz Hieroschemamonk Nektary", Orthodox Life, vol. 36, no. 3, May-June, 1986, pp. 42-43; Bishop Ambrose (von Sivers), personal communication, January 7/20, 1996; "Episkopat Istinno-Pravoslavnoj Katakombnoj Tserkvi 1922-1997g.", Russkoye Pravoslaviye, N 4(8), pp. 8-9; Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, Novye Mucheniki Rossijskiye, Jordanville, 1957, part 2, p. 126; Tsvetochki Optinoj Pustyni, Moscow: Palomnik, 1995, pp. 59-67; Lev Regelson, Tragediya Russkoj Tserkvi, 1917-1945, Moscow: Krutitskoye patriarsheye podvorye, 1996, p. 537; Aleksij Rufimskij, “Biografia sviaschennomuchenika Nikolaya (Parfenova), episkopa Atkarskago, radi Khrista yurodivago ‘malen’kago batiushki’”, Pravoslavnaya Rus’, N 17 (1782), 1/14 September, 2005, pp. 4-8; “Vospominania o Vladyke Nikolae (Parfenove)”, Pravoslavnaya Rus’, N 14 (1803), 15/28 July, 2006, pp. 7-10; http://www.pstbi.ru/bin/code.exe/frames/m/ind_oem.html?/ans; Protodeacon Basil Maruschak, Arkhiepiskop Dimitrij (s skime Antonij) Abashidze, Simferopol, 2005, pp. 257-258)