HIEROMARTYR NICHOLAS OF AGLOMAZOVO (+ 1918)
By Vladimir Moss
Priest Nicholas Alexandrovich Probatov was born in 1874 in the village of Ignatyevo, Tambov province. He was the youngest son of Priest A.N. Probatov and his wife Elikonida. He studied at the Kasimov theological school and the Tambov theological seminary, and then married the daughter of a priest, Barbara Algebranstova. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1899 and went to serve as the second priest in the village of Temireo, Ryazan province. In 1906 he was transferred to the Theophany church in the village of Aglomazovo, Shatsk uyezd, Ryazan province. Fr. Nicholas restored the church and created a fine choir with congregational singing. He said of church services: “I have a corner of paradise in the altar.” He was a fervent preacher, and through his efforts a wooden building for a church-parish school was constructed in which two hundred children could study. Fr. Nicholas taught the Law of God there. In 1914 he became a regimental priest in the first Bakhmut regiment, answering the call of his hierarch in spite of the fact that his wife was an invalid with two small children. After the revolution the Bolsheviks tried to mobilize the peasants into the Red Army, but they did not want to go. They asked Fr. Nicholas to serve a moleben, after which he said: “I bless you for the struggle with the persecutors of the Church of Christ.” A machine-gun fired from the edge of the town, and everyone dispersed. Then a punitive detachment of Red Army soldiers was sent against the village. Fr. Nicholas blessed the members of his household to go into the neighbouring village of Kalinovets, where his brother-in-law was serving. Forebodings tormented his soul. His wife, seeing this, said: “It is written: the Lord does not send trials that are beyond the strength of man.” “Yes,” replied Fr. Nicholas, and after praying opened the Apostle and read: “Faithful is God, Who will not allow you to be tried beyond your strength, but even during the trial he gives consolation, so that you can bear it.” The Word of the Holy Scriptures, like nothing else, comforted and strengthened his soul. By the time the punitive detachment had arrived, Fr. Nicholas was completely calm, having given his life to the will of God. With him there remained his son, who did not want to leave his father. Fr. Nicholas was arrested as being on a list of villagers provided by the local teacher, Peter Filippovich, who for a long time had not been fond of him. The arrestees were placed in the basement of a house, where Fr. Nicholas confessed them all. The interrogations were conducted with beatings and mockeries. To the beatings Fr. Nicholas replied only with: “Christ, though without sin, suffered, but we are suffering for our sins.” This just elicited the mocking laughter of the torturers. In the evening of November 11, 1918 eighteen people were led to the banks of the river Tsna. Fr. Nicholas began to pray loudly: “Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. After the first salvo everyone fell, but Fr. Nicholas rose and with raised arms continued to pray aloud. The second salvo killed him. Of the eighteen people thirteen were killed, including the peasants Cosmas Yegorovich (warden of the church in the village of Aglomazovo, Shatsk uyezd, Ryazan province), Naum, Philip Naumovich, Andrew, Alexis, John and the solitary old woman Agatha. The list of victims had been composed by a local atheist teacher, but the head of the punitive detachment had struck off the names of all the women except one, Agatha’s, because she lived on her own and so no one would intercede for her. The executioners mocked her and beat her for a long time before leading her out to be shot, but she bore everything in silence. The others who did not die waited until nightfall and then crept out to the neighbouring huts, where they were hidden. The next morning, Fr. Nicholas’ son Alexander took his father’s body, which was fixed in the position of his hands raised in a final prayer and blessing. The authorities did not allow him to be buried by the church, and he was buried by two priests from neighbouring parishes in the local cemetery. In 1986 the body was exhumed: a cross and one incorrupt finger were found.