At first only a few individuals came, then it was tens of people.
Finally, such a large catacomb community was formed that it was difficult to
find a place where they could all fit in for the festal services, and
admission had to be limited. The community included nuns who had been driven
out of their destroyed monasteries. The nuns and believing old women
collected books and vestments and church utensils. Then people were found who
sewed gonfalons, and former monastery artists who painted icons. Then there
appeared readers and chanters. People learned how to make candles, to bake
prosphoras and boil incense.
People invited Fr. Alexander to their homes, and he went from house to
house. Children were baptized, people repented of their sins and received the
Holy Mysteries, burials and pannikhidas for the reposed were carried out. All
this was done at great risk both for Fr. Alexander and for the parishioners,
but God preserved and strengthened them.
On great feasts as many as 100 people gathered. The service was long, It
began with an all-night vigil in the evening and finished at 4 in the
morning, lasting twelve hours. The daily services began at about 3 or 4
o'clock and continued until late in the evening. During the proskomedia Fr.
Alexander took out a particle for each believer. He spent a long time on
confessions and sermons, which caused some of the old women to complain, but
he was adamant. In his sermons, which made a great impression on many,
batyushka especially concentrated on the refutation of atheist propaganda
about the existence of God, and pointed out how many of the great scientists
believed in God.
Fr. Alexander had a special veneration for the Mother of God. With what
emotion and love he read akathists and molebens to her, and recounted the
miraculous healings wrought through her icons in Holy Russia! He also knew
the lives of the saints very well, and would often bring up examples from
their lives to illustrate a point.
At the end of the 1940s he became a monk with the name Alexander in the
city of Ufa.
During the 1950s, when atheists were being introduced into the
seminaries, Fr. Alexander would warn about these "wolves in sheep's
Twice batyushka was picked up off the streets of Omsk because of the
unusual nobility of his bearing and brought to the police station. But with
the help of God he was released. Once, while he was celebrating the Divine
Liturgy, at the moment of consecration of the Holy Gifts the police came in.
Fr. Alexander took the chalice with the Holy Gifts and stood up against the
wall, covering himself with a tablecloth. The police did not notice him. By
the Providence of God and the prayers of the Most Holy Mother of God, Fr.
Alexander and his flock were often saved from the torture-chambers of the
The servant of God Anna remembers how she was healed by him. She went to
Fr. Alexander on Sundays and feastdays seeking healing from her illness. Most
of the time she seemed a normal person, but when they began to chant the
Cherubic hymn she suddenly became anxious and began to shout in an inhuman
voice. They had to drag her up to receive communion. In 1952, at the request
of her relatives, Fr. Alexander read prayers over the sick woman, and the
demon was driven out of her. Since then Anna has become a normal Christian
who regularly, in peace and with the fear of God, receives the Holy Mysteries
and lives a Christian life.
In the middle of the 1960s a chance arrival at one of the services
turned out to be a former parishioner of Fr. Alexander's in the church where
he served before he left his family. He recognized him, as he did her. After
she had told him about his family he decided to visit them.
They were convinced that he had drowned in the river. After he had told
them what happened, they told him that his daughter Olga was working for the
KGB. His wife just wept. But his daughter said to him: "Father! I give you my
room. I will hang it with icons. You pray in it as much as you want, but stay
with the family!"
Fr. Alexander replied: "My daughter, I'll do everything you suggest, but
only on condition that you leave your work for the KGB".
His daughter replied that she could not do that. Then Fr. Alexander
said: "Well then, my daughter, you cannot leave your work at the KGB, and I
cannot leave my service to God and the people who have been entrusted to me.
My life belongs to the Church of Christ."
At this they parted. Fr. Alexander and his novice Maria left for Omsk,
not suspecting that at the order of his daughter he had been placed under
By the will of God, however, Fr. Alexander did not fall into the hands
of the KGB. His novice went through all the interrogations without giving
away anything about batyushka or his address. However, this information was
supplied by Maria's landlady.
So the church services stopped, and Maria was forced to go to her
parents in Semipalatinsk while for Fr. Alexander there began a life full of
alarms and persecutions. In order not to expose his Omsk parishioners to
danger, he went only where he was invited. By the Providence of God, faithful
Christians offered him refuge in many towns, especially Tavda, Vyatka, Ufa,
Ust-Kamenogorsk, Semipalatinsk and Novy Afon.
Once, when he was traveling by boat to Semipalatinsk, he sat down at the
piano and began to play : "God, save the Tsar". A detective who was
travelling on the boat then told him that he would be arrested on
disembarking. But it turned out that the detective got drunk, fell asleep and
set fire to his mattress in the cabin. Meanwhile, Fr. Alexander had
disembarked and escaped.
Once on arriving in Omsk he said: "My daughter has betrayed me." People
came to visit him more rarely because many, and especially young people, were
being summoned to interrogations. There they always demanded answers to the
same questions - about Fr. Alexander. And they were asked to work as stooges
for the KGB.
In 1969, eight years before his death, his sight began to fail. Then he
became completely blind and fell ill. But his hearing was good to the end. He
knew the simple services by heart, but he needed to be prompted when it came
to the festal exclamations. He celebrated the Liturgy only in the presence of
his spiritual father, Hieromonk Anthony, who had been a cleric of
Schema-Bishop Peter (Ladygin) and had spent many years in prison. Fr. Anthony
would often go to Omsk to fulfil the needs of the Christians of that city.
Fr. Alexander spent most of his time with him in Tavda until his death there
in 1973. Then Fr. Alexander returned to Omsk.
In one of his last letters which have not been destroyed, Fr. Alexander
"Dear brothers and sisters in Christ!
"I appeal to you with a last humble request before my death: receive as
a prayerful memento of the sinful hieromonk Alexander a humble gift which
will nevertheless be very useful for all believers: the five prayers of the
hierarch Demetrius of Rostov.
"I ask forgiveness of all if I have offended anyone in anything because
of my feeble mind, lack of foresight, pettiness, insufficient self-control
or, most important, lack of the fear of God - the beginning of spiritual
"I beseech you all who believe in the Lord God to raise your fraternal
Christian prayer that the Lord send me a Christian end and count me worthy of
a good answer before the Terrible Judgement Seat of Christ. May the Lord
reward you with temporary and eternal blessings.
"My path is life is ending with the words of St. John Chrysostom and the
hierarch Nicholas, my favourite hierarchs - Glory to God for all things!…"
Before his death he said: "I have much to say, but I can't".
And before his death he forbade anyone to make any inscription over his
grave, saying: "I lived in secret and must lie in secret".
Twenty-four hours before his death, he began to breathe with difficulty.
In the neighbouring room they read the prayers for the departure of the soul
from the body. On the morning of his death they had already read the prayers
for him although he had not heard them. As he was dying they were reading the
akathist to the holy great-martyr Barbara.
He died at the age of 99 in the city of Omsk (according to another
source, Tomsk) in the family of a pious widow on August 29, 1977 at six
o'clock in the evening.
He was buried in Omsk in the north-eastern cemetery.
The radiant memory of this wonderful man and pastor and fierce denouncer
of the atheist Bolshevik power lives on in the hearts of his parishioners who
are alive. The path to his grave is not overgrown. When the parishioners
meet, the conversation always turns to Fr. Alexander, and the prayers of
those who pray to him at his grave are always answered.
Holy Hieroconfessor Alexander, pray to God for us!
(Sources: "Zhiznennij put' ieromonakha Aleksandra (Orlova) v Omskoj obschine
katakombnoj Pravoslavnoj Tserkvi", Tserkovnaia Zhizn', NN 1-2, January-April,
1994, pp. 41-57; "Ustnie vopominania raby Bozhiej N.I. Pashko o katakombnom
dukhovenstve", Pravoslavnaia Zhizn', 52, N 11 (634), November, 2002, pp.
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