St. John the Baptist Parish, A Parish of the Russian Orthodox Church, Canberra, Australia

Russian New Martyr and confessor Archpriest Makary Kvitkin

+April 1, 1931

The New Martyr, Archpriest Makary, was born in 1882, in the town of Orsk, Orenburg province, in a family of devout parents, Feodor and Evdokia Kvitkin. From childhood he loved Christ and the Church. He was a deeply religious youth, and often went to church, where he read and sang in the choir. He graduated from teacher's college and taught at a secondary school. In 1904 he married a pious young woman from a well-to-do family, Evfrosinia Beznosova. Within a year a son was born, Sergei.

After working for several years as a teacher, Makary completed studies at a seminary and was ordained to the priesthood. He began his pastoral work in New Trinity. Before the Revolution, he served in the town of Upper Pavlovk, twenty-five kilometers from Orenburg, where, in 1918, a second son was born. In 1920 the family moved to Alexandrovka. At first Fr. Makary served in a prayer house. Later, in 1924, he built a small wooden church, but it was closed the following year and they moved to Orenburg.

The ruling hierarch at that time was Bishop Iakov. In the fall of 1925, the bishop assigned Fr. Makary as second priest in a large church dedicated to Saint Seraphim of Sarov in Forshtadt, a suburb of Orenburg.

In July 1927, Metropolitan Sergius, the locum tenens on the patriarchal throne, issued his infamous Declaration, which formally opened a way into the Church for the anti-Christian forces. The believers were so appalled by this capitulation that an overwhelming majority of parishes (some sources say up to 90%) simply sent the Declaration back to its author.

At that time, the rector of Saint Seraphim's Church, where Fr. Makary served as a second priest, was Fr. Alexey S. During their first years together, they enjoyed a peaceful, friendly relationship. However, after Metropolitan Sergius issued his Declaration, frictions developed. Fr. Makary categorically refused to commemorate Metropolitan Sergius as locum tenens, recognizing Metropolitan Peter Krutitsky, in spite of that fact that he had been arrested and was in a prison camp. This disagreement in the understanding of ecclesiology and pastoral leadership caused a schism in the parish, which divided into supporters of Fr. Alexey and supporters of Fr. Makary. Finally the parishioners decided to take a vote: the priest with the most support would stay, and the other would leave. Inasmuch as it was a large parish, numbering over 1000, a general meeting was held in the church.

Fr. Alexey was first to speak. He reproached Fr. Makary for not commemorating Metropolitan Sergius and thereby being insubordinate to him as rector and causing division and schism. In his turn, Fr. Makary explained that Metropolitan Sergius, by his Declaration, had betrayed ecclesiological truth, had entered into union with the godless, the enemies of the Church, and that therefore he could not in good conscience commemorated him. These, he said, were the grounds for his disagreement with Fr. Alexey, and the reason they could not longer serve together.

Fr. Alexey, who had been rector there for many years and was confident of receiving a majority, suggested, as a means of tallying the votes, that all those who supported him move to the right of the church, and all those in support of Fr. Alexey move to the left. To everyone's surprise, more than two-thirds of the parishioners crowded to the left, demonstrating their trust in Fr. Makary, who thereby became rector of St. Seraphim's Church. Straightway, a thanksgiving moleben was served, and everyone felt spiritually uplifted.

It would appear that God's will had been fulfilled, and the parish calmed down, but the devil, in the guise of the Bolshevik regime, did not calm down. At that dreadful time of persecution of religion and clergy, the authorities, in order to force the closure of churches, taxed the parishes beyond their means, raising the amount due even higher after each payment until the parish could not longer meet its obligation. This was usually done quarterly, but after the general meeting, they began to increase the tax monthly. At first the parish somehow managed to come up with the required sum, but then the authorities began collecting silver and gold, i.e., church vessels, gold and silver rizas from the icons, Gospel covers, and other church valuables, under pretext of having to supplement the tax payment. Even so, they charged the parish with failure to pay the taxes, and in 1930 the church was closed.

By that time, Fr. Makary's family had grown: the two daughters, Olga and Raisa, and the younger sons, Vladimir and Nikolai, twelve and eight, lived at home, while the eldest, Sergei, was a reader in the town of Cherniy Otrog, and lived separately. When they first came to Orenburg, in 1925, the family settled temporarily in a house belonging to three sisters, nuns. Then they rented an apartment from a widow, but her son, a communist, came and insisted the "pop"* be evicted. Fr. Makary had purchased a small piece of land with a bathhouse, intending eventually to build there a house. When they had to leave the apartment, they fixed up the bathhouse into a living space: in the center they built a Russian stove; they brought in a table, a bed for the parents, and a trunk for clothes. The children slept on the trunk and on the stove platforms, and others simply on the floor, all in the same room with the parents. This tiny room, so small that only one person could move about at a time, served as the kitchen, dining room and bedroom. And it was from this bathhouse that Fr. Makary was taken off to prison.

The family survived on the donations of parishioners, who would secretly bring bread and potatoes, careful that no one notice their comings and going from the bathhouse. As a clergyman's family, they were denied all civil rights, and were dependent on outside assistance.

The bathhouse was located four or five blocks from the church. Each time that Fr. Makary walked with the children to church, in the morning for Liturgy or in the evening for the vigil service, young "pioneers" accosted them on the street and threw sand at them or even stones. Batiushka ordered the children never to respond to these provocations, but to walk along calmly, for they could not expect anyone to come to their defense.

From the time that Fr. Makary remained alone at St. Seraphim's, he began to be terrorized and called into the GPU. His first summons was allegedly in connection with his refusal to commemorated Metropolitan Sergius as patriarchal locum tenens, and with the fact that under his rectorship the parish did not pay the "lawful" tax. The second summons came with a warning: If the church did not pay the indicated sum, it would be closed. The godless authorities suggested that Fr. Makary-since the church was going to closed regardless-publicly renounce his faith in God and his priestly rank, and acknowledge himself as one who "stupefied" the people by means of "religious obscurantism." In exchange, they promised him a teaching position, perhaps even school director. Fr. Makary categorically refused. Again they tried to persuade him, saying that he would thereby save his life and the lives of his children. Fr. Makary said he did not fear death, and that he entrusted his children to the will of God; never and under no circumstances would he break his vow to God. And the Lord did not fail the martyr's trust: all his children grew up to be honest, god-fearing and devout.

The Chekists advised Fr. Makary to consider well this matter; they would ask for his final answer when he was next summoned. It was late on a bitterly cold night in January, 1931, when the Chekists came to the bathhouse. A four-hour search failed to reveal any incriminating evidence, but that did not prevent them from making their arrest. Fr. Makary bade farewell to his family, he blessed his matushka and the children, and was taken off to prison.

At the prison, parcels of food and clothing would occasionally be accepted for the prisoners. On 31 March, matushka came as usual, accompanied by the eldest daughter, Olga, with a small parcel, but the authorities refused to accept it. There was no explanation. Matushka and Olga, together with others who had brought parcels for their relatives in the prison, decided to wait until their parcels were accepted. However, at three o'clock, they were all chased out. The doors of the prison were opened and a group of twenty-five or thirty prisoners was led out. Among them was Fr. Makary, who waved to his wife and daughter from afar. He appeared quite healthy. The prisoners were taken to GPU headquarters. Those people who ran after them were told to go home and to return at nine o'clock the next morning if they wanted further news of their relatives.

Some did not listen and stayed near the GPU building. After ignoring several warnings to clear out, Matushka and Olga were among those rounded up and arrested. They were detained overnight in the cellar, and in the morning they were given notice of the death of Fr Makary in the prison, with strict orders, under threat of arrest, forbidding them to say where they had been and what they had seen. When Matushka Evfrosinia asked, "And where is my husband's body? I would like to bury it," the officer swore at her and said, "Don't worry; the Soviet authorities will bury him in a manner he deserves." And he ordered them to leave before it was "too late." They subsequently learned that the group of prisoners were primarily popular priests from Orenburg and the surrounding regions, as well as staunch believers who obstructed the work of the satanic authorities. All these people, who just hours earlier had been in good health, and who had calmly and briskly walked out of the prison to the GPU building, suddenly, the very next day, "died in prison," or so it was noted on the death certificates given to their relatives. Later it was secretly reported that they had all been herded into a basement room and asphyxiated. For this reason, none of the bodies were given to the relatives for burial.

Thus did Archpriest Makary depart to the Lord on Palm Sunday, 1 April, 1931. He was a true pastor, beloved by his parishioners, a faithful servant in Christ's vineyard, who gave his life for the true faith, joining the choir of martyrs.

Already during his lifetime, miracles were wrought by the prayers of the future New Martyr.

When Fr. Makary's son Vladimir was ten years old, he contracted first measles, then scarlet-fever, and then some unknown disease which the doctors were unable to cure. He lay sick for more than eight months, by which time he gave scarcely any signs of life. His only sustenance was the few spoonfuls of bouillon which his mother managed to tip into his mouth each day. All that was left of him was skin and bones. In anticipation of the inevitable, Matushka Evfrosinia sat down one evening, her eyes brimming with tears, to sew a burial garment for her son out of the remains of an old sheet. Meanwhile, Fr. Makary went into the next room to pray and to entreat God to either take his son and bring an end to his suffering, or restore him to health. Then, with heavy hearts, they all, with the exception of matushka, went to bed. Suddenly, at two o'clock that night, the doorbell rang. Opening the door, Matushka found an old friend of Fr. Makary's from his teachers' college, a doctor, whom he had neither seen nor heard from in more than five years. How he knew where to find them and what prompted him to come at that late hour they never learned. When asked by Fr. Makary, he simply said that he was en route from Tashkent and decided to drop in on his old friend. Matushka told him about their son's illness and brought him over to where Volodya was lying. The doctor immediately prescribed that the boy be cupped. Matushka said this was almost impossible because of his emaciated state, but the doctor managed, albeit with difficulty, to apply several cupping-glasses, and within a matter of hours, a miracle, the boy gave some signs of life: he shifted and half-opened one eye. The doctor showed matushka how to apply the glasses and told her to apply as many as possible every day. He left at seven o'clock that morning and the family never saw or heard from him again. By God's mercy, Volodya fully recovered; he grew up, he survived the war and capture, and he is living to this day. It is he who has written this account and who attests to this miracle which God wrought through the prayers of Fr. Makary.

Here is a second instance. A ten year-old boy was confined in an asylum in Orenburg. He had a case of mild dementia which the doctors had pronounced incurable. Fr. Makary, who visited the institution, took an interest in the boy, and began visiting him frequently and praying for him par-ticularly. Within two months of these visits the boy was cured; the astonished doctors declared him to be perfectly healthy. This boy is now a grown man and of sound mind to this day. Here is another miracle by the prayers of New Martyr Priest Makary.

Matushka Evfrosinia related these two cases to her son Vladimir before World War II, when he was drafted into the army.

A third case of Fr. Makary's effectual prayers occurred after his martyric death. His son Vladimir witnessed it personally.

After Fr. Makary's arrest, his family continued to live in the bathhouse, never properly adapted for habitation, in cold and hunger. They were not given ration cards. Matushka would go into the country to exchange what meager belongings remained for food; she took everything, down to the last dishtowel. The parishioners tried to support the family, furtively bringing them food, but times were hard for everyone.

As "children of an enemy of the people," Fr. Makary's daughters could not get jobs. Nevertheless, in the summer of 1934, the younger daughter, Raisa, managed to find work in a communal garden, thanks to which the family was able to store away for the winter some dry potato leaves, which they used for the stove.

Adjacent to their bathhouse was a communal farm with several heads of cattle. In the yard they kept a supply of fuel. One day, when Matushka was away, and the children were home alone, a fire broke out in the neighboring yard. Fed by the fuel, it rapidly turned into a terrifying conflagration, sending a shower of sparks into the Kvitkins' yard, where their supply of potato leaves lay like a pile of tinder. The children rushed to the icons and prayed fervently, imploring also their deceased father to intercede and defend them. And, by the prayers of the New Martyr, God spared them from a potential tragedy.

Priest Makary Kvitkin was glorified in 1981 with the choir of Russia's New Martyrs. Holy New Martyr Priest Makary, pray to God for us!

This Life was compiled by New Martyr Priest Makary's son, Vladimir Kvitkin-Pawlenko. It is translated from Pravoslavnaya Zhizn, Jordanville, July 1995.

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