Testimonies to the Miracle
Nine accounts tell what people experienced or heard about the 1956 Miracle of St. Nicholas in Kuibyshev (now Samara).
It was well-known that Elder Seraphim of Glinsk Hermitage took the icon of St. Nicholas from the hands of Zoë (Zoya). Fr. Anatoly Litvinko, who asked Elder Seraphim about this, said: “He bent his head humbly and from his silence I understood that yes, this did happen. He hid this out of humility, but also because the authorities could recapture him, since people would go to his church to venerate the miraculous icon. The authorities sought to transfer the icon to the altar area so the people would not gather.”
Many believers from Samara knew Anna Ivanovna Fentotnova. She recalls: “In those days I had gone twice to the house of Zoë. The house was surrounded by police. I asked an officer if it is true that Zoë was stiffened. He told me: ‘You ask me just like my wife asks me. However I will not tell you anything. See for yourself.’ Then he took off his hat and showed me that his hair turned white, which occurred overnight! ‘Is this enough? Words are unnecessary. Besides, we have signed to not speak of this. If you only knew the fear I had looking at her.’”
Recently the parish priest of the Church of Saint Sophia in Samara, Fr. Vitali Kalasnikov, said: “My mother’s aunt, Anna Pavlovna Kalasnikova, was a doctor in the ambulance of Kothimpasev. On that morning she came to find us, saying, ‘You sleep while the city is on its feet.’ Even though she had signed to not speak about the incident, she began to tell us that she saw Zoë look like a stone. She also saw the icon of Saint Nicholas in her hands. She also told us that no matter how many injections they made on her, every needle would break. All of us were astonished. A.P. Kalasnikova worked for many years in the ambulance. She died in 1996. I became a priest before her repose. Many who heard the narration that morning are still alive.”
Valentina Nikolaevna from the city of Belgorod remembers: “I had come to Fr. Seraphim. At night I stayed in the house of Mary Romanovna, where many Christians gathered. It was very hot and I could not sleep. After a little while two young people came out. We began a conversation. They were students of the Theological Seminary. I asked them about Zoë. When the miracle happened they were young. Because of this miracle they believed in Christ. Now they had Fr. Seraphim as a spiritual father and confessed that the elder was the one who took the icon from the hands of Zoe. After the service, Matushka Katerina Loutsina (later she became Nun Seraphima) asked if I venerated the icon of Saint Nicholas. ‘Yes,’ I answered. ‘Which icon exactly did you venerate?’ she asked again. I showed her the large icon of St. Nicholas on the wall. ‘Not that one’ she told me. ‘Venerate the one on the analogion; that is the icon Elder Seraphim took from the hands of Zoë. The Elder told me not to tell anyone. If it becomes known there is a danger they will recapture him.’”
Alexandra Ivanovna remembers: “It was the fifth week of the fast in 1982 when I arrived in Rakitin. At one point I dared to ask, ‘Elder, where is the icon of St. Nicholas you took from the hands of Zoë?’ He fell into deep silence. He looked at me austerely. I don’t know how it came to me to ask at that moment about the icon. In Kuibyshev my relatives lived on the same street as Zoë. I was 14 years old. At night they would shut their lights so people would not gather. The screams of Zoë frightened everybody. My relatives who were eye witnesses from that time began to believe and attend church. This miracle remained deeply etched in my mind. At that moment, when the Elder was looking at me, the phrase ‘woe is me’ passed through my mind. The Elder then said, ‘The icon is in the church on the analogion. There were times when they wanted to completely remove it from the church.’ This confirmed that he took the icon from the hands of Zoë. Two weeks later the Elder reposed.”
Claudia Ivanovna Petrounenko from St. Petersburg and spiritual daughter of Metropolitan Nicholas Giarousevich, said the following: “I asked the bishop if he went to Kuibyshev and if he saw Zoë. He responded, ‘I went there to pray, but I did not take the icon; it was not yet time. The icon was taken by Fr. Seraphim.’”
Fr. Andrei Antreevitch Savin, who was then secretary in Samara, remembers: “The bishop then was His Eminence Jeronymos. One morning I noticed certain people cramming near a house. At night about a thousand gathered. Policemen were patrolling, but in the first days they were not getting rid of the people. Later they began turning them away on the pretext of disrupting the peace and obstruction of transportation. Despite this many would still come. The atmosphere was tense. People were waiting for answers from us priests. None of the priests approached the house, however. Everyone was scared. They watched us closely and could have expelled us from our position at any moment. One day it was heard that Zoë was forgiven and would recover on the day of Pascha (as Fr. Seraphim had said). The members of Komsomol (Communist youth) had come out in the city those days and were shouting that they had entered that house and there was nothing there. This added fuel to the fire. Then those who had doubts even came to believe that something wondrous was happening in the home of Zoe in Kuibyshev.”
Evgeni, Archbishop of Samara and Sarzansk, expressed his own opinion about what happened: “Many people witnessed the miracle. I personally learned of the event in 1957, when I was a student at the Theological Seminary. There is no room for doubt concerning this great miracle. During those difficult years when the church was being persecuted by the atheists, this wondrous appearance of divine power caused a great sensation. Not only to the residents of Samara. For all of us it was a lesson. It was a lesson in how to treat sacred objects. It was a lesson also for atheists. Nobody obliged you to believe, but do not mock sacred objects because you will be punished. If the unbelieving Zoë did not touch the icon, nothing would have happened. Many times the atheists were punished for their treatment of the sacred. There were instances when they would drop the bells of churches down, and they also would fall. During those hard times people had a need for miracles and miracles appear when God wills. When Elder Seraphim took the icon from the hands of Zoë, the authorities punished him, and Metropolitan Jeronymos was expelled from the throne.”
In 1989 the Abbot Germanos, who spearheaded the reopening of Optina and who during the 1950’s served in the Cathedral Church of Kuibyshev, said: “For what I did not see I don’t want to speak. I will speak about what I saw. The road in front of the house of Zoë was filled with police. They were gathering signatures from the people obligating them not to speak. One of the prominent party members called one of the priests of the Cathedral Church and told him to announce to the people that nothing was happening. The priest then said, ‘Let me go to the place to see what was happening to know what to tell the people.’ He said he would call back. After an hour he called the priest and told him that it was not necessary to say anything to the people. Rumors began to circulate in the city and newspapers could not be uninvolved. Except they only spread that it was a ‘lie of the priests.’ Shortly after the incident Elder Seraphim was imprisoned for three years. When he was released from prison they sent him to a remote village, to Dnepropetrovsk and later to Mikhaylovsky.”
Translated by John Sanidopoulos, Mystagogy. Used by permission.