A Miracle Wrought
by St. Nicholas in Kiev in the 1920s
It was nearly half a century ago that I first heard of this miracle wrought by St. Nicholas. Never had I chanced to read anything about it in the writings of the Church. I would not want this case of the saintly bishop’s help to depart to my grave with me.
During the mid-1940s (I can’t recall the exact date), I had to spend the night in the city of Munchen [Munich] in West Germany. The city was in ruins after the war, and I would be forced to spend the night outside. Fortunately, there chanced to be a “Good Samaritan” church-house in the city, and I was provided with its address.
There were two of us in the room. Myself, and a man unknown to me, some 40-45 years of age. We introduced ourselves, each to the other. I do not remember either his name or his surname—and they probably would not have been “real,” anyway. We had to sleep on wooden benches and chairs. So, in order to pass the night more quickly, we fell to talking. I can’t remember why, but my co-locutor, for some reason or other, asked me whether I was acquainted with the miracle of St. Nicholas that took place in Kiev in the 1920s. I did not know of it, and he related the following tale to me.
In Kiev, at Podol (the northern section of the city), there dwelt an elderly widow with her son and daughter. The old woman dearly loved St. Nicholas and, in all cases of difficulty, would go to his church to pray before the image [obraz] of the saintly bishop [sviatitel’], always receiving consolation and the easing of her misfortune. Her son, seemingly a student, became an officer.
The governments of the city changed frequently: Whites, Reds, a Hetman, a Directory, Poles, Germans, etc. All former officers were arrested on the spot, the old woman’s son among them. His sister rushed about from one “department” of the time to another. She ran her legs off, but achieved nothing. But the old woman ran off to St. Nicholas. Long did she pray before his ikon; then she returned home, consoled—the saintly bishop will help. She sat down to have a spot of tea, while her daughter’s hands simply fell to her sides. O, woe! her brother had vanished!
The son returned home at dawn of the following day. Famished, beaten, dirty, weary. According to him, a large group of officers under a strong convoy of guards was being led off to Pechersk. This is the hilly section of town, opposite from Podol, by the Kiev-Caves Lavra. There was a large hippodrome there, where horse races were held. Beyond it, there was a grove, and rampart-trenches which had been dug in Peter I’s day, as a defense against the Swedes. It was in that grove, by the rampart-trenches, that the shootings took place.
They had come up to the hippodrome when, suddenly, some little old man or other stepped out from around a corner. He approached the convoy-commandant and asked: “Where are you taking them?”
The commandant replied, rudely: “To Dukhonin’s H.Q.!” (which meant, in the jargon of the time, “to be shot”). “Go away, old man!” The old man left, but, in doing so, he took the old woman’s son by the hand and said: “Let him go. I know him.”
Neither the commandant nor the escort-guards replied with even so much as a single word, nor did they hinder him. The little old man led the young fellow out around the corner and, saying, “Go on home to your mother,” vanished away somewhere.
The old woman was overjoyed and immediately set off to thank St. Nicholas. The son wanted to do nothing more than to lie down and have a good, long sleep, but his mother took him along with her to the church. He had probably been there on previous occasions, but had been but little interested in anything.
The little old woman led him up to a huge image of the saintly bishop. The son turned ashen-pale and began to tremble. He could only whisper: “Mother, dear, but that’s the very same elder who led me to freedom …”
Wondrous is God in His Saints.
Many of the details of this tale were precise and animated. Who had my co-locutor been? Perhaps he had been speaking of himself? I don’t know …
N. P. F. California 1993
Translated from the Russian text appearing in “Pravoslavnaya Rus’” (“Orthodox Russia”), No. 13, 1997 by G. Spruksts.
English-language translation copyright (c) 1997 by the St. Stefan Of Perm Guild, the Russian Cultural Heritage Society and the Translator. Permission pending.