Frozen Martyrs of the North, an Account from the Life of Elder Nikolai Guryanov

In this post I’m blessed to share with you, the reader, a brief account from the life of Elder Nikolai Guryanov, of blessed memory, which I translated from Russian. If you are unfamiliar with the life of this God-bearing elder, you may do further reading here and here. I believe the following story sheds more light on what is simply referenced as a “leg disorder” from his time in gulags in the above-linked articles. The following account is one that resonates with the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. May we, through the prayers of Elder Nikolai and the unnamed martyrs with him, find the grace and courage to stand firm in the Truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“O, how we had trials in the camp,” said Father Nikolai Guryanov, “when force was brought to bear on us so that we would deny the faith, all the believers were driven – priests, and bishops, and laymen – into the frigid icy water. This was in the North (of Russia). All were stripped of their clothes. And so all were left in the freezing cold, and a guard was set with dogs. The guard would change and we stood and quietly prayed.

The Lord gave help, mentally I performed the Jesus prayer. Only it and complete attention to the Mother of God did I hold unceasingly in my mind; suddenly I became even fiery warm. Everyone tried to huddle together, but oh my! … We understood, knew, that soon we would depart to the Lord. Some said the Psalter by memory. But spoken words were impossible, it was hard to even breathe, everything was bound by the bitter cold.

With time people began to stiffen and sink into the icy water. Their heads like flowers in the frost, falling, falling … Then one could only sob, as the last convulsions ran throughout the whole body – and then the soul flew away to the Throne of God. All were martyrs. Not one person denied the Lord! Angels descended and gathered them.

And to me, the Heavenly Queen came and said, ‘Do not stop praying, it will save and heal you. I have asked the Lord to keep you on earth, it is needed for the strengthening of the Church of God. My grace and My Son will be with you unto the ages.’ The Mother of God encompassed me in such a Light and fiery warmth, so that I stood beneath Her protecting Veil and remained unharmed. I was left the only one alive.

When they pulled me out, I was taken into the barracks before the authorities. The leader, he was not laughing anymore, ‘Well, what, did God help you?’ I barely uttered these words, ‘I believe and confess the Most Holy Trinity and the Mother of God!’ Then the man asked fearfully, ‘Please pray for my daughter she is severely sick.’ And earlier he thought he could live without God.”

Then Father look out the window onto his Jerusalem courtyard, and he could not restrain the tears. Silently, he cried. Yet, his lips moved slightly and he sighed, “O, Mother of God! Queen of Heaven! O, Lord! What did they do to all of us! We were all exhausted, we dug holes in the snow for shelter, made makeshift huts, and covered ourselves with whatever we could find … we even chewed pine branches, at least it was some kind of food. And that is the trial of our Faith that the Lord allowed!

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