It was a cold January of 1930.
At times, gazing at the white openwork circle of snowflakes outside the window of the cold prison in Slutsk, he would let go of his thoughts for a short while, but soon he returned to his senses and started praying again, not knowing what would happen in the following moment…
On a report from a local teacher, Father Valerian Novitsky was absurdly accused of agitating against the collective farms after he had sincerely criticised the formation of an anti-religious group in a neighbouring village. The group members performed blasphemous plays and skits, and the Priest said that he would not serve at their funerals. He pleaded not guilty to the charge.
A second year student of the law department at the Belarusian State University, he was filled with hope, faith and high expectations making a firm and courageous choice back in 1923. He accepted priesthood despite being well aware of the unfolding persecution against the Church.
“We need to protect the faith,” said the young priest realising the need to serve his people, bringing them the word of Christ in the times of persecution and faithlessness. He was 26 years old.
He understood and accepted all the risks involved. A worthy son of his father, Archpriest Vasily Denisovich Novitsky, and a faithful soldier of Christ, he fearlessly took up his cross and bore it to the end. The Lord blessed Father Valerian by granting him a beautiful wife, wonderful children, and seven years of ministry in the Holy Trinity Church in the village of Telyadovichi in the Minsk region.
His wife, Dominika Ignatievna, went to see her husband in prison, but she was not allowed a visit. She received a note, in which Fr. Valerian wrote, “They offered me to save my life by renouncing God and the priesthood. I refused. How will you manage raising our children alone?” Matushka Dominika replied, “Do not renounce either God or the priesthood. The Lord will help me.”
The deep eyes of this beautiful couple shine with the unearthly beauty of their souls. They dreamed of living their lives in love and fidelity, raising grandchildren together. They had to make a different choice and take full responsibility for it.
Matushka Dominika was left alone with three children. Until 1975, the family did not know anything about the fate of Father Valerian. All their queries received the same formal response: "...died of gastric disease in exile."*
On February 23, 1930, the country celebrated Red Army and Navy Day for the 12th time.
Three men sentenced to death were led into the woods. They were once again offered to renounce faith in God and the priesthood.
Digging a grave in frozen ground is not easy. It is even harder to dig it for yourself when you are only 33 years old.
Hearing the gunshot, several tits cried out in fright. They were the only witnesses to the tragedy.
The location of these three graves is still unknown. What we do know is that Hieromartyr Valerian Novitsky stands before God interceding for all of us and praying for peace in our land.
*Priest Valerian Novitsky was arrested on January 14, 1930. On February 23 of the same year he was executed.
On October 28, 1999, Father Valerian was canonised by the Holy Synod of the Belarusian Orthodox Church as a locally venerated saint.
In August 2000, he was canonised by the Jubilee Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church and included in the Synaxis of New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.
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