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Granddaughters recall their grandfather martyr Vladimir Pasternatsky

Faithful to Christ: Hieromartyr Vladimir Pasternatsky

Hieromartyr Vladimir Pasternatsky

On January 21, we are commemorating the 85th anniversary of the death of Hieromartyr Vladimir Pasternatsky.

Unfortunately, hagiographic literature, describing the magnitude of the ascetic deeds performed by saints, does not always tell us what kind of person they were.

How did Vladimir Pasternatsky meet his future wife Natalia Sosinovskaya? How were marriages celebrated by priesthood families? What was life and upbringing of children like in a large family? What did the children and grandchildren know about the difficult time of persecution against the Church? Recently, we had a unique opportunity to talk about this with Nina Fedorovna Chmyreva and Tatiana Romanovna Khmelevskaya, the granddaughters of Hieromartyr Vladimir Pasternatsky.

Acquaintance and Marriage

We are looking at the Pasternatsky family archive. There aren't many pictures here, but there are many stories behind each of them. Alas, there is no picture of student Natalia Sosinovskaya among the photographs of the Minsk Theological School graduates, but the granddaughters cherish the pictures of the school principal, as well as the class mistress and classmates of their grandmother.

Minsk Women's Theological School

Nina Fedorovna: Our grandmother Natalia came from the priestly lineage of the Sosinovskys: her father, Theophan Sosinovsky, and her grandfather were both priests. Grandmother's sister Barbara lived in Minsk. We still remember her two-storey red-brick house on the bank of the Svisloch River. Natalia's parents spent the last years of their lives with her, so they were buried in Minsk on the grounds of St. Mary Magdalene Church.

The elegant young man with a twisted moustache in this photo is a graduate of the Minsk Theological Seminary, the future priest-martyr Vladimir Pasternatsky...

Minsk Theological Seminary

N. F.: The Pasternatskys are also a priestly family: the father of Vladimir Pasternatsky, our great-grandfather Hilarion, and his father, our great-great-grandfather, also Hilarion, were both priests.

Tatiana Romanovna: After graduating from seminary, our grandfather Vladimir came to the village of Pesochnoye to see Father Theophane Sosinovsky, who by that time was seriously ill and could no longer walk. They spoke one on one, after which he said goodbye and left. Father Theophan called his daughter Natalia and asked her if she saw who had just come to see them. She answered "yes", and he told her that she was going to marry that man. “Marry that tall, dark haired and fearful man? But I don't want to...” “Do not argue. This is already decided upon.” Since that was the father's will, everyone started preparing for the wedding. It was winter time, so they hitched up the sleigh and drove to Vilnius to buy my grandmother a Singer sewing machine and some linens. Grandfather’s wedding gifts included horses and a good book library. Later, the entire village used this library, for which they were very grateful to him.

After the wedding, they lived in Pesochnoye, where Grandfather Vladimir served in the local church.

Parenting and Family Life

Fr. Vladimir Pasternatsky on the right

Father Vladimir and Matushka Natalia had eight children. Four of them - Philip, Maria, Andrey and Olga - were born before the revolution, and four more - Elena, Dmitry, Victor and Anastasia - during the years of the persecution...

N. F.: Our granddad was a caring father who participated in the life of his children, and in their upbringing. Our mother Maria once told us that sometimes when she came home late, she turned back the hands of the clock. Once grandfather Vladimir caught her doing this. He did not say anything, but my mother was ashamed of this act all her life...

Their second son, Andrey, was a very sick child. The doctor insisted that in order to survive, the boy absolutely must not be nervous. Everyone in the family tried to yield to the weak Andrey. One day Andrey came up to his grandfather and said: "I want your watch." It was a solid pocket watch worn on a chain at that time. Without asking any questions, grandfather took it out of his pocket and gave it to Andrey. A few minutes later, the watch was dismantled to pieces. Nobody heard any complaints from grandfather ever after.

In the family of Vladimir and Natalia Pasternatsky, all children had to do chores. My mom's responsibilities as the eldest daughter were to keep the house clean and to watch the younger children. There were plenty of whatnots and shelves in the house, which had to be wiped often. When Father Vladimir returned home after a hard day's work, he always wanted to know how everyone did in fulfilling their duties...

Persecution against the Family

In 1933, Fr. Vladimir Pasternatsky, dean of the churches of the Kopyl region, remained the only priest in the entire deanery who was not arrested or shot.

The Ascension Church

T. R.: Grandmother said that they survived only thanks to the help of their fellow villagers. They left potatoes on their threshold, knocked, and left. After being transferred to Kopyl, grandfather often went around the parishes to bury, baptize, and marry people. Sometimes he would literally live in his sleigh.

People tried to persuade him to renounce priesthood, and to publicly desert Christ. He was offered a job as an accountant. The position came with a good salary and a promise of personal safety. Yet, grandfather was adamant, "I will not renounce my priestly dignity." Grandmother fully supported him and considered priesthood the cross given to them by God. She was determined to bear it all her life.”

N. F.: The children were under social pressure, especially the older ones.

T. R.: It was difficult to find a job. They were forced to hide the fact of being priest's children. Once, my mom worked in a military canteen. One day, she stepped out of the door and saw a fellow villager from Pesochnoye.

She told him, “Uncle Tim, please be my dad for now."

He agreed, so she brought him to the dining room, where they fed him and gave him tobacco. He played his part, asking if his “daughter” was behaving, whether she was a good worker etc. One of the military men present at that time was dating my mother. After this incident, he told her that after seeing her father, he felt that he could marry her. She remained silent, wondering if he would be as confident if he saw her real father. At that time, priests were already being persecuted...

N. F.: My mother had a stamp in her passport, which read “discrediting evidence”.

T. R.: She suffered a great deal for it. They wanted to evict her and her younger sister Olga from Minsk as daughters of a priest. After she got married and changed her last name, her life became easier. Uncle Philip was fired from his job for being a priest's son. For nine months he could not find another job. Uncle Andrey graduated from accounting courses, and settled in the village of Dudichi where his grandfather used to live. The people there treated him well: they still remembered Father Vladimir Pasternatsky.

red cross

After grandfather was arrested, grandmother gathered the younger children, packed the clothes and photographs, and moved to Roslavl where her daughter Olga lived. After the release from prison, my grandfather came there, although it was just for one day. The following morning he was arrested again... The house burned down during the Great Patriotic War. The family spent the post-war years in a dugout. Eventually, the house was rebuilt. After the death of my grandmother, Uncle Victor lived there.

In 1956, my grandmother wrote to the prosecutor's office: she argued that grandfather was not a thief, bandit, robber or murderer, and that he was repressed for his faith. Grandfather was later rehabilitated, and an appropriate document was issued. There were two death notes for him in mail: the first said that Vladimir Pasternatsky was killed in 1938, and the second stated that he died of a heart attack on January 5, 1942.

priesthood of the Kopyl district

Among the family photos, there is one with the priests of the Kopyl and Uzda districts. Next to Fr. Vladimir Pasternatsky we see Fr. Peter Grudinsky, Fr. Michael and Fr. Valerian Novitsky, who are now also glorified as saints. In another photo we recognise Fr. Valerian Novitsky and his wife Dominica Ignatievna.

Maria became a seamstress

T. R.: Dominica Ignatievna was a good tailoress. She taught my mother how to sew. The graves of Dominica Ignatievna, as well as their son and daughters, are located at the Chizhovsky cemetery in Minsk. Every time I go there, I always visit their graves.

Lives of Children and Grandchildren

Children and grandchildren of Hieromartyr Vladimir Pasternatsky lived their lives in different circumstances. It is noteworthy that two of his sons became defenders of their Motherland, which had earlier declared their father a public enemy, while his youngest son was not afraid to follow in his father's footsteps and became a clergyman.

N. F.: We lived very friendly. After the war, all the children and grandchildren constantly gathered at their grandmother's, and helped Uncle Victor to build a house.

T. R.: After living in Dudichi for some time, Uncle Andrey was transferred to Minsk. Later, he fought on the Finnish front, where he died.

N. F.: Uncle Philip died during the Great Patriotic War. His name is written on the monument, built in Warsaw to commemorate the soldiers who died for the liberation of Poland.

son Victor Pasternatsky

Uncle Victor graduated from the Zagorsk Theological Seminary, but he never became a priest. He returned to Roslavl, where he took care of our grandmother Natalia and buried her upon her death. He served in church until the end of his life. I personally believe that he is also a saint. He was very modest during his life. He fasted, attended all the services and kept a strict prayer rule, praying for two hours in the morning and in the evening. At the same time, he remained very delicate and meek, never imposing anything on anyone. It seems to me that only a saint can live this way, lovingly accepting all his neighbours.

T. R.: After graduating from medical school, I worked in Tomsk for three years. Then I returned to Minsk and worked for some time at the tractor works hospital, after which I spent more than twenty years working at the emergency room.

N. F.: I graduated from the Minsk Technical Institute with a degree in electrical engineering and computers. I have worked in this sphere for most of my life. My husband, Doctor of Science and associate professor, also worked in this area. Our son and daughter-in-law followed the same path.

Glorification of the Saints

Hieromartyr Vladimir Pasternatsky

On October 28, 1999, the glorification of 23 new martyrs of the Minsk diocese took place in the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Minsk. Among them was Hieromartyr Vladimir Pasternatsky.

N. F.: When my godmother, Aunt Olga, died, we asked the Holy Spirit Cathedral to provide us with a priest for her funeral. That was her last wish. The service had already ended, and all the priests had left, when Father Theodore Krivonos found me. We started talking. It turned out that he had been looking for the descendants of Fr. Vladimir Pasternatsky. Later he had phone conversations with Aunt Nastya, and in 1999 we were all invited to the Holy Spirit Cathedral. At the solemn service glorifying our grandfather and other priests, there were three families descending from the Pasternatsky family.

Grandpa will Help Me

granddaughters of Martyr Vladimir Pasternatsky

N. F.: During the war, our mother had an unusual dream: she was in the courtyard of her house when she saw that the sky was on fire. In the midst of this fire she saw an icon of Jesus, Who told her not to try to save her own life. In the afternoon, an air raid began, bombing neighbouring houses. A fire started, making the temperature very hot inside the house. She started attempting to take everything out of the house and stepped on a nail. The wound healed for a long time, reminding her of God's command not to try to rescue herself."

T. R.: Our cousin Volodya is a pilot. He told us two more stories of the miraculous help coming from grandfather. The first incident occurred during military exercises. Vladimir was standing on the porch with colleagues, talking and watching the aeroplanes flying high in the air. One of the cadets made a mistake and accidentally began firing shots at the porch. Luckily, at this very moment, Volodya was called to the phone, and the whole group dispersed. The shots hit the empty porch...

The second incident occurred when Volodya was glazing the balcony. He leaned over the railings and almost fell. In the last moment, he was able to catch on to something, pull himself up and climb back on the balcony. He was sure that it was grandfather who saved him.

N. F.: At home I have an icon presented to us during the glorification, together with a photograph of my grandfather.

T. R.: I remember my grandfather and great-grandfather every day. I pray and ask that they give me great-grandchildren. I do not need anything else.

N. F.: I feel guilty because of not having the faith that our grandparents had. When my granddaughter Masha studied at the gymnasium, we studied our genealogical tree together. It was for a competition. The genealogical tree of our family turned out to be the most versatile, and with the deepest roots. Our work became the best in our region. After that, I told Masha that she would be the keeper of our archives. She gladly agreed.

T. R.: Grandpa said, "I will not renounce my priestly dignity." and he never did. Now we live happily. If something happens, we can ask for help, and grandfather will always come to the rescue.

Interviewed by Vadim Yanchuk and Tatiana Khomenkova

birds flying

January 18, 2023
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