Looking at the icon of Hieromartyr Paulinus of Mogilev, we may wonder about the story behind the image inspired by photographs and memories of spiritual children, as well as recollections of those who knew and loved him. St. Paulinus was simple and compassionate. He came out of the peasantry and became an archbishop. His cuff is kept as a great shrine in the Novospassky Monastery where he was once tonsured a monk.
St. Paulinus has returned many schismatics back to the true Church. He held an election of the Patriarch, and always courageously guarded Orthodoxy from sacrilege. His old mother followed her son everywhere. He loved everyone and was loved by adults and children. He fed birds and animals, contemplated the movements of nature, and lived in God's peace praying for his Fatherland and every soul in it.
St Paulinus was born Peter on December 19, 1879 into the family of Kuzma Kroshechkin, a peasant in the Mokshany district of the Penza province. His father Kuzma died early, leaving the boy in the care of his mother Evdokia. The widow was a young peasant woman living a strict, pious life. She often took her child to church and taught him to pray. Little Petya was brought up in obedience, fear of God and charity. In their house, Evdokia fed beggars and gave shelter to wanderers, whose stories made a deep impression on the child.
Peter learned to read early and fell in love with books. Since childhood, he was friendly, kind and gentle with people. At the same time, he had inner strength. The parish priest, who knew many peasant children and heard their confessions, once told Evdokia that her son was special and that he was likely to face many trials in life. It is not easy for talented people in this world, especially if their talent is holiness.
From infancy, Peter Kroshechkin was accustomed to prayer, had sincere faith and never doubted that the Lord heard him. At the age of eight, he once got lost in a snowy winter forest, prayed and was saved by hearing a bell ringing. The boy noticed that help always came through prayers. He felt especially comfortable at the Kazan Convent where he often walked seven miles from home. The nuns became used to Petya and gave him small tasks. He eagerly read books from the Convent library, listened to the stories of the nuns and dreamed of going to Old Athos to spend his life there in fasting and prayer, like the Athonite ascetics. It was in the Kazan Convent that the future Archbishop first felt the ardent desire for monastic service to God.
After successfully graduating from the parish school, Peter Kroshechkin entered the Moksha city school. He had to part with his mother and started renting an apartment. However, a severe illness forced Peter to quit school. For a long time, he remained seriously ill, while his mother looked after him and prayed that her son would survive. Eventually, his health improved. Evdokia thanked God and vowed to go on foot to Kiev, venerate the relics of saints, and visit the Sarov Hermitage, where the great Saint Seraphim once served. Soon Peter was able to join his mother on this pilgrimage.
They visited Kiev, and stopped at many monasteries on their way back. On May 2, right before the Feast of the Venerable Theodosius of the Kiev Caves, they reached the Sarov Hermitage. The tall bell tower, many festively dressed people, the singing of the choir, the golden-domed temples, the ringing of the bells, and the solemn service struck Peter. He did not want to leave that place, and again it became clear that his supreme goal in life was to become a monk.
Praying during the All-Night Vigil, Peter heard the answer to his thoughts. A voice spoke to him, saying, “Here you can save yourself." However, despite Peter's entreaties, Evdokia did not allow her son to stay in the Monastery. They returned home. With his soul and thoughts, Petya was in the Sarov Hermitage. He was not interested in peasant work and life, and he continued to beg his mother to bless him for monastic life. By that time, she had already understood her mistake and realised that the Lord had called Peter. Resigning to God's will, Evdokia let her son go to the Monastery.
View of the Sarov Hermitage. Lithograph by the workshop of J. Lemercier. 1860s
The Sarov Hermitage became Peter's first abode. In 1895, the sixteen-year-old novice was assigned the duties of an assistant cook in the hospital kitchen. Every day he brought milk from the barn, placing a large jug on top of his head. Perhaps this caused the migraines that haunted him all his life.
Peter's mother missed her son, and one day she came to the Sarov Hermitage and decided to stay there. She took on a job at the monastery barnyard. At that time, Peter's duty was washing the laundry for the brethren. For three years, they lived close to each other, until the young novice began to face temptations that caused him to leave the Sarov Hermitage in search of another dwelling. Evdokia blessed him, but remained in Sarov.
Peter travelled to the Nikolo-Babaevsky Monastery in the Kostroma province, where he was warmly received. Again, he began working as a kitchen helper, then a steward, an altar server, and a psalmist. However, soon he had to leave this monastery, although not for long.
Nikolo-Babaevsky Monastery on the Volga River. Kostroma province. Photo from the early twentieth century
Peter travelled to the Rostov Spaso-Yakovlevsky Monastery located on a picturesque shore of Lake Nero. Life there met the high demands of his soul. Peter served as an altar server and a singer, spending his free time reading patristic books. This new experience had a strong influence on him.
After two years, he returned to the Nikolo-Babaevsky Monastery, where the brethren loved him for his simple, kind and cheerful disposition and were glad to welcome him back. Peter's interest in books from the monastery library was rare among young novices, especially those with peasant background. It surprised Bishop N., who lived in retirement in the monastery. After a conversation with the young reader and altar server, the Bishop discovered his excellent memory, a reverent attitude towards the Church and love for neighbour. He helped Peter to engage in self-education and ordered textbooks, allowing the young man to devote his free time to the continuation of his unfinished education. Peter was able to combine fulfilling his duties at the Monastery with going through the entire gymnasium course.
However, this was only a stepping-stone on his great life path. Peter dreamed of continuing his education; at the same time, he could not imagine himself outside the monastery walls.
In 1904, the rector of the Moscow Novospassky Monastery, Boris Shipulin, accepted the application of novice Peter Kroshechkin, noting his commitment to God and monastic service, as well as his singing abilities, courtesy, and exceptionally modest behaviour. Peter's quiet tenor joined the Novospassky choir. Soon, by order of the Moscow office of the Holy Synod, monastic novice schools were opened. Peter then wrote a petition to his authorities: “I heartily rejoice in the beginnings of spiritual education in our monasteries and wish to contribute to spreading and developing it. I humbly ask you to bless and approve me as a teacher at the novice school” ... Soon he taught children and adults prayers and Orthodox chants, entering the school's classrooms on Sundays.
Novospassky Monastery, 1913
At the same period, with the high assistance of Bishop Macarius and Metropolitan Vladimir of Moscow and Kolomna, he entered the Theological Seminary, finishing its four-year course in one year. The teaching staff were amazed at that unprecedented event, which entered the history of the seminary.
Later, the Bishop shared the secret of his academic success: “I did not study subjects in the conventional way (that is, a little of each). Instead, I took any separate subject, for example, apologetics, and read the entire textbook with attention from beginning to end. Having thus clarified the basic essence of the subject, I continued to engage in studying it in detail.” After graduating from the seminary, the 27-year-old novice was admitted to the Academy, from which he graduated just as successfully, without interrupting his spiritual communion with the Novospassky Monastery and remaining one of its brethren. He was on his way to monasticism. One day, the rector of the Novospassky Monastery, Archimandrite Macarius (Gnevushev), read the petition of the novice Peter Kroshechkin: “I have a long-standing heart desire to serve the Lord God in my Monastery in the monastic rank. Therefore, I fall at the feet of Your Reverence and most humbly ask you, if you find it possible, to honor me with the Angelic image."
In February 1910, an event took place in the Intercession Church of the Novospassky Monastery, to which Peter had been going since childhood. He was tonsured a monk and changed his name to Paulinus in honour of St. Paulinus the Merciful, whose memory is celebrated on January 23.
“Eleven years later, on the day of his episcopal ordination at the Novospassky Monastery, Right Reverend Paulinus said in his speech, “In this Monastery, that is the dearest on earth to me, the Lord gave me a spiritual birth by counting me worthy of receiving monastic tonsure, as well as the sacred ranks of hierodeacon, hieromonk and archimandrite. In the same Monastery, the Lord gave me the zeal and diligence to study theological science. With the help of God and my beloved Novospassky Monastery, as well as the assistance of Metropolitan Vladimir and Bishop Macarius (may their memory be eternal), I graduated from the Moscow Academy and Seminary ...”
Rector of the Novospassky Monastery Archimandrite Macarius (Gnevushev)
After graduating from the Moscow Theological Academy with a degree in theology, Hieromonk Paulinus was engaged in pastoral work in the Novospassky Monastery. The parishioners loved him for his simplicity and sincerity, while his direct monastic authorities and higher hierarchs treated him with exceptional disposition. The Muscovites who visited the Novospassky Monastery in those years remembered their good shepherd with gratitude for many years to come. Love and a reverent attitude towards every human soul emanating from him made Fr. Paulinus famous among the Orthodox parishes of Moscow. His simple manners, his genuine interest in the lives of his parishioners and loving attention to them, as well as his reverent service to God earned him people's trust and affection. Father Paulinus took care of his spiritual children. On separate sheets of paper, he wrote short instructions for them. Here are some of these brief messages, carefully preserved by his spiritual children:
"Remember in your prayers the clergymen, as your spiritual fathers."
"Pray without ceasing."
"Always rejoice in the Lord."
“Imitate the myrrh-bearing women.”
"Keep yourselves pure and holy so that the Spirit of God may dwell in you."
"Be Respectful to All People."
“Let prudence be a constant companion of your life.”
"Sing to God wisely."
"Love your enemies."
"Have peace and love among yourselves."
"Be zealous for good deeds."
"Do not judge anyone."
"Maintain the inner and outer order of life."
"Love the work done for the sake of God."
“Observe and honour the Lord's feasts and fasts.”
“Let your souls and bodies be adorned with good thoughts and deeds.”
“Strive for the knowledge of God and true service to Him.”
“Bring up within yourselves devotion to the will of God.”
"Honor others more than yourself."
“For the sake of the Lord, know yourselves and the life path you are on.”
Bishop Paulinus (Kroshechkin)
These simple and wise instructions help restore the bright image of Father Paulinus, for whom they have become the norm of life.
Words say much more than photographs. Thanks to his spiritual children, we can imagine the appearance of this good shepherd. Father Paulinus was a little taller than average, with a strong peasant build and an open pale face, a high forehead and attentive, wise grey eyes. He had a reddish sparse beard and receding hairline. Inner spiritual light made his simple face truly beautiful. He wore modest monastic clothes and often carried a short staff in his hand. His gaze was quick and penetrating; his gait was quick and swift, and his movements — vigorous and energetic.
At home, he wore a cassock, black in winter, and white in summer, girding it with a colored sash embroidered with silk. His whole appearance exuded meekness and childlike openness. He seemed to love everyone, while he himself preferred to remain unnoticed.
In 1918, the country was living in a post-revolutionary realm of politics, ethics, and morals. Churches and their ministers were subjected to sacrilege. In September 1918, the new authorities closed the Novospassky Monastery, and the brethren were given only three days to vacate all its premises. The only thing they were allowed to take with them was their clothes – all valuables and relics were requisitioned. The Novospassky Monastery was turned into a women's labour camp. Church services were performed only in the hospital church of St. Nicholas. It was facing the street, and could be accessed bypassing the monastery grounds.
The monastic community became a parish in the name of the All-Merciful Saviour. Hieromonk Paulinus was entrusted with the duties of the Monastery's abbot. In 1919, he left Moscow and moved to the Kherson diocese to work as a teacher at the Bizyukov Pastoral Missionary Seminary. He spent two years in the St. Gregory-Bizyukov Monastery, while remaining part of the Novospassky monastery's brethren and maintaining spiritual communion with it.
In 1921, Archimandrite Paulinus was ordained a Bishop in the Resurrection Church in Sokolniki. The celebration was attended by a large number of people. The joy of the parishioners and spiritual children was mixed with tears. Separation was in the air, and the future of the beloved shepherd, as well as that of many other church hierarchs and simple priests was unclear. His Grace Paulinus was blessed for episcopal service in the diocese of Kursk with the title "Bishop of Rylsk". He was 42 years old. The young bishop, full of strength and enthusiasm, lived the life of the Church, serving not only in the city of Kursk, but also in the neighbouring towns and villages. In summer, he went around the entire diocese, delving into the life of the clergy and the urgent needs and dispensation of rural churches. Pilgrims strove to attend the hierarchal services in order to hear the simple, heartfelt sermons of their meek, holy and caring Shepherd.
Cathedral of the Sign in Kursk
During this period, he preached a lot and compiled several akathists, including a service with an akathist to St. Paulinus of Nolan, his heavenly patron. The first kontakion of the akathist said, “The hope of prisoners and correction of sinners, illuminate us with the rays of your love, as we call unto thee, "Rejoice, o Paulinus, the merciful hierarch.” This prayer for prisoners, composed by him then, became prophetic.
Bishop Paulinus often travelled through the vicinity of Putivl, an ancient town with two male cloisters - the Molchensky Pechersky Monastery and the famous Glinsky Hermitage. In 1922, the Glinsky Hermitage was closed. Shortly before this, Vladyka visited it and asked the rector, Archimandrite Nektarios, for two brothers to serve him as cell-attendants. These two worthy monks, Br. Tavrion and Br. Andronicus accompanied Vladyka Paulinus in all his travels, becoming very close to him.
In the meantime, Evdokia, the mother of the Right Reverend, moved to Kursk from Moscow, where she had rented an apartment not far from the Novospassky Monastery on Taganka. After that, she followed her son everywhere, and he always took care of his mother. They had made close friends with the owner of the Moscow apartment and his family. Later, Bishop Paulinus always stayed with them while visiting Moscow.
During that period, His Grace Paulinus once again travelled through the Penza region and visited his native village of Mokshany. The villagers who remembered him as a boy met him with love and admired the unusual fate of this peasant child.
After being the Bishop of Kursk for almost four years, His Grace was forced to leave his see against his own will. Bishop Paulinus was arrested, taken to Moscow and placed in the Butyrka prison, where he spent about a year in solitary confinement.
The Right Reverend often called this experience his “Second Academy”. During that year, he reviewed his whole life, reconsidering its events and his own inner state. He remembered his sins and sincerely repented of the lost opportunities to do good deeds.
Under these conditions, it was not possible to perform the usual prayer rule. His Grace used breadcrumbs to mold a cross, before which he prayed briefly and made bows. For this, he was often punished by the guards. Humiliation, insults and beatings became part of the "curriculum" in his "second academy". People in Orthodox churches and families did not forget about their imprisoned shepherd, keeping him in their prayers and supporting him with care packages. A year later, Vladyka was released.
Novospassky Monastery was closed. After being released from prison, Bishop Paulinus stayed with its former inhabitants and continued to pray in St. Nicholas Church. During this period, he read five volumes of the Philokalia and the works of the Holy Fathers. In 1926, St. Nicholas Church was also closed.
The only place where St. Paulinus could serve was the Church of the Holy Trinity in Kozhevniki. The monastery was literally being ravaged. The churches were desecrated; the cemetery was vandalised... It was painful for Vladyka to see the decline in morals and the devastation of his beloved monastery.
At this time, he was appointed to the Polotsk-Vitebsk see.
On October 14, 1926, St. Paulinus assumed the duties of Bishop of Polotsk and Vitebsk and was again arrested. This was preceded by the following events. By the end of 1925, there were 24 bishops and archbishops in the Solovetsky prison. Worried about the future of the Church and the fate of the clergy, they decided to appeal to the country's leadership. On June 7, 1926, at a secret meeting of 17 bishops, they prepared an appeal to the Government of the USSR. In this document, known today as the "Solovetsky Manifest", they appealed for an end to the unfortunate misunderstanding between the Church and the Soviet authorities. Hoping for positive changes, the Solovetsky bishops made a decision to elect the Patriarch by collecting signatures of the ruling hierarchs. Bishop Paulinus (Kroshechkin) was trusted with leading the elections of the Patriarch. By November 1926, he and his assistants had collected 72 episcopal signatures. Having learned about the elections of the Patriarch being held without the consent of the state authorities, the NKVD began new arrests. On December 8, 1926, Bishop Paulinus (Kroshechkin) was arrested in Kursk. The list of items confiscated from Vladyka during his arrest included the list of Russian Orthodox bishops as of 1926, the “Manifest of the Solovetsky Bishops'', an appeal to Metropolitan Sergius on the election of Metropolitan Kirill Smirnov of Kazan as Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, three letters, a record book and his Bishop's certificate.
Metropolitan Cyril (Smirnov) of Kazan
He was charged with being "a most active member of the group of the 'Black Hundred' episcopate, conducting conspiratorial anti-Soviet activities and preparing demonstrative anti-Soviet speeches". However, in April 1927 Vladyka was released, most likely at the intercession of Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky).
Eight months later, on December 19, 1927, his Grace Paulinus was appointed to the Perm see. There was a lot to accomplish. Vladyka received visitors at home: the clergy came for a blessing and received help in resolving complicated issues; the laity came to discuss their problems and brought children. Vladyka received everyone, and was friendly and compassionate. On holidays, he arranged meals and invited his visitors to join him. Sometimes 20 or 30 people shared his modest monastic meals. His Grace treated each visitor with attention.
Soon, Vladyka's mother moved to Perm as well as several monks of the Glinsky Hermitage and other believers wishing to be close to their wise spiritual father. The parishioners in Perm loved Bishop Paulinus. Learning about his extraordinary love for his flock, people who had fallen away from the Church came to his services together with the regular churchgoers. Such was the first of his three winters in Perm.
Vladyka travelled a lot. As soon as the snow melted, he went to be acquainted with the new diocese, see its churches and meet the rural pastors who had not yet had a chance to see him due to long distances. Records have been preserved describing the visit of the Right Reverend to the city of Cherdyn, the farthest corner of his vast diocese. A great number of people, including all the clergy, came out to meet Vladyka. This visit was a major event in the city, hardly ever visited by Church hierarchs. For a long time, people remembered the spiritual consolation and support they received from St. Paulinus and his fatherly love. This journey has become one of his greatest joys. The beauty of the taiga region amazed Vladyka. His journey began with sailing on a steamboat along the Kama and Chusovaya rivers, and then they rode horses and contemplated the picturesque shores and roads with the virgin taiga towering over them.
At the end of November 1930, His Grace Paulinus received an unofficial notice from the Holy Synod informing him of being transferred to the Kaluga diocese. Perm admirers saw him off with great sorrow. Most people in the diocese agreed that they had never had and probably never would have a hierarch as merciful as Bishop Paulinus.
Before going to Kaluga, Vladyka spent some time in Moscow. He served in various churches and spent much time in prayer, preparing for the trials that he foresaw.
In December 1930, St. Paulinus was appointed Bishop of Kaluga and Borovsk.
At that time, Kaluga had 14 churches, with the miraculous Kaluga Icon of the Mother of God kept in one of them. The diocese, known for saints like the Righteous Lawrence, Venerable Tikhon of Kaluga and Paphnutius of Borovsk, was also the home of Optina Hermitage, which was still flourishing shortly before Vladyka's arrival.
Hoping to stay here for a long time, His Grace Paulinus bought a house on the banks of the Oka River. His elderly mother moved into this old but solid house with a mezzanine, an overgrown garden and a well in the yard. She was still accompanying her son in all his ways. People say that after evening prayers, they blessed each other before going to bed. Vladyka's mother solemnly made a sign of the cross over him, as he stood reverently, bowing before this little illiterate old woman, and kissing her withered hand.
This house brought them both great joy. A quiet street with lawns, a view of the Oka River and its opposite banks... Everything there was made for peace and prayer. However, Vladyka spent most of his time in an apartment next to the Kazan church where he served. This ancient church with a gilded iconostasis and a tiled floor has survived to this day. At that time, it housed the locally revered Kazan icon of the Mother of God. The church's main chapel was consecrated in honour of the Transfiguration of the Lord. After some time, His Grace Paulinus renamed this church into the Transfiguration-Kazan Cathedral.
The number of parishioners in this ancient church with a dark gold iconostasis and the miraculous icon was quite low. In winter, its walls were covered with white frost — at that time the shortage of firewood and funds was most common. Besides, the church stood on a mountain. Climbing it in the sleet and mud was a real act of faith.
Transfiguration Church in Kaluga
His Grace had to serve in an empty church… However, that was only the beginning. The time eventually came when more and more people became drawn to his services, and the church became filled with people. In the cold months, they began to serve in a warm basement, ignoring the smell of food coming from the vegetable storage located in the neighbouring building.
However, the life of the kind and gentle-hearted Saint was as difficult as ever before. Vladyka had to endure the neglect of the Kaluga clergy and their extremely unfriendly attitude. The diocesan clergy ignored St. Paulinus neither inviting him to patronal feasts, nor visiting their bishop on significant Church dates. It is difficult to find the reason for such an attitude today. One can only assume that his simplicity and humble appearance caused mistrust and disdain among the local pastors. They wanted to see an important bishop, surrounded by a halo of splendour, while His Grace Paulinus was simple and available. According to the Gospel word, he was a servant to all. Throughout his ministry in Kaluga, Vladyka felt the coldness and even hostility on the part of some members of the local clergy. He was humbly carrying this cross.
What set him apart from many hierarchs was that he loved everyone equally, seeing God's image in everyone, be it a peasant, a nobleman, a child, an old woman, an orphan, or an official. People appreciated that. He united his parishioners by a joint prayer, which he introduced into everyday life. Usually after the service, he would bless everyone, standing on the ambo, and then quietly begin to sing well-known prayer hymns. Everyone in the church picked up the familiar melodies and words. This living, "natural" action was a manifestation of freedom and unity. They sang troparia for the day and feast, as well as chants like "Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ", "O Most Gracious Queen," and "Running for refuge under thine, О Sovereign-Lady, shelter"... Vladyka often sang the troparion of Great and Holy Saturday “The Noble Joseph”, and his face became detached, as if he were carried back into the events of Holy Week. Vladyka loved such people's polyphony. He sang and prayed with all his heart and taught his parishioners to pay close attention to the words of prayers. After services, people always surrounded him, escorting him home and not wishing to part with their beloved pastor. Simple souls unconsciously reached out to St. Paulinus, driven by a desire to thank him for his love and attention.
The Bishop was not an eloquent preacher. His plain daily Gospel sermons were low-key, simple and wise. They left a deep imprint in people' hearts and prompted them to repent.
There were always people around St. Paulinus helping him in everyday life and household chores. Children serving in the altar and all his assistants were very fond of him. Sometimes people from his previous places of ministry would come and stay with the Bishop.
Life was coming back to normal. Every day, His Grace Paulinus got up very early. If he was not celebrating Liturgy as a bishop, he went to one of the city churches and stood in the altar. After praying, Vladyka slowly walked home, received visitors until dinner, read and wrote letters. Reading books remained both his favourite pastime and an urgent need. Eventually, about two thousand volumes were collected in his Kaluga library. Every day after a modest meal and a short rest, he visited his mother.
A lot can be said about Vladyka's love for all creatures great and small. He always fed the fish in the pond and was kind to every living soul. Hungry cats from all over the neighborhood were always welcomed in his kitchen. Once he noticed an ants' path crossing the road leading to his summerhouse and ordered to make a small wooden bridge over it so as not to disturb the ants. St. Ephraim the Syrian once wrote that a heart merciful to every creature is a sign of spiritual perfection.
One summer morning in 1931, St. Paulinus and his inner circle faced a new trial. His confessor, hieromonk Tavrion arriving from Perm was arrested together with his secretary and cell attendant, hierodeacon Andronikus, and thrown into the Kaluga prison. Vladyka was experiencing premonitions exacerbated by loneliness and grief over the fate of his closest loved ones. The parishioners and clergy whom he had trusted were frightened and distanced themselves from him. The only thing left was prayer and trust in God's will. The devotion of his aged mother was now particularly comforting and encouraging to him.
In the autumn of 1931, the Right Reverend repaired the house, and its doors were opened to visitors once again. The housekeeping was taken care of by two of his parishioners from Perm and a nun from the Kursk Monastery.
At the same time, the Archpastor's activities were extremely limited by the Soviet authorities on the one hand and by the Church's internal turmoil on the other. He was silently suffering, enduring and praying, knowing that it was impossible to influence the situation. In 1933, he travelled to Moscow several times to attend sessions of the Holy Synod.
During the episcopacy of His Grace Paulinus in Kaluga, the Bolsheviks blew up the Annunciation Cathedral, as well as the Nikolsko-Slobodskaya, Spaso-Slobodskaya and Resurrection churches. In the same period, 83 clergymen, 14 minor clergy members, 8 churchwardens, and 61 nuns were shot and exiled... Vladyka's heart grieved immensely.
In the summer of 1933, His Grace Paulinus received a telegram from Moscow saying that he was being transferred to the Mogilev diocese. He was reluctant to leave. From the day the telegram arrived, his usual cheerfulness seemed to have faded. Something was bothering him. Perhaps it was a premonition of trouble or longing for a place that he had grown to love. He was silent. There were rumours that someone from the Kaluga clergy had written a denunciation against him.
In late August 1933, His Grace was summoned to the Holy Synod in Moscow. Upon returning, he officially announced his transfer. People mourned, discouraged by the imminent separation.It was sorrowful to see His Eminence serving his last Liturgy in the Kazan-Transfiguration Cathedral.
In the first days of September, His Grace Paulinus left for Mogilev, accompanied by Hieromonk S., who would later become Bishop of Gomel. His cell attendant was no longer with him. The elderly Evdokia remained in Kaluga. It was not easy for a woman who had followed her son all her life. The Bishop assured his mother that he would not stay long at the Mogilev see. Once, deep in thought, he said, “Our way is the way of the Cross. Its stages are prison, exile and death."
In the meantime, His Grace Paulinus arrived to his new diocese with the title "Archbishop of Mogilev." He was warmly welcomed and accommodated in an apartment, where he brought his few belongings from Kaluga.
Photograph of Archbishop Paulinus, found on the ruins of a house in Mogilev
In late 1934, His Grace Paulinus moved his mother to Mogilev. Life was quickly improving, primarily, because people immediately began to reach out to the new bishop. He found common ground with everyone according to their age, position, and intelligence. However, he did not tolerate gossip, slander, lies, and treachery.
Behind him was a long way of Christian service, love and mercy towards people. Moscow, Kursk, Perm, Kaluga, Mogilev... In all these places there were his spiritual children to whom he provided spiritual and often material support. He sent money orders by mail, never forgetting about those in need. Trying to help everyone, he limited himself.
Watching the world become more and more aggressive, he was dreaming of peace and solitude. As an open and trusting person, Bishop Paulinus twice became a victim of theft. Once, thieves came to his apartment under the guise of fitters, and took a golden watch and festive panagia. Another time, his staff with a silver knob was stolen from him on a train when he was travelling to Moscow.
At that time, there was a large group of autocephalists and quite a few renovationists in Belarus. Archbishop Paulinus tried with all his might to stop the church schism in the diocese. He succeeded in directing many of these people on the true path. He simplified the return of apostates to the bosom of the church, replacing the public renunciation of their erroneous path by an individual confession. Vladyka held talks with Bishop Filaret (Ramensky) of Bobruisk, who headed the autocephalous church, and agreed with him on the abolition of autocephaly. A memorandum was then sent to the Deputy Patriarchal Locum Tenens, Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) in Moscow.
In October 1936, the NKVD arrested and sent the Right Reverend to the Mogilev prison. They also arrested his cell-attendant, Hieromonk Andronikus (Lukash), and many other clergymen. Grief shook the city; people mourned and prayed. One could expect anything from an arrest at the time. The mother of the Archbishop was very weak. She suffered a stroke, and, not finding the strength to fight for her life, quietly gave up her spirit to the Lord immediately after receiving Holy Communion on the day of the Nativity of Christ. Shortly before her son's departure, she had a dream from which she realised that Mogilev would become his grave. Her son's spiritual children quietly buried her at the Mogilev cemetery.
During the first years of his imprisonment, the Right Reverend wrote letters to everyone he loved. These small pages, written in small handwriting, testify to the fact that he did not lose his vigor even in difficult conditions of imprisonment.
He was transferred from the Mogilev prison to Minsk for an investigation. There he was charged with creating in Mogilev a counter-revolutionary underground and a single bloc, which allegedly united all the church movements in Belarus to fight the Soviet regime.
Vladyka's only answers to all the questions of the Chekists were, “I do not plead guilty; my relations with all the indicated persons were purely religious; I was never involved in politics; I sent money only to provide material assistance to the poor; I was never involved in anti-Soviet conversations”. The interrogations continued: the Chekists needed to uncover a counter-revolutionary and anti-Soviet underground organisation. Without obtaining a confession, they concluded the case as planned. Archbishop Paulinus was sentenced to 10 years in concentration camps.
He was convoyed to the Mariinsky camps in the Kemerovo region where he became a foreman on an agricultural farm. Together with other clergy held in the camp, he secretly served Liturgies. An informer from among the prisoners reported this activity to the camp authorities.
Most Reverend Vladyka Paulinus wrote, “The bullying and persecution of believers only strengthens our faith in God, [...] we must tirelessly uphold a spirit of religion not only in ourselves, but also in others.” He constantly called for fortitude in faith and prepared himself for new trials.
Thousands of priests died in concentration camps. They were hastily convicted of organising "counter-revolutionary groups” while already in custody. A criminal case was opened against Archbishop Paulinus (Kroshechkin) on charges of organising and leading a counter-revolutionary group, conducting agitation against the Soviet regime and spreading slander against the Stalin constitution. His group included Bishop Arkady (Ershov) of Yekaterinburg, priest Anatoly Levitsky, priest Nikandr Chernelevsky, Cyprian Annnikov and others. None of the convicted pleaded guilty. However, the case was closed. All the defendants were sentenced to death by a decree of an NKVD troika. On November 3, 1937, the sentence was enforced.
Icon of the Hieromartyr Paulinus of Mogilev with the clergy
Archbishop Paulinus and the clergy executed with him were canonised as holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia at the Jubilee Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in August 2000.
Their memorial day is October 21 (November 3). The right chapel of the Mogilev Transfiguration Cathedral was consecrated in honour of the Holy Martyr Paulinus of Mogilev.
Troparion, tone 2
The immaculate servant of the Orthodox Faith / and a zealous follower of Christ's commandments / Hieromartyr Paulinus, / having loved Christ with all your heart, / you have preserved your flock well, o merciful. / Martyred in cold Siberia, / you were adorned with a crown of glory. / Dwelling in eternal glory, / pray that our souls may be saved.