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The Life and Spiritual Diary of Hieromonk Vasily Roslyakov

Hieromonk Vasily, Christ’s Warrior on Earth and in Heaven

Hieromonk Vasily (Roslyakov)

“To God, we give our best”.
(Hietomartyr John Vostorgov)

Some people do not live long but leave a lasting trace. They are made for Heaven, and their journey leads them upwards. Of them, Vasily Roslyakov was one. Only God will know how many young men and women in the 1990s chose monasticism or the priesthood after reading about his life in the book "Beautiful Pascha", and how many more preferred the same after meeting him at some moment.

Father Vasily in a mantle

Father Vasily in a mantle

That Father Vasily performed his feats three decades ago is only part of the reason. His whole life strikes a cord in our hearts. God revealed to us the details of his journey after his martyrdom. He went through life like a flagship; like the holy fathers, he projected an example of exceptional wisdom and benevolence. In the words of the other monks of Optina Pustyn, “Father Vasily took the sole true route that the Holy Fathers had trodden before: one of vigilance, repentance and compunction. He chose the right route from the beginning.” And so he became a beacon for who followed him unquestioningly, acting like he did to the best of their ability.

The Skete of the Venerable Ambrosias

The Skete of the Venerable Ambrosias, where Hieromonk Vasily ascetised at the beginning of his monastic life

His spiritual diary, which he began in 1988, leaves many insights into his inner life and the measure of spiritual purity that he achieved. He was steadfast in his deep genuine repentance. He projected God's mercy as he took up the Cross like Christ did. In his diary, Father Vasily wrote:

"Sometimes when I am at Church, the sense of God's presence fills my whole soul, and when that happens, I feel like I am no longer among icons, but among the saints themselves. Their looks are mysteriously all-knowing. There is no secret that I can hide from them in my soul, they see all through it, they look in every nook and corner. <…> How horrifying it is to know that I have nowhere to hide, and not even my body can keep the secret of my innermost thoughts and sensations. As I realise this, my soul goes out of balance: my iniquities and sins outweigh my excuses, and a heavy load burdens my heart, a most sobering experience. My soul awakens, as if from a bout of sudden pain and anxiety, realising that nothing and nobody can help. Like an infant, it cries out: “Lord have mercy, do not abandon me!” All things are forgotten, all have disappeared, except for the plea that comes from my mind, heart and body: “Lord forgive me! Lord have mercy on me!”


“Monasticism is a bloodless sacrifice. The torment is not in depriving oneself of the joys of family life, good food, creature comforts, worldly entertainments or enjoyments. We often get to enjoy our nice encounters, or find contentment from the sense of our empowerment as we overcome obstacles. The true torment is in confronting our helplessness and the eternal captivity of our passions. This is similar to the position of a prisoner who suffers at the hands of their captors in anticipation of death. A monk is someone who voluntarily puts his breast under the sword of the Word of God, which pierces them to the point that separates the soul from the spirit and awakens the desires of the heart. All of this is as real and painful in the spirit as it is in the body.”

24 April 1990

The Holy Gates at Optina Pustyn

The Holy Gates at Optina Pustyn

“God’s mercy is a gift, but we must also give up to God all that we possess.”

30 April 1990

“To love another like oneself, to pray for them as if for oneself, to recognise one's sins in the sins of another, and to descend into hell with these sins for the salvation of that other.”


"Lord, you gave me love and transformed me from within, inspiring me to accept torment for the sake of another and seek nothing else. I weep and lament, but cannot do otherwise, because Your love is guiding my way. I do not wish to let go of it, for it gives me the hope of salvation; I have Your love in me, and it keeps me from despairing fully."


“We know God by the grace of the Holy Spirit. This new hitherto unknown sense was given to us by God so we would know His love and His goodness. It is like an extra eye or ear to see things we have never seen or hear what we have never heard previously. It is as if we have been given wings and given the whole universe to fly around. The Holy Spirit gives wings to our souls."


Ivan Fedorovich and Anna Mikhailovna Roslyakovs with their son Igor

Ivan Fedorovich and Anna Mikhailovna Roslyakovs with their son Igor

Hieromonk Vasily (in the world, Igor Ivanovich Roslyakov) was born in Moscow on 23 December 1960. His father, Ivan Roslyakov, was in the military. He served in the Northern Fleet during World War 2 and continued his service in the police after the war ended. His mother was a weaving machine operator in a Moscow factory. Igor was the only son of his middle-aged parents. When he was born, his father had turned 43 and his mother 40. He was baptised at the Church of St. Nicholas in Moscow’s Khamovniki District, and given the name Igor, in honour of the saint right-believing prince Igor of Chernigov.

Young Igor aged 11

Young Igor aged 11

From age nine, he took up swimming, and he continued to train and practise the sport until he joined the monastery. He became a professional sportsman competing in international water polo tournaments while studying at secondary school and university. His academic performance was exemplary. After finishing school, he entered the Faculty of Economics at the Moscow Lomonosov State University and then transferred to the Faculty of Journalism. He won the title of master of sports. He also wrote poetry and was active in research. His reviews and diploma papers received excellent reviews.

In his eighteenth year of age, his father died prematurely. The loss was a deep shock and a tragedy for the young man. The days of youthful daydreaming were now over, and the hard realities of adulthood set in. He matured quickly and grew quiet and pensive.

Igor, an international master of sports

Igor, an international master of sports

He was in frequent contact with acquaintances from different nations and frequently flew overseas to compete in international events. He was getting ready for his next championship in Canada when all of a sudden he was not allowed to fly abroad. He was suspected of being in contact with foreign intelligence agents. This unjust suspicion hurt him greatly. His history teacher, who also happened to be a Moscow churchgoer, saw that something was off with him. After speaking with the young man, she suggested that he get in touch with a priest.

Igor was raised in a religious home, yet he never attended church in his youth. It was not until he was twenty years old that he entered the church. That was his first visit after his baptism and it started a new page in his life. In 1986, Igor Roslyakov met Hieromonk Rafail (Ogorodnikov), then serving in a parish in Porkhov, Pskov Oblast. As his spiritual mentor, he deeply influenced his progress in the faith and impacted his entire life. He had a deep respect for Hieromonk Rafail and remembered his time with him with great love throughout his monastic years.

Igor Roslyakov, 1989

Igor Roslyakov, 1989

As he was growing closer to God, he was letting go of his past connections in professional sports. Increasingly, he was taking guidance from the Pechery elders, who finally gave him the blessing to join Optina Pustyn as a novice. The chronicle of the Optina Pustyn Monastery has this record, made in 1989: “Friday, 17 April, sixth week of the Great Lent Monday, Feast of the Venerable Saints Niketos and Ilirikos. Today, a joyful event occurred. We embrace ten new brethren into our community today. It is a great joy and reassurance that, in our final days of sadness, when masses of people are turning away from the Christian faith, preferring to be servants of lowly passions and sins to the service of God’s Truth, there are still people who love Christ and are willing to denounce the lies of the world, take up their cross and follow the One Who shed His precious blood for the salvation of the people from eternal death!

Here are the names of these God’s chosen ones: Igor (Vetrov), Vladimir (Yermishin), Igor (Roslyakov), Sergey (Nemtsev), Nikolay (Kovalev), Yevgeny (Lukyanov), Andrey (Karpov), Iador (Janibekov), Dmitry (Rykov), Dmitry (Batmanov). All of them are pious laymen. Among them, there is a physicist, a journalist, a teacher of geography and English and a feldscher. The faces of these new brethren are glowing with joy. They are the chosen ones of the Mother of God and the Venerable Ambrosius”.

Hieromonk Vasily (Roslyakov)

Hieromonk Vasily (Roslyakov)

Tonsure to the Rasophore with the name Vasily (in honour of St, Basil the Great) on 5 January 1990 Deacon’s ordination and tonsure into the mantle during the Dormition fast, with the name Vasily in honour of the Blessed Basil of Moscow. On the feast of the Synaxis of the Archangel Michael, on 21 November, Father Vasily was ordained a hieromonk.

Making his way to Christ his monastic life on earth lasted only three years, and this time, spent in tearful repentance brought him the crown of God’s glory on the cross of His love. His last interview before his martyr's death is both sobering and prophetic. In it, he brings us the wisdom of a should ripe for eternity, ready to take on the burden of another and lead them to salvation.

The Easter of 1993 was his gate to eternity. Together with two other Optina monks, Trofim and Ferapont, he suffered at the hand of a demon-possessed man on the Bright and Holy Pascha and departed to the Lord's heaven in the crown of His glory.

Losing Her members on earth, the Church gained angels in Heaven. The telegram from Patriarch Alexis to the Abbot and brethren of Optina read: “Christ is risen! I am writing to share with you and the brethren the Paschal joy. And also to mourn with you over the tragic death of three brethren of Optina Pustyn. I pray that their souls may rest in peace. I trust that the Lord, Who summoned them on the first day of the Holy Resurrection of Christ will make them partakers of His eternal Pascha in the everlasting days of His Kingdom.

With you and the brethren in spirit.”

18 April 1993

The chapel rising at the grave of the slain brethren

The chapel rising at the grave of the slain brethren, Hieromonk Vasily and Monks Trofim and Ferapont

A chapel was built above the graves of the monks who suffered for Christ. Many believers have received help and reassurance in the spirit by the prayers of these martyrs over the three decades that have passed. We trust that the intercession of these martyrs and ascetics will continue to aid us in our progress to eternal glory in Christ.

Written by the team

Photos from Internet sources

Material for this article was drawn from the following sources:

1. Hagiography of the new martyrs Vasily, Monk Ferapont, and Monk Trofim. The blessed warriors (Martyrdom on the life of the Church) Optina Hermitage of the Entry to the Temple.

2. Monks, God’s beloved children Мoscow Paraklit Publishers.

3. Warriors of Heaven. Life and miracles of Optina’s new martyrs Мoscow Svyatitel Kyprian.

4. 784992 - Optina. (

5. Hieromonk Vasily (Roslyakov) Last interview - YouTube

December 19, 2023
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