The Holy Virgin Martyr Tamara (Satsi), who lived from 1876 to 1942, dedicated her entire life to the service of God as a monastic. On May 1 we commemorate her as a saint who never let her faith waver and gave comfort and inspiration to every soul in the face of numerous hardships, persecutions, slander, betrayal, the anguish of undeserved punishment and untimely death. Her perseverance and wisdom continue to brighten our lives and encourage us to overcome our sorrows and hardships.
Tamara (Satsi) was born and raised in what is now Estonia. When she was seven years old, she lost her mother. Soon, her father died, leaving her an orphan. She was raised in a girls' orphanage from age 12, where she learned reading, writing, gold embroidery, icon painting, and many other skills. She also resolved to become a nun, and the beginning of her monastic life was closely connected to the Puhtitsa Orthodox Convent, one of the most well-known sacred places in Estonia and beyond. Three years after the convent's founding, in 1895, she joined there and in 1898 she was promoted to the rank of novice.
The revolution was about to break out in Russia. The anti-clerical feeling grew, and many Christians would perish as a result of savage persecution of their religion and the Orthodox church. Saint Tamara, however, persisted in following her chosen course despite the dangers that lay ahead. She tonsured to the little schema at the Monastery of Saints Cosmas and Damian close to Kazan in 1917. She was appointed treasurer of the nuns' community in Cheboksary in 1918, and when it grew into a Convent, she became its abbess.
Meanwhile, the persecution of Christians was intensifying, tensions were rising, and her martyrdom was drawing near. Archimandrite Sergius (Zaitsev), who tonsured her in 1917 was executed along with the other monastic brothers a year later. Hieromonk Nicholas (Taraschuk), Priest in Mother Tamara's Convent, received a six-year prison term and died in a prison camp.
To shut down Mother Tamara's convent, the new authorities gradually confiscated its properties and buildings. Mother Tamara and her sisters were wrongly accused of harming the fruit trees in the school garden in a complaint made to the authorities in 1926 by the neighbourhood agriculture and gardening college. This served as the government's justification for shutting the Convent in 1926. However, until 1930, its sisters continued to live in a religious commune. They resided in the church and the horse stables that they turned into living quarters. Despite these difficulties. Mother Tamara continued to read the Scripture, preach, pray, and take care of her Christian sisters and brothers.
She was detained on suspicion of subversion and spying in May 1941 when a former priest falsely denounced her to the authorities. Mother Tamara was given a 10-year sentence to serve in a prison camp in Northern Russia based on the man's false statements which he repeated multiple times before the investigators and the court.
She worked hard, felling trees and doing other laborious tasks with her fellow prisoners. In the early years of the war, the Nazis attacked quickly, causing acute food shortages and a rise in the number of deaths among the inmates from disease and malnutrition. Nun Tamara died on 1 May 1942, reportedly from a heart attack. She was buried inside the camp in an unmarked grave.
However, her preaching and prayer continued even after her death. Her writings serve as a sobering reminder to the living of the passing nature of earthly achievements. She exhorts everyone with great affection to remember God, be His good slaves, and do His will since He alone gives us the power to endure our sorrows and enter His kingdom. Mother Tamara writes in one of her works:
"All will pass,
Our joys and sorrows included.
Who are we to think
That we may evade the same fate
As everything in this world?
My beloved guest, who wanders
Among these lofty cedars and lovely flowers,
Keep your focus on the hereafter, I implore
And abstain from sin as best you can."
In 2007, the Russian Orthodox Church glorified Abbess Tamara (Satsi) as one of the Synaxis of New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.
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