Voices from Russia

Saturday, 13 May 2017

VOV Veteran Archpriest Yevgeny Fedorov: “Lord, If I Survive, I’ll Serve Thee!”

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Archpriest Yevgeny Fedorov, a 93-yer-old VOV vet who ended the war in Berlin, lives near the shore of Lake Peretno in Novgorod Oblast (Okulovka Raion). In the face of death, he made a vow to the Lord, which he carried out after the war.

The VOV began a few days after Yevgeny graduated from Class 9 in Porkhov (Pskov Oblast). The Germans occupied the city at the beginning of the war and started to expel the local population. The fascists took over the Fedorov’s house, so the family had to move in with relatives. To build barracks for the occupiers, the Germans pressganged young people to do the work. Yevgeny and others had to do slave labour. However, he and a friend escaped the labour gang and hid from the fascist occupiers in the countryside near the city. Hiding in the winter was difficult, as they left traces in the snow whenever they moved. If the fascists caught them, they’d shoot them immediately. The only option open to them was to find out where the partisans were and join them. Therefore, they joined a patriot partisan band that winter.

One day, his partisan section went on a mission where only the commander knew the objective. This was so that if the fascists captured any of the group, they wouldn’t spill the beans. They travelled at night, as the Germans watched all the roads. The fascists had built strongpoints at crucial locations. The section crossed the first highway successfully. However, when they tried to cross the railroad tracks, they came under machinegun and mortar fire. The group was lucky… the terrain was marshy, so the mortar shells exploded harmlessly in the swampy ground. Yevgeny’s section tried to hide in the underbrush, but the wintertime lack of foliage couldn’t completely hide the men. A German armoured train pulled up and started shooting into the forest. Soldiers with avtomats came out, shooting at the partisans. One could hear the cries of the wounded; many partisans died on this mission.

Yevgeny had to crawl on the ground. He got up to see what was going on… he seemed to freeze; his body seemed to stick fast to the earth. He realised that he needed to flee, but his feet didn’t seem to want to move. Yevgeny was down on all fours, with his feet and hands sinking into the thick snow. He was lucky… the unit medic was nearby. She ran up and took off his valenki. Blood flowed from his right leg, so she tore his trousers and made a bandage. His comrades put him on a sledge, but he was thirsty. Someone made some water from melted snow, he took a sip, but they took it away quickly. Yevgeny thought, “If I drink too much snowmelt, I might catch a cold”. The partisans looked out for one another.

The section entered a village and put the four wounded on the floor in a hut. Everybody was very hungry, so the housewife gave them some bread, but their teeth were sore from lack of vitamins. Then, they asked for something sour, so she brought them sieved blueberries. After eating the berries, their teeth felt better, so they were able to eat the bread. The wounded needed attention… there was a surgeon in the village, but he didn’t have any anaesthetics, so he refused to operate. Yevgeny’s wound remained untreated… he had a crushed tibia and the bullet was still inside. He lay like that for over three weeks. His wound became infected; it swelled and turned blue. Everyone who saw his foot said that Yevgeny was going to lose his leg.

Finally, Yevgeny got to the hospital, but it wasn’t easy. Firstly, the wounded had to go across the fascist-occupied territory and cross the frontline. They had to move at night, to avoid detection. They finally reached the rendezvous point. When the train arrived, the group had to leave cover. At that moment, the fascists launched a flare, revealing that they had brought up a tank. The section had to pull back to the village. Some of the group refused to go again on the second night, but they did depart again for the second time, and they managed to cross the frontline successfully.

The hospital was in tents, with five surgeons on duty. They placed Yevgeny on the operating table and a metre away, another surgeon was amputating the leg of another soldier. The surgeon had to cut the leg open as he had no x-rays and had to operate blindly. Yevgeny could only say, “I’m in pain”, and pointed to his tibia. When he came out from anaesthesia, he didn’t know where he was and he couldn’t move. He opened his eyes… “Did they amputate my leg or not?” He tried to lift up to look at his feet, but the nurse kept him down. Later on, Yevgeny found out that one couldn’t lift up your head after anaesthesia, as it can cause nausea. Therefore, he stopped struggling, so the nurse raised up his head… he saw two feet! Yevgeny calmed down… “The Lord saved my leg!”

After his recovery, Yevgeny served in the signals arm. Early in 1945, during the liberation of Warsaw, his unit’s radio operators weren’t on the net. Yevgeny went with his comrade Trofim Mustikov to see what happened. It was important, for their radio was the only link with higher HQ and the rest of the army. They reached the supposed place of the signals point, but no one was there. There was only the two of them, armed only with rifles. If the fascists saw them, it’d be curtains. Peace seemed elusive; it was as if an endless war engulfed the entire world. Yevgeny thought, “If I don’t die today, I’ll die tomorrow, for the enemy fights very hard”. He said out loud, “What’ll life be like after the war? Please, spare my life so that I can see it!” He asked himself, “How can I thank God for what I’ve asked? Lord, if I survive, I’ll serve Thee!”

When the war was over, Yevgeny and his family went back to Porkhov. His father took out a loan and built a house. The family attended services at St John the Baptist church. One day, Elder Fyodor visited Fr Nikolai, the parish rector. Fr Nikolai told Yevgeny, “Invite the elder to your house for a visit”. Yevgeny agreed. Whilst sitting in the garden, Elder Fyodor asked Yevgeny, “Would you like to become a priest?” Yevgeny hadn’t even thought of that, he didn’t know what to say, so he said nothing. All of a sudden, as they continued to chat, the elder suddenly said, “Do you want to do it or don’t you want to do it? God is calling you! Go!” He seemed to be seeing the future.

Nevertheless, it took many years for Yevgeny to become a priest. He did attend services more often and enjoyed being there more. Yevgeny enjoyed conversations with the clergy. He worked as an inventory clerk and then as a manager. Finally, in the summer of 1958, he decided to seek seminary education. Yevgeny passed the exams to the seminary at the Trinity-St Sergei Lavra, but he couldn’t attend, as they didn’t approve his documents for training, so he went back to his old job. When his superiors found out what he’d done, they fired him. Fr Nikolai told him, “You’re out of work? Come with me!” They went to Borovichi to meet with Archbishop Sergei Golubtsov of Novgorod and Staraya Russa. In 1959, the bishop decided to ordain Yevgeny to the diaconate in the cathedral in Novgorod. A week later, in Borovichi, the bishop ordained Yevgeny to the priesthood. Bishop Sergei had to do it quickly, for the authorities could prevent an ordination. After that, Yevgeny served a parish in Markovo in Moshenskoe Raion (Novgorod Oblast). For a while, Yevgeny had to move about, as the authorities closed some of the parishes that he served. Nonetheless, his last parish, in Peretno in Okulovka Raion, was his favourite… he served there for over forty years.

Fr Yevgeny earned 23 different decorations and orders. He holds the Order of Grand Prince St Vladimir Equal-to-the-Apostles (III and II Class). His diocese wanted him to receive the Order of Grand Prince St Aleksandr Nevsky, but a patriarchal ukase stipulated that he receive the St Vladimir Order (II class) instead. He also holds the Medal of Righteous St Yaakov of Borovichi, Wonderworker of Novgorod and is an Honoured Citizen of Okulovka Raion. He holds the military awards of the Order of the Patriotic War (II Class), Zhukov Medal, Medal “For Courage”, Medal “For the Liberation of Warsaw”, Medal “For the Capture of Berlin”, Medal “For Victory Over Germany in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45”, and other military decorations.

10 May 2017

Ivan Rusov

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