Orthodox America

  Nicky's Cross

In that troubled time after the Revolution, there lived on the outskirts of the village a soldier's widow with five children Four of them were very small; they could still walk around under the table. Their elder brother, Nicholas, was twelve. He was a bright lad. The village priest had taught him to read and Nicky could already read the Gospel rather well He knew ten prayers by heart, and he could expound like a grown-up: "Man does not live by bread alone but by the word of God."

In summer Nicky took care of the village herd. Towards evening he would lead them to their owners, who cook turns inviting the boy in and feeding him. In this way he made the rounds of all the cottages and knew well all the families of the village.

       When the Bolsheviks were in power, there was a critical food shortage in St. Petersburg. The new rulers issued an order to the rural areas to hand over what grain they had. They did so. The order was repeated: Hand over your grain! The peasants were downcast, but they gathered enough bags of grain to fill three carts. Even this was not enough for Peter's city; people there were hungry. Then the Bolsheviks themselves came to the villages in search of grain. If you were well to-do, you were branded a kulak, and you were shot.

       Again the people of the village collected grain enough for three more carts. It was still insufficient. The Bolsheviks came and searched the cottages, taking whatever they found. They pitied no one, not the elderly, not widows; and they paid no attention to the cries of the young children. Nothing was enough for them.

       Then the Bolsheviks grabbed the young shepherd boy:

"Tell us, Nick, where are the peasants hiding grain?”

      "Don't ask me," responded the widow's son. "I spend all day in the fieIds with the cows. It's not for me to know other people's secrets"

      "You often go into their cottages," cried the Bolsheviks. "You know which ones have the thickest pies and the richest soups."

      "Even if I knew, I wouldn't tell you," smiled Nicky.

       “What's that?!" The Bolsheviks grew angry They were not accustomed to anyone standing up to them-- and here was a mere boy!

       "God loves the righteous, while the devil loves snitchers," pronounced Nicky boldly.  At this the leader of the Bolsheviks flew into a rage and struck the boy hard with his fist. Nicky fell to the ground, his eyes flowed with blood. They thought he was dead, but then they heard him whispering. Listening closely, they made out the words: "Our Father, Who art in the heavens...'

      "Since you're still alive, answer us!" demanded the chief.

      "As God lives, so does my soul." Nicky barely managed to utter these words when again they began beating him. They beat him so hard that they killed him.

      The entire village came out to bury Nicky. And all of them, old and young, wept as they accompanied the body of the young shepherd lad. God grant him the Kingdom of Heaven! They buried him on a hill overlooking the river. On the grave they erected a cross with the words: "God blesses those who do good."

Natalla Dyachenko


Translated from Pravoslavnaya Zhizn, Jordanville, March 1997

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