"I ask you to believe in my strong love for you." Letters of martyr Mikhail Cheltsov to his wife
The 20th century – the time of social perturbations and upheavals – the revolution of 1917 in Russia, the Second World War, the sexual revolution of the 60s in the West … As a result, traditions were interrupted, the consequences of which we reaped in the 90s. It was clear how not to, but it is not clear how to. Therefore, we are happy to publish the letters of the martyr Michael Cheltsov to his wife. They are full of warmth and tenderness and give us the image of a happy family and love in the family. Thank you for the letters provided by Alexey Masterkova, great-grandson of Father Michael, and his wife Anna, who collected them.
Family tradition says that Father Mikhail loved Mother Anna very much. He married far from young. After graduating from the Ryazan Seminary and the Kazan Theological Academy, he served as a teacher at the Kaluga Theological Seminary, and later as a missionary in the St. Petersburg Diocese. In 1902, he went to visit the parental home and met Anya Aglamazova, a friend of his sister Alexandra. The girls studied together in the diocesan school. Anna was the daughter of a priest and thought about the monastic tonsure. Meeting with charming Misha changed her decision. Parents blessed marriage. He was 32, she was 28 years old. The happy years of the Cheltsov family began. From 1903 to 1917, they had seven children (Pavel, Anna, Alexandra, Vasily, Maria, Semyon, George). Here are excerpts from the letters written by Fr. Mikhail is imprisoned, completely revealing the attitude of Michael to Mother.
August 24, 1922
Waiting for you, my dear sufferer, yesterday, but did not bother at all, did not see you. I think that not unpleasant for you did not lead you to me. We live in peace for now, thanks to the Lord. Only we, the "bomber", 6 people remained in the cell. And we do not wait until tomorrow to move to another cell. Where we will be completely free within the prison, as teachers. The teaching will probably begin on Monday, September 11th. I took Russian in class B. If the guys do not need a grammar or any other, passed it to me. On Monday, Zhizhylenko visited us and assured, on the basis of the most reliable sources, that in the amnesty a special article would be introduced especially for us, liberating. This was told to him by one Ryazanov, who would make up the very provision on amnesties. Thoughts almost exclusively rush to you and the children. It is very hard for you to live something, how much trouble and worries. For the Lord’s sake, don’t be annoyed, especially at older daughters. What can you do: life through my prison does not smile at them very much and they get annoyed. It will be hard for you with gardens. I would have thought to ask Golovin (a peasant containing a farm on the territory of the Institute of Civil Engineers. – AM) to transport vegetables on a horse. How much you want to be at home. Once again I ask you to believe in the strong and all-affirming my love for you. God willing, let us be healthy and live again. God bless you all. Goodbye. Sincerely loving you.
Congratulations, my dear, with the 20th anniversary of our family life. Today, after the morning prayer, we have served a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord God for this. Moreover, another colleague today has a 10-year family anniversary, and the other two wives of the birthday girl, so I ended up with a real holiday. And how are you? I have all the thoughts and prayers that you should be healthy. Remember firmly that without me, with the children growing up now, your life can still be built, and without a mother, without her cordiality and sociability, usually everywhere, as well as in our family, life is greatly disturbed by the absence of a mother. Therefore, for the sake of my peace and well-being of children, be attentive and caring about your health, take care of yourself and do not bother, much less be disheartened. We are believers with you, and therefore we will place all our care on the Lord. He helped and will help in the future. So – 20 years of marriage. I experienced a lot, and yet I sincerely and heartily thank the Lord, no matter how we look, there were a lot of happy and joyful days, and there’s something to remember about those days that went away. I, at least, am satisfied with the day of my wedding and the girlfriend of life. From today I begin to study at school and library. There is a department for agriculture in it. Let Pasha write what books he needs, which he is looking for.
August 29, 11 am
I really want to write to you, my dear, because of the impossibility of speaking to you verbally. I am very interested in the thought of how you live and feel without me, whether you are used to your orphanhood, who you are now the leader and master of the house: are you or who are elders? I am very concerned about the assumption that you live and feel, with a certain desire of the elders for independence, hard and nervous. They love you and me very much, but only somehow outwardly they are rude and as if insensitive, which makes mutual irritability. Most of all I ask the Lord for peace and tranquility among you, and I sincerely and earnestly ask you to pay less attention to their rude antics. As far as I know, at least the older two, they are not bad in their blood and habits, there is nothing in their inclinations and thoughts, therefore, it seems, you are not worth worrying about fear for their behavior. I am also worried about the fear of your food: are you at your table not scanty, are there any major troubles and humiliations worth you eating all of us? Please answer both of these questions with a letter and frankly. My outer life is known to you, it flows monotonously from day to day. The inner soul is filled with thoughts about the family, about the needs and its spiritual hardships. I compared my position with yours, especially with yours: I am provided for everything – you have to bother about everything; I do not know any need – you spun completely; I can calm myself down in prayer and conversation with people like me – you find it difficult to get it … But what to do: you have to put up with my adversities. May the Lord help you. I believe that He will not leave us with you, but he will help and save. God bless you all. I kiss you tightly.
September 1, 1922. Thursday. 1 pm
Every day, my dear, bears a motley confusion of impressions and news. All their interest is focused on the unrest of the church and the question of the duration of our stay in prison. Church affairs seem more and more confused. There are all new parties and divisions. And who benefits? Everything seems to be more pronounced enmity of the people to the "Living Church" and its hierarchs. But will it not cool our Orthodox? Would she not drive them away first from this or that Temple, and then from the Church in general? Others already go to Catholicism, some probably go to sectarianism. Will Orthodoxy multiply? It is hard for the Church of God and even more painful that all this devastation is based not on ideology, but on priesthood of priesthood: everyone wants to be high and first. In the prison seat, a great variety is introduced by the occupation with the prisoners of Russian grammar. Every morning is given to this case. I was struck by the youth of the criminals, these are all people of 17-25 years old, who sit almost all for theft, and with whoever they say they all deny their guilt; all of us, it turns out, are sitting innocent, so believe us. But on the other hand, everyone misses his family and home a lot. It can be seen, the flesh requires its – close, sweet. And I begin to think that it is not a sin to love those closest in the flesh to the forgetfulness of God — certainly not oblivion incomplete and permanent — it’s not a sin to punish. After all, the birthplace according to the flesh is its own flesh, and the Lord not only did not forbid loving himself, but also commanded … Even sitting in the Special Tier waiting for death, not only I, but all of us could not renounce the thoughts of the hottest lovely and pleasant, about his family. And it was thought from the field of not only memories, but also you can imagine the faces that are cute, what they do at certain hours, etc. And in these thoughts you forget and calm down, it becomes more cheerful and more pleasant in your soul. And if despondency and longing departs from the soul, is it not good in the life of the soul? Isn't she closer to God at these moments? From this point of view, looking at dates with you, I appreciate them not only because you talk to you, convey yours, you recognize yours, but mainly because you can rest your soul somehow, breathe easier, you will drive away prison boredom worldly divinations, assumptions, rumors, expectations. It is not important to speak, it is important to sit here, even if silently. So, my dear! God grant you home all the good and joyful. God bless you! Yours, and more than yours.
September 12, 1922. Wednesday, 6 pm
You want, my dear, that I write to you twice a week, and I do not know what to write to you. Our life is very monotonous and boring in external events: if something happens here, then it has a very narrow-biased interest, petty selfish. Recently, the flow of information from the city has almost completely ceased – we almost never receive any information about the Living Church either. Our inner life is filled with feelings of intermittent joys and despondency: hear good about amnesty and rejoice; will give sad, and the heart will be deluged with despondency. More of the latter, you have to worry. Somehow it is completely hard to believe and is not expected to be amnestied. It hurts us from the point of view of the Bolsheviks big criminals. Recently, they increasingly want to emphasize that for them all our church affairs are indifferent. But, however, Vvedensky is still supported and listened to. Here you do not know where it is better: in prison or in freedom. Perhaps you will come out and come back again. From such thoughts and not happy at heart. Do not grieve for yourself: we are here as in a good club or a poorhouse: it lives blithely and in a gluttonous way. And what is it like for you with children to be tormented and tormented without me, which not only does not help the family, but also pulls from the family.
September 13, 1922
My dear! In your letter of yesterday’s grief I answer you with fresh, fresh hope for God's non-keeping and with the confidence that we will not only see you, but also live together. In any case, 5 years in prison will not last; and if you have to spend a year or two, then it's not so long. But God will have mercy, and we will leave the prison early. My health is very bad so far. So you need to take care of yours. And if we both take care of our health, we will endure the prison trouble and, God willing, we will live on and work for the Lord God, and maybe we will spend our old age calmly. So, my dear, let us not only despond, despondency not from God, but it destroys health, shortens the life-years and removes from God. For the time being, and for this, He needs to be thanked for having the opportunity to see each other quite often. The only bad thing is that you have a hard, restless and hard work. Yes! these years will be hard until the elders get back on their feet. The cathedral does not live. But even here all the hope in God: will not let us die of hunger, but you and I are not accustomed to the pickles, and we did not teach the guys. From Vasin (son, third child) letters I see that there are people in Moscow who remember me and can help in this God's permission. You write as soon as possible to Tase (the bride of the eldest son Pavel) a letter inviting you to come to St. Petersburg and live with us. Remember the money and do not take a piece of paper sample 1922. I kiss you tightly. Your…
September 18, 1922
In these past days, my dear, you felt somehow mentally ill at ease. Boredom is not boredom, but some kind of irritability at all and at all, and this is without any external and internal reason. Outwardly, life proceeds in the usual prison order without any troubles and amenities, and there were no particular rumors. And inside, nothing bothered me. So, in the soul there are some unconscious memories from the past hard, and that darkens our spirit. Here in prison, free time is spent mainly in the recollection of the past process and all the previous and subsequent ones. And then the fun is very little: joins, at least, I have a grudge against those because of whom I have to go to jail. And this is what causes irritation. There are certain messages from Moscow about us – about amnesty of us, before which we will be asked questions about our attitude towards the Living Church. But how and what to answer about this, you need to think and think. It will be necessary to harmlessly combine the dictates of conscience and pastoral duty and (c) the voice of the flesh with love for the family. You ask the question: why get out of prison, whether God and the parishioners to serve, or just help the children and relieve you of the burden of family troubles. Tell me, and you, what should win?
September 20, 1922
I am writing to you, my dear, in the assurance that tomorrow, Thursday, I will not have a date with you, with any of my own. Today, our superiors did not give anyone a date, being annoyed by some personal misfortune, and they all say that they can only get dates once in prison. In general, some kind of trouble excites our "correctors", and we, naturally, should be puffed up. But God willing, somehow, next week everything will be settled and will enter its own rut. Yesterday I had to familiarize myself with the project of an amnesty, according to which we are entitled to great benefits, most likely a complete exemption. God forbid. We have, of course, improved mood. But now the question becomes: having set free, where we should bow our heads, what kind of official shepherding should be carried, or stand aside from everything and not be shepherding. It's hard, very hard in prison, but in the wild will I be useful for the family?
September 22, 1922
Friday. 10 am From the bottom of my heart, sincerely and inseparably, one loving you, congratulations on Angel's Day! God grant that He will keep you vigorous, cheerful and peaceful for many more years. Of course, you yourself know very well how your life is needed not only for children, but also for all of us, and especially for me. Therefore, you should be attentive not only to your spiritual well-being, but also to your physical health. I can not imagine what can be for all of us, how we will feel and live if the Lord suddenly punishes us by taking you from us. How, therefore, ardently and tirelessly we must pray with you for you. May God grant you many and many summers! I am becoming more and more superstitious in prison and I fear that the Lord does not accidentally distance me from you on September 9th. So it was in 1918, 1919 and 1922 that I spend this day away from you, outside the family, in prison? Why is it not pleasing to the Lord to have them celebrate this day with you? Is it a test or a punishment? To the statement this is our further family spikes or is it accustomed to be left without me at all? God grant that this is the first. It was hard for me, it was very hard in those terrible 40 days of death waiting, to think that I would no longer see you with bodily eyes. Too carnal, I am connected with you. Is it not a sin? Doesn’t the spirit need to live anymore and not think about the spiritual. But, God, do Thy will, be gracious with Thy servants with us, as a trust in Thee, let us not be ashamed. Let us pray to Him, giving ourselves at His mercy to us, growing old, but still carnally closely related to each other, and to our children, who are still very much in need of us. May God bless you all. I kiss you tightly. Your…
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