Sampson Sievers, born: Edward Sievers Russian: Эдуард Сиверс, names adopted after conversion: Sergius (at Orthodox baptism at the age 17), when monk known first as Elder Symeon and after taking Great Schema as Elder Sampson (Russian: Старец Сампсон) (July 10 (Old Style June 27), 1900, Saint Petersburg, Russia - August 24, 1979, Moscow, Russia) - Russian Orthodox Christian elder, hieromonk, priest, confessor of Russian patriarch and higher clergy, wonder-worker and mystic of English ancestry, who suffered heavily at the hands of Soviet authorities (4 imprisonments and years in Soviet concentration camps, including a term in Svirlag concentration camp and 1 year in single cell in Baku prison).
- 1 Early years and family
- 2 Conversion into Orthodoxy, first arrest, execution and work in Tikhvin
- 3 Second arrest and deportation to Svirlag concentration camp
- 4 Short liberation, third arrest and deportation to the Far East
- 5 Liberation of 1945: as priest to Kolguta in Stavropol region
- 6 Priestly service in Ruzayevka, Makarovka and Spasskoye (Republic of Mordovia)
- 7 Sampson's teaching
- 8 External links
Early years and family
Edward Sievers was born July 10, (June 27 by Old Style), 1900 in Saint Petersburg. His mother was Mabel Annie Sievers (born Gare), an educated English woman and British citizen, who was hiding in Russia from a hired murderer. She met her future husband, the high-ranking military official Jasper Johan Daniel Sievers, at a ball in Saint Petersburg. Jasper Sievers seems to be of Saxon origin and was the head of the military headquarters of general Ruzskiy who commanded the Northern District at Riga. He was also a personal friend and adviser of the last Russian tsar Nicholas II. Tsar Nicholas II visiting the family of Sievers used often to taken the little Edward on his lap.
Mother Mable Annie (Anna Vasilievna, who was 26 y.o. in 1898 was of noble origin and brought up the son the strict rules of Anglican Protestant faith. July 23, 1900 the little Edward was baptised at the Anglican church of Saint Petersburg by local Anglican priest William A. Macloid. The baptism protocol from the Anglican church says that the family resided at Malaya Italyanskaya (Little Italian) street in Saint Petersburg.
From the archive protocol on his father it follows that little Edward Alexander had two sisters Mary-Julia (born same day and year as him, they seem to be twins thus), Olga (two years younger though born same the 10th day of July, 1902) and youngest brother Alexander (born like all on the 10th, though February 1906). From the questioning protocol of 1932 follows that sister Olga Sievers had been residing in London, where she moved in 1922 for treatment, where also lived his aunt Hary Editha. It also follows that in 1932 his mother (then 55 y.o.) still lived in Leningrad being lecturer at the Phonetic Institute.
Sievers finished Saint Petersburg Reform (Protestant) Gymnasium (Realschule) in 1916.
Conversion into Orthodoxy, first arrest, execution and work in Tikhvin
By the grace of God, 12 years old teenager who had interest in many confessions chose Orthodoxy. He secretly attended Orthodox church, not to sadden his mother. In 1917 (at the age of 17) at the time of re-baptism at the Orthodox church Edward received the name Sergius (after Sergius of Radonezh) through lots. Love of loneliness and prayer brought him to the monastery. In 1918 the boy left for Savvo-Krypetskiy Monastery of John the Theologian.
In 1919 Bolsheviks arrested Sergius wrongly presuming that he is of Tsarist family. The group of armed soldiers-Latvians that came suddenly to the monastery and took him in custody. The monks daily visited the novice bringing bread and milk. Close to the Feast of Pokrov (Protection) of Mother of God he was executed. Nevertheless remained alive being wounded in the right arm. The elder recollected: "They were shooting with rifle at distance 10-15 steps. The bullet hit the arm. I felt hot and lost consciousness. Someone hit me with boot's tip and said "Finished!" In the night the wounded Sergius was pulled out of the pile of corpses by monks, dressed in the Red Army outfits and in disguise of a wounded Red Army soldier delivered to his mother and then taken for treatment to the military hospital in Tikhvin. In the hospital in Tikhvin the physicians managed to cope with the gangrene that started. The preservation of the right arm the elder called the miracle of surgery, since the gas gangrene started after he was wounded. In Tikhvin, Sievers got to know the bishop of Tikhvin Alexiy (Simanskiy), the future patriarch, at whom he became hypo-deacon. Remaining in Tikhvin, Sievers became the club manager, read educational lectures in the hospitals, went on missions regarding the provision issues. During these mission he performed the assignments of Tikhvin bishop Alexiy, securing the connection of patriarch Tikhon with "disgraced" clerics namely with the imprisoned Novgorod metropolitan Arseniy and others. Sievers's position (January 1919) was letter-carrier (a sort of postman) on the Saint Petersburg section of Moscow - Vindavo - Rybinsk railway. According to the documents of Central State Archives of Saint Petersburg the last secular position of Sievers was service as manager of Tikhvin garrison club in 1919-1922.
Thanks to the help of bishop Alexiy, Sievers entered into Alaxandre-Nevsky Lavra in May 1921. May 25, 1925 (1921?) he was tonsured into monks by vladyka Nicholas Yarushevich receiving new name Symeon. January 19, 1925 was consecrated into the rank of hieromonk (priest-monk). At the same time, when accepted into hieromonks, he became the treasurer of lavra. Being monk Sievers also studied at the Saint Petersburg's (Russian Orthodox) Theological Institute (finished in 1925).
Father S. Sievers confessed the academician Ivan Pavlov, president of Soviet Academy of Sciences A.N. Karpinskiy and others. In 1928 hieroschemonk Serafim Vyritskiy blessed father Symeon Sievers for elderdom.
Second arrest and deportation to Svirlag concentration camp
In 1928 (1932?) the monk of Alexandre Nevsky Lavra had been arrested. Surprising enough is that a few hours prior to the arrest, Symeon had a vision in dream with appearance of blessed Serafim of Sarov who read the litany to the All-merciful Lady, Virgin Mary praying for help, guardship and forgiveness. Having woke up the elder immediately wrote down the prayer and in three hours he was arrested. The documents of Archives of Russian Federal Security Offices in Leningrad region definitely tell that from 1932 the monk was in Svirlag (Svirskiy Concentration Camp of Forced Labour) on the river Svir (Leningrad oblast).
The mentioned prayer to Virgin Lady, as the elder said, guarded him till the last days. Elder Sampson was telling how at Svirlag, he together with other inmates was thrown into icy cellar, inhabited by rats accustomed to human meat. In order that people would not oppose the rats, they were bound in such a way that they could not move. The rats consumed the humans alive. From the recollections of elder Sampson: "The cold was the most cruel and rats everywhere. I prayed: " All merciful, my Lady..." I read and heard as people cried when they had been eaten up rats. To me, on the other hand, the rats gnawed only my heels."
In the morning when they lifted the cage and discovered that the elder remained unharmed, they became scared of his faith and he was freed from forced labour.
The elder was also telling how once in winter time, when the criminal convicts lost him in play-cards, he had to stand naked for a few hours in frost. Thanks to the prayers, he remained alive.
Afterwards, Sievers was transferred to imprisonment in the Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan. On Victory Day May 9, father S. Sievers drowned in the Great Fergana Canal named after Joseph Stalin. Kolkhoz workers pulled him out, called the policeman to make the death protocol and afterwards he was taken to the cemetery. When on the way to the cemetery, water spilled because of shaking, the dead man came back to life and sat at the cart. The Moslem Uzbeks who were driving him started shouting in fear: "Russian God resurrected!".
Short liberation, third arrest and deportation to the Far East
The martyr for faith was set free in 1934 and in 1936 Sievers was taken into custody again, kept in prison in Borisoglebsk, after being convicted according to the article 5810 of the Criminal Code 1 Part. In his application about the violations during the investigation to the head of the court on December 22, 1936 Symeon Sievers writes that with much effort he "managed to turn down the accusation in belonging to certain anti-Soviet group (5811 of the Criminal Code) that was brought up by Mr Feldman who used for that my psychoneurostenia and psychic depression." He yet had to face several years in prison on the Far East. In imprisonment, the convicted monk impressed all by his perspicasiousness (spiritual sight). In the times of war, when the Japanese led the offensive battles, the prison administration got prepared to execute all the inmates. All were preparing for death, many cried, repented, prayed. In the night it was disclosed to the elder that he will live through the old age. The monk saw himself being old and surrounded by spiritual disciples. In the morning he declared to all, that they will survive.
Liberation of 1945: as priest to Kolguta in Stavropol region
In 1945, the order was issued commanding the liberation of all church clerics. The amnesty order for the church clerics of 1945 did not change the life of father Symeon. Knowing that similar practice means execution, in August 1945, he decided to flee. He walked in the night and at daytime hided from men and dogs. This way he reached Kirgizia and from there flew on "kukuruznik" to Tashkent. In 1946 he got over to Stavropol to the metropolitan Anthony who gave him parish first in Vinodelnoye (lit. Wine-making) and after in 1947 the elder was appointed as parish priest in the big Ukrainian cossack village (stanica) Kolguta, Stavropol Region. The appearance of elder in the village led the local authorities to worries due to the influx of thousands of people to the wonder working monk. He was not only the spiritual teacher of the Orthodox believers but a helper, counsellor, wisely answering on everyday issues, connected with management of economy, agricultural works. Slowly the dancing stages and clubs got empty - the youth went to church.
The new arrest came. In the prison of Baku, Azerbaijan, the elder had to spend the entire year in single cell.
Priestly service in Ruzayevka, Makarovka and Spasskoye (Republic of Mordovia)
In 1948 heavily sick elder moved to Borisoglebsk in Voronezh region (south Russia). Penza archbishop Cyril appointed him the parish priest in the temporary temple in the town of Ruzayevka in Mordovia. The next parish was Makarovka lying next to Mordovian capital Saransk. There in Makarovka hieromonk Symeon through a miracle got passport. All these 5 years after the camps he was under the threat of new arrest since because of the flight from prison camp he did not have documents.
His spiritual daughter recounts about her first meeting with elder Sampson: "I delivered an altar-note for health and stepped back to the back doors of the church. Suddenly, batiushka (Russian for "father") came out of the altar, looked over the people and stopped at me. He called me and asked if note is mine. Having got the confirmation he told not to write this name but to give offerings to the destitute for him since he (this individual) swears much and abuses alcohol a lot. The spiritual sight of the father made me tremble. From this moment on all our family stayed inseparably next to him."
The last place of service of the elder in the Republic of Mordovia was the village of Spasskoye (meaning literally "Saviour's"). The news about the wonder working elder spread at lightning speed around the neighbouring villages. The sick from all over Mordovia were coming to him. Even the physicians of psychiatric hospitals sent their patients to Spasskoye. There were also false accusations, persecutions.
He was sent to serve in parishes in Poltava Women's Monastery in Poltava, Ukraine and during 1956-1958 as second priest at the Kazan Cathedral of Volgograd (ex Stalingrad). His sermons and special care of the parishioners caused envy of the cathedral clerics and on the request of the chief of the cathedral vladyka Sergius sent hieromonk Symeon to Pskov Pechersk Monastery on the Estonian border, where he was in 1958-1963, as usual attracting the youth and causing dissatisfaction of party and Soviet organs. In order to preserve the monastery, the monastery chiefs decide "to sacrifice" father Symeon and sent him out of the monastery. Then hieromonk appealed to the patriarch Alexy I (Simanskiy) who offered him to leave the staff of the monastery. In 1963 - 1979 father Symeon lived in Moscow.
September 16, 1966 elder Symeon received holy Great Schema with the name Sampson after the most blessed Saint Sampson the Hospitable. After his tonsure it was reported that such a grace was issuing from the elder that many people who did not have a clean conscience could not look at him.
August 24, 1979 elder's health rapidly worsened due to a heavy disease. Luckily, on that day there was a priest among the visitors, he started reading akafist to God's Mother and after the akafist gave communion to the dying. After that, the priest began reading the canon for departure of the soul and at the 8th song of the canon the elder sighed out three times and empeaced...So ended much suffering earthly life of elder Sampson. He was not a severe monk hermit, neither a tough exposer of human vices, he was a loving healer of grieving souls.
Empeace Lord, the soul of elder Sampson, in peace with the saints and save our souls with his prayers!
"One should not stop repenting. And one should repent not only in thought but also begging for forgiveness and help in order not to repeat the sin. One should be afraid to sadden (grieve) someone. - It means therefore, to watch after one's own tongue and not just behaviour...." (elder Sampson)
Material translated from Russian sources (see links below) by Roman Zakharii
- Svetlana Devyatova: Orthodox Elders of 20th century with short biographical entry on Sievers (in Russian)
- Hieromonk Sampson (Sievers) 1898 - 1979: Detailed biography in Russian with 3 photos of Sievers by Temple of Holy Martyrs Florus and Laurus
- Archives of Russia (in Russian). Editions and Publications: The most detailed biography with state protocols relating to the arrests of Sievers, 2 photos of Elder Sampson (Sievers)
- Orthodox World. Saints of the 20th century: Short biography of Sampson (Sievers) with drawing of the elder (material in Russian)