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December 7, 2009

Feast of Saint Gregory (Peradze) in Warsaw

St. Grigol Peradze (Feast Day - November 23)
Anna Czerewacka

The Service of All Night Vigil started the celebration of the feast of St Gregory (Peradze) in the Warsaw chapel of his name. It was also the feast day of St Nicholas.

During the service there were guests from Georgia who were also present, who came to Warsaw to participate in the feast and to take part in the Kartvelological Conference in the name of St Gregory (Peradze), which will start on December 7, at the University of Warsaw. There was also Archbishop Andria of Samtavisi and Gori from Georgia present on the feast.

The Service was celebrated in the Polish language, which is quite unusual, as most parishes in Poland use Slavonic as their liturgical language.

After the vigil all the guests were invited for dinner, prepared by the parishioners of the chapel.

On the feast day the Divine Liturgy was celebrated. There were more than 60 people present, which made it almost impossible to get inside the small chapel.

At 16.45, the hour of the death of St. Gregory (Peradze), a wreath was placed at the board, remembering professors of Warsaw University who died during World War II. This board is placed in the area of the university and there is a name of St Gregory Peradze – who was the professor on this university before the war. During this celebration, the choir of the chapel of St. Gregory sang. Archbishop Andria also participated.

St. Gregory (Peradze) was born in 1899 in Tbilisi (Georgia). He finished a theological seminary in Tbilisi. Then he began studies in Berlin (Germany). In 1927 he received a PhD in Philosophy.

After two years he organized a Georgian Orthodox parish in Paris. In 1931 he became a monk and was the first parish priest in this parish. In 1933 he came to Poland to be a lecturer on the faculty in the Orthodox Theology Section of Warsaw University. He worked there till the break of the war.

On May 5, 1942 St. Gregory was arrested by the Germans, who then occupied Poland. The reasons are not well known, but possibly he helped Jews and cooperated with the Polish Resistance Movement. After half a year he was moved to the concentration camp in Auchwitz (Oswiecim). He died there on December 6, 1942. The reasons for murdering him are not well known. A witness said that he had volunteered for the death instead of other man there. He stood barefoot on the snow, he was bitten by fierce dogs, and then he was poured on with fuel and set on fire. Till today it is not known what happened with saint’s body.

St Gregory was canonized by the Georgian Orthodox Church in 1995. He is also well known and worshipped in Poland, as he spent many years, made a lot of his work, and died there.

The chapel of St. Gregory (Peradze) was established by Metropolitan Sawa (the head of the Polish Orthodox Church) in 2006. Then regular Services in the Polish language started to be celebrated regularly. Now all the major feasts are celebrated there also in Polish. From September 2009 Sunday School started to operate for 10 children. About 60 people regularly attend Sunday services, and it is the maximum which are able to get into the small chapel.

The chapel belongs to the Polish-Catholic Church and is used by permission by the Orthodox community.

Saint Gregory became a patron of the community because he is very close to young people, who are the members of this community. He lived not long ago in Warsaw and was active in similar spheres as people from the community (like the sciences, conferences, university lectures etc.). This saint also attracts many Georgian people, who live in Warsaw or come there for different goals – they are often present on the services.

Life of Hieromartyr Gregory (Peradze) of Georgia

Archimandrite Gregory (Peradze) was born August 31, 1899, in the village of Bakurtsikhe, in the Sighnaghi district of Kakheti. His father, Roman Peradze, was a priest.

In 1918 Gregory completed his studies at the theological school and seminary in Tbilisi and enrolled in the philosophy department at Tbilisi University. Three years later, in 1921, he began to teach at the university, but theGeorgian Church soon sent him to Germany to study theology. From1922 to 1925Gregory studied theology and eastern languages at the University of Berlin, and in 1925 he transferred to the philosophy department at theUniversity of Bonn, where he received a doctoral degree in philosophy for his dissertation “The Monastic Life inGeorgia from ItsOrigins to 1064.”Gregory continued to attend lectures in theology at the University of Louvain until 1927.

In 1927 Gregory moved to England to continue his career in academia, and there he became acquainted with the old patristic manuscripts that were preserved in the library collections of the British Museum and Oxford University. In July of that year Gregory was named an associate professor at the University of Bonn, and he returned there to lecture on the history of Georgian and Armenian literature. In 1931 Gregory was tonsured a monk, ordained a priest, and appointed dean of the Georgian church in Paris. A year later he was invited to Oxford to lecture on Georgian history.

A new period in St. Gregory’s life began later in 1932, when the Metropolitan of all Poland, Dionysius Waledinsky, invited him to be a professor of Patrology and the chair of Orthodox Theology at Warsaw University. He often delivered lectures at academic conferences and in academic centers throughout Europe. He sought tirelessly for ancient Georgian manuscripts and historical documents on the Georgian Church. His searches took him to Syria, Palestine, Greece, Bulgaria, Austria, Romania, Italy and England. As a result of his labors, many long-lost Georgian manuscripts surfaced again.

Humility and industriousness characterized the Hieromartyr Gregory throughout his life. In difficult moments he often repeated the words of St. John Chrysostom: “Glory be to God for all things!”

In the 1920s, as the Red Army was securing its occupation of Georgia, the nation’s treasures were carried away to France for safekeeping. Later, in the 1940s, Georgian society was unaware that, due to St. Gregory’s efforts alone, many treasures of Georgian national culture were spared confiscation by the Nazis in Paris. Risking execution at the hands of a firing squad, St. Gregory wrote in the official documentation presented to the Nazis that these items were of no particular value but were precious to the Georgians as part of their national consciousness.

Nor did most of Georgian society know that, in Paris, Archimandrite Gregory had founded a Georgian church in honor of the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Nino and a parish journal called Jvari Vazisa, or “The Cross of Vines.”

In May of 1942 St. Gregory was arrested by the Gestapo. The priceless Georgian manuscripts he had preserved and many sacred objects that had been crafted by ancient Georgian masters and collected by St. Gregory during his travels (in hopes of returning them to Georgia) disappeared after his apartment was searched.

Archimandrite Gregory was arrested for sheltering and aiding Jews and other victims of the fascist persecutions. He was incarcerated at Pawiak Prison in Warsaw, and deported to Auschwitz at the beginning of November.

In the camp an inmate killed a German officer. The guards drove everyone out of the barracks absolutely naked, forcing them to stay in the below-freezing temperatures until someone confessed. St. Gregory decided to take the blame for the murder, thus saving innocent prisoners from freezing to death. The guards let loose the dogs on the martyr, poured gasoline over him, and lit him on fire. Then they said, “Poles, go warm yourselves around him, your intercessor.”

According to the official German documentation, Gregory Peradze died on December 6, 1942 [November 23, old style], at 4:45 in the afternoon. (According to another account, the martyr entered the gas chamber in place of a Jewish man with a large family. This was reported by a former prisoner, who, after being liberated, visited Metropolitan Dionysius and gave him St. Gregory’s cross.) In the end, like Christ Himself, Archimandrite Gregory died for having taken upon himself the sin of another.

Source for Life