A great miracle took place in the life of the priest Father Timothy Strelkov. He was condemned to death by the communists, beheaded, but by the miraculous intervention of God his head was restored. This miracle of modern times has been likened to that which took place in the life of Saint John of Damascus in the eighth century, whose hand was cut off but healed by the Lord and grown back on again.
These events happened in the following manner.
Father Timothy Porfirievich Strelkov lived in the village of Mikhailovka in the Urals, twelve kilometres from the regional center of Duvan. This priest of deep faith was the younger brother of another priest, Father Theodore Strelkov, who left with the armies of Admiral Kolchak to the East, to Harbin, where he died.
In the summer of 1918, as living witnesses of this very great wonder relate, this outstanding priest, Fr. Timothy, was arrested by the Reds on the eve of the day of the Holy Trinity. On the same day they sentenced him to death as a fearless confessor of Christ. On the night before of the Holy Trinity they led him on foot out of the village of Mikhailovka, under mounted guard, in the direction of Duvan. A large crowd of people accompanied their beloved pastor. In this crowd there were also representatives of the "new authorities". Some mourned and wept, but others rejoiced and celebrated. In spite of the late hour, the crowd of people did not disperse. They came to the village of Mitrophanovka. And here all those who were accompanying him were ordered to return. All returned, including even the mounted guard. Only one of them was left. They allowed the priest's wife to continue on.
The poor woman was weeping the whole time and sometimes asked for the release of Fr. Timothy. The convoy was silent, while Father Timothy, addressing her, said:
"Why do you ask this? Do you think that it's his will? Do you think he sentenced me to death? Others took the decision to deprive me of life. But the will of God also ordered him. May His holy will be done. Glory to God for all things! Glory to the Lord for His great mercy, that He should send me such a death. Do not beseech Him for my release. Beseech the Lord only for one thing, for the repose of my soul, for the forgiveness of my sins! For there is no man living, nor will there be, who does not sin. And I have sinned! That's the important thing you must pray about. Lord, have mercy, have mercy! Forgive me the accursed one!"
And the priest wept. And his matushka also sobbed exceedingly.
When they were still three kilometres from the regional center of Duvan, they turned off into an area overgrown with little bushes and climbed a little hill. The light had already begun to emerge. The day of the Holy Trinity had dawned.
The convoy rode on his horse, in front of him walked the priests condemned to death. Beside them walked the weeping matushka. Fr. Timothy was praying fervently and with tears, beseeching the Lord to strengthen him for the feat of martydom which lay ahead of him. He humbly thanked the Lord for such a death.
Suddenly the rider unsheathed his sword, brandished it powerfully and struck him on the neck. The head of the martyr was struck off and he fell like mown grass. Matushka shrieked and took to her heels. Fr. Timothy would later say that he himself only momentarily saw the blade of the sword flashing over his head, and remembered no more. The blow was exact and powerful - the head did not fly off to one side, but fell together with the body. What further happened to him, Fr. Timothy himself does not remember. But he was lying on his back when he regained consciousness. The executioner galloped off in pursuit of matushka. He caught up with her. He leapt off his horse and took off her wedding ring. Then he went to the beheaded Fr. Timothy, stooped down, and gave him yet another blow with the sword on the head and cut his cheek and hand (his hand was lying on his face).
But matushka arrived at Mikhailovka and related how Fr. Timothy had been beheaded before her every eyes. The faithful got ready a cart and came to collect the corpse. But imagine their astonishment and joyful trembling when they found him alive, covered in blood but with a scar all round his neck witnessing to the fact that he had indeed been beheaded though healed by an ineffable miracle. When the clotted blood had been wiped away, there appeared a fully healed fresh scar around the whole neck in the form, as it were, of a bright thread. There was no sign of inflammation. Fr. Timothy showed this scar to everyone close to him, as a witness of the miracle.
They carried him as dead, covered with branches, to his father Porphiry, who lived at a mill outside the village. Here, at the home of his father, the beheaded one hid himself for one and a half months. Then he left that area and hid himself for about twelve years, when he suffered a second death for Christ.
But during that period the Lord God wrought another miracle in the life of Father Timothy. He was in hiding, going from place to place, when he arrived at a monastery in the Urals. He asked the abbot to permit him to stay there temporarily. He said that he was a priest and showed him the cross on his breast. The abbot gave him permission. But a commission appeared and began to check all the members of the community in accordance with a list.
"How many monks do you have in this community?" the chairman asked the abbot.
"Thirty-two," he replied.
They began to check.
Fr. Timothy was there, absorbed in prayer like all the other monks. He stood beside a table, leaning against the stove. They checked them all.
"Exactly thirty-two! It's amazing," said the commission.
It was as if they had not seen Fr. Timothy standing beside the stove. When the chekists had gone, the abbot gathered the brotherhood and told them the wonderful miracle of God's mercy and served a thanksgiving prayer-service not only for the priest, but at the same time for the miraculous deliverance of the whole community from inevitable death.
After this incident Fr. Timothy left that area and went secretly to Sim station, near Ufa. Here he served in a house church until his last arrest and death in 1930.
There happened to be a witness of his death, the servant of God Alexander Bogdanov, who was at that time in prison. They had ordered him to harness the sledges (this was in winter). At night three men, apparently priests, were taken out of the prison bound and with their mouths covered up so that they could not cry out. "One of them," relates the witness, "was tall" - this was Fr. Timothy. The next morning Alexander found the sledges in the yard of the prison all covered in blood. They had hacked all three of them to pieces.