February 17, 2021

Saint Paisios the Athonite and Some of His Military Hardships

Saint Paisios, known as Arsenios at the time, began his military service for his country in April of 1948, and served as radio operator. During this time he experienced unimaginable hardships short of actual combat, due to his occupation.
He related that once, having run out of food, his company was reduced to eating snow flakes. Another time they were left without food for thirteen days and survived on wild chestnuts. More frequently, they suffered from dehydration, and then they were forced to drink water that had accumulated in animal footprints.

Their greatest enemy was the cold. They slept in tents, and when they woke up in the morning, the tents would be covered in snow, and they would count how many had developed frostbite. One morning, digging in the snow with a pickax, Arsenios uncovered twenty-three frostbitten men.

He once spent three straight days in the snow sending messages to headquarters, which caused him to get frostbite. The flesh was peeling off his feet, and his company had to send him to the hospital, but God saved him from amputation. Another time, a mule kicked him so hard in the chest that it turned black-and-blue, marked with the imprint of the horseshoe. Although he fainted, when he came to, he continued on his way.

It made Arsenios happy to be rained-on, cold, or tired, so that others would not have to be. Sometimes when his fellow soldiers made mistakes, they would blame them on Arsenios. The sergeant would reprimand him, and he, wanting to cover the errors of his fellow soldiers, would humbly accept the rebuke.

Nevertheless, the commanding officer valued him and trusted him. It was Arsenios he would send on the most difficult missions, because he knew he was the most capable and that he would accomplish whatever mission he had been assigned.

He took leave only once, going home. While there, he fell ill and lost a lot of blood, and he was admitted to the hospital for fifteen days. When he recovered, he returned to his unit.