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Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Holy Hieromartyr Alexander Tsitseronov, Known as Cicero (+ 1938)

St. Alexander Tsitseronov (Feast Day - December 28)

Alexander Tsitseronov was born on August 15, 1893 in the village of Popadyino, of the Mikhailovsky district, in the Ryazan province, into the family of Deacon Alexander Andreyevich Tsitseronov and his wife Alexandra Petrovna. Three out of ten children of the Deacon became priests, and three daughters married future priests.

At twenty-one, Alexander Tsitseronov graduated from the Ryazan Theological Seminary. During his studies, he met a graduate of the Ryazan Women's Diocesan School, Evgenia Ivanovna Ivankova, the daughter of Archpriest John Pavlovich Ivankov, who blessed the young couple for marriage. Alexander was first a Reader in the church of the village of Pecherniki, of the Mikhailovsky district. Then he was ordained a Deacon and later a Priest, and in 1914 he was assigned to a parish in the village of Polivanovo. In 1915, the couple went to their destination. In addition to Polivanovo, the parish included the villages of Tarakanovka, Savinka, Studenets, Letniki, Bolshaya Khlebenka.


The young priest was distinguished by "very good behavior" and the fact that he read sermons. To explain the Holy Scriptures as easily as possible to adults and children - this was the main goal of Father Alexander's life. It was not for nothing that he bore the name Cicero: the priest was a wonderful storyteller and conversationalist, never raised his voice.
 
On the patronal feast of the Polivanovo church - the commemoration of the Holy Great Martyr Demetrios of Thessaloniki - pilgrims came to the village. After the service, tables were laid on the street. Interestingly, this tradition continued to exist even after the revolution. Moreover, not only believers, but also atheists came to the festival.


God blessed Father Alexander and Evgenia with nine children. Mother always sang in the kliros and read the Psalter for the deceased parishioners. Children from an early age knew by heart the morning and evening rules, the troparia of the feasts.

Father Alexander was a kind, gentle person. Many turned to the priest for money, and Father Alexander shared his last penny. A parishioner named Kachkin had nothing to put in the coffin of his deceased child, so the priest gave him a shirt from his son. The daughter of the widow Agrippina Koroleva, Elizabeth, recalled how, in the most difficult moments of their lives, a priest appeared with a bundle of food or needful things for four small children. Later, when the priest was arrested, Agrippina accompanied him to prison. Father gave her the Gospel and other liturgical books for preservation. Years later, Elizabeth told me that she had learned to read from this Gospel and that she had preserved it to this day.


On Easter days, Father Alexander walked around to the most distant villages (on demand, he had to walk five kilometers). Anna Milyutina recalled how her mother, leaving for work, put a three-ruble piece of paper on the table and ordered her brother to "give the priest" money. And the priest came, served, caressed the children, put painted eggs and ten rubles on the table.

In 1918, Father Alexander, as a priest, being deprived of his civil and electoral rights, did not have a passport. He was first arrested in 1930 for alleged tax evasion. The People's Court first sentenced him to ten years in prison on tax evasion charges. But then the priest was completely acquitted. Father Alexander spent six months in prison for “keeping small change”.
 
The second time he was arrested on December 20, 1937. Father was on his way to fetch water when the commissioners met him with an arrest warrant. Entering the house, the priest, so as not to frighten the children, quietly said to his wife: "Zhenya, they have come for me." But the children heard and cried. Mother sent everyone to pray that the Lord would strengthen their father and grant all of them a strong spirit. Passport officer Zhavoronkov demanded for him to hand over cold steel and firearms. The search began. This was the second seizure. They confiscated "32 different photographs", cribs, clothes.


The search protocol ended with the words: “Nothing else was found. There were no complaints." And here is how the daughter of Father Alexander, Alevtina, recalls this: “The walls were trembling with crying. Sister Nina hugged her dad's boots and shouted: 'I won't let you go!' Dad blessed us all. Said, 'Children, your father was an honest man. Love God, mother, each other.' Brother Porfiry ran up to hand over warm clothes to his father (there was a bitter frost), but they drove him away."

Soon after the arrest of the priest, parishioners collected 34 signatures under a petition for their pastor: “We, the believers citizens of the Polivanovo parish, know the priest Alexander Alexandrovich Tsitseronov from his work in the Polivanovo church since 1916. Priest Cicero worked until 1937. During his work, he was very attentive and honest to the believing citizens of the parish entrusted to him. Cicero, during his 20-year work in the Polivanovo church, did not have a single comment or reproach from the believers. He did not do any bribes or atrocities. There were cases when he helped poor people from personal funds. He had no personal wealth and valuebles. The priest Cicero in his work was respected by citizens, and among us, believers, he had great authority. During his work, not a single believer heard any rudeness from the priest Cicero. All his work was carried out honestly and honorably. We believers loved and respected him." However, the parishioners' petition was not taken into account.

Alevtina Aleksandrovna continues: “Our mother died in 1993 at the age of 99, without ever knowing the truth about her husband. In 1946, there was a rumor that dad was released and he immediately died of heart failure. Then, in 1948, my mother was summoned to the district police. I went with my mother to say goodbye to her, as we were sure that they would take her away. She was given a glass of water and was told that dad died in 1944.


Only at the end of the twentieth century we got acquainted with the case number 518 (listed in the archive as number 6044), which decided the earthly fate of our dad. It even has his handprints in it. The transcript of the interrogation of four witnesses recorded the following: “In August 1937, the minister of the religious cult (priest) A. A. Tsitseronov did not give the keys to the church for filling the grain. On the contrary, he convened a church council in order to prevent the decision of the collective farm activists. Among the collective farmers of the village, Polivanovo conducted a malicious anti-Soviet agitation, expressed terrorist intentions against the members of the CPSU."


Father Alexander was kept in the Ryazan prison. The archival investigation file contains the protocol of the interrogation of Father Alexander dated December 21, 1937, that is, on the second day after his arrest. He answered all questions about anti-Soviet agitation in the negative. He pleaded not guilty. On December 22, on the basis of testimony, an indictment was signed: “The accused ... that among the collective farmers of the village of Polivanovo he conducted malicious anti-Soviet agitation, spread defeatist sentiments, spoke in defense of well-known enemies of the people and expressed terrorist intentions towards members of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks."

Troika at the NKVD of the USSR in the Ryazan region issued a verdict on December 26: to shoot him. The verdict was carried out on the night of January 10, 1938.

On February 14, 1958, priest Alexander Alexandrovich Tsitseronov was rehabilitated by the Ryazan Regional Court for lack of concrete evidence of a crime.

The Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church canonized him on August 13-16, 2000.
 
 
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