Why did Fr. Adrian fear the authorities?
Eusebius, former Metropolitan of Pskov and Porkhov:
Archimandrite Adrian is an ascetic of our days, a confessor from the time of the godless authorities. We knew one another for more than sixty years. In 1957, when he was tonsured into monasticism, I entered the Moscow Theological Seminary and we first met at the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra. Our spiritual fellowship never ceased from that point onwards.
In his life, he accepted the yoke of Christ and walked the path of humility and meekness in the image of Christ: Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls (Mt. 11:29).
Fr. Adrian took an example from the Lord Himself, listened to His voice, and followed after Him along the path of meekness and humility. Faithful to Christ and His holy Church, he took up a special cross in his life—to be a man of prayer and a confessor; he would turn to God, and defended and affirmed the holy Orthodox faith, strengthening the faithful people by his pure prayer and kind fatherly word.
The twentieth century was difficult. Our Church was oppressed and Fr. Adrian was persecuted. He also spoke directly, including admonishing the powerful of this world.
When they asked him, “Do you hear confessions? Do you expel demons?” he humbly confirmed: “Yes, I do.”
There was a kind of antichrist guy then—a man in government, an unbeliever, far from the Church. The Soviet authorities were then organizing their paradise on earth, as they joked with the titles they used: The District Department of Social Security, the District Executive Committee of Soviets of People’s Deputies,1 and so on. And this infidel asked Fr. Adrian, “Will you exorcise me?”
“I will,” he answered.
A little while later, he was, to put it mildly, transferred, or rather expelled from the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra to the Pskov Caves Monastery.
But people came to him there as well, seeking something genuine, not fake. Sometimes openly, and sometimes stealthily they made their way to him, because it was not easy to get to see him.
His prayer and meek and quiet confession helped many establish themselves in faith, and fight adversity, attacks, and various kinds of trials.
We will always remember him as meek, quiet, and humble, with a childlike smile, comforting those with whom he spoke. By his quietness and forgiveness, he left a bright memory in the hearts of those who were near to him and had spiritual communion with him.
The episcopal life is also hard, and I am thankful to God that when they appointed me to the Pskov See, I was consoled by the elders Archpriest Nikolai Zalitsky, Archimandrite John (Krestiankin), and Fr. Adrian.
Meeting with the elder is for us a personal experience of communion with God
For thirty years, beginning in 1964, with the blessing of the Lavra elder Archimandrite Kirill (Pavlov), Fr. Adrian would celebrate molebens for the expulsion of evil spirits once or twice a week. I was once witness to the expulsion of a demon and the full healing of a woman who was suffering by but three words from the ascetic. Later, in his letter to Fr. Adrian in 1993, Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov) compared this truly sacrificial and rare ecclesiastical service with the “shedding of blood.” A year later, he wrote and advised Batushka to leave this heavy, unbearable, and exceedingly ascetic act, so full of sorrows.
To most people, this podvig is connected with the heights of spiritual knowledge, but at the same time, Fr. Adrian was a very simple man. Batushka John (Krestiankin) was so humble, but he had studied at the Moscow Theological Academy; but they didn’t let him defend his thesis—he was arrested. Fr. Adrian was a blacksmith. If the question I brought to him was too difficult, dealing with something subtle, from the realm of dogmatics, for example, Fr. Adrian would say, “Go see John, and I will pray.”
I only had to go, and the result would exceed all expectations!
Communication with this seemingly ordinary person convinces you that that the main thing distinguishing the elders is that they live not for themselves, but for others. This can be learned by walking the path of suffering of the Cross.
Like Fr. John (Krestiankin), who entered the Pskov Caves Monastery in 1967, having already been purified by sufferings from when they broke his fingers during interrogations and the other things he endured in labor camps, so Fr. Adrian, having known hunger and poverty from childhood, was continuously persecuted from all different sides because of his prayerful podvig—expelling demons. In 1975, he was expelled from his home monastery of the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra and was transferred to the Pskov Caves Monastery.
Archimandrite Theophan (Malyavka) once privately joked, “The Caves Monastery has been ruined by exiles.”
Many people were drawn to the monastery to the world-famous elders, among whom was Fr. Adrian. Meeting with the elder was always, and sometimes for the first time, an experience of communion with God opened to man.
God is pleased to draw a man to Himself, heart to heart. This normal state of purity we see in the elders is available to all of us. The elders are living witnesses that the Lord waits for this from us.
The people that normally flowed in to see the elders were not inclined to think about by what efforts and labors this purity was given to the elders, which they then so generously shared with others. We were just pleased to be fortified by the power coming from them; but the suffering by which they purified their hearts, sanctified by thoughts and words, are hidden from us.
And what’s more, having received the desired answer, we forget about the immutability of the apostle’s words for us: So be ye holy in all manner of conversation (1 Pet. 1:15).
What was revealed to Fr. Adrian
Fr. Adrian blessed me, saying, “Don’t stick out!”—so it’s not necessary to sign my family name.
I knew Batushka from 1982. I remember I went to Estonia as a young girl for some clothes; there was a shortage of everything then, and I wound up in Pechory. As soon as I met Fr. Adrian, he immediately said, “Stay!” and that was it.
“Batushka, how can I stay?! I have work.”
“Well, stay, stay…”
I stayed for the rest of my vacation.
“Well, stay a little longer”—he wouldn’t let me go.
And so, from Sunday to Sunday, another month elapsed. One time I went and saw Fr. Adrian in the Dormition Church, and I remember there was only one icon of the Savior there then.
“Batushka, I have to go!”
“Go there,” he said, pointing below.
“Where’s there?”—I was perplexed; I was only twenty at the time. I sent a telegraph to my mother: “I’m staying here, send my things.”
My mother came in a great hurry: “Daughter, I thought you would die here, and you’re asking for your things!”
She herself was a secret nun; she was tonsured by the fathers at Pochaev when she was thirty-five.
The thing is, before that, I had been seriously poisoned at work—there was some kind of breakage there and gas was spewing out. It was difficult for me to walk. That’s why mother said, “would die.” Although here, in Pechory, it became easier for me, but I still didn’t have any strength.
I was leaving the church once, and there was an icon of the Dormition of the Mother of God. Fr. Adrian was standing there. He turned me towards the icon and told me something encouraging.
“Batushka, what are you talking about?” I said, making excuses. “I can barely move my legs.”
“I will heal you,” he said, turning my gaze to the icon again.
“This guy… Doctors couldn’t help, so how can he?” I thought.
“I will heal you,” he repeated, pointing to the Most Holy Theotokos.
“You’ll be running within a month.”
“Well, of course…” my thoughts said, bombarding me.
By the way, he loved the Modensk Icon of the Mother of God most of all. Perhaps the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to him with that appearance.
I was still living in an apartment with the owner at that point, and there were a lot of children there that needed to be fed. I would often go to the forest for mushrooms. I got lost once, and when I found the path—leading up a hill—I started running along it for joy! I was running and shouting “O Heavenly King…”—that was the only prayer I knew then. As soon as I said “Amen,” I suddenly realized, “Well, what do you now? I ran!”
I went to the church, and Batushka was hearing confessions then. He suddenly stopped, turned around, and loudly declared, “Lyudmila has arrived!”
Everyone was staring at me. I was so uncomfortable, and I left very timidly.
“Well? Did you run?” he said, grabbing me by the shoulders when I approached.
“I’ll say”—I wasn’t even surprised that he knew. “I flew!”
“I told you!”
But still, I would constantly bust out of Pechory. The enemy probably acted the same way, falling off the path of salvation.
I went to Batushka and told him matter-of-factly, “I’m leaving.”
“What do you mean, you’re leaving?” And he also said matter-of-factly, “I’ll cry.”
“Don’t cry, but I’m leaving.”
He sat, and thought…
“Would you like me to give you a photograph?!”
“I don’t need anything; I’m going either way,” I thought.
“I’ve seen you so serious here, and then this strict look of yours is going to upbraid me at home too…”
“I’ll give you one where I am smiling! I’ll find it for you right now.”
He grabbed a stack from the table and started shuffling through it. “Am I smiling here?”
“No,” I said.
“Not there either…”
I look and realized he had a pack of identical photographs, and he was showing them to me one after the other.
“Lord,” I thought, “what am I doing? Batushka’s putting this and that and that in front of me…”
“Here we go,” I said, agreeing on the next photo. “You’re smiling. It’s a nice photo. Give me that one.”
And this picture is hanging there on my wall now.
I was quietly leaving, I had my suitcase packed, and suddenly his cell attendant appeared: “Batushka is calling for you.”
I wasn’t even planning to go to him for a blessing… And I immediately wondered, “What’s he calling me for now?!”
“Just go,” the cell attendant said, realizing the reason for my confusion.
“Fine,” I thought, “why should the last thing I do be to offend Batushka…?”
I went: “Lyudmila, where are you going?!”
“To visit my brother…”
He thought, and obviously decided not to offend me either: “Don’t leave. Just go for a walk.”
He didn’t bless me, but he didn’t scold me.
One time I was seriously scolded, and I got so offended. I was in the Dormition Church, squatting near the stove, with my head in my hands: “I’m not going to go to Batushka. Let everyone else leave, then I’ll go too…” Suddenly I heard some kind of silence… “What is this,” I thought, “everyone is silent?” I raised my head, opened my eyes, and there were boots in front of me. Batushka was standing there. People were crowded all around, looking at me.
“Lord, have mercy,” I thought.
Then, when there were some hard times, I thought, “That’s it, I can’t do this anymore!” Then I remembered those boots, and I decided I wasn’t going anywhere.
I remember buying a house here in Pechory with his blessing. He came over, sat down and said, “It’s like Paradise here.”
He often reminded me: “You must have faith. Have faith!”
He blessed me to go to the services every morning and evening.
There was a mother and daughter living here, both demon-possessed. Batushka blessed them to stay in the church constantly, and he himself confessed them. The mother always very thoroughly prepared for confession, writing down her sins, but this time she forgot her “cheat sheet” at home.
“Well, while you were writing your sins, I read them all,” Batushka said, and immediately covered her with his stole.
He truly lived in two worlds: In this one, and in the spiritual world. Fr. Zenon (Teodor) told about how once he and Batushka were coming out from under the St. Nicholas Church going towards St. Michael’s Church. A group of foreigners passed by. Suddenly, Fr. Adrian clearly, distinctly, and loudly said something in Aramaic. A woman walking in this crowd turned around and answered him in Aramaic. He waved her off, as if saying “Do whatever you want.” And she kept walking.
Fr. Zenon asked Batushka, “What happened?”
“That woman was walking, and there was a demon with her who had been at the Crucifixion of the Lord—he stood at the Cross. He was attached to her, walking at her heels. I thought of driving him out, but she didn’t want it. Well, let him go with her!”
Batushka really loved children. He gave one a piece of candy, and then two, and he rejoiced: “It’s mine! It’s mine!” and he gave him an entire box.
That boy later became a monk.
There was much from the past and the future that was invisible to us, but was revealed to Batushka.
On the method of achieving perfection in Orthodoxy
Fr. Adrian was so simple, that there probably won’t be any more such people. You can watch and listen to video and audio that’s been preserved—how simple Batushka speaks, sometimes even with errors.
I first met him in his cell when I was still a young, newly-churched person; I was a theater guy, a director. I was well-versed in many teachings, including Eastern, and I was interested in the method of achieving perfection in Orthodoxy.
“Pray!” was all that Fr. Adrian said to me.
But that one solitary word became a revelation for me then: You want to know how to achieve perfection?—ask God! You don’t know how it’s possible—ask about it, that the Lord might teach you prayer.
I remember that before this pilgrimage to the Pskov Caves Monastery, I could usually externally beat my seminarian friend in an argument (I had good oratorical skills), but internally, I still felt that the truth was on his side…
And I wound up in a conversation with the laconic Fr. Adrian…
It wasn’t for high style that people went to him, but Batushka was very warm. You would go to him, and he’dbe there in his cell, like a stove, just warming up.
The brothers would go see him in his cell and confess to him. Later, he confessed to us and we communed him in his cell, when he was already sick and weak.
At one time, Fr. Adrian had been more accessible than Fr. John (Krestiankin). Batushka John had a colossal flow of people turning to him, and he was a bit older than Fr. Adrian. Wise by experience, he was, by the way, against “exorcisms.”
The Lord can heal without exorcisms, Fr. John assured us. It’s just a cross the Lord gave this person, and he has to bear it.
Fr. Adrian exorcised many demoniacs. He later himself agreed that it was in vain. He told me personally, telling me this story:
“A mother with her teenaged demon-possessed daughter came to me,” he said. “The girl was so beautiful, and I felt so bad for her that I started vigorously laboring on her behalf: fasting, praying.
“In the end, this pretty girl was healed… But then what? A year or two passed, and her mother came, tears streaming down: ‘She doesn’t go to church, doesn’t commune; she met and is living with some guy…’
“Everything got worse!
“Why did I heal her?” Fr. Adrian later lamented. “At least she went to church then and communed… Yes, she suffered, but it was a saving cross for her.”
He bore this terrible cross
Protodeacon Vladimir Vasilik:
Archimandrite Adrian has departed to the Lord. I can’t immediately evaluate this loss. In fact, he was the last of the elders who adorned the Pskov Caves Monastery from the 1970s to 2000s, and supported the believers, not only in the years of communist persecution for the faith, but also in the tumultuous years of perestroika. However, the Lord knows better who will join His Heavenly host and when. I would like to share my modest recollections of Fr. Adrian.
I first went to Pechory in 1985. It was difficult times; the authorities were trying to suppress communication with elders. Nevertheless, the faithful always managed to get through to Fr. John and Fr. Adrian with their pressing life questions. Dozens of sick people were brought to Fr. Adrian—demoniacs, from the elderly to children, and he would exorcise them in the Annunciation Church. Those were difficult services. The demon-possessed would scream, shriek, cry out, screech, and growl in strange voices: “I won’t leave,” and sometimes they would rush at Fr. Adrian. And this batushka, no longer a young man, certainly not of robust health (it was weakened during the war, during his military service) bore all of this. Nevertheless, he bore this terrible cross, which few others had the strength to bear.
Of those who performed exorcisms in the Northwest, I can mention only Fr. Vasily Borin, who served in the Church in Vask-Narva (he reposed in 1993). In the case of Fr. Vasily, the demons raged even more: Once a demon-possessed woman, with two men supporting her, escaped from their arms and was thrown a full six feet backwards by some unknown power. The next day, she was among other pilgrims, carrying a heavy bucket with rocks to build a fence around the church and singing “O My Most Blessed Queen.” Similar instances of healing, although perhaps less vivid, occurred with Archimandrite Adrian.
Batushka courageously carried out his service all the way up to the mid-1990s, when he suffered a frightful attack from the demonic powers. After that he gave a homily, the essence of which was the following: “I will not exorcise anyone anymore. I need to repent, not to be exorcised.” Indeed, without repentance, without a heartfelt awareness of your sin (or the sin of your neighbor, if he cannot offer a conscious confession), any exorcism will be useless. Although, up until his repose, Fr. Adrian never denied anyone prayer or counsel. No longer able to receive guests due to his illness, he would communicate in writing with everyone who sought his help and spiritual guidance.
It’s amazing that with such a fearful service, such spiritual tension, Fr. Adrian was always even, easygoing, collected, and modestly joyful. An incredibly good spiritual strength and benevolence could be felt in him. A huge flow of people came to Fr. John (Krestiankin), but Fr. Adrian had absolutely no jealousness or ill will. Moreover, some of those who sought his advice, he sent to Fr. John. You could sense genuine humility and wondrous kindness in him, hidden by his outward austerity. His homilies were terse but deeply Orthodox and tuned to the practical task of correcting the life of those listening. During the Liturgy, you could sense not only deep concentration in Fr. Adrian, but an amazing prayerfulness and immersion in the Mystery of the Eucharist. He lived by the Liturgy.
The feeling of joy is intermixed with sorrow and loss, however. Fr. Adrian performed his heavy earthly podvig and departed to the eternal habitation, “where there is neither sickness, nor sorrow, nor sighing, but life everlasting.” The earthly Church has acquired another intercessor and protector in Heaven—for the whole world and for Russia.
We are all rotten sheep who should remember Paradise
Raisa Mustafeva, a spiritual child of the elder:
Batushka was constantly blessing me to humble myself. He taught me to think of myself as a “rotten sheep.”
There were other versions too, such as “putrid.”
If a man came to him for confession, and he repents and repents, Batushka would suddenly baffle him: “Call yourself a rotten sheep!”
“What do you mean?!” he’d ask, confused.
“Beat yourself on the breast: ‘I am a rotten sheep, the rottenest!’”
He humbled them: Lawyers worked as janitors here. They helped the demon-possessed arrange their pensions, and they themselves lived by the work of their own hands, sweeping.
“Repent, repent,” Batushka instructed; all of his talks led to that. “There is no salvation without repentance.”
His exorcisms so shocked the conscience, when the people bleated and growled, and one guy here was jumping like a horse, stomping, and leaping—seeing this, many who never even thought about the existence of the spiritual world would repent and convert.
Somehow, he could move your attention from the external to the internal.
I remember I was living with my landlady, and she told me one time that Fr. Zenon (Teodor) was gathering students. He wasn’t going to be teaching iconography just to the monks anymore. I had graduated from art school and was really interested. Fr. Zenon often heard confessions then, and you could go and ask him to learn.
While I was considering such plans, Batushka Adrian walked by and out-of-nowhere answered my thoughts: “There were no icons then, but King David wept so hard!”
That is, for me the main thing is to repent, to weep for my sins—it wasn’t for me to paint icons, apparently.
I didn’t ask Batushka anything about it after that, but he said to me again one time during confession: “You won’t paint icons; you won’t be able to,” and so he finally dissuaded me.
This often happened: There’s something important you didn’t even ask Batushka about, and he walks by and gives you the answer.
If someone was thinking about some confusing question, but didn’t know how to ask about it, Batushka would suddenly start answering his perplexity to someone else: He was as if telling someone else, but the person would understand that it was said to him, and would receive a resolution to the problems tormenting him.
I wanted to get a job as a nanny in an orphanage, but I didn’t know if I should go there or not… Batushka suddenly walked by and said, “Everything will be pure and beautiful! Go!”
I didn’t even manage to ask him anything! But as soon as he said it, I went and applied for the job.
Of course, there were difficulties and trials.
Someone once asked Fr. Zenon something about Fr. Adrian: “Has Batushka been defamed?”
“They also defamed the Lord,” Fr. Zenon answered.
Fr. Adrian would sometimes tell us about Paradise.
“I served with Fr. John [Krestiankin—trans.] today,” he said one morning, and this was already after Fr. John’s repose.
“How is Batushka?” we asked inquisitively.
“He has a small parish there. It’s bea-u-tiful!” he said, smiling, entirely illuminated.
Batushka often admonished me: “Paradise, don’t forget about Paradise.”
Meeting everyone as your beloved
Hieromonk Jonah, a monk of the Pskov Caves Monastery:
Elder Adrian was strict, blessed. He was open to people. And he was always internally collected; never sluggish.
When I had just arrived at the monastery again, I asked for Fr. Adrian’s advice on what I should do with my life. He was very glad that they had received me at the monastery. I went to see him, and he said, “Oh! John has come, my beloved!”
He met everyone that way. God willing, we will meet in Paradise.
I remember he had some spiritual children—a married couple. The husband had cancer, and they both took monastic vows. Fr. Adrian said to them, “After your tonsure, everything will pass.”
And indeed, when they were tonsured, having come to Moscow for his next examinations, the newly-tonsured heard, “Vadim (his name before his tonsure) had cancer, but Fr. Nicholas does not.”
Then they lived as brother and sister and educated their six children, born before their tonsures, in monasticism.
I sometimes had occasion to confess to Batushka and commune; just to be near him was a great joy.
When Fr. Adrian departed to the Lord, I went to the chapel where his coffin was, venerated it, and I was entirely covered by love!
He was so attentive during his life; he prayerfully desired God, and tried to maintain his strictness, and all his love was revealed! Clearly, he has met the Lord. Everyone feels it.