Dmitry and Natalia Volodikov live in the village of Kamenka, not far from Optina. Dmitry is a seminarian and altar server, and his wife is a choir director. They built a church in honor of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in their village. These stories are about the saint’s speedy aid to those finding themselves in difficult situations, and about how an elder’s boots can prove to be an excellent remedy—however, you won’t be able to buy them.
The story of the elder’s boots
Schema-archimandrite Iliy (Nozdrov) With God’s help, we built a church dedicated to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in our village of Kamenka, not far from Optina. Vladimir Chikhikov helped with the construction. He and his wife Elena are hardworking, responsible, responsive, and kind people. Volodya had also helped Elder Schema-archimandrite Iliy (Nozdrin) with the construction of the monastery in Klykovo.
Once, several years ago, Vladimir was helping with some construction being conducted by some of the elder’s spiritual children. Vladimir is both a mason and a carpenter—a real Jack-of-all-trades. It’s just that his feet began to hurt very badly. They ached and ached. Neither ointments nor folk remedies could help. He didn’t tell anyone about it, but simply endured it.
Elder Iliy came to the construction site one day, went into the nearly-finished building, took off his boots, and told Volodya:
“Your feet hurt—take my boots. Wear them for your health!”
Volodya was shocked: How did the elder know about his pain? He put on the boots, and as he wore them, his feet stopped hurting.
Other construction workers found out about this story and must have told someone, because one evening a businessman knocked on the Chizhikovs’ door. Volodya opened, and the man said from the threshold:
“Look, $100. Sell me the elder’s boots!”
Vladimir was stunned and couldn’t muster a word.
“What, not enough? Here’s $200 and the boots are mine.”
Volodya only shook his head.
“Fine! Here’s $200 and I’ll buy you three pairs of new shoes—any ones you want!”
“Forgive me, but the boots aren’t for sale.”
I later asked him why he wouldn’t sell them, and he said:
“If he had just said his feet hurt and had asked for the boots, I would have given them to him. But, you see, he wanted to bargain right away. But for me, these boots are not a commodity.”
How Fr. Iliodor went to Mt. Athos
The ever-memorable Optina hierodeacon Iliodor never simply passed by our church. He greatly loved St. Nicholas. He would always stop by with his spiritual children to bring fresh and very beautiful roses. He would place red ones at the icon of the Savior, white at the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, and always a beautiful bouquet for St. Nicholas.
He would stop by the kiosk where we bake and sell pies, tea, pancakes, honey from our own apiary, cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, and other homemade products, with the funds going to the church. Fr. Iliodor loved tea with sea buckthorn jam. He would usually buy pies and treat everyone who happened to be around. If there were men working near the church, he would treat them with pies and give them 1,000 rubles1 too. He was a generous soul and loved to make people happy and help them. If someone gave him something in the morning, he’d have already given it away by evening.
One day, he and I had tea together, without any other people, surprisingly, and he told me a story. He urgently needed to go to Mt. Athos to fervently pray at the holy sites. What was so important, what he wanted to pray about—he didn’t tell me. He only mentioned that he only had two days to spare: He left Friday evening, and he had to return to Optina already by early Monday morning.
On Saturday afternoon, he was standing on the pier at Ouranopoli, waiting for the boat to Mt. Athos, and the Greeks were just shaking their head—the last boat had already left, and no one else was getting to Athos that day.
Fr. Iliodor was walking along the pier and started fervently praying to his beloved St. Nicholas. Then he saw a boat coming. It docked, the captain grumbled aloud, and a sailor unloaded a bag of mail. It turns out they forgot the outgoing mail from Mt. Athos and the boat had to make an additional trip. The captain looked at the Russian monk:
“Take a seat!”
The mouths of the Greeks on the dock hung open.
Fr. Iliodor made it to the All-Night Vigil, in the morning he prayed at the Liturgy, he managed to do everything he had planned, and early Monday morning, he was already back at Optina.
How my friend traveled across the steppe
I have a friend, Dmitry Schukin. We’ve been friends for a long time. He used to run a car-shipping business from Japan, but not anymore. He’s a very ascetic, unpretentious man. He doesn’t need much. He usually greets people saying:
“Peace to you, brother! Have a blessed day!”
Many years ago, a very young Dmitry took a bike ride all around the Volgograd Province, through the steppes. He was going from one residential area to another, and decided to shorten the path—not along the highway, but along an old country road. He had some food and water with him.
The road was old, completely deserted. Suddenly his tire went flat. It couldn’t be fixed, and he had no spare parts. And his backpack was heavy on the back of his bike. He decided to set up his tent. It was hot, so he drank some water and had some sandwiches.
Then a storm started, with strong wind and rain, and he was sitting there in his little tent, praying to St. Nicholas to get him out of this situation.
Suddenly he heard a car coming through the rain. He crawled out of his tent, waving his arms, and a big, off-road SUV stopped. The driver and another man got out, shocked to see anyone out there. It was twenty miles to the nearest housing.
It turned out they were electricians. The storm damaged the power line and they were going out to fix it. They rarely drove along this road—no one had been on it in a long time.
Since then, Dmitry has been more cautious with his trips, always taking a supply of water and food with him, and he still prays to St. Nicholas like he did that day.
How my friend went to Bari
My friend Dmitry really loves to go on pilgrimage to holy places. Here’s a story he told me.
Dmitry didn’t have that much money. At first he was very worried, but then he prayed to St. Nicholas in the cathedral. When he finished, he walked out, sat down on the steps, and he felt the anxiety was gone. He felt a lightness and calmness in his soul.
He sat rejoicing—after all, he’d made it to Bari, anyway!
Suddenly an unknown pilgrim came up to him, handed him some money folded up in a piece of paper, told him her name, asked for prayers, and left.
He unfolded the piece of paper—there was exactly 700 euros.
How my friend traveled to Crimea
Dmitry used to roam around to holy sites by bike, then motorcycle, and now in a car someone gave him. And this isn’t even the first car he’s been given. He already gave away the previous two to different priests. He easily gives and receives gifts.
My friend Dmitry Sometimes I can’t help but wonder what’s going on—why doesn’t anyone give us a car?! Or even a bike… But he gets cars… What can you say? Apparently, the Lord knows better who needs what.
So, one time Dmitry was driving around to the holy places in Crimea in this gifted car. He got out at a certain spot and decided to go for a swim. His car wasn’t a bad car, and he left all his stuff there: his telephone, his charger, his money. On the dashboard was an icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker.
There was another, also pretty nice car parked nearby, with a super-modern alarm system. The car was closed, the windows were up, and the driver rechecked everything several times. You have to be careful, they say.
As usual, Dima read a prayer to St. Nicholas and closed the car door, even leaving the windows open a bit.
He was swimming and having a good time when suddenly he heard the other man groaning and gasping, calling the police. It turns out, despite the alarm system, his car was broken into and everything of value was stolen. And Dima’s car right next to it, with its windows open, was left untouched.
The man said to him:
“How is this possible?!”
And Dima said:
“St. Nicholas protects my car. Can your alarm system even be compared with such protection?!”
And then he thanked the Lord for His mercy and St. Nicholas the Wonderworker for his intercession.
Holy Father Nicholas, pray to God for us!
A few words about the Volodikovs
What else can I add to these stories? Except to say a few words about the Volodikovs. Dmitry is a seminarian, altar server, builder, and warden of the wooden Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in the village of Kamenka, not far from Optina Monastery. His wife Natalia is the choir director.
Read more about him in “Our Lord is an Old Wonderworker.”