“How Can I Not Venerate St. Nicholas? He Saved My Life”

Miracles of St. Nicholas in the Backwoods of Ryazan. Part 2. Kasimov

Part 1: Mom, Did You Pray to St. Nicholas?

Since ancient times, Orthodox people have tried to record miracles worked by St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in order to honor his holy name. These records have served to strengthen the faith of many. Continuing the tradition of our ancestors, we offer readers some St. Nicholas miracle stories, related by Archpriest Sergei Pravdoliubov, rector of the Holy Trinity Church in Troitskoye-Golenishchevo (Moscow), as part of the “Native Village” program on the Radonezh radio station in 2021–2022. This miracle was worked by the holy hierarch in the town of Kasimov in the Ryazan region.

Pontoon bridge in Kasimov. Photo taken in 1905 Pontoon bridge in Kasimov. Photo taken in 1905     

Part 1

In response to my story about the miracle of St. Nicholas on the road between the villages of Tuma and Syntul, Sophia Sergeyevna, a daughter of the New Confessor Sergei of Kasimov,1 told me about another miracle of the holy hierarch.

She worked at a factory that makes irons in the town of Kasimov. The shop superintendent Vasily Ivanovich lived across the river and would walk to and from work. On that day he was returning home from some party on the other side of the river, over the pontoon bridge, which was still in use (it was closed for use only for the winter, and in October and early November it was still possible to cross it). But, as is often the case with such bridges, it had some cracking and loose planks. It was the end of October. The weather was cold. The bridge was very slippery. Vasily Ivanovich was a little tipsy. Having crossed half the river, he was already approaching the bank when he suddenly stepped on a slippery log, where there was no plank, and slipped into the cold Oka River not far from the bank (but you would still have to walk there). The biting cold immobilized him.

But a person who falls into cold water dies of hypothermia, even if he does not drown. His heart stops because his vessels contract; he cannot move and dies, unable to remain in the cold water for a long time. Vasily Ivanovich, as Sophia Sergeyevna related, began to call for help—but there were no sounds except for some quiet wheezing. No one could hear him. It was late afternoon, and there was no one on the river bank. There was a church on the other side of this bridge, and everyone knew that it was dedicated to St. Nicholas. So he started shouting:

“Nikola, help me! Nikola, help me! Nikola! Nikola! Nikola, help me!”

And suddenly he saw the figure of a man standing on the bank, who said to him, almost shouting from afar:

“Vasily Ivanovich, wait! I’ll be right there! Don’t be afraid—I’ll come to you right away.”

This man walked on the water from the bank, like the Apostle Peter. The bridge from which Vasily Ivanovich had slipped off was already far behind him. The man on the water grabbed Vasily Ivanovich by the arms and said:

“Don’t be afraid, let’s go to the shore.”

And he brought him to the bank, as if walking with him on the water. He left him on the bank and said:

“That’s all, go now. Everything is fine.”

St. Nicholas Church, opposite the pontoon bridge over the Oka River. Photo taken before 1917 St. Nicholas Church, opposite the pontoon bridge over the Oka River. Photo taken before 1917     

The shop superintendent shared all of this with Sophia Sergeyevna and said:

“How can I not venerate St. Nicholas? He saved my life. I cried out to him, and he came to me right on the water. But please don’t tell anyone. Just light a candle for me in the church from time to time, but don’t reveal this to anyone: it’s an outstanding event.”

Of course, how can we not honor St. Nicholas after that?! I immediately recall the city of Ouranoupolis, which is the starting point for cruises to Holy Mount Athos. “Ouranoupolis” means “heavenly city”, and for the Greeks it is a common placename. On the seashore where you depart for Mt. Athos there is the small, elegant Agia Anna Chapel. It is not made of bricks, but of natural stone slabs. The chapel is slightly higher than an average person, and it can accommodate up to three people. You can enter, light a candle and go on. It would be easy to build such a chapel if someone wanted to. But there is no such a chapel in Kasimov on the site where St. Nicholas walked on water in the Soviet era. If we lived in Greece or Cyprus, we would definitely build a chapel and certainly in October or (due to difficulties with the road) in the spring, we would go there in cross processions to sing magnifications where St. Nicholas performed a miracle—he walked on the water of this very river. As the Holy Hierarch Basil of Ryazan swam against the current to Old Ryazan from Murom, so here St. Nicholas walked and answered prayers of a dying man.

Archpriest Sergei Pravdoliubov
Translation by Dmitry Lapa



1 The New Confessor Archpriest Sergei Pravdoliubov of Kasimov (1890-1950; feast: December 5/18) was the grandfather of Fr. Sergei Pravdoliubov, the author of this account, and Sophia Sergeyevna is his aunt.—Trans.

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