Archimandrite Kirill (Pavlov)—Milestone of His Biography

Part 1. Youth, war, and faith

Archimandrite Kirill (Pavlov) Archimandrite Kirill (Pavlov) Archimandrite Kirill was born on October 8, 1919 into a peasant family of faithful Orthodox in the village of Makovskie Vyselki in Mikhailovsky district of Ryazan region. The Pavlovs had five children. Fr. Kirill was the fourth child, with Alexandra, Adrian and Anna born before him and Maria being the youngest in the family. He was baptized on the next day after his birth in the Church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God in a nearby village of Makovo. He was born on the remembrance day of the Venerable Sergius of Radonezh, while his baptism fell on the remembrance day of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, so he was named John in his honor. Archpriest John Kuzmenko, the rector of the church, became Ivan Pavlov’s first mentor.

Batiushka’s father Dmitry Afanasyevich, who won respect of his fellow villagers for his rational mind and ability to offer good advice, sang in the church choir. Their family loved to sing both the church hymns and traditional songs. From early childhood, batiushka learned to love everything that has to do with the Church, he also loved singing and he had a good voice. Like all men of the Pavlov family, Dmitry Afanasyevich lived long to the age of ninety-two and died in 1963. Fr. Kirill’s mother, Paraskeva Vasilyevna, was a very sickly woman. She came to the Lavra while Fr. Kirill was studying at the theological schools, but she didn’t live to see him enter the monastery and died in 1954 not reaching seventy years old.

Ivan finished a primary five-grade school in the neighboring village of Makovo, where he had to walk from his home village. Then, his older brother Adrian Dmitrievich took him to the village of Pustotino (Korablinsky district of Ryazan region). Adrian worked as a teacher there, later becoming a school vice-principal and a principal. This village is quite a distance from Ivan’s parental home, so he could only visit his parents and attend church there while on school breaks.

“I lived surrounded by non-believers since I was twelve, so my spirituality faded away,” Fr. Kirill recalled later.

After graduating from high school in 1933, the future elder entered the Kasimov industrial technical school and graduated from it in 1937 with a degree in “technology of nonferrous rapid machinery.” Between 1937 and September 1938, Ivan worked as a technician at a watch factory in the town of Katav-Ivanovsk in Chelyabinsk region.

Ivan Pavlov in the army Ivan Pavlov in the army     

Somewhere in September or October of 1938, Ivan Pavlov was drafted into the army and sent to serve in the Far East in the town of Barabash. While on leave, he would go with his friend to the shores of Peter the Great Bay to watch the majestic tides. They were there on a Sunday afternoon of June 22, 1941—Ivan Pavlov and his friend, while on leave, were sitting on the shore of the bay, when they suddenly saw people began to rush back and forth, here and there… They went up to the embankment and that’s where they heard everyone screaming: “The war, the war!” In October 1941, Ivan was supposed to receive a discharge, but it never materialized. He was sent to the front.

In the battles near the Bologoye railroad station, he was wounded for the first time and sent to the hospital. After recovery, he participated in the battles for Voronezh, Tambov, Lipetsk and Stalingrad. Sergeant Pavlov took part in the Battle of Stalingrad in the 10th Infantry Brigade. Batiushka recalled of Stalingrad that it was “either hell or a fiery furnace…”

We served on guard duty and took corpses away. That’s when I found a Gospel in the ruins of a house and took to reading it....

“We sat in the trenches at the front line—we could hear the Germans talking. We ate once a day: Our field kitchen could only come at night there. It was awfully cold. We survived because we used the captured German blankets. Artillery preparation began. Oh, there was so much fire! Literally nothing was left of Stalingrad. Not a single surviving house, everything lay in ruins. Once the fighting was over, dead silence set in… We served on guard duty and took the corpses away, separating the Germans soldiers from ours and burying them in mass graves. That’s where I found a Gospel in the ruins of a house and began to read it…”

It seems that at that moment the Lord revealed His mercy to the future elder and called him to a special ministry. Fr. Kirill talked about it as follows:

“It was April and the sun already warmed everything around. One day, in the ruins of a house, I picked up a book in the trash. I began to read it and felt something so dear and sweet to my heart. It was the Gospel. I found such a treasure, such comfort for myself! I gathered all of its pages together, as the book was broken. That Gospel was with me all the time. I was so confused prior to finding it. Why do we have this war, why are we fighting? There was a lot of confusion, because our country had atheism, deception throughout; we couldn’t see the truth. But when I began to read the Gospel, it was as if my eyes finally saw everything in a truthful light, all those events. It was such a balm to my soul! I went to the battle with the Gospel and felt no fear—never again! It was so inspiring! It was simply because the Lord was with me and I wasn’t afraid of anything…”

After the Battle of Stalingrad was over, Sergeant Ivan Pavlov was presented for an award. He was asked to join the Communist Party: the hero could not be a non-party man. Earlier, before Stalingrad, Ivan Dmitrievich had been a candidate for party membership. But now, after he found the Gospel, he refused. Batiushka said that they tried to persuade him with threats for a long time, but then he was reduced to the ranks and sent to disciplinary battalion. He was brought in to see the battalion commander who asked, “What is he here for?” The escort replied, “He is a believer, he believes in God and he gave up party membership.” At this the commander replied, “Take him back, have too many of those in our ranks!”

At the time, the 254th tank brigade was being formed and soldier Ivan Pavlov was assigned to this brigade as a clerk. By the fall of 1943, his military unit happened to be in the area of Pavlograd, Dnepropetrovsk region. At the request of the collective farmers, the servicemen were sent to assist at harvesting watermelons and melons at melon fields. Batiushka recalled, “Instead of a disciplinary battalion, I was sent to collect melons!” They stayed there for a month and then their unit, as part of the 3rd Ukrainian Front, went to liberate Romania, Hungary, and Austria.

“Our self-propelled artillery regiment went through Romania and got into Hungary,” recalled Fr. Kirill, “where we encountered heavy fighting near Lake Balaton. We lost twenty self-propelled guns, but I had the Gospel and I wasn’t afraid… I went as far as Austria.”

In 1944 in Hungary, in the battles near Lake Balaton, Ivan Pavlov received his second wound, in the arm. He went to receive treatment in Tambov. Fr. Kirill recalled how in Tambov he went to a church, the only one that remained open on a Sunday afternoon:

“The cathedral stood all bare inside; it had nothing but walls… The people were crowded inside. I was in a military uniform and an overcoat. The priest, Fr. John, who later became Bishop Innocent of Kalinin, gave such a heartfelt sermon that everyone who was present in the church began to weep. It was just one continuous wail... You stood there and it seized you involuntarily, so touching were those words the priest has said!”

Ivan Pavlov met the end of the war in Austria. He rejoiced greatly, but he was not yet demobilized in the spring of 1945. Their unit was sent to the Western Ukraine to guard ammunition and provision depots. According to batiushka, many more of our soldiers died there. Bandera1 supporters would creep up on the guards at night and slaughter a whole host of sentry posts.

Ivan Pavlov Ivan Pavlov Batiushka was demobilized only in October. He came to Moscow. At that time, his sister Anna Dmitrievna and her husband lived in Biryulevo. She worked at a brick factory. They lived in a barrack, but they took in relatives. Batiushka asked his sister, “Nyura, do have any seminaries or some kind of spiritual schools anywhere?” “I don’t know,” she said. “Why don’t you go and check at the Elokhovsky Cathedral, they should be able tell you there.” So, batiushka went in his service shirt to the Elokhovsky Cathedral, inquired at the candle shop and learned that theological courses had been reopened that year in the Novodevichy Convent. He went there wearing his military uniform. The vice-rector Fr. Sergius Savinsky welcomed him cordially and gave him the program for the entrance examinations, as well as an admission application for the courses. But since the exams were still six months away, he had to find a job. Batiushka decided, “If I go to work in my specialty as a technologist, they won’t let me go afterwards. I need to get a job as a watchman somewhere.” He walked around Moscow and wandered into the Kalitniki cemetery, which had a wood warehouse, and that’s where he was hired as a watchman. He had to work hard there unloading logs, but he was able to prepare for his seminary entrance exams.

At the entrance exams, he successfully wrote an essay on an evangelical topic, and his constant reading of the Holy Scriptures helped him in this. When he received the invitation with the notice of enrollment, he “took off his overcoat and put on a quilt jacket” to go to his place of studies. In 1946, seventy-nine students were admitted to the seminary, with the future Archimandrite Kirill among them. Fr. Kirill wrote:

“We studied in the classrooms of the Novodevichy Convent, at the church. I must say that the situation at the time wasn’t an easy one. The war had left everything lying in ruins and there was food rationing.”

To be continued…

Hieromonk Pafnuty (Fokin)
Translation by Liubov Ambrose


1 Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist in Galicia who led the Nazi collaboration movement in wartime Ukraine. He is still popular with Ukrainian ultra-nationalists. With Western support, these basically defeated inhabitants of the Soviet Union continued to fight a guerilla war against the soviet regime.—OC.

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