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The Orthodox Church in WWII - St. Luke of Crimea & Russian Christians in the Military

Love for Motherland and its protection from enemies has always been a sacred duty of all Orthodox Christians. From 1941-1945, many of them fought as soldiers and commanders in the war effort.

During World War II (known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War), the Russian Orthodox Church actively helped the Russian people — and the entire world — by playing a significant role in the victory over Nazi Germany.

A message was sent to all Orthodox believers in the country, pointing out that the Church had always shared the fate of its people, and that "fascism, which understands only brute force and mocks the high demands of honor and morality", would face the same severe fate as other invaders who have ever invaded the Russian land.

Prayer services were held all over the country, asking for victory over the invaders, These services were held in Orthodox churches around the country, almost until the end of the war.

St. Luke (Voyno Yasenetsky) of Crimea

At the beginning of the war, Mikhail Kalinin received a telegram from Archbishop Luke (Voyno-Yasenetsky), in which the bishop — who had been exiled to the Krasnoyarsk region — said that he, as a specialist in purulent surgery, was "ready to help soldiers in the front or home front, wherever he will be entrusted." He requested to be sent to a hospital, and he even expressed a willingness to return to exile after the war.

His request was granted, and in October 1941, this 64-year-old professor was appointed as chief surgeon of a local evacuation hospital and consulted for all the hospitals in Krasnoyarsk. As a skilled surgeon, he frequently performed 3-4 operations a day, setting an example for younger colleagues.

At the end of December 1942, he was entrusted with the administration of the Krasnoyarsk Eparchy, without canceling his work as a military surgeon. In 1944, after the hospital moved to the Tambov region, he headed the local Eparchy, where many churches were opened. He reposed in the year 1961.

In 1996, the Russian Orthodox Church formally recognized him as a saint — St. Luke of Simferapol and Crimea.

St. Luke of Crimea

Love for Motherland and its protection from enemies has always been a sacred duty of all Orthodox Christians. From 1941-1945, many of them fought as soldiers and commanders. For example:

  • Patriarch Pimen I of Moscow was Deputy commander of a rifle company.
  • Boris Vasiliev was a Deacon in the Kostroma Cathedral. He fought as an intelligence commander, and eventually became a Deputy commander of a regimental intelligence. After the war, he became an archpriest.
  • Archimandrite Alipiy (Voronov), from 1942-1945, participated in many combat operations as a Rifleman in the 4th tank army. He finished his military career in Berlin.
  • Metropolitan Alexey Kalinin and Kashinsky (Konoplev) were awarded with medals "For Battle Merit" – for continuing the fight despite being seriously wounded.

Priests also fought on the other side of the front, behind enemy lines. For example, Archpriest Alexander Romanushko — together with his two sons — fought as a partisan. He participated in combat operations many times, went to work in intelligence, and was awarded the Medal "To a Partisan of the Patriotic War".

The future Patriarch, Metropolitan Alexy (Simansky) of Leningrad, who remained in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) throughout the terrible blockade period, conducted services in a local parish. After breaking the blockade of the city, the head of the Leningrad Eparchy, along with a group of Orthodox clergy, were awarded a military award – the Medal "For the Defence of Leningrad".

The contribution of the Russian Orthodox Church was noticed by the country's leaders, and many awards were granted to these men, for their brave and faithful service.