The Day God Sent a Bear to Save the Head of the Russian Church from the Communists

On September 11, 1936, it was official announced that Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa, the locum tenens of the Russian Orthodox Church, was dead. It had been proposed that he renounce the locum tenancy after it had reverted back to him when Metropolitan Agathangelus of Yaroslavl renounced the post on June 12, 1926. However, as a message he sent to everyone through a follow prisoner said, he would “never under any circumstances leave his post and would remain faithful to the Orthodox Church to death itself.” Metropolitan Peter would be executed the following year, on October 10, 1937.

Of course, Metropolitan Peter could have been killed a decade earlier on his way to exile in Siberia. Historian Vladimir S. Rusak tells us that one dark night, Metropolitan Peter…

"[W]as thrown out of the railway carriage while it was still moving (apparently more than one bishop perished in this way). It was winter, and the metropolitan fell into a snow-drift as if into a feather-bed, so that he did not hurt himself. With difficulty he got out of it and looked round. There was a wood, and snow, and no signs of life. For a long time he walked over the virgin snow, and at length, exhausted, he sat down on a stump. Through his torn rasson the frost chilled him to the bone. Sensing that he was beginning to freeze to death, the metropolitan started to read the prayers for the dying.

Suddenly he saw a huge bear approaching him.

The thought flashed through his mind: “He’ll tear me to pieces.” But he did not have the strength to run away. And where could he run?

But the bear came up to him, sniffed him and peacefully lay down at his feet. Warmth wafted out of his huge bear’s hide. Then he turned over with his belly towards the metropolitan, stretched out his whole length and began to snore sweetly. The Bishop wavered for a long time as he looked at the sleeping bear, then he could stand the cold no longer and lay down next to him, pressing himself to his warm belly. He lay down and turned first one and then the other side towards the beast in order to get warm. Meanwhile the bear breathed deeply in his sleep, enveloping him in his warm breath.

When the dawn began to break, the metropolitan heard the distant crowing of cocks: a dwelling-place. He got to his feet, taking care not to wake up the bear. But the bear also got up, and after shaking himself down plodded off towards the wood.

Rested now, the Bishop went towards the sound of the cocks and soon reached a small village. After knocking at the end house, he explained who he was and asked for shelter, promising that his sister would pay the owners for all trouble and expenses entailed. They let the Bishop in and for half a year he lived in this village. He wrote to his sister, and she arrived. But soon after her other ‘people’ in uniform also came…"

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