"When my father and my mother
then the LORD will take me up."
~ Psalm 27:10 ~
Translated by Charles Lukesh
This story of the former penitentiary inmate was translated from the German after
being translated from the Russian. The original translators stressed their endeavor
to maintain the simplicity of the author; similarly we pass it on in the English
translation in the hope that it may be a blessing to many that read it. The story
proves the words in Romans 11:33, 36: "0
the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable
are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! ... to whom be glory for ever.
he nickname "Greasy" was given to
Paul when he was but eight years old under special circumstances that will be mentioned
later. His real family name was Tichomirow. He was the son of a farmer from one of
the poorest villages in the government of Mogilew. The family consisted of the father,
the mother, and two children, ten-year-old Shura (Alexandra) and eight-year-old Pasha
(Paul). They lived peacefully, were religious in the orthodox way, and enjoyed the
respect not only of the inhabitants of their own village, but of those of all the
On the holy days, the local orthodox priest used to visit them to play cards with
the father - not for money, but merely to pass the time. Sometimes the game was "Dulatchki,"
in which it was customary for the losing one to suffer the pack of cards to be thrown
at his nose. If either of the players had some money, they sent the children for
liquor, which would put them in a hilarious mood. The priest, whom they called "Batushka"
(Daddy), used to say, "It is no sin to drink with moderation. Even the Lord
Jesus loved to be joyful and at the wedding in Canan changed water into wine."
The children loved to look on and noted with special interest how the nose of the
priest would become more and more red - they did not know whether it was from the
use of the liquor or from the frequent hits with the pack of cards thrown at him
cleverly by the father, who usually won the game. The good-natured priest used to
say with a croaking voice, "He who will endure to the end will be saved. I shall
have my turn, my beloved, and then look out, because it is written, 'Owe no man anything,
and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.'"
This hilarious life came to an abrupt end. Several successive bad harvests compelled
the farmers of the village of Sosnovka to consider moving to Siberia. In groups they
talked over the matter with one another and finally decided to send out messengers
to find an appropriate piece of land in one of the Siberian districts. Because he
was a clever and experienced man, Tichomirow was among those landseekers. After three
months the messengers returned; they had found land in the government of Tomsk. Promptly
selling their land and property, the farmers started on their way. That was in the
During the trip, the trains made slow headway and had to make long stopovers at the
crossroads in Samara, Tcheljabinsk, and Omsk. The moving farmers had to wait for
weeks to get trains for further travel and had to spend the days and nights in the
small railroad stations, lying on the floor. The boiled water was not sufficient
for all, nor could the people afford to buy warm food from the restaurants. Consequently,
the poor, simple people satisfied themselves with dried herring or other dried fish
and drank unboiled water. As a result, many had stomach trouble, and cholera set
in. The older people were especially afflicted by the plague.
On the last stretch before Tomsk, Mr. Tichomirow became sick. All indications signified
cholera. To the horror of his wife and children, he was taken from the train in one
of the stations and put in the barracks for people with infectious diseases. It was
only natural that Mrs. Tichomirow and the children leave the train also. They found
refuge not far from the barracks behind the snow fences along the railroad tracks.
Daily they inquired about the condition of the father, but the information was more
sad every time.
After three days had passed, the sorrow-stricken mother had to declare to the children
that she was sick. It was a heart-breaking scene when the mother was taken away on
a stretcher from the crying children. In her they lost their last support. With a
sad heart the mother parted from her children, suspecting that she would never see
them again. But more terrible to the mother was the possibility that her beloved
children would be fully orphaned in a strange land.
As the mother was carried into the barracks, the desperate children ran crying behind
the carriers until the heavy barracks door was slammed in their faces. How lonesome
and miserable Shura and Pasha felt. As if bereft of their senses, they circled the
barracks crying now for the father and then for the mother. The only answer they
received was a coarse cry from the guard, threatening them with a whipping if they
would not leave the barracks. But the children did not cease crying and asking to
be let in. They wanted to die with their parents, since they felt that they could
not live without them. Thus they kept running around the barracks until late at night
when the severe cold compelled them to think of their warmer clothing, which they
had left with some other things behind the snow fences. However, when they came on
the spot where they had abode with their mother before her sickness, they found no
sign of their baggage. Apparently someone had taken the few poor things of the immigrants.
Crawling behind the snow fences, the children huddled together to keep each other
warm. Shura, who was the older, was very concerned about her young brother. During
the night, which seemed to her like an eternity, she did not close her eyes. As soon
as Pasha awoke, the children hastened again to the barracks. The first guard they
met told them, "Do not come again. This morning we carried away the body of
your father, and your mother is likely to die today."
It was impossible to compel the children to leave the barracks. Again and again they
looked through the windows and called for the mother. Would her beloved voice be
silenced forever? And would she be only a cold corpse in the morning? Yes, in the
evening they were told that the mother had died an hour ago. Hugging each other,
they sat behind the snow fences and cried bitterly. That night even Pasha did not
sleep; with his back against the snow fence he looked into the distance, where the
rails seemed to disappear out of sight. In his childish mind the terrible happenings
of the last few days passed again before him. When he finally saw the train drawing
nigh, he said, "Shura, I will live no longer without Father and Mother. Come,
let us lay ourselves on the rails. The engine will crush us, and then we shall be
dead. What do we have to live for now? Where shall we go, and to whom shall we be
of any use?" With these words Pasha took his sister by the hand and dragged
her to the rails.
Shura was terrified; she took her small brother in her arms and cried with sobs,
"No; for nothing in the world will I go with you to cast myself under the train.
Neither will I let you go. I am terrified! It is terrible!"
"Let me go; I shall go alone!" cried the boy.
While they talked to each other, the train rushed by. Pasha threw himself on his
face to the ground and began to complain loudly, "Why have you held me back?
I do not want to live anymore." However, his sister spoke to him kindly in order
to persuade him to give up his horrible thoughts. After a long time, when he had
become calmer, he promised not to think anymore about death and not to leave her
alone in the world.
After this the children huddled together in their refuge, waiting for the break of
day, determined to see the grave of their parents in the morning. To the freezing
and hungry children, the cold night seemed infinitely long. Finally, at daybreak
they hastened to the cemetery, where in an especially enclosed corner those who had
died of infectious diseases were buried. At the gate the children begged the keeper
to let them in and show them the grave of their parents. But the man answered in
a harsh voice, "How many bodies were carried out here only last night? How could
I know who is buried here? Besides, ten bodies are usually thrown into one hole;
sometimes even twenty."
Not achieving anything, the children looked with eyes red from weeping through the
cracks of the fence toward the irregular mounds of wet clay. For a long time they
stood there crying and looking at the graves, until the keeper drove them away. Oppressed
with sorrow, the children, holding each other's hands, returned to the snow fences,
which were witnesses of their cruel experiences of the last five days, including
the parting with their beloved mother. This place now became the orphaned children's
second home. Under the protection of these fences they began to consider what to
The very thought of being put into the barracks for orphans seemed terrible to them;
yet they realized that it would be their salvation from hunger, which began to be
more and more intense. Their meager supply of food, as well as their money, had been
taken with the rest of their baggage.
Fear overshadowed the lonesome, hungry, freezing children even though high above
them the larks were joyfully singing their spring songs and the clear rays of the
sun gilded everything around. In the hearts of the orphans it was a dark night. Their
mutual sorrow drew the brother and sister together. Shura tried to be a mother to
her little brother. She kissed him and tried to comfort him with the following words:
"We shall not despair, my beloved; God will not forsake us."
Just as the children decided to follow the railroad to the next village to beg a
bite of bread, they heard above them a coarse voice. "What are you doing here?
To whom do you belong?" An unknown uniformed man appeared before them and looked
at them searchingly. They became so completely confused that they could not say at
once that they were the children of immigrants and had just recently lost their parents.
The stranger commanded them to follow him and led them into the distribution office.
There it was promptly decided to send them to the barracks for orphans, where they
did not want to go, because it meant separation for them. The girls' barracks were
several railroad stations distant. Not heeding the pleadings and tears of the children,
the officials took Pasha to the boys' barracks about two miles distant, while Shura
was sent on the train to the girls' home. The sorrow of the children at parting cannot
be described, for they lost in each other all that was still dear to them on earth.
Pasha was taken to the barracks where three hundred boys had already been placed.
Many of them who had lived there a long time had become very mischievous, since they
were now accustomed to the environment. The newcomer was greeted by the boys with
coarse jokes, shoves, and pushes. Pasha entertained only one thought within a week:
to flee from the barracks. The whole surroundings - the indifference toward the needs
of the children, the coarse manners of the inmates, the continuous squabbling and
fighting, as well as the obnoxious dried fish soup at dinner - had become intolerable
to him. The lad watched for a suitable moment for the flight.
The boys were forbidden to leave the barracks without being accompanied, but Pasha
dared not tarry. He went out in the dark, climbed over a low place in the board enclosure,
and ran, as if being chased, in the opposite direction of the railroad. About four
miles from the barracks was the beginning of a large forest. On arriving there, Pasha
felt somewhat calmer. He ran no more, but walked on, endeavoring not to lose sight
of the edge of the woods, yet trying to get as far as possible from the barracks.
Pasha walked until he was too tired to go further; then he lay down under a tree
and was soon fast asleep. He dreamed that he was overtaken and carried back to the
barracks, where he received a whipping and the obnoxious fish soup was continuously
poured into his open mouth.
The warm spring sun was already high in the sky when the little runaway awoke. The
manifold song of the birds almost deafened him; it seemed as though the feathery
songsters wanted to boast of their art before the intruder in their green domain.
Pasha arose and thought about what to do next. He decided to return to his home village
of Sosnovka; he had not forgotten the name of his district or country. What good
times he used to have in Sosnovka! He remembered the small but beautiful river where
he had bathed and caught fish with the other children. He would like very much to
have seen his beloved sister before going, but where or how could he find her? Besides,
it terrified him to think that he might be found and brought back to the barracks.
Therefore, he bravely decided to go on so that he would soon be far from the hated
place; then he would inquire more particularly about the way to his home village.
With the exception of one village where he begged bread, he avoided the homesteads
all that day. As the second night overtook him, he went further and deeper into the
woods to spend the night. He lay down under a big tree and was soon fast asleep.
Before daybreak he was awakened by a slap, and somebody called him with a loud voice.
"Hey, there! Get up, little fellow! Why do you lie here? With whom are you here?"
When Pasha arose, he was confronted by three fellows armed from head to foot. He
was thoroughly frightened! "Be not afraid; we will not harm you. Tell us how
you came here."
When Pasha saw that these men were not from the barracks, he told them freely what
he had passed through and where he wanted to go. The men listened attentively; the
clever and daring boy appealed to them. After a short consultation they decided to
take him along with them, "that he may not perish," they said. "This
stripling can become somebody yet. He was not afraid to flee from the orphanage,
and now he wants to undertake the long voyage to his home village all alone! We just
have to raise him in our style."
The men told the boy of their decision, at the same time praising their manner of
life, and promised him that he should fare very well with them. Pasha dared not contradict
them, because he feared these armed men. He went with them into the interior of the
woods, where in the clearing a strong young man waited for them with horses. The
man grasped Pasha under the arms, lifting the boy in front of himself on the horse,
and they galloped away. After riding a long time by winding paths in the forest,
they finally stopped. The horses were taken away, while the men, dragging Pasha behind
them, crawled through an opening under some trees broken down by a storm. After a
few minutes' walk through thick woods they came upon a clearing where there were
about twenty persons, mostly armed, including a few women. The eyes of all centered
upon the boy, brought in as dirty and ragged as he was. They poured questions upon
him; they wanted to know who he was and where he was from. One of the men, seemingly
the leader of the band, asked, "What's your name?"
"Pasha; Paul!" answered the boy with a firm voice.
"What is your family name?"
"Tichomirow" (which means "quiet peace").
"That kind of a name does not fit among us; from now on you shall be called
Greasy, since you are so dirty and greasy," said the man. From that time he
knew no other name than Greasy; the new name pleased them all very much.
Now it became clear to Pasha that he had landed in a robbers' den. By and by he became
acquainted with the new life, eventually finding even a liking for it. The carefree
liberty, the good food, the joyous and animated mood - all these worked to make him
friendly to those people, and he ceased to think about Sosnovka. Only his sister
Shura he could not forget; the thought of her often made him sad, as he assumed she
was no longer alive.
The little "greasy" one soon became the darling of all the robbers and
served all for a pastime. He became very much interested in their adventures and
impatiently looked forward to their bringing in all new loot. Day by day he became
familiar with the new life and soon forgot what once his parents had taught him about
the sin of stealing. It became even a pleasure to him to inspect the looted things
and to listen to the tales of the robbers when they returned from their "work,"
as they were pleased to call their evil trade.
By the time eight years had passed, the then sixteen-year-old Greasy took a lively
part in the robberies and plunderings of the band. Because of his bravery, cleverness,
and capability, he soon became the helper of the leader. Their work terrorized the
inhabitants in a circumference of seventy-five miles. The deep woods made it possible
for the robbers to carry on their work without disturbances. It seemed as though
nobody could find and put a halt to their activities. They robbed everybody who fell
into their hands and not seldom committed murder.
But everything has its own time. One thing, a very simple case, brought about a complete
change in the lives of the robbers. One part of the band, with Greasy as their leader,
overtook two men passing through the woods. They robbed them and then killed them.
The robbers took their horses, clothing, and boots for themselves, besides three
rubles and fifty kopeken.
In one of these sacks, with all kinds of utensils, the robbers found two books. The
men wanted to throw the books away, but on the spur of the moment they considered
that it would be better to take them along for cigarette paper, so Greasy stuck the
books among his things. In the evening, after looking once more over the stolen goods
robbed during the day, he pulled out the books and began to leaf through them. One
of the books had to him the unfamiliar title "The Voice of Faith"; the
other was a New Testament. Concerning the latter he had a feeble recollection from
childhood; his parents also used to have a New Testament in Sosnovka.
To pass away the time, while he was lying in his bunk Greasy began to read the pages
facing him at a chance opening of the book. There he read, "There is none that
seeketh after God .... Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they
have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of
cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery
are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of
God before their eyes" (Romans 3:11, 13-18). He considered, "Formerly there
were also people as we are today - 'Their feet are swift to shed blood.' " In
his mind there appeared the picture of how they, the robbers, had on their quick
horses pursued the fleeing travelers, and how, though the people pleaded for their
lives, they had killed them without pity.
"And when He [the Holy Spirit] is come,
He will reprove the world of sin"
~ John 16:8 ~
In remembering this, a strange feeling came over Greasy, and he considered further,
"Who may those people have been? Why did they carry this book with them?"
He began to leaf through the New Testament in the hope of finding some information
about the murdered ones, but he found no document containing a clue as to who the
slain ones were. He found only the following inscription on the flyleaf: "May
15, 1898, the day of conversion to the Lord, my repentance and new birth. On this
day He forgave my sins and washed me with His holy blood."
Greasy did not understood the meaning of those words, and turning additional pages
he read on: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom
of God?" (I Cor. 6:9). He went on to read the various abominations that follow.
He then read the summarizing words: "And such were some of you: but ye are washed,
but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by
the Spirit of our God" (I Cor. 6:11).
After this Greasy read the prayer of the man who said, "Behold, Lord, the half
of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false
accusation, I restore him fourfold" (Luke 19:8). He turned a few leaves and
was gripped by the reading of Luke 23, where the crucifixion of Jesus is depicted.
It was of special interest to him that two murderers were crucified with the Christ
and that the one who repented and confessed his sins was forgiven by Jesus and promised
entrance to paradise.
Greasy shut the book and lay it under his pillow. Rolling himself in his covers,
he tried to sleep, but sleep left him. His heart was very much disturbed; all efforts
to put away the thoughts crowding into his mind were useless. Over and over rose
the picture of how the two travelers on their knees had pleaded to be spared.
Not until morning did deep sleep overcome Greasy, and he awoke with renewed unrest
in his soul. His comrades noticed the strange expression on his face, but they did
not know to what circumstance they should ascribe it. Some thought he had become
sick. For a number of days he walked around in a daze, and nobody could get out of
him what really was the matter. His comrades did not cease to try to find out the
cause of his sadness until he finally declared to some that he no longer could be
at peace since he had read something in the book that they had taken from the murdered
ones. At this declaration all were overtaken with a strange feeling. What kind of
book could it be that could bring about such a sad transformation of their jolly
The band of robbers then demanded that this book of witchcraft be surrendered and
burned. Some, however, asked with interest that the book be given to them to look
into. Finally it was decided that the book be read to the whole gang. When they were
all together, Greasy read to them those parts which had moved him so greatly. They
listened with strained attention. One young robber declared from the beginning with
great certainty that the book was the New Testament and that he used to know it.
"My mother was a stundist [believer]," he said, "and always read in
the Gospels. She often took me to the children's meetings, where we read out of this
book and sang and prayed."
For a long time the men sat listening to the reading of the book, and then they parted
silently. Most of them were in a depressed mood. None of them could grasp the reason
why the reading of the book should make such a strong impression on them. From that
day the robbers came together from time to time to read the New Testament. The effect
of the book was so powerful upon them that they could not withdraw from its influence.
Thus a whole month passed. Then the young robber whose mother had been a "stundist"
declared to his comrades openly that he could no longer continue in the criminal
trade. Greasy followed him. (The other robbers had already noted that both these
young men prayed with tears in their eyes.) Eventually even the leader of the band
followed their example.
Then arose the question, "What do we do now, and how do we start a new life?"
They realized, first of all, that it would be necessary for them to yield themselves
to the authorities. Since it was impossible for them to reimburse those whom they
had damaged, there remained only one thing for them to do: turn themselves in. Although
the majority did not agree to this plan, the young robber who was the first to start
the new life, Greasy, and five other men decided to acknowledge their whole guilt
before the representatives of the law.
"For godly sorrow worketh repentance
to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death."
~ 2 Corinthians 7:10 ~
The day of separation came; the parting was touching. The comrades asked Greasy to
read to them once more out of the New Testament. He opened to the place where the
meeting of Jesus with the demon-possessed is described and the Master's power is
depicted by the healing of the men and their subsequent loyalty to Him. "Thus
it was with us also," added Greasy. "We are about to quit our sinful lives.
Let us cease to do evil to people and follow Christ!" After these words Greasy
fell upon his knees and with a loud voice confessed his misdeeds. Others followed
his example. Among the general crying and sighing only scattered words and phrases
could be distinguished - "Forgive me!" "Do not remember my..."
"Wash me with Thy blood!" "Give me power!" "I shall no more...."
"I promise..." Parting with a kiss from the others, the seven robbers,
with their weapons in their hands, left for the nearest town while the others disappeared
in different directions.
With a decidedly firm step Greasy and his comrades walked into the city. Immediately
they drew the attention of the inhabitants. Who could imagine where this group of
colorfully arrayed, armed men could have come from? At the corner of one of the main
streets, they asked a policeman where the state attorney of the district court lived.
The policeman pointed out a large two-story house in the same street, which the robbers
entered. Previously they had agreed that Greasy, the most intelligent, should present
their case to the district attorney.
The robbers entered a large, sunny room with hardwood floors in which about twenty
people were already gathered, waiting for the district attorney. At the door of the
office stood an attendant of the court. Greasy turned to him with the following words:
"Please tell the district attorney that we must speak with him without delay."
The employee looked suspiciously at the armed group and asked, "What case do
you have to present?"
"It is something very important," answered Greasy.
The employee disappeared behind the door. In a few minutes the robbers stood before
a distinguished elderly gentleman, who seemed somewhat excited by the unexpected
appearance of seven armed men. The robbers, even though they had determined before
leaving the backwoods to take the unusual step of free confession, were also noticeably
stirred when they stood face-to-face with the representative of the law. "Permit
us to explain to you who we are and why we have come to this place," began Greasy
with a trembling voice. "We are robbers, but you need not fear us; we have come
to confess our whole guilt to you and take the consequences. We have realized what
a great injustice we have done and are here now to suffer the punishment meeted out
by the law for robbery. Do with us as justice demands. Here are our weapons; take
them." With these words Greasy and his fellows quickly laid down their weapons
in a heap.
The district attorney became completely confused and could not immediately control
himself. It was the first time in his life that he had witnessed the confession of
a whole group of men who yielded themselves voluntarily into the hands of the representatives
of the law. After some time he called the police; in a few minutes a small detachment
of armed soldiers led by a police captain appeared. The necessary notes of the case
were taken and turned over to the department of investigation. As Greasy, in the
course of the examination, pictured the story of his life in general terms and spoke
of the reason that he and his companions forsook the robber's life in the forest,
the district attorney and all present were visibly moved. Only with effort could
they hide their tears. It was difficult for them to believe that the thorough change
in these robbers was due solely to their acquaintance with the gospel. "I would
like no longer to be called Greasy, but instead Paul Tichomirow," said the youth.
"I will hereafter serve God and mankind and without murmuring take upon myself
the punishment determined by the law. We are now in your hands." All his comrades
agreed with this declaration.
Quite excited, the district attorney commanded that the seven criminals be carried
into the jail to be kept in separate cells until the investigation be finished. Thereupon
the former robbers were led away. The district attorney remained alone with the police
captain in the office. For a long time they discussed together this extraordinary
happening. They knew that ordinarily criminals denied their guilt or admitted it
only under the pressure of undeniable evidence or if they were caught in the deed.
These men, however, came of their own free will and confessed all. How great must
be the power of the gospel to change the men in this manner!
After the police captain had gone and the district attorney had concluded his office
hours, the latter told his wife the experience with the robbers. Her surprise was
also great, and after some consideration she said, "One of the robbers that
was crucified with Christ turned also, but he could not run away. These men, however,
did not need to come; they could have carried on their business and kept hiding in
the woods. It is surprising - an unknown case in the history of justice!"
By nightfall the district attorney and his wife were not yet calmed. "What do
you think, Tanja [a pet name for Tatjana]?" he said. "Should we not read
the New Testament also? Perhaps we could find what could have worked so upon these
men. We hardly know the book."
"I have read it already," said Tatjana Alexandrown disdainfully. "I
cannot understand what could be in it to have worked so upon those robbers."
The district attorney, Jurij Nikolajewitch, rose and went into the library to look
for a New Testament while his wife hurried to the kitchen to give orders for supper.
Jurij Nikolajewitch put on his spectacles, opened the New Testament, and began to
turn the leaves in it. His attention was drawn to John 12, and he began to read.
While reading, he agreed with the action of Mary, who spent the valuable ointment
on Christ. At the same time, from the standpoint of a jurist he could not help condemning
the secret thief Judas; in his mind he viewed the traitor's evil deeds in the light
of the pertaining paragraphs of the law. The attorney continued to read; he was astonished
at the omnipotence of Christ by which He raised Lazarus, whose body was already decomposing.
He marveled at the unbelief of the scribes, who were the eyewitnesses of these unheard-of
wonders. He thoughtfully considered the grain of wheat that must first die before
it can bear fruit, yet he could not grasp the real meaning of the parable. However,
when he came to the words, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw
all men unto me" (John 12:32), he felt suddenly as if the crucified One had
come near. He felt a glow in his soul and a longing after the cross from which once
the great words sounded, "It is finished!" He wondered if that could have
been the power which had drawn Tichomirow, but a certain dread overcame him as he
read at the end of the chapter the words, "He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth
not My words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall
judge him in the last day" (V. 48). Then it was clear to him the reason that
the robbers left their nefarious business.
At this time his wife came from the kitchen. "What are you thinking? What has
stirred you up so greatly?" she asked her husband. Jurij Nikolajewitch began
to explain, but he could not put the proper words to the unusual theme, and she could
not understand him.
That night Jurij Nikolajewitch could not sleep. As soon as be closed his eyes, he
heard the words, "My word will judge...." It seemed to him the paragraphs
of the law of God were condemning him, the district attorney, for all the misdeeds
committed in his life, and he was seeking and calling for some advocate but could
find none. At last he fell into a short slumber, but even then he could find no rest.
In the morning he related to his wife what he had passed through during the night.
She ascribed his condition to his strenuous service and nervous state, but when he
declared his determination to give up his position, she was shocked and feared that
he was losing his reason. Jurij Nikolajewitch, however, remained firm in his determination.
It was evident to him that the Son of God lifted upon the cross was drawing him,
the district attorney, to Himself in order that He might be his personal Saviour.
Paul Tichomirow and his comrades were put in separate cells. All the judges who participated
in the examination and heard the robbers wondered at the step that they had taken
and were especially surprised over the fact that these men were changed only through
the influence of the gospel. Thus the great power of God's Book is manifested to
whosoever draws nigh with a simple heart and a real desire to know the truth. The
turning of the robbers, the sudden, inexplicable resignation of the district attorney,
and the demand of the priest that the former criminals be isolated under the assertion
that Tichomirow and his comrades were misleading the other prisoners to the acceptance
of their faith - all these occurrences soon were the talk of the town. The fire of
the gospel sprang up in every cell. Many of the prisoners and even some of the guards
memorized almost all of the twelfth and sixteenth chapters of the Acts of the Apostles
because they were so greatly impressed by them.
A year later the seven robbers stood before the judgment bar. Because of the men's
open confession, the district attorney did not need to emphasize their guilt; the
old district attorney, as the criminals' representative, pleaded for mercy since
the men had made an open confession and wanted to live an honest life. Nevertheless,
the men were condemned to ten years of compulsory labor. Humbly they accepted the
judgment, realizing that they deserved it; consequently, they did not appeal for
mitigation. The trial was public. When the accused were permitted to speak the last
word, each of them in simple expressions voiced his regret for having wronged others
for so many years, and each told of the effect of the gospel in his inner life. Many
of the listeners were touched; the seed of the Word of God began to take root in
After the end of the trial, the condemned were sent away singly to various destinations,
with the exception of Tichomirow and Solowjew, who went to the same place. At the
parting, they promised one another to remain, under all conditions, honest and true
to the Lord and to tell others of His love. Tichomirow and Solowjew were sent to
the district beyond the Baikal Sea. In all the transfer prisons that they had to
pass through on their way they related their salvation through the gospel and the
love of God to every repentant sinner. Everywhere they found some who would listen
to their simple testimony and consider it in their heart.
Among those under compulsory labor, whose lot they now had to share, the two men
found especially attentive listeners to the living Word. After some time several
surrendered fully to the Lord. Within two years even the prison management noticed
that the usually unruly convicts had become quiet and that the behavior of some had
On the way to exile, Tichomirow sought everywhere some sign of the immigrants of
the government of Mogilew, hoping to find out something about his countrymen and
particularly whether his sister was still alive. All the letters that he had sent
to his home town had remained unanswered. How often his thoughts returned to his
beloved sister. How he would have liked to tell her of all his experiences and his
conversion from the works of death into the living hope in Christ.
After several years, on account of some joyful national happening, an amnesty was
granted, giving Paul Tichomirow and George Solowjew their liberty. Taking leave of
those convicts who had been converted, they commended their spiritual children to
God. All cried at the parting.
Tichomirow and Solowjew began their way on foot in the direction of Irkutsk-Tomsk.
Their most ardent desire was to succeed in getting into European Russia to their
homes, of which they still had feeble recollections. Everyone whom they met on their
wanderings or in the lodgings took an interest in them and asked who they were, where
they had come from, and where they were going. All were deeply moved by the life
story of the former robbers, and in the hearts of many the desire was awakened to
serve the Lord also. In many of the colonies they found believing brethren, with
whom they spent the evenings in brotherly discussions and the reading of the Word
of God. The believers rejoiced in the triumph of the gospel manifested in the conversion
of the lost sinners and glorified the name of the Lord. In one of the settlements
where they spent Sunday and testified to a large congregation concerning their former
life and their conversion, a great awakening started; a good number of souls turned
to the Lord. This brought great joy to all.
In the first days of spring, when all nature was coming to new life after winter's
long sleep, the migratory birds flew in large flocks toward their old homes, where
in the fall they had left their nests behind. Tichomirow and Solowjew also hastened
toward their home town, where, however, their houses had been destroyed long ago.
In their wanderings, they kept close to the railroad. Vainly Tichomirow tried to
remember the name of the station where he had lost his parents and his sister. He
would have liked to see once more the pile of snow fences in whose shadow he had
passed through so much sorrow and hardship in his childhood. As he remembered his
experience, tears ran down his cheeks, and he exclaimed, "Oh, my beloved ones,
you have all forsaken me, and now I have to wander about alone in this wide world!"
But then he remembered that neither had the Son of God a place of refuge on this
earth; even among His own He was quite alone.
Toward the close of the day the wanderers drew nigh to a small town situated on the
banks of a river not far from the railroad. Turning into one of the streets, they
asked the people, "Are there any believers?" A neat little house among
the tall pines was pointed out to them. Nearing the place, they noticed two children
playing at the door of the house and in the yard a young, well-dressed lady, who
was quite busy. She greeted them kindly, however. The men told her that they were
believers and asked for lodging. The young woman led them graciously into the house,
saying, "For the brethren in the Lord there will always be a place."
"They that fear thee will be glad when
they see me; because I have hoped in Thy word."
~ Psalm 119:74 ~
At that time she called her husband, who was working in the garden.
He came at once, greeted the guests cordially, and conversed with them while his
wife hastened to prepare the tea. Before the water in the samovar [Russian teakettle]
came to a boil, she had milked two cows and set the table. What a feast: large pieces
of fresh butter, cream, a large pitcher of rich milk, two or three kinds of cake,
boiled eggs, and wonderful white bread. It was a quite a sight for the eyes of the
hungry wanderers. The large lamp threw a bright light on the snow-white tablecloth,
and the shining samovar hummed cheerfully.
The friendly lady of the house entered in her white embroidered apron and said to
her husband, "Ask the brethren to come to the table." They sat down to
the well-laden table, and the head of the home asked the blessing. He thanked the
Lord for His love and care and for the guests and asked Him to keep them in faith
and bless the food. It was the first time in his life that Tichomirow had sat down
to such a richly laden table amid so hospitable and kind a family. His heart overflowed
with joy and delight. The children, a boy and a girl, also occupied places at the
table and listened attentively to the conversation.
Tichomirow, at the call to supper, had to stop relating the story of his experience
at the point where the robbers in the thick woods began to read the New Testament
that they had taken off the persons of the murdered travelers. At the request of
the head of the house, Tichomirow continued his story. In vivid words he pictured
how the gospel entered into his own and his comrade's heart; how they regretted their
evil deeds and decided to change their way of living and deliver themselves to justice;
how the district attorney was converted; and how they were sentenced. Further he
told them of his stay in the transfer prisons and of the years he spent in compulsory
work until he received amnesty. The hosts could not take their eyes from the narrator,
and the lady of the house often wiped the flowing tears from her cheeks as if she
wanted to hide them from the others.
During this narration the time passed unnoticed until the large clock loudly announced
the midnight hour; then they all knelt and thanked God for His wonderful grace in
the salvation of the lost sinners. When the lady of the house arose, greatly moved,
she said, "But where do you want to go now?"
"We have determined to return to our former homes," answered Tichomirow.
"Do you still have relatives there?" she continued.
"Solowjew still has a mother, who is a believer and lives in the government
of Kiew. I have nobody - neither father nor mother. I am simply going to look up
my childhood place, my home village in the government of Mogilew. First of all, however,
I have the great desire to tell my countrymen of Christ and His love for them."
"Are you an orphan a long time already?" resumed the hostess.
"I lost my parents when I was eight years old; I lost them in Siberia on our
migration trip. My father died two days before the passing away of my mother."
The lady grabbed the table with both hands and stood leaning forward, looking Tichomirow
deep in the eyes. Her husband looked at her, surprised, and could not understand
the reason she questioned the guest so thoroughly instead of preparing the beds for
the night. Tichomirow continued. "We - my sister and I - remained as orphans;
she was somewhat older than I. The day after the death of our mother I lost her out
of sight. Up to this moment I do not know what has become of her. Surely she must
have perished like so many orphan children of the immigrants, on account of the impossible
living conditions. She was a good girl and cared for me as my own mother." At
this point Tichomirow began to cry.
Pale as death, with tears streaming down her face, the hostess exclaimed, "Is
it possible that it is you, my beloved brother, Pasha? Tell me quickly; my heart
tells me it is you."
"Shura! Do my eyes really see you? You, my angel, my beloved!" he cried,
weeping like a child.
"Yes, it is I; I am your sister; you, my beloved! How my heart cried out for
you!" The brother and sister threw themselves into each other's arms, kissing
and weeping. Then Tichomirow reached out for the children, who, crying, looked at
the mother. Presently he kissed the children and the husband of his sister.
Even Solowjew took part in the general joy and was greatly touched by the unexpected
reunion of the brother and sister. Oh, what joy there was! Shura was so excited that
she did not know what to do first. Again and again she drew near to Pasha, put her
arms around him, and said, "Is it truly you, my brother? Do I really see you?
Oh, what joy! As you neared our house I had the impression of having found something
valuable; my heart was full with an unspeakable joy. I did not know how it came.
I was prepared at once to offer you refreshment and lodging. After all the distress
that I have experienced, I am ready to help other needy ones also, but in this case
my heart yearned especially to do so. Now I know why. It was my beloved brother who
came to me; for twenty years we have not seen each other. What a joy!" Again
they fell on their knees and praised God with such a fervency as never before. Even
the five-year-old daughter of Shura prayed, "Dear Savior, I thank Thee that
Thou hast brought Uncle Pasha to us!" They all cried, and Alexej Wasiljewitch
thanked God for the valuable gift that God had granted to his wife.
It was already three o'clock in the morning, but they had not slept; even the children
had not lain down. Once more they drank tea, conversing together. Finally just before
daybreak they went to bed, having commended themselves to the care of God. On account
of their recent experiences the sleep of all was restless. Pasha dreamed of how he
had read the gospel to his robber pals in the woods and of how he had parted from
them. He dreamed of the district attorney, the court, the transfer prisoners, and
the compulsory labor. When he awoke and convinced himself that he had only been dreaming,
he thanked the Lord anew for what He had done. At the breakfast tea, he again expressed
the same astonishment and admiration at the wonderful grace of God in caring for
Shura asked her brother to repeat his experiences from the time of the parting at
the snow fences at the railroad station. She herself had suffered much in the barracks
for the girls and had remained there until late fall. With the beginning of autumn,
since the barracks were not heated, an epidemic had set in and the children had died
by the dozen. Then the good people from the surrounding villages had come and taken
the children with them to save the little ones from freezing. Shura had been taken
by a poor but believing widow who had four children of her own. In a small hut where
the flat roof was covered with turf, Shura had spent the winter with Aunt Dunja (a
pet name for Eudoxia); there she had had enough bread. Aunt Dunja used to read the
New Testament and pray with the children. In this colony was also a school which
Shura had attended; she studied diligently. She enjoyed reading very much and especially
liked to read in the New Testament. At the age of fourteen she had experienced the
grace and knowledge of salvation and requested baptism, through which she had received
the fellowship of believers.
Four more years passed. Shura had grown up to young womanhood. She was known as a
diligent worker and was the best singer in the choir. Everybody loved her. It would
not have entered anybody's mind that she was not the daughter of Aunt Dunja. They
loved each other very much. The choir of the village had often visited the neighboring
villages and towns to witness for the Lord. Once the singers had decided to visit
the town where Shura now lived. There the Lord had blessed their service richly.
Under the influence of the spiritual messages of the preacher, who had come with
the choir, and under the effort of the wonderful singing, a number of people had
turned to the Lord, among them a young bookkeeper who was employed in a business
house. Within a year he had become the husband of Shura, and they had since lived
together in love and harmony. They were blessed with two children.
When Shura had finished her story she reminded Pasha of how he would have thrown
himself under the train after the death of the parents and of how she prevailed upon
him not to take the desperate step, saying, "Despair not, my beloved; God will
not forsake us." Now Pasha and Shura were constrained to think of the words
of the Psalmist. "Sing unto God, sing praises to His name: extol Him that rideth
upon the heavens by His name JAH, and rejoice before Him. A father of the fatherless,
and a judge of the widows, is God in His holy habitation. God setteth the solitary
in families: He bringeth out those which are bound with chains" (Psa. 68:4-6).
At this they praised God anew.
Shura agreed with the intention of her brother to return to the old home to call
the relatives and acquaintances to Christ, and she was also desirous of accompanying
him on the trip and helping him in the work with unsaved souls. Alexej Wasiljewitch
heartily agreed with the plan and promised to watch over the boy, while Shura was
to take the girl along. He also gave the necessary money for the journey.
Three days later the brother and sister were on their way toward European Russia.
With Solowjew, they passed through Samara, Saratow, Pensa, Woronesh, Kursk, and Kiew;
in the latter city Solowjew parted with Pasha and Shura to go to his home village
in the hope of returning to them after having seen his mother. The brother and sister
continued their journey to the government of Mogilew to reach finally their home
place of Sosnovka.
Upon arriving there and inquiring about the family of Tichomirow, they found two
brothers of their father, two aunts, and some distant relatives still living. All
were surprised at the appearance of Pasha and Shura, whom they had heard perished
after the death of their parents before reaching their destination. Everybody invited
them as welcome guests.
Soon they learned that their young relatives were evangelists who refused to celebrate
the joy of meeting again by drinking because it was not becoming to Christians. "But
why not?" asked the inhabitants of the village. "Are we not also Christians?
Yet we drink liquor at every opportunity." Such questions usually started a
discussion which later turned to the reading of God's Word. Pasha's narration of
how he came to the new life made a great impression upon all. Almost every evening
the inhabitants of Sosnovka gathered at Tichomirows' to hear the Word of God. Very
gradually the truth of the gospel broke down the barriers of the old prejudices of
their purely outward form of religion. Many found Christ as their personal Saviour
and decided to devote their lives to Him wholly.
Then came a new testing time. The priests were stirred up and aroused the police
of the whole district, insisting that the convict had come and ruined the foundation
of the orthodox faith of the people and that if the authorities did not capture him
even the foundations of the state would be endangered by the new teaching. At night
a policeman appeared in the dwelling of the Tichomirows and led Paul to the president
of the country police, where the next morning the examining magistrate and the priest
appeared. After the investigation, a bill charging seduction was filed. While awaiting
the court trial, Tichomirow was taken to the country prison under police guard.
Shura sorrowed very much for her brother. She had to return to Siberia without being
able to see him again, because visiting the arrested ones was forbidden before the
trial. After a few days, Pasha wrote the following letter to his sister:
"My dear sister Shura,
"I beg you not to be sorrowful about me. I am very glad to be in the prison
no longer as a thief and robber, but as a Christian to take part in the sufferings
of my Saviour. I rejoice therein indescribably, because in the prison many lost souls
thirst after salvation, to whom I am permitted to bring Christ. Be not dismayed,
but pray for me. I greet you and your husband and children with a kiss."
A whole year passed before the court trial; by that time Paul had been in three prisons.
Everywhere he preached Christ, and everywhere the sinners decided to follow the way
of salvation. The prison chaplains, however, asked the authorities to deliver them
from this heretic with whom they could not live peaceably. The court condemned Tichomirow
to banishment for two years in the government of Jenisejek on the charge of seduction
of the orthodox believers to "stundism" (gospel belief). Investigation
brought to light that in Sosnovka alone about a hundred ceased to go to the priest
and to worship holy pictures.
Soon after his condemnation Paul was carried again, by the way of the transport prisons,
to the country so well known to him - Siberia. He succeeded in notifying Shura and
her husband of the train in which he would pass the nearest railroad station, and
they went there to see him once more. They were permitted only to greet him through
the bars of the prison wagons. Shura cried because she felt sorry for her brother,
but he looked at her, smiling, and let her know thereby that he was glad to be permitted
to suffer for Christ's sake.
Two years passed. The life of Tichomirow during this banishment reflected everywhere
that pure and holy life of Christ, which was the cause of the success of his testimony.
During those two years he was in continual communication by letter with Shura and
also with Solowjew. The latter informed him that he remained in his native village,
where a small group of gospel Christians gave him a brotherly welcome, and that he
was permitted to work among them with a great blessing. His mother was still alive
and very happy because God had answered her prayers and saved her son. She was concluding
the last days of her life with her son, who was now an honest and chaste Christian.
After finishing the time of his banishment, Pasha went to his sister fully determined
to devote his whole life to the salvation of lost sinners. He would not be bound
in marriage because he wanted nothing to hinder him in the proclamation of that gospel
that had changed him and many others completely. He worked in the congregation of
that town in which Shura lived and also in other towns in Siberia, but his permanent
dwelling was with his sister, to the joy of his brother-in-law also. Shura often
accompanied her brother on his trips into the villages as his co-worker in the vineyard
of the Lord. The spiritual life of the congregation progressed.
Paul Tichomirow wrote the following words on the first page of the New Testament
that he had taken from the brother whom he slew:
"Forgive me for Christ's sake, beloved brother. I put you to death while I myself
was dead in my sins. The Lord hath forgiven me and raised me to a new life. Thy untimely
bodily death was the means of leading not only me, but also many other sinners and
murderers to eternal life. Thy New Testament softened my hard heart as a living stream,
stilled my thirst, and continues to flow further, quickening and giving life to other
souls also. For this I praise thy and my God. Amen!"
"He hath put a new song in my mouth,
even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD."
~ Psalm 40:3 ~
In thankfulness for blessing obtained by the reading of this life
story, this effort has been made by the means of this translation to enable others
to be partakers of the blessing that comes from a sincere and serious acceptance
of the Word of God. It is recommended by repeated reading not only to gain more thorough
knowledge concerning the incidents described, but also a more correct appreciation
of one's own condition as it is in the sight of God. This effort is made with prayer
that the reader may search his own heart to see if he can measure up to the standard
Rev. Charles Lukesh was a missionary of the Christian
and Missionary Alliance in Chile, South America, before his transfer to his native
country, Czechoslovakia, in connection with the American European Fellowship. His
wide ministry there was stopped in the sixteenth year with the occupation by the
Nazi forces, of which he experienced almost six months. After World War II he went
back. He is now in Czechoslovakia.
Published in the USA. by
Pilgrim Press, Inc.
P.O. Box 1832
Elkton, Maryland 21922