Biography of Servant of God, Father Piotr (Potapy) Emelianov

Biographical Description: Born into a family of Old Believers in Prigorodnya, Ufa province, in 1884. Bishop Antoni Khrapovitsky united the family to the Orthodox Church and when he was transferred to the Volyn cathedral he took Piotr with him as a novice. Until 1918 he was a novice of Pochayeva Lavra [monastery]; from 1908 he served in the Tsar’s Army but he was discharged from the army on account of his health. He returned to the monastery where he became a monk, taking the name Potapy. He was sent to Zhytomyr for pastoral courses and in 1911 he was ordained a priest-monk. Even during his coursework he began to tend toward Catholicism and, although he was not acquainted with a single Catholic priest, he came on his own to a conviction concerning his unification with the Catholic Church. From 1914 he served at Sviato-Pokrovsk Monastery and in March 1917 he was sent by the Diocese to serve in the church in Nizhne-bogdanovka, outside Luhansk. Here he became acquainted with the local residents, who loved him with their whole hearts. Being the pastor of the parish, he often preached about the role of the Papal Ministry and with his diligent ministry and passionate homilies, he gathered parishioners around him and convinced them to become united to Rome. Thanks to the assistance of Fathers Mikhail Jagulov from Luhansk and Antoni Kwiatkowski from Kharkiv, he went to Petrograd to see Father Leonid Feodorov, Exarch of Russian [Eastern Rite] Catholics. Along the way to Kharkiv he informed Bishop Antoni of his decision and his parishioners’ desire to convert to Catholicism – for which he was anathematized. June 29, 1918 – Exarch Leonid Feodorov brought him into the Catholic Church. After his return home, a via dolorosa began for Fr. Potapy and his parishioners. The Orthodox clergy used any means of pressure on these “Uniates”: frequent attacks and beatings of the pastor and his parishioners – all this led to a split in the village. During the course of 1918, Fr. Potapy himself was arrested by the Whites, the Germans, the Ukrainians and the Bolsheviks. October 30, 1918 – arrested again by the Whites; December 27 – released by the Bolsheviks. August 20, 1919 – arrested again by the Whites; December 24 – released from Luhansk Prison by the Bolsheviks. He continued his ministry in Nizhne-bogdanovka, where he was arrested again on January 27, 1927, and sent to Luhansk Prison for further investigation. September 12, 1927 – sentenced under Articles 58-5 and 70 to ten years in corrective labor camp [OGPU Collegium]. Sent to Solovetsky Special Purpose Camp where he arrived October 8. On March 24, 1928, his sentence was supplemented with the provision: “not eligible for amnesty.” In April 1929, he took part in the Easter liturgy with Fr. Leonid Feodorov and Fr. Nikolay Aleksandrov. This became the cause for his transfer in June to Anzer Island where, on July 5, 1932, he was arrested in a case against Catholic clergy who were charged with “creation of an anti-Soviet group that conducted anti-Soviet agitation, clandestinely celebrated Mass and religious rites and maintained an illegal contact with a free worker for purposes of transmitting abroad information of an espionage character about the situation of Catholics in the USSR.” At his interrogation he stated: “Here I have become stronger and nothing can shake my faith.” The investigator recommended that he be held in isolation from all others. In November 1933 he was transferred to Belbaltlag, Nadvoitsy Station – and later to Medvezhia Gora Station – on the Kirov Railroad. August 4, 1936 – released from camp and exiled to Podvoitsy Station on the Murmansk Railroad, where he died August 14, 1936. While he was in prison Fr. Potapy helped all who needed help. On Anzer Island he took care of the mortally ill Fr. Felix Lubczyński, as Fr. Donat Nowicki later recalled: “If it had not been for the intervention of Fr. Potapy, the situation of the sick man would have been truly horrible […] For the greatest relief of this poor, sick fellow priest, Fr. Potapy managed to arrange to be transferred to Fr. Felix’s cell, and, like a mother, he cared for the sick man. Fr. Potapy was a wonderful story teller and conversation partner. With his conversations he comforted Fr. Felix, brightening his final days. Seeing the approach of the end of Fr. Felix’s days, Fr. Potapy reminded him about confession. The sick man was deeply gladdened by this touching concern of Fr. Potapy, and after confessing, he kissed his hands and would not let them go. After Fr. Felix’s death, knowing that the camp guards would immediately take the body to the morgue, Fr. Potapy prayed over him the funeral rite, which he knew so well by heart.” Sources: Archive of the Directorate, FSB, Republic of Karelia; von Burman, pp. 363-380; GARF, f. 8406, op. 2, d. 1662; GARF, f. 8409, op. 1, d. 340, l. 55-56, 231-233; Osipova (1996), p. 166; Investigatory Matter P.A. Yemelianov, Archive TsGAOO (Ukraine); Investigatory Matter 590614, Central Archive, FSB, Russian Federation; Sokolovskyi, pp. 69-71; Dzwonkowski, p. 267; see also: