Venerable Martyr Pelagia (Testova)

Venerable Martyr Pelagia was born into a peasant family in the Arga village of Penza Province. Beginning from age 14, she spent the next three decades carrying out her obediences at the Seraphim-Diveyevo monastery where she worked as a seamstress and haymaker.

After the revolution, the monastery survived as a working community. Nun Pelagia was a member of its council and the “monastery’s workforce supervisor.” She tried hard to protect the sisters. Once in the summer of 1919, she refused to comply with the authorities’ ruling, was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison. A special commission arrived at Diveyevo to investigate “the contra-revolutionary activities” of the nuns but, as a result, it determined their innocence. The sisters were freed, while the rights of the monastery’s council were restored. Disguised as a working community, the monastery was able to survive for another eight years.

Ever since the monastery’s dissolution began in 1927, nun Pelagia took up residence near the church at Vorobyovo village of Arzamas District. On November 20, 1937, nun Pelagia was arrested and charged with leading a “contra-revolutionary activism of defeat and slanderous character.” On December 14, 1937, NKVD’s “Troika” sentenced her to eight years at the Karaganda forced-labor camp. According to her personal file, despite her being almost fully physically disabled, mother Pelagia was exploited as a laborer.

Regardless of the fact that she, a seriously ill person, had endured hard labor, her work performance profile stated that prisoner Pelagia Testova “performed quality work,” “handled workload,” and “had no disciplinary records.”

On November 3, 1944, on the eve of the feast of the Kazan icon of the Mother of God, nun Pelagia died at the camp’s prison hospital and was buried at the camp’s cemetery near Zhartas settlement.

On October 6, 2001, the council of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church determined to include the Venerable Confessor Pelagia (Testova) to the host of the already glorified Synaxis of new martyrs and confessors of Russia of the 20th century.

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