17 July 2019

The First Scout Martyr: Saint Alexis the Passion-Bearer

The Most August Scout, Holy Passion-Bearer Tsarevich-Martyr Alexis. Killed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.
If we need an example of a life following the Scout Law, then we do not need to look farther than the vita of our Brother-in-Scouting, the Holy Passion-bearer Alexis (Alexei), Heir to the Russian Throne.  Saint Alexis was a Scout of the Tsarskoe Selo chapter. He became the first martyr within Scouting.

From the first day of his birth on July 30, 1904, Saint Alexis was thrown into suffering: he had developed hemophilia. This genetic disease, which St. Alexis received through his mother, the Holy Empress Alexandra, from her grandmother, the English Queen Victoria, causes incoägulability of the blood, owing to which a small scrape or any wrong move could entail death. Moreover, attacks of the disease are connected to great pains.

It would be understandable if, on the basis of such sufferings, St Alexis turned into a withdrawn, antisocial, and angry teenager. However, this did not happen. Instead, in the words of witnesses and peers, St Alexis was lively and happy, smart and noble, kind and attentive, and direct with his sympathies and emotions. Moreover, the disease seemed to teach him thoughtfulness and humility, and created within him a strong faith in the Lord, a very strong will, and empathy for the sufferings of the people. It was also seen that he loved his homeland and was a fierce patriot.

By order of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, the book of the founder of the World Scouting Movement, Lord Robert Baden-Powell, "Scouting For Boys," was translated into the Russian language. The Sovereign not only acquiesced to the idea and symbols of scouting (the motto and emblem), but called to make every effort in order for Russian society to become interested in the Scouting Movement.

In July of 1914 the First World War began, which proved to be quite tragic for Russia. Russia mobilized, and together with others to the Front, went the founder of Russian Scouting, Oleg I. Pantuckoff [Pantyukhov]. However, at that time, a Scouting chapter has already developed in Tsarskoe Selo. St Alexis took great interest in Scouting, especially because his friend and relative, Grand Duke Georgy, being an active Scout, told him about the meets and hikes. St. Alexis quickly entered the ranks of the Tsarskoe Selo chapter of Scouts, becoming the second member of the Imperial Family after Georgy, of which he remained proud until the end of his life.

It is known to us exactly how actively St Alexis was able to take part in scout life, seeing as, speaking not of his disease, he had serious obligations: not only in preparation of becoming the ruler, but also in fulfilling his duty as the Heir to the Throne and taking part in public initiatives. Thus, as the heir, he was the chief of an entire series of regiments and was obligated to visit them with the goal of raising morale. His father often took him with him to the Front, and St Alexis loved his, as he took interest in military matters. However, we know that St Alexis remembered out motto "Be Prepared!" for his whole life, and tried to follow it always and everywhere.

Action on the Front did not turn in Russia's favor. Russia could not allow a prolonged war for herself. Defeat and great losses, a lack of manpower at the read, the interruption of production, hardships with provisions for the army, problems with supplies in the cities - all of this aggravated unhappiness in the populace and opened to door for the demagogues, and eventually, led to a crisis in leadership. The Emperor had to abdicate from the Throne on behalf of himself and his son, and the Provisional Government came to power, which in turn was quickly overthrown by the Bolsheviks.

The Provisional Government had already arrested the Imperial Family. The Bolsheviks, then, sent the family into exile in Ekaterinburg, intensified the prison régime and, finally, decided to completely destroy the family. On the horrifying night of July 16-17, 1918, the Bolshevik wardens ordered that the family get dressed and descend into the semi-basement of the house with the supposed purpose of evacuation. St Alexis, who was afflicted by his disease, was carried in his father's arms. Then, into the basement entered a death squad of mostly Hungarians (Russians were not trusted), the death sentence was read, the ringleader of the squad thereupon shot St Nicholas in the head, and this served as the signal for the other guns to fire at close range. The wounded Saint Alexis was finished off with bayonets and rifle butts. He was only 13 years of age upon his death.

At the end of the 20th century, the remains of the martyrs were found and identified. For his blameless death, for meekness, humility, and godliness during the most difficult of circumstances, for bravery in the face of suffering, for the very considerable moral dimensions to which he rose, for his unwavering faith, the Orthodox Church added Saint Alexis into the synaxis of passion-bearers.

SOURCE: SGPA Scoutmaster periodical "Expertise" #166. July 2018, pp 8-9. Compiled by Scoutmaster Alexander Taurke from publicly-accessible documents for the upcoming book "The Faithful"Translated by Michael Kazmierczak of the Saint George Pathfinders a.k.a. Russian Youth Scout Association Abroad (in Exile).


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