Monday, 10 September 2012

A parish priest

Father Alexander Men 1930-1990
Twentytwo years ago this morning, which was also, like today, a Monday, I heard the fax machine upstairs in my home office spring into action. The stark message, sent from the office of the  deeply secular Soviet government owned 'Raduga Press' by Father Alexander Men's close friend, parishioner and liberal colleague Ekaterina Genieva reported that the previous morning he had been murdered on his way to take early morning service. My daughter Abi was the only other member of the family at home that day. Fr Alexander had baptised her five months earlier at his small country church at Novaya Derevnya, a village where she spent weekends with Katya and her family while on Russian language practice in Moscow as part of her degree. The murderers, almost certainly professionally- trained (the wound caused by the murder weapon was similar to those caused by sapper's spades carried by Soviet special forces in the massacre at Tbilisi not long before) have never been caught. It is still a matter of speculation at what level of government or the church the assassination of a social reformer and teacher, parish priest and author might have been authorised. 'Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?' echoes down the years, and inspired a theatre piece still in the repertory of the prestigious Theatre at The Nikitsky Gates 'A Russian Rehearsal' about Men's murder, set in a theatre where Russian actors are rehearsing T S Eliot's 'Murder in the Cathedral'.

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