Rector of Holy Trinity Monastery of Mercy in the Saraktashsky District, Nikolai Stremsky, was detained on September 23. According to his family, the police drove up in several cars, surrounded the monastery, and then began the assault.
“Like in the movies, they climbed over the fence and through the windows, as if some kind of a terrorist was a priest, and then a search began,” says one of Stremsky’s pupils. “And when we started shooting everything on mobile phones, phones began to be taken from us.”
A few hours after that, the news feeds were full of reports that the most large priest of Russia, one of the first owners of the “Parental Glory” order, Nikolai Stremsky was a pedophile.
The Investigative Committee charged the rector with articles 131 (rape), 135 (indecent assault) and 156 (improper fulfillment of the duties of raising a minor) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Along with him, on suspicion of illegal deprivation of liberty (Article 127 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), his adopted daughter Elena Stremskaya and her husband Viktor Shcherbakov were detained.
“I don’t understand where it came from”
The law enforcement authorities have not yet disclosed the details of the case. However, as it became known to RT, the case is based on the testimonies of three pupils - Suzanne, Sofia and Eugenia. They reported bullying and harassment. However, later, a day after the arrest of the priest, Eugene posted a video message on the network, in which she stated that she did not give any evidence.
“I don’t understand where it came from. The statement is written, like, by my hand. It says that my dad raped me, harassed me. This has never happened in life. I never wrote this, I never took a pen from them, ”the girl says on camera.
According to her, a year ago, Sophia and Sonya had a fight with dad, and perhaps they came up with something. Zhenya herself assures that men also came to her in a rehabilitation center, who introduced themselves as law enforcement officers, who urged her to testify.
- Video message of foster children of priest Nikolai Stremsky suspected of pedophilia
“They said, tell us everything, does dad hit, does he harass? I said there’s nothing like that, ”she says.
According to Eugenia, she was allegedly hinted that she would be rewarded if she gave the necessary testimony - they promised to give her a phone, help to enter a university, etc.
According to Denis, the adopted son of Nikolai Stremsky, the girls violated the rules established in the family, behaved badly, ran away from home and because of this they were returned to the rehabilitation center, where they stipulated the adoptive father.
“Either they themselves decided to accuse him of resentment, or they were specifically persuaded by the educators. This is all slander and slander. We ourselves grew up in this family, then we constantly kept in touch, saw how they live, nothing of what they blame the father is true, ”Denis told RT.
Daria Kornilova, another adopted daughter of Nikolai Stremsky, came from Samara to support her family.
“We tried to talk with these girls. At first they wrote that they were just angry with dad. Then they said that they urged them to slander him, but they did not do this. And then they report: “Everything is fine, they give us a lot of money and give us a lot of everything.” In any family, the parent will punish, and the child may be offended. If you leave him alone, adults can direct this to their advantage, ”Daria is sure.
Other adoptive children adhere to the same version.
Strong business executive
The Holy Trinity Monastery of Mercy created by Nikolai Stremsky, which includes an almshouse for single old people, an Orthodox gymnasium, a religious school, a sisterhood and a monastic community, has become the main attraction of the Orenburg village of Saraktash, located 85 kilometers from the regional center.
- © RT
The village itself, with a population of more than 17 thousand people, looks quite respectable - solid stone houses, numerous cars, in the center there are several large shops with household appliances, a well-groomed park. Some locals are sure that Saraktash lives this way thanks to his father Nicholas.
Stremsky was born in 1964 in the village of Karabutak, Aktobe region of the Kazakh SSR. In 1982-1984, he served in the armed forces, during which he was sent to Afghanistan. Upon returning from the army, he entered the Moscow Theological Seminary.
In 1990, he was sent to Saraktash, where then, according to local residents, there was only one small church, and the parish school was located in a converted garage. Soon construction began to boil, as they recall in the village, the priest personally participated in the work.
Previously, private houses were located on the site of the monastery, they were bought and cleared land for construction. Now on this territory, surrounded by a stone wall with marble tablets on which quotes from the Bible are printed, there is a pension for the elderly, a large church in honor of the Holy Royal Martyrs and all the new martyrs and confessors of the Russian Church, and a dozen more utility rooms.
- © RT
A tank rises on a pedestal at the main entrance to the monastery. Part of the territory is occupied by a playground; a decommissioned airplane is installed among the slides and flower beds.
On the way to the temple there are stands dedicated to the history of the monastery. One of them tells about the brother of Nikolai Stremsky Victor. He came to Saraktash after a relative, and headed the local Cossack community. According to local residents, it was Victor who oversaw all construction work, and was known throughout the Orenburg region as an "ataman-temple builder."
Now more than 300 people work in the monastery.
“I myself worked for him as a crane operator at the construction of the monastery. Sensible man, economic. He, in fact, raised our village. Everything began to come to desolation in the 90s, and Father Nikolai arrived and created a monastery. Now, pilgrims from all over Russia come here for the holidays, ”says one of the residents.
In addition to economic activities, Nikolai Stremsky began to actively engage in charity work - he opened a shelter for the elderly, and also began to adopt children from orphanages. First, two - a brother and sister whose mother died and the father disappeared long ago, and by the end of 1992 the Stremsky family had 15 more children, and a year later there were 36 of them.
According to the foster children, all of them had to follow the established rules: do not drink, do not smoke, do not swear, did not leave home after ten in the evening, and everyone had to work after the class after work.
“Father was strict, but fair. What were the punishments: they were not allowed to watch TV, or it was necessary to clean the yard. But he never raised his hand, ”says RT 17-year-old Arina Spassova, who was brought up with the girls who wrote a letter to the priest.
“Conflict with local policemen”
However, despite the stringent requirements for foster children, Father Nikolai himself periodically became a defendant in scandals.
So, in September 2015 it was reported that the father was trying to hide from the traffic police. According to media reports, the police noticed the "Mercedes" of Father Nikolai, parked in the area of the sign "Parking is prohibited." It was noted that after the requirement to present documents, the driver left at high speed and tried to hide in the territory of the Holy Trinity Monastery of Mercy, where he was detained. Moreover, the police "had to use force." According to journalists, the father was drunk, but there was no evidence of this; Stremsky refused to give a medical examination.
After the arrest, Archpriest Nikolai Stremsky was banned from the ministry, but in December Metropolitan Benjamin restored his rights. At the same time, a source in the diocese suspects that the case was resolved thanks to personnel changes.
“Metropolitan Valentin forbade the service, in October he was sent to retire, and with the new bishop, apparently, he managed to somehow solve this issue,” the source said.
In December 2015, a criminal case was opened against the priest under Art. 264.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Violation of traffic rules by a person subjected to administrative punishment” (as reported, he had accumulated unpaid fines for speeding).
However, a later decision to institute proceedings was quashed by the prosecutor's office “because of premature police findings”.
In addition, in the early 2000s, Nikolai’s father was suspected that one day on the night of the execution of the family of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II from July 16 to 17, he fired on a monument to Lenin in a city park. But then no evidence was found.
The priest’s wife Galina Stremskaya claims that all the scandals were rigged by ill-wishers. Allegedly, the priest had a conflict with local police officers.
It is worth noting that in Saraktash itself they hardly talk about accusations against Father Nikolai of depraved actions against pupils. At the same time, the village may argue that the priest was allegedly involved in drug trafficking.
“Here no one will tell you the truth, but he is a sinner, it’s time to plant him for a long time, he has been selling drugs with nineties, everyone knows this, but they’re afraid to speak,” says one of the local residents.
- “No one will tell you the truth here”
Neighbor Nikolai Stremsky Mikhail says that after the arrest, law enforcement officers came to him and found out if the father used drugs.
“Investigators came and asked about drugs. I honestly said: “Yes, I drank like everyone else, but for drugs, this certainly couldn’t be. Maybe he wasn’t a saint, but he’s definitely not involved in drugs, ”says the neighbor.
The priest’s wife, Galina Stremskaya, recalls that the searches took place not only in the house, but also on the territory of the monastery.
“They searched with dogs, including drugs, which, of course, were not found anywhere,” she says.
"Fell into delights"
For the first few days after the arrest, the church refrained from commenting. In addition, on September 25, the Metropolitan of Orenburg and Saraktash Benjamin forbade Nicholas Stremsky to be sacred for the duration of the investigation.
Nevertheless, on September 30, a prayer service in support of Father Nikolai was held at Holy Trinity Cathedral in the village of Saraktash.
“We are all worried about him, we pray. You see, what kind of emotions are the parishioners, they are outraged by such actions. We hope that people are not stupid in organs, they will see the truth, ”says Archpriest Alexander Mikhailov. - The court did not decide anything, but everyone has already condemned, to crucify everything. Everyone is gloating that the Metropolitan has forbidden judgment to the priest. It’s just a formality that is necessary, if everything falls into place, then dignity and service will be returned. ”
- © RT
However, inside the diocese there were people who did not share this opinion, however, they agreed to talk about it only on the condition of strictest anonymity. They do not deny the economic successes of Father Nicholas, but they believe that he could not stand the test of money.
“He is truly a businessman, by God's grace. He managed to find the money, he created a cloister, resettled the houses that were before, and he paid a good price for everything. He brought all the children into people, gave the girls a full dowry, bought at home, but he fell into delights. Pirs, a fleet with expensive cars. There are huge flows of money that are not taxed, there is no need to report for them, of course, could not resist the temptation, ”he says.
The main source of income for the monastery, according to him, were donations from all over the world, and often the pupils of the Orthodox gymnasium sent special money to collect it.
“Glory and money turned his head. He felt like the undivided ruler of Saraktash. Now that this story has been revealed, it seems to me that behind his charity, there could simply be a calculation for the money to flow, ”a RT source said.
According to him, there are rumors that part of the donations were actually used for cashing out. Money was drawn up as a donation, and then transferred back after deduction of a commission in payments for work, since the construction in Saraktash was constantly in full swing.
The famous theologian, protodeacon of the Moscow Patriarchate Andrei Kuraev, who studied with Nikolai Stremsky at the Moscow Theological Seminary, also commented on the situation.
“I already wrote about the oddities of my classmate Nikolai Stremsky. The main one is the adoption project. He took on dozens of children with whom he actually practically does not communicate. Instead, novices do it. And he receives a lot of money for their maintenance, not forgetting himself, ”Kuraev noted in the LiveJournal.
Meanwhile, now they say in the monastery that Father Nikolai is seriously ill, has suffered from severe psoriasis for many years and needs care and treatment, which they cannot provide him in prison.Keywords: