Hieromonk Nestor (Savchuk) was a martyr for the Orthodox Faith in Zharky, Russia. His body was found on December 31, 1993.
Nestor was born in Crimea in 1960. As a young man, he concentrated on developing his wrestling, boxing and martial arts abilities. He was always distant from his family, had a keen awareness and stood out above his peers. Neither he nor his family knew at the time, but two of his great-uncles served at Pochaev monastery, one as a married priest and the other as a revered monk.
In the early 1980s, in an anti-Orthodox, communist Russia, Nestor travelled to Odessa to work as an apprentice to paint religious murals. However, it seems that Nestor was motivated less by spirituality than by the need to work, because it was at this time that his friends, the older artists, would begin to inspire him with stories of righteous monastics, spending 1000 years glorifying God in this life. Despite the government of the time, Nestor saw the world's vanity and desired to flee it in order to arrive at ancient Christianity.
When he made his decision, Nestor left Odessa for Pochaev Monastery, where he began his monastic life (and met his distant relatives). While the government regulated monasteries and required monks to be registered, Nestor never registered. In the mid-1980s the government began a persecution of the monastery, with some monks going to prison-cames and others 'disappearing'. Nestor knew that if he was found he would be treated similarly if he was found, but continued living, albeit in hiding, as an illegal monk. He was soon ordained a priestmonk.
Eventually conditions at Pochaev deteriorated to the extent that the monastery was almost empty: either through monks leaving, being taken to prison camps or being killed. His spiritual father, Elder John Kristiankin, told him to go to Zharky; Fr Nestor treated this as divine guidance and departed.
Priestmonk of Zharky
Zharky was a small, isolated and desolate village with few believers, surrounded by vast wilderness, and - due to flooded roads - only accessible in summer. The parish that Fr Nestor would be serving was old and run-down, but had many ancient icons; added to this, a prophecy had been proclaimed at the church by two fools-for-Christ, who were also martyred there: "The priest who shall serve here until the end will be saved". On arrival after his long journey, Fr Nestor went to his church. He was unaware of the prophecy, but he loved the ancient icons and the mystical air about the church, and said that he wanted to stay there the rest of his life. The police notified Fr Nestor about an icon-stealing ring run by the Russian Mafia and had terrorised local churches in the area. This ring would continually harass the priestmonk, who loved the icons.
Fr Nestor reminded Russians of their Orthodoxy. His youthful zeal brought new life to Zharky, and he was selflessly charitable, helping all in need, Christian or otherwise, in Zharky or out, often walking from other villages at night, regardless of season. He maintained an austere life of prayer. He relished his walks from other villages, disdaining a car to be alone with God, immersing himself in prayer. When he arrived home he would complete his prayer rule, which was hours more of chanting and tearful prayer.
Nestor went to the bus stop with some important documents. As was his custom, he tucked in his long hair and his beard, to keep a low profile. Three drunken youths approached him to taunt him with such lines as "Show me your cross" while drabbing under his jacket at approximately where the cross would be. Wanting to avoid defiling the cross, Fr Nestor deflected their hands, and the youths attacked him. Using his previously-gotten skills in martial arts, Nestor dodged their punches; however, his concentration lapsed as he remembered his unguarded documents, and he was hit in the eye. The police arrived soon after, and Fr Nestor told them to let the youths go. A month later Andrew, the youth that had hit Fr Nestor, came to his house to apologise. After a long conversation, Andrew decided to join the hieromonk and follow his strict way of life.