Our righteous father Maxim Sandovich (also Maximus), Protomartyr of the Lemko people, was a Carpatho-Russian hieromartyr who, in practicing his Orthodox faith as priest under the rule of the Unia, as enforced by the Roman Catholic Austrian imperial government, was arrested and then executed for his faith in August 1914. His feast days are celebrated on August 6 and September 6.
Maxim Sandovich was born into the family of a prosperous farmer, Timothy Sandovich, and his wife, Christina, in the village of Zdyna, Galicia. His father served as the choir director in the local parish. After finishing four years of study at the local high school in Novy Sanch, Maxim crossed the border into Russia to become a novice at the Pochaev Lavra in Volynia. Subsequently, he attended the Orthodox seminary in Zhitomir. Completing his studies he married a young Orthodox woman, Pelagia, and was ordained as a deacon and then to the priesthood before returning to his home.
It was not very long before the Austrian militia discovered his Orthodox pastoral and missionary service as he was denounced by a Ukrainian teacher by the name of Leos, in 1912. Immediately the Austrian gendarmes put Fr. Maxim in chains and sent him to prison in Lvov. There he was held for two years without a trial or inquest while being abused horribly and living in equally bad conditions. Then as World War I was to begin he was released for lack of evidence.
Fr. Maxim's stay at his home in the village Hrab was to prove to be short as the first shots of the war heralded a wave of new repressions of the Orthodox Carpatho-Russians. The militia, on August 4, 1914, arrested the whole family of the young priest and dragged them off in shackles to the prison in Gorlice. Fr. Maxim, his father, mother, brother, and wife were forced to travel on foot to the prison while being prodded by the bayonets of the gendarmes. In prison they were placed in separate cells and denied the opportunity to see each other.
Then, on Sunday, August 6, while at prayer at the dawn of the new day, Fr. Maxim could hear the noise of a crowd beyond the walls of their prison. The noise was accompanied finally by a load thud as a moustachioed German captain, named Dietrich, from Linz entered the prison grounds, accompanied by two soldiers and four gendarmes. The captain was known to be a cruel and sadistic person. This group was followed by the prison wardens, some civil servants, officers, and a group of curious women led by Pan Mitshka, the leader of the Gorlice District. As silence fell, the order was given to the warden to bring Fr. Maxim from his cell.
With that order two soldiers led the twenty-eight-year-old Orthodox priest from the prison. Fr. Maxim suddenly realized where they were taking him and humbly and with dignity asked, "Be so good as not to hold me. I will go peacefully wherever you wish." Even the taunting of the crowd did not affect his courageous bearing as he walked calmly and with a measured gait to the fateful wall, as befitting a follower of Christ.
Captain Dietrich ripped Fr. Maxim's cross from his chest, tossing it on the ground where he trampled it with his feet. As the captain bound Fr. Maxim's hands behind his back and blind folded him, Fr. Maxim exclaimed that it was not necessary as he had no intention of running away. But, the "brave" captain laughed and then marked with white chalk a line on Fr. Maxim's black cassock as a target for the riflemen. In the silence of the moment as the executioners were arranged, Pan Mitshka read the death sentence. With a short command from the captain, the saber was raised and lowered. With that action, shots echoed through the prison.
Fr. Maxim's voice could then be heard, first strongly but diminishing as he spoke, "Long live the Russian people." Then, leaning against the wall, "Long live the Holy Orthodox Faith." And, finally and barely audible, "Long live Slavdom." As his powerful frame slid down the wall, a gendarme ended Fr. Maxim's suffering by firing three shots from his pistol into Fr. Maxim's head.
Through all this Fr. Maxim's father and mother watched his heroic death in silence and as the final shots echoed through the prison his wife fell senselessly to the ground. Thus died Fr. Maxim Sandovich, a martyr for Orthodox Christianity.
Fr. Maxim Sandovich was canonized by the Polish Orthodox Church in 1994. His feast day is August 6.
St. Maxim's son, Maxim, would later return to Gorlice and lead a thriving Orthodox community there.
There is a liturgical service and an akathist hymn in his honor.