Русский | English

St. Luke the Confessor, Bishop of Simferopol

Celebrated on May 29 / June 11

From the book “Synaxarium: Lives of the Saints – Orthodox Church” printed by Sretensky Monastery Publishing House.

St. Luke1 (born with the name Valentin Felixovich Voino-Yasenetsky) was born in 1877 in town Kerch, in Crimea, to the noble family, Polish by descent. From his childhood he had talent for art so he intended to study at St-Petersburg Academy of Arts. But while passing the entrance exams he was beset by uncertainty and finally he decided that he had no right to act for his pleasure but should work to help suffering people. That was his understanding of the Savior’s words about the harvest and laborers (Matthew 9:37: Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few), that was his reaction for the call to serve the people.

Valentin decided to devote his life to medicine and enrolled to medical college at Kiev University. His talent for art helped him in meticulous research in anatomy. He was a brilliant student; he graduated with honours in 1903 on the verge of the Russo-Japanese War and started his career of a doctor at the military hospital of town Chita. There he met a nurse and married her and they were blessed with four children. Afterwards he was sent to the hospital at Ardatov, Simbirsk Governorate, and then – to town Verkhny Lyubazh, Kursk Governorate.

He worked at the hospitals and saw the consequences of the general anesthesia so he reached the conclusion that in most cases the general anesthesia had to be replaced with local one. Despite of the poor equipment of the hospitals he had a great number of successful surgical operations – and patients from neighbour regions came for his help.

He had his medical practice at the village Romanovka Saratov Province, and then he was appointed to the position of a Chief Doctor in Pereslavl Zalesky, to the 50-beds’ hospital. At the hospital he practiced a lot as a surgeon and continued his scientific research.

In 1916 in Moscow Valentin Felixovich defended successfully his doctoral dissertation on local anesthesia and started a large monograph on purulent surgery.

St. Luke the Confessor, Archbishop of Simferopol
St. Luke the Confessor, Archbishop of Simferopol

In 1917 when the large cities were overwhelmed with the thunder of revolution he was appointed to the position of the head surgeon at the city hospital in town Tashkent and moved to Tashkent with his family. Soon his wife died from tuberculosis. When his wife was close to death he was a real nurse for her, and he decided to ask a surgical nurse from his hospital to help him with the children. The woman agreed so Dr. Valentin obtained the possibility to continue his work both at the hospital and the university – he was a professor teaching anatomy and surgery.

He often participated in the theological debates where he refuted the ideas of scientific atheism. The Bishop of the Tashkent diocese, Innocent, heard Dr. Valentin’s long and inspired speech and said: “Doctor, you must become a priest!” Though Valentin had never thought about being a priest he accepted the suggestion of the Bishop. On the immediate Sunday Dr. Valentin was ordained as a deacon and in a week – as a priest.

He continued his practice as a doctor, as a university professor and as a priest; he served at the church only on Sundays and gave the lectures in cassock and priestly cross. He administered not so many Sacraments and ceremonies but he showed great zeal in preaching and always strengthened his homilies with counseling on acute topics. Two years in a row he had public disputes with an ex-priest who had abnegated his faith and became a leader of the antireligious propaganda in the region – lately he met a woesome death.

In 1923 when so-called Living Church (Zhivaya Tserkov) caused the renovation dissent bringing discord and confusion into the Church, the Bishop Innocent of Tashkent had to leave the city so Fr. Valentin and an archpriest had to administer the diocese. Exiled Bishop Andrey Ufimsky (Duke Ukhtomsky) who was passing through Tashkent approved the decision of the priests faithful to Church to elect Fr. Valentin to diocese. Than in his room the Bishop tonsured him a monk with the name of the Evangelist St. Luke and sent to a small town near Samarqand. Two bishops lived there in exile and St. Luke was consecrated as a bishop in secret, with the church doors locked on May 18, 1923. Than he returned to Tashkent and on ten days after his first liturgy he was arrested by the security (GPU), accused of counterrevolutionary activity and espionage for England and sentenced to two years of exile to Siberia, Turukhansky Krai.

The way to exile was a real torment but the saint physician managed to perform a number of surgical operations saving from death suffering people whom he met on his way. In exile he practiced at the hospital and worked as a surgeon. He used to bless the patients and to begin the operations with the Sign of Cross. When the GPU people tried to forbid him these actions the bishop refused point blank. So St. Luke was taken to GPU office where he was given a 30 minutes to get his things and then was sledged to the shore of the Arctic Ocean. All winter he spent in the onshore sites.

In the beginning of the Lent he was called to Turukhansk. The physician had to resume his work at the hospital - when St. Luke was exiled the hospital lost its only surgeon and this fact made the local population very angry. In 1926 he was freed so he returned to Tashkent.

Next autumn Metropolitan Sergius appointed him to Rylsk, Kursk Diocese, than to Elets, Orel Diocese as vicar bishop and at last – to Izhevsk cathedra. But Fr. Luke accepted the advice of Arseniy Metropolitan of Novgorod so he refused the cathedra and asked for a rest – soon he would be very sorry for such decision.

Almost three years he worked quietly and peacefully. In 1930 Professor Mikhailovsky, his colleague at the medical college, lost his mind after his son’s death and tried to bring the boy to life by blood transfusion and afterwards committed suicide. Considering the professor’s mental illness and his widow’s appeal, Bishop Luke signed the document which permitted the Christian funeral ceremony. The Communist authorities used the moment and accused the Bishop of the aiding in professor’s death. They said that Bishop was a religious fanatic so he prevented Mikhailovsky to raise his dead son by means of materialistic science.

Bishop Luke was arrested and the St. Sergius Church - where he preached – was destroyed. Bishop Luke was tortured by non-stop interrogations intermitted with punishment cell without air to breathe, and all these torments exhausted his already weak health. St. Luke protested against inhumane conditions of prison and started hunger-striking. The investigator promised to free him as soon as he stopped his hunger-striking. But the investigator lied and Bishop was again sentenced to three-year exile. Again – a deadly way to the point of exile, and then from 1931 till 1933 – a practice at the hospital in Kotlas and Arkhangelsk. When Bishop was diagnosed a tumor he went to Leningrad for a surgery. In Leningrad during the preaching in church he experienced a wonderful spiritual revelation that reminded him the beginning of his ministering. Then Bishop was sent to Moscow for new interrogations – there GPU made him very attractive offers concerning his scientific research but only if he returned to secular life. St. Luke refused at point blank.

He was freed in 1933 and refused to become a head of vacant Episcopal cathedra since he wanted to devote his time to scientific research. He returned back to Tashkent where he got the opportunity to be a surgeon at a small hospital. In 1934 his work “Essays on the Surgery of Pyogenic Infections” was published, a cornerstone of medical literature.

When Bishop worked in Tashkent he fell ill with tropical disease which resulted in retinal detachment. But still he continued his medical practice up to 1937. At that period Stalin organized severe repressions imprisoning not only right-wing oppositionists and clergymen but also the first-wave communist leaders - and millions of people were sent to concentration camps. St. Luke was arrested with Archbishop of Tashkent and other priests who stayed faithful to Church and were accused of creation of counterrevolutionary religious organization.

St. Luke underwent the “conveyor” interrogation – 13 days and nights under blinding lamps the interrogators questioned the Bishop giving him not a second to rest, shifting continuously, making him to accuse himself. When Bishop started new hunger-striking and lost the last strength he was sent to punishment cells of GPU. And again – more and more interrogations and tortures, and when at last he had no strength, no power, when he could not control himself, St. Luke with his trembling weak hand signed the confession about his participation in the anti-Soviet plot.

And so, in 1940 he was sent to exile for the third time – to Siberia, Krasnoyarsk area where he could manage to get a permission to work as a surgeon and continue scientific research in Tomsk. When Hitler army invaded and the war began (1941), the war that took millions of victims, St. Luke was appointed to the position of a head surgeon of the hospital in Krasnoyarsk and became a person responsible for all military hospitals of the region. At the same time he was a bishop of the regional diocese where – as the Communists informed proudly – there was not a single acting church.

Metropolitan Sergius elevated him to the rank of Archbishop. In this rank he took part in the 1943 Council where Metropolitan Sergius was elected Patriarch and St. Luke became a member of Synod.

Since during the war the religious persecution and oppression were less tense he started a wide program of religious life revival, with new energy devoting himself to preaching2. When the hospital moved from Krasnoyarsk to Tambov (1944), he stayed in this town and was appointed to the cathedra in Tambov. At the same time he prepared for publication various medical and theological works including Christian apology against scientific atheism under the title “Spirit, Soul and Body”. In this work he defends the principles of Christian anthropology by means of solid scientific arguments.

In February 1945 St. Luke was awarded for his archpriest activity – he got the right to bear Cross on his klobuk. For his patriotism he was awarded a medal “For Glorious Labor during the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945”.

In a year Archbishop of Tambov and Michurinsk Luke was awarded the Stalin Award of 1st st. for scientific research in new surgical methods in treatment of the purulent diseases and wound described in his scientific works Essays on the Surgery of Pyogenic Infections and Late Resections of Infected Gunshot Wounds in Joints. In 1946 he was appointed to the cathedra of Crimea and became Archbishop of Simferopol. In Crimea first of all he had to fight against the local clergymen habits. He preached that the priest heart had to become a fire that radiates the light of the Gospel and the love to the Cross – whether it should be a word or personal example. Since St. Luke had a heart disease he had to stop his practice as a surgeon but still he gave free consultations and advised to the local doctors. He performed many healing miracles.

In 1956 he absolutely lost his vision but still celebrated the Divine Liturgy, preached and managed the life of the diocese. He fought against the closing of the churches and oppression from the authorities.

Under the burden of life, having performed his work on witnessing about our Lord, crucified for our salvation, Archbishop Luke reposed with peace on May 29, 1961. Every person from diocese clergymen and tremendous crowds of people visited his funeral and the tomb of St. Luke soon became a point of pilgrimage where a lot of healing miracles still occur.

Composed by Hieromonach Makarius Simonopetrous, Russian translation by Sretensky Monastery publishing house.

June 11, 2012

[1] He was announced as local venerated Saint of Crimean diocese in 1995, was glorified by the Russian Church in August 2000.
See his autobiography which was written when he already lost his vision, in 1955 Luke of Simferopol: I Loved Martyrdom. Autobiography of Archbishop- Surgeon during Times of Soviet Repressions.

[2] He served more than 1250 agile and original sermons, 700 were documented and published in Russia in 12 volumes.
Hieromonach Makarius Simonopetrous. “Synaxarium: Lives of the Saints – Orthodox Church”: 6 vol. / Adapted translation from French – M. Sretensky Monastery Publishing House, 2011.

“St. Luke the Confessor, Bishop of Simferopol” // Православие.ру (