The Story of the Priest of the Monastery of Odzun

The Story of the Priest

The monastery of Odzun is located in the village of the same name in Lori province of Armenia. Its history dates back to the 5th century.

The village of Odzun has preserved the domed basilica of the Odzun monastery which was supposedly built in the 6th or the first quarter of the 7th century. The church is located on the central hill of the village and is visible from almost any of its points.

The following story was recorded by the great-granddaughters of priest Stepan Natalia and Naira Atabekyans from the words of his grandson and their father, who in turn had been told this story by grandmother Sokhak.

Fast forward to the 30s of the 20th century. New times, new regime, new beliefs, and new ideals. Persecution of the church was widespread.

Soviet Armenia, Odzun village, Odzun monastery.

“From the words of my mother who witnessed the story…

Right during a church service, priest Stepan was arrested. He was placed in a chicken coop, locked up, and held in captivity. He was guarded around the clock.

Every day, he was taken away for interrogation. He was beaten up, hit in the head, insulted, and harassed. Then, he was led back to the chicken coop. Captivity and hunger continued for several days.

My mother watched this atrocity and did not know how to help.

On the third day, she could no longer bear it and asked the guards to allow her to give at least some water to the priest. She came up with this request many times. Each time, the answer was rejection. But one day, the guard had mercy and allowed her to help him, but only at night so that no one saw it. He allowed water, a piece of bread, and some clothes.

And mom saw the following picture. Right on the ground in the hen house was lying the emaciated body of her grandfather. In order not to give away them, grandfather asked not to leave any clothes.

One day, a car drove up – a prisoner transport vehicle. What would happen next was becoming clearer…

What was the guilt of the priest who had been given the mission to be useful to his people?

Residents of the Odzun village defended their priest. They blocked the vehicle’s way and declared that they would not allow him to be taken away! Otherwise, the angry people were ready to push the car into the abyss.

The NKVD services reported to the headquarters that people were preventing the exportation of the priest. They decided to leave him.

After all these events, priest Stepan fell ill and became blind. Soon, he passed away (the years of life of Stepan Abramovich Atabekyan were 1851–1944).

Years passed, and Odzun monastery still keeps the memory of priest Stepan. When his descendants come to the temple, a service is held there.

The grandson of Stepan arranged a place in the mountains where all residents of the village of Dzoraget (Lori province) can come, light candles, and pray in.

Naira Atabekyan

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