Big Basil’s Story

In his talks with parishioners Fr Oleg Stenyaev often tells short and very vivid and uplifting stories that immediately make you want to write them down as ‘mental notes’.

In my childhood years, there was a holy fool living in our city. Everyone called him Big Basil. He was a man of short stature, but weighed about as much as 400 pounds. Church-goers from all over the city loved him very much and expressed their love by constantly trying to feed him something tasty. The cause-and-effect links between his enormous weight and the fact that everyone was constantly bringing him food remain unknown. Perhaps the former was caused by the latter, but the opposite is also quite possible, since a big man like Basil needed a high calorie diet.

Once I personally witnessed this. One woman brought him something to eat. As soon as he sat down and began to eat, another woman came and also began to insistently treat him with something.

When the third woman came, he started crying,

– What are you doing ?! Are you trying to feed me to death, or what?!

He always had many visitors. They gathered in lines and sat for hours waiting for an opportunity to talk to him and ask for his advice, because Big Basil had a great gift of consoling people. He had a whole arsenal of ways for this, sometimes coming completely unexpected for people.

For example, a woman once came to him with a complaint,

– Basil, my husband has left me!

Basil’s eyes immediately welled up with huge tears,

– How are you going to live now?! Do you have any children?

– Yes, two – the woman replied.

– How do you cope with the two of them? My goodness, there is no way you can manage them both!

– But my mother is still strong enough to help – the woman replied.

– Yes, she may be strong, but what if she suddenly dies? How are you going to do it all alone?

– But I still have a job that pays good money!

But he was already bursting in such bitter tears that it seemed that his heart was about to fail. Then there was a big fuss; everyone, including the unfortunate woman, rushed to him trying to calm him down. In joint efforts, words and arguments were suddenly born making it clear that the situation was not as bad and hopeless as it may have seemed at first glance.

Big Basil was persecuted by the police, pressing charges against him for social parasitism. Once the police found him in a house where he was living at that time. Entering the room, they said,

– Follow us!

To that Basil answered,

– You scared me so that my legs gave out; I can’t walk!

The policemen took him and with great effort they barely dragged him to their car and in fits and starts loaded him there. They were about to leave, but the car wouldn’t start. The men began to argue among themselves. One of them was insisting on taking Basil into custody, while the other two disagreed,

– Are we going to drag him on our shoulders, or what?! No way, let someone else figure it out. Unload him!

They pulled Big Basil back out of the car and put him right on the ground.

“God save you!” said Basil, and then he got up and left.

His death was unusual and, in a certain sense, spiritually edifying.

The day before Basil’s death they put him into a psychiatric hospital. The parishioners managed to visit him in the ward that he shared with other patients.

They found Basil lying on his bed and singing hymns to the Mother of God. He was looking profoundly joyful and sang in his signature Paschal, cheerful and fast-paced manner. Not expecting to see him so joyful in this mournful atmosphere, the visitors asked him,

– Basil, why are you so happy?

– They will give me a new apartment tomorrow. I have never owned an apartment, and tomorrow they are giving me such a wonderful flat. They’ve already shown everything to me. There are such large windows there and so much light! You won’t believe how good it is. Please don’t come tomorrow, I will be busy moving from the very morning. Don’t worry, they will help me with the move — I have so many friends here. Everything will be fine.

People left in bewilderment. On the following day it became known that Basil had died and ‘moved’ to another world…

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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