Loyal to the Emperor, Loyal to Christ
Just recently, at the Archbishopal Sobor, the passion-bearer Evgeniy Botkin, the last physician-in-ordinary of Emperor Nicholas II, was canonized a saint. The Ekaterinburg committee for canonization of saints presided by the father-confessor of our monastery, schema-archimandrite Avraam, submitted the materials for Evgeniy Botkin's canonization. Lately our monastery held a public presentation about the life and the podvig of the holy passion-bearer Evgeniy.
Evgeniy Sergeyevich Botkin was born on May 27th, 1865, in Tsarskoye Selo of St-Petersburg province in the family of a well-known Russian doctor-general practitioner, professor of Medical-Surgical Academy, Sergey Petrovich Botkin. He descended from a dynasty of merchants whose representatives were marked by profound Orthodox faith and charitable activities, helping the Orthodox Church not only with their money but also by means of labor. Due to the judiciously organized system of upbringing in the family and to the wise care of his parents, already since his early childhood, a foundation of numerous virtues had been laid in the heart of Evgeniy, among which were magnanimity, modesty, and non acceptance of violence. His brother Pyotr Sergeyevich reminisced: "He was infinitely kind. One could say that he had come into the world for the sake of the people and for the sake of sacrificing himself."
Evgeniy received a solid home education that allowed him right away to enter the fifth grade of St-Petersburg gymnasium number 2 in 1878. In 1882 Evgeniy graduated from the gymnasium and became a student of the physics-mathematical department of St-Petersburg university. Yet, just the next year, having passed the exams for the first year of studies at the university, he entered the junior division of the newly-opened preparatory school of the Imperial Military-Medical Academy. His choice of the medical profession was from the beginning fully conscious and determined. Pyotr Botkin wrote about Evgeniy: "He chose medicine as his profession. This agreed with his vocation: to help, to support in one's hour of need, to relieve pain, to heal endlessly." In 1889 Evgeniy successfully graduated from the academy, with the title of a physician with distinction, and he began his working career in January of 1890 in the Mariinsk hospital for the poor.
At the age of 25, E.S. Botkin married Olga Vladimirovna Manuylova, a daughter of a gentleman by birth. The new Botkin family raised four children: Dmitry (1894-1914), George (1895-1941), Tatyana (1898-1986), and Gleb (1900-1969).
Along with his work at the hospital, E.S. Botkin pursued science, he was interested in the immunology issues. In 1893 he defended with flying colors a dissertation for the medical doctor's degree. In two years, Evgeniy Sergeyevich was sent on an assignment abroad, where he did practical work in medical institutions in Heidelberg and Berlin. In 1897 he was awarded the title of privat-docent in internal diseases. At his very first lecture he told the students what he considered to be the most essential in the work of a physician: "Let us all go with love to the patient, so that together we might learn how to be of use for him!" The ministry of a doctor was something that Evgeniy Sergeyevich considered a truly Christian activity; he viewed illness from a religious angle; he would see their connection to the inner state of a person. In one of his letters to his son George, he expressed his attitude to the profession of a doctor as a means of learning God's wisdom: "The greatest excitement that you experience in our work... is that in it we are led to penetrate deeper and deeper the details and the mysteries of God's creation; at the same time it is impossible not to enjoy their expediency and harmony, as well as His highest wisdom."
Beginning in 1897, E.S. Botkin undertook his medical practice in the nurses' communities of the Russia's Red Cross society. Since January of 1899, he also became the chief physician of St-Petersburg nurses' Community in honor of St. George. The Russo-Japanese war ensued in 1904, and Evgeniy Sergeyevich, having left his wife and four little children (the oldest at the time was only ten years old, the youngest one – four years old), went to the Far East as a volunteer. On February 2nd, 1904, by the decree of the Headquarters of Russia's Red Cross society, he was appointed assistant оf the chief authorized representative of medical unit in the front-line forces.
While occupying this high-qualified administrative post, doctor Botkin would often find himself on front-line positions. In the course of the war, Evgeniy Sergeyevich had shown himself not just a first-rank physician, but had also demonstrated personal courage and fortitude. He wrote a great number of letters that comprised a whole book: "The light and shades of the Russo-Japanese war in 1904-1905." This book was soon published, and many people, upon reading it, had discovered for themselves the new aspects of this St-Petersburg doctor: his Christian, loving, infinitely compassionate heart and steadfast faith in God. Empress Aleksandra Feodorovna, upon reading Botkin's book, had expressed the wish for Evgeniy Sergeyevich to become the personal physician of the Royal family. On Easter Sunday, April 13th of 1908, emperor Nicholas II signed the decree about appointing doctor Botkin the Emperor's physician-in-ordinary.
Now, after his new appointment, Evgeniy Sergeyevich had to be constantly in the presence of the Emperor and his family members; his service in the royal palace went without weekends or vacations. The high appointment and the proximity to the Royal family did not change E.S. Botkin's character. He remained just as kind and attentive to the ones near him, as he was before. When World War I began, Evgeniy Sergeyevich addressed the Tsar with the request to send him to the battle-front for the purpose of reorganizing the health service. Yet, the Emperor charged him to remain with the Empress and the children in Tsarskoye Selo, where sick quarters were being established through their efforts. In his house in Tsarskoe Selo, Evgeniy Sergeyevich had also arranged a field hospital for the slightly injured, which the Empress with her daughters were visiting.
In February of 1917, the revolution took place in Russia. On March 2nd, the Tsar signed a Manifesto abdicating from the throne. The Royal family was arrested and taken into custody in Aleksandrovsky palace. Evgeniy Sergeyevich did not abandon his royal patients: he decided to be with them voluntarily, despite the fact that his appointment had been abolished, and he was not paid his wages anymore. At this time Botkin became for the royal prisoners more than a friend: he took on himself the responsibility to be the mediator between the royal family and the commissars, petitioning for all their needs.
When it was decreed to transport the Royal family to Tobolsk, doctor Botkin remained one of the few confidants who voluntarily followed the Tsar into exile. The letters of doctor Botkin from Tobolsk strike one with their truly Christian spirits: not a word of murmur, judgment, displeasure, or resentment, but kindliness and even joy. The source of this placidity was his firm faith in the all-good Providence of God: "Only prayer and infinite trust in God's mercy that is invariably shed on us by our Heavenly Father, sustains me." At this time he kept fulfilling his duties: treating not only the members of the Royal family but also the common townsfolk. A learned man, who for many years was in touch with the scientific, medical, and administrative elite of Russia, he worked humbly as a country or town doctor, serving simple peasants, soldiers, and laborers. In April of 1918, doctor Botkin volunteered to accompany the Royal couple to Ekaterinburg, having left in Tobolsk his own children whom he loved dearly. In Ekaterinburg the Bolsheviks once again offered the servants to leave the prisoners, but all of them declined. Official of Cheka I. Rodzinsky reported: "At a certain time after the transfer into Ekaterinburg there was the idea to separate everyone from them; in particular, even their daughters were offered the opportunity to leave. Yet, everyone declined. Botkin declined. He declared that he wanted to share the destiny of the family. So, he refused."
The night from July 16th to July 17th, the Royal family, people in attendance, doctor Botkin among them, were executed in the basement of the Ipatyev house.
A few years before his death Evgeniy Sergeyevich received the title of the gentleman by birth. He chose the following motto for his coat of arms: "By faith, by faithfulness, by labor." In these words, as it were, all of doctor Botkin's ideals and striving were concentrated. His deep inner piety, and, most importantly, – self-sacrificial service to the neighbor, unshakable faithfulness to the Royal family, and faithfulness to God and His commandments under all circumstances, faithfulness unto death. Such faithfulness the Lord accepts as an unblemished sacrificed and grants for it the highest, heavenly reward: "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life."