YEKATERINBURG, July 17. /TASS/. As Russia observed the centenary anniversary since the brutal slaying of the family of the deposed Czar Nicholas II, which occurred in Yakerinburg overnight to July 17, 1918, the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill I led a vigil Cross-bearing procession from the downtown Church on the Blood to the Ganina Yama district, the initial burial site of the slain family members.
Kirill I said before the beginning of the procession he planned covering the whole distance of 21 km on foot. He is leading a column of thousands upon thousands of pilgrims who have come from all the parts of Russia, as well as from Ukraine, Belarus, the UK, the US, France, Germany, and other countries.
Bolshevik revolutionaries executed Czar Nicholas II, who had abdicated more than a year prior to the execution, Czarina Alexandra, Crown Prince Alexis, Grand Princesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, family physician Eugene Botkin, Czarina’s room-maid Anna Demidova, court chef Ivan Kharitonov, and the Czar’s footman Alexei [Aloise] Trupp overnight to July 17, 1918.
The Russian Orthodox Church canonized the Czar, the Czarina and their five children as holy regal martyrs for faith in 2000.
The vigil service and liturgy ended shortly after midnight. The Patriarch conducted it right on the square in front of the Church on the Blood in attendance of Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and all Ukraine, Metropolitan Vladimir of Chisinau and all Moldova, Metropolitan Juvenal of Krutsitsy and Kolomenkosye, Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg, Metropolitan Vikenty of Tashkent and other hierarchs of the Church.
In all about 40 bishops, including some of them representing the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia took part in chanting the vigil and the liturgy. Sources at the diocese of Yekaterinburg said about 10,000 people took communion out on the square and the priests had brought more than a hundred communion chalices for the purpose - a record in its own right.
Moving ahead of the column is a group of clerics carrying a big icon of Nicholas II decorated with flowers. This is the main icon of the Monastery in the Name of Holy Regal Martyrs on Ganina Yama.
Anzhela Tambova, the press secretary of the Yekaterinburg diocese told TASS the check-in lists of the camp for the pilgrims showed people had come from practically all the corners of Russia.
"Moscow, St. Petersburg, Pskov, Blagoveshchensk in the Far East, Murmansk," she said naming just a handful of cities as an instance. Groups of pilgrims also came from Serbia, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, the US, the UK, Germany, Austria, France, and even from as far as New Zealand.
About 150 volunteers were seen escorting the column. They were split into 25 small mobile groups, which also included priests and nurses, who had taken a special training course at the regional branch of the Ministry for Emergency Situations and Civil Defense.
The pilgrims who get tired have an opportunity to take seat in special busses. Installed along the route are freshwater stations.
Duke Pavel Kulikovsky-Romanov, a member of the Romanov Family Association, and members of his family are taking part in the march, too. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, the senior successor to the Romanov dynasty, and her son attended the patriarchal liturgy.
Walking among the pilgrims is a group of about a hundred young members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. They have come from the parishes in Australia, the US, Germany, France, Israel, Georgia and other countries.
Young Orthodox Christian activists have a very extensive program in the Urals. Apart from visiting the commemorative places linked to Nicholas II’s family, they also take part in the services and plan giving a concert of spiritual music in Yekaterinburg.
An international forum of young Orthodox Christians has been timed for the anniversary.
One of the veterans of the Cross-bearing processions to Ganina Yama, Dr. Vladimir Bolshakov, who supervises research activities at the Ilya Glazunov Russian Academy of Painting and Sculpture, was the organizers of the first such procession in 1992.
"As if it was upon someone’s prearranged plan, the bulk of flights to Yekaterinburg were cancelled then," he said. "We had to take a train. The weather was quite horrible then, too, but decided to perform the Cross-bearing procession all the same. And imagine there only nine of use on the march back in 1992."
"Ever more new people are joining the columns after 2000 when the Holy Regal Martyrs were canonized," Dr. Bolshakov said.
Two young women from the southern Stavropol territory, Anna and Vera, told TASS they had to spend four night on a bus and went through the heatwave of more than 40 Centigrade on the way to Yekaterinburg. In addition, the bus went out of order several times.
"Still we feel a new surge of energy now and we hope to pray to the regal martyrs," Anna said.
A group of pilgrims from western Ukraine had some unpleasant surprises during the trip to Yekaterinburg, too. Not far from Yekaterinburg, the bust got into a road accident. The strike was rather powerful and the pilgrims said it was a miracle no one had been injured.
"Our route to Sverdlovsk was more than 4,000 km long and we really felt the Holy Regal Martyrs were helping us," said Xenia from Ukraine’s Rovno region. "People in Ukraine venerate to regal martyrs passionately."
Foer some of the pilgrims, participation in the ‘Czarist days’ has taken the shape of family tradition. For instance, Tatiana from the West-Siberian city of Tobolsk said she comes to Yekaterinburg for anniversaries of the Czarist Family execution for than fifteen years already. They began to take part in the commemorative events when the Church on the Blood did not exist yet.
"The Family wasn’t canonized by the Church yet and we simply ordered a remembrance service," she said. "The children would run around us and take blessings from the head of the diocese, Archbishop Vikenty.".