The story of Ivan Kraskov
How priest wrote his letter to the bishop
The days are shorter in November, and the village goes to sleep early. But the priest of Pochezero Parish, Piotr Kudryashov, is too excited to sleep. He is writing a letter to the higher clergy. Standing at his lectern, he dips his pen in the inkwell and writes laboriously at the top: To His Eminence Arkady, Most Reverend Father in God, Archbishop of Olonets and Petrozavodsk, Recipient of the Order of… Did he mention all the titles? He doesn't want the archbishop to get offended. He continues.

Putting into words all he means to say proves no easy task. There is one good initiative in Pochozero he wants the Archbishop to known about. It's just that this initiative is coming from the grassroots. Will it be okay to put 'parishioner'? What if the archbishop gets it wrong and denies his blessing? He's got to find the right words.

Father Piotr is having a hard time trying to figure out how to write that in the village of Kokovichenskaya there lived Ivan Kraskov. That he was a currier and tradesman and that he went to St. Petersburg and started a store in the Apraksin Yard itself. That he grew rich and had known sin. That he did not succumb to it and started sending money to Pochozero Parish churches and chapels – for the divine cause. It is with Kraskov's money that we are maintaining our churches, Father Piotr began to write but stopped.

He gives the phase a second though and decides to put it differently, in a roundabout way. What he puts on paper is how he asked Ivan Kraskov to get his church the icon of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin and how Kraskov sent him one, inscribed in Greek, Father Piotr added satisfyingly. Then, he wrote how Kraskov sent eighty-four yards of cloth for the church vestments.

Moving to the point, Father Piotr wrote: The lighting in the refectory of the Pochezero church is very poor. The place is covered with lampblack. Ivan Kraskov says he has the money he can give us for the repairs.

With logs and workers ready to begin the repairs, the only thing that's missing is the blessing, which is what he, Father Piot, is requesting in this letter.
The priest seals his letter and starts thinking. Much of what he planned to say remains unsaid – that Kraskov's come home from St. Petersburg, that Kraskov has a dream to have Pochozero churches re-designed and nicely decorated, and that there is a design sketch he showed to Father Piotr.
"That's a lot of money, Ivan," the priest said to Kraskov. "Pochezero men won't be able to pay you back."

"I do not expect them to," Kraskov answered firmly. "All I ask for is that you put on the "skies" my family's patron saints – Apostle Andrew the First-Called, martyrs Daria and Catherine, and Saint John Climacus, to say prayers for me, the sinner."

Father Piotr thinks to himself he hasn't seen a "sky" in any of the churches in Kenozero that depicts patron saints. But, he nods in agreement: Ivan deserves to be given what he asks for.

... At that time in 1861 neither Kraskov, nor Father Piotr Kudryashov, nor Archbishop Arkady knew that Kraskov's plan would become a reality. Twenty years later, under another priest, Piotr Fomin, and thanks to the charitable efforts of Ivan Kraskov, the church ceiling received its "skies".

Little did they know that in the early 20th century their church would be taken photos of and painted by artist Ivan Bilibin and would be admired by the whole of Russia. Little did they know how devastating the events of the 20th century would turn out for the Russian monasteries. Believers and enthusiasts were using every means they had to save their church.

In the 1990s, when churches started to be revived, the church in Pochozero was in critical condition but surviving. Those photos by Bilibin came in handy: inch by inch, this church, now on a par with Kizhi, has regained its original look.

May God speed you, as priest Piotr Fomin and Pochezero-born peasant Ivan Kraskov would say.