Lifelong Devotion to the Royal Family: How a Well-known Doctor Became a Saint

For 3 years along with the commemoration of the Holy Royal Martyrs, murdered in the basement of the Epatiev’s house in Ekaterinburg, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of Eugene Botkin, the righteous doctor who was killed on the same day in the same basement with the Royal Family. At first, he was canonized by the ROCOR in 1981, and after more than 30 years – in the Moscow Patriarchate as well due to the fact that Eugene Botkin was widely honored both by the regular laypeople and the faithful doctors. Let us recall some facts from the saint’s biography.

Childhood and study. Eugene Sergeevich Botkin was the fourth child of Sergei Botkin, a well-known doctor, after whom one of the main hospitals in Moscow was named. However, the doctor’s son did not like to use his respectful father’s fame and strived to gain everything with his own efforts. He was homeschooled and after finishing gymnasium he entered a physics-mathematics faculty of the St. Petersburg University. Soon he understood that the medicine was his calling and entered the Naval Academy of Medicine, following the steps of his father and elder brothers. Eugene graduated with honors from the academy as one of the best students.

Work and career. Although he had opportunities for career growth, the young doctor chooses the path of serving the sick and at the age of 25 he started working at the hospital for the poor. According to his own words, everything one could see there were “dirt, pain and sufferings”. The same year he got married, and later his spouse would give birth to four children. Working as a regular doctor in the hospital, Eugene Botkin did not give up doing science. He got his master’s degree as the doctor of medical science and went for internship to Germany, where he had an opportunity to listen to the lectures of the most well-known doctors of that time. Soon after that, he started teaching himself. At his first lecture, he told the students about the main goal of a doctor: “Let us all come to the sick so that we all learn how to be useful for them”. Eugene Botkin considered the ministry of a doctor to be a Christian work through which we can show our active love towards our neighbors as well as conceive the Wisdom of God. The saint wrote to his son George: “The brightest joy that you feel in our work is the fact that we constantly have to learn more and more about the mysteries of God’s creature. At the same time it is impossible not to enjoy their feasibility and harmony and God’s highest wisdom.”

Eugene Botkin and Grand Duchesses Anastasia and Maria

Botkin took part in Russian-Japan war. He enlisted himself as a volunteer and was assigned the head of the medical facility of the Russian Red Cross in one of the armies. Not once, he had to present at war positions, saving the wounded soldiers right on the battlefield. For this feat he was honored with the officer orders.

After the war, he came back to Petersburg and worked as a lecturer. When the position of the chief doctor of the Royal family was free, Empress Alexandra claimed that she wanted to see Botkin in that post. She was told there were two doctors with such surname in Petersburg, to which she replied, “I need the one who was in the war!”

Path to the Cross. Botkin served as a physician in ordinary in the house of the Royal family until the very end of his life, despite all the difficulties and the fact that his wife had left him. Tsarevich Alexei, who suffered from the severe disease of hemophilia, was Botkin’s main patient. The doctor grew attached to the Royal family so much that he spent with them all his time without asking for any day offs, and the family members reciprocated as well. It is known that Tsarevich Alexei once said: “I love you with my whole little heart”.

Eugene Botkin and Tsar Nicholas ll

Doctor Botkin refused to leave his tsar and followed him during the whole period of arrest. He bravely decided to keep his word till the end. He was shot at night on July 17, 1918 together with the Royal family. The bullet hit him in the stomach and he did not die at once. According to the executioner’s words, he had to shoot the doctor to death then.

On July 13, 2019, Metropolitan Paul of Minsk and Zaslavl consecrated the first church in honor of St. Righteous Eugene Botkin on the territory of Belarus to support social and rehabilitation ministry of the Church.

Сhurch in honor of St. Righteous Eugene Botkin. Belarus, Minsk
John Nichiporuk

About the author

John Nichiporuk,
a Bachelor of Theology, specialized in Biblical Studies; a member of The Catalog of Good Deeds team

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