You’ll never believe what happened when a conservative religious leader adopted 70 children.
I’m just kidding. You know exactly how this plays out and you’re horrified without even reading another sentence. But I’ll tell you the horrific details anyway.
Nikolai Stremsky was a rector at the Holy Trinity Convent of Mercy in Saraktash—part of the Urals in Russia. He had a family, which is permitted by the Church, and they were well known in the region for adopting children from orphanages. In fact, since 1990, he took in an astonishing 70 kids as his own, leading people to treat him as if he were a living saint. He even received an “Order of Parental Glory” for his service in 2019.
Not long after getting that honor, however, Stremsky was arrested. The accusations came as such a shock to people that an official from the Russian Orthodox Church called for “emotional restraint” after the charges were announced. Stremsky was suspended from ministering, too. And no wonder:
Stremsky is charged under three articles of the Russian Criminal Code, among them raping an underage girl, sexual abuse of two and more minors and dereliction of duty in bringing up children. His daughter and her husband are also defendants in the case. All three have been taken into custody. According to investigators, Stremsky repeatedly molested six of his adopted underage girls between January and August of 2018 and raped one of them.
Despite his repeated denials, those charges have now turned into guilty verdicts.
On Friday, Stremsky was sentenced to more than two decades in prison, banned from working with children during that time, and stripped of his Order of Parental Glory honor. While his age doesn’t appear to be public knowledge, it seems likely he’ll spend the rest of his life in a penal colony.
There are bigger questions at play here. How was Stremsky able to get away with his crimes for as long as he did? Why was he ever trusted to take in these children? Are there more victims who have not yet come forward?
Because of the nature of where this happened and the limited reporting on his trial, it’s not likely we’re going to get more information anytime soon. But considering dozens of his children are adults now, here’s hoping they weren’t holding in secrets this whole time and can speak freely about their own experiences under him.
The whole awful story is another reminder that being a supposed man of God doesn’t mean you’re automatically trustworthy. Trust must be earned and Stremsky broke it many times over, using his unearned credibility as a priest and solid reputation as an adoptive father to get away with it. At least until he couldn’t anymore.