Piotr Karpenko

First he got into touch with Persian dervishes; later, although not for long, he was a Baptist; and still later, returning to Afghanistan, he entered a monastery in the environs of Kabul. When he had understood everything he needed and was convinced that people were no longer necessary to him, he began to look for an isolated spot far from human habitation. Having found this place, he had settled here in the company of a few persons who wished to live according to his indications, and was awaiting his death— as he was already ninety-eight years old, and it is rare nowadays for anyone to pass a hundred.

As the old man prepared to leave, Yelov also addressed him, asking whether he would be good enough to advise him what to do about his eyes. Several years before in the Transcaspian region, he had contracted trachoma and, in spite of all kinds of treatments, the malady had not been cured but had become chronic. ‘Although my eyes,’ he said, ‘do not bother me all the time, nevertheless in the mornings they are always closed up with excretions, and a change of climate or a sand­storm makes them rather painful.’

The old ez-ezounavouran advised him to grind some copper sulphate very fine and, every evening before going to sleep, to moisten a needle with his own saliva, dip it into the ground sulphate and draw it between the eyelids; and to continue this treatment for a certain period of time.

After he had given Yelov this advice, the venerable man rose and, making to each of us the gesture which in those regions signifies what we call a blessing, went towards his dwelling-place; and all of us, even our dogs, accompanied him.

On the way we resumed our conversation with the old man. Suddenly, Karpenko, without consulting any of us, addressed him in the Uzbek language and said:

‘Holy Father! As by the will of fate we have met you in such unusual surroundings, a man great in knowledge and rich in experience of ordinary life as well as on the level of self-preparation for the being after death, we are all convinced beyond doubt that you will not refuse to give us your advice, of course so far as this is possible, on the life we should live and the ideals that we should hold before us, in order that we may ultimately be able to live as designed from Above and as is worthy of man.’