VITALIA, LEADER OF THE SECT
Self-Immolation Taught by a Strange Woman in Russia.
WONDERFUL POWER OF THE PRIESTESS.
Induced Kovaloff to Wall Up His Own Wife and Children.
MAGISTRATES MAY SEND HIM TO A MONASTERY.
Peculiar Doings of Fanatics Known as Raskolniki in Which the Czar Is Greatly Interested.
LONDON, Eng., June 7. The correspondent of the Daily News, who went to Tirespol, Russia, to inquire into the case of self-immolation of a number of persons belonging to a religious sect, known as Raskolniki, says he learns that Feodore Kovaloff, on whose premises the bodies of fifteen victims were found, including those of Kovaloffs wife and two children, will probably be confined in a monastery. The magistrate examining into the matter are convinced that Kovaloff was absolutely unconscious of having committed a crime in having buried six persons alive and walling up nine others in his cellar.
One of the chief personalities of the drama enacted at Ternofka, near Tirespol, was a woman called Vitalia, who was the prophetess, priestess and preacher. She was the daughter of respectable parents. She entered an orthodox convent in her youth, but later joined the Raskolniki. Some time ago she suddenly vanished and was not heard if until her corpse was exhumed at Ternofka. She had great influence with the other members of the strange sect, and persuaded all her followers when sent to prison to starve to death. They refused to eat food offered, and all would have perished had not the alarmed governor of the prison released them.
Another instance of the influence of Vitalia was the walling up of Kovaloffs wife and children. During the taking of one census Kovaloff arrived home one evening and found his young wife strangely depressed. Inquiries to what was troubling her elicited the information that his wife was afraid that the enumerators would enter the names of their two children upon the accursed record, with the result that ultimately they would be forced to join an orthodox church and thereby be irrevocably doomed to eternal perdition. She declared that she had therefore resolved to sacrifice the children with herself. Kovaloff, who had hitherto been the least fanatical, began to be horrified. Failing to dissuade her he went to seek counsel and enlist the help of Vitalia. The prophetess hastened to the mother and instead of trying to prevent her self-sacrifice commended her for her holy and laudable resolve. Finally she convinced Kovaloff that by self-martyrdom he and his family could alone hope for salvation. It was in obedience to her behests that Kovaloff performed the dreadful tragedy himself, meanwhile grieving continuously that he was not allowed to die with his wife and children.
The Czar is profoundly impressed by the story, and is receiving minute reports of the progress of the inquiry.
The San Francisco Call, Tuesday, June 8, 1897, p. 1:1