The Hieromartyr Athansius of Bretsk was Belorussian and was born in about the year 1597 into a pious Christian family named Philippovich. He received a serious upbringing, and he knew the theological and historical literature, as is evidenced in the diary of the saint, which has been preserved.
In his youth, St Athanasius for a while was a teacher in the houses of Polish merchants. In the year 1627, he accepted tonsure under Igumen Joseph at the Vilensk monastery of the Holy Spirit. St Athanasius was ordained hieromonk in the year 1632, and made head of the Duboisk [Dubovsk] monastery near Pinsk.
St Athanasius, with a special blessing of the Theotokos, re-established Orthodoxy within the boundaries of the ancient Russian territories that had been seized by the Polish Reche. Between the years 1638-1648 St Athanasius fulfilled his obedience as igumen of the Bretsk-Simeonov monastery. The monk endured much abuse from the Uniates and illegal persecution from the civil authorities. Three times he endured being locked up in prison.
The saint was sent to the authorities at Kiev to appear before a religious tribunal, but he was acquitted, and returned to his own monastery. For ten years St Athanasius, finding himself among persons maliciously disposed towards him, led a constant struggle for Holy Orthodoxy, his faithfulness to which is evidenced by his sufferings.
Attempts to wear down the spiritual endurance of the saint were to no avail. He again went to trial, after which the monk was sentenced to death by execution, for his cursing of the Unia. St Athanasius died as a martyr on the night of September 4-5, 1648 (the Uncovering of Relics was on July 20, 1679).