Orthodox America

  The Cry of the New Martyrs - Freedom Behind Bars

Faith has never conformed to the logic of this world. When the atheist communist regime set out to destroy faith in what was once Holy Russia, it expected to make a clean sweep. Casting aside all scruples, it flooded the country with a blood-bath of mass murder of believers.  Those whom it did not kill, it locked behind high walls and miles of barbed wire. But the atheists did not understand the mystery of faith; in conditions of suffering and deprivation it often flourishes And whereas the Soviets have created a nation of citizens who are held prisoners by the very system, those whom it has imprisoned have often found faith in the camps-and this has made them free indeed. Below is one man’s testimony of the way in which prison can lead the way to the truth.

 “The subject of imprisoned believers is very interesting. I remember in particular one man whom I saw in the Perm camps; his face was absolutely radiant. He lives with the idea that at anytime-perhaps tomorrow-. will come the Day of judgment. Here I felt there was a certain connection with the Catacomb Church. This man confessed him self to be Orthodox. lie was formerly a criminal and was first sentenced to 25 years for murder. in the early '60's he was thrown into a zone where there were some believers. He came in with a cigar and a harmonica, of all things. And something suddenly struck him; perhaps it was from a conversation he had with one of the believers. He broke the harmonica, spit out the cigar and began to be conscious of a growing faith. Then he was sent to prison and there he began to have doubts-in prison there is sometimes a weakening of faith. But when I met him, he was a shining light. He never took part in any arguments among the young people, but he would pray all night that everything would be all right.

I myself received an answer there to the question of faith. At first there is a terrifying emptiness; then, all at once, it's no longer there. For the first time I found it interesting to be alone with myself. And I think that in spite of ah the evil to be found in prison, this feeling is common to many people, whether they talk about it or not.

"Another time I was in a cell with a young Ukrainian, ah atheist like his parents, although he respected religion. He was a believer in progress. Once there arose the question: Does spirit influence matter, or does matter influence spirit? When we were released from prison and began corresponding, the word 'God' in our letters was written with a capital 'G'. We never discussed this directly, but now there was a feeling of a certain intimate, delicate relation ship with God.  The materialist doctrine had disappeared under the influence of the spiritual nature of prison life.... It generates a certain clarity. Of course, there is more evil; a man becomes very nervous, he loses everything, everything. At the same time, his orientation, his beliefs become clear, defined. There is no superficiality.


(From an interview with G.S. in "Religion and Atheism in the USSR", Aug-Sept. 1983)


Countless churches, like the one above, have been purposely left to deteriorate by the atheist authorities who claim there is no demand for them. Meanwhile, thousands of believers sign petitions to have churches opened. For several years believers in the town of Brezhnev (formerly Chelni Shores) have been appealing to the authorities to open an Orthodox church. One old church in the area is currently being used as a mill, another as a warehouse. Thus far the appeals have fallen on deaf ears.


Almost no information has reached the West concerning the present condition of Fr. George Calciu, a courageous Romanian Orthodox priest currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for his outspoken sermons which had affected large numbers of youth Unconfirmed reports state that torturers broke his hands. Another source reports that it has been over a year and a half that his wife Adriana has seen her husband. Food parcers sent to him return unopened. Some fear that Fr. George is dead.


ARC in the USA

"Aid to Russian Christians," an organization which originally developed out of the work of Keston College in England, has for several years been sending material aid to families of religious prisoners behind the Zrdn Curtain. Almost a year ago a branch of ARC was established in the States under the name "Society of St. Stephen," in honor of one or the first deacons whose ministry was to care for the needs of the poor and dispossessed, and who became the first martyr of the Church. In addition to printing and distributing the A R C quarterly "Newsletter" here in the US, the Society prints lists of addresses of believers in the Soviet Union and encourages parishes and individuals to form adoption groups for Christian prisoners. The "adoption" of a prisoner involves writing letters, praying for the prisoner and his her family, and sending material aid if possible. By concentrating efforts on helping a specific individual, there is a greater sense or personal involvement and responsibility. Likewise, our prayers for such a person are usually more heartfelt than if we simply pray from a list of names unknown to us. Let us stop and ask ourselves, What hinders us from adopting a fellow believer, from sharing in another's sufferings, from bearing a small measure of someone else’s burden, and so following the law of Christ?

Those interested in learning more about the Society's activities, in receiving their newsletter or in learning how they can adopt a prisoner, are urged to contact the Society:


A Visit to Fr. Gleb

The official Soviet news agency TASS has reported that Metropolitan Yuvenali of the Moscow Patriarchate sent his secretary Archimandrite Grigory to visit imprisoned Orthodox priest, Pr. Gleb Yakunin. On his return from the camp in the Urals where Fr. Gleb has been imprisoned since his arrest three years ago, the secretary told TASS correspondents that he spent several hours with Fr. Gleb. "I gave him a Bible, and after Confession and Communion we had a long talk about the situation of the Rnssian Orthodox Church in recent times'1 (Russkava Misl’, 28/7/83).


A close personal friend of Fr. Gleb, Vadim Shcheglov, who arrived recently in the West, comments that "the unexpected visit to Fr. Gleb by a representative of the Moscow Patriarchate, and the TASS announcement of it, is obviously a window-dressing gesture to counter any criticism or protests which may be voiced concerning the Soviet authorities' treatment of Fr. Gleb at the General Assembly of the World Council of Churches which opened in Vancouver [late last month]."

(KN5 - No.179)

One could also note that Fr. Dimitry Dudko received a visit from Metropoliton Yuvenali in prison, after which Fr. Dimitry renounced" his former pastoral activities which were the. cause of his arrest.