Orthodox America

  The Cry of the New Martyrs – Suffering for Charity’s Sake

     As if deliberately trying to root out all inclination to good will among men, the Soviet authorities have targeted for destruction the Russian Social Fund for Aid to Political Prisoners and Their Families, founded nearly ten years ago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. In that time it has helped up to 700 families a year, not only financially, but also in sending much-needed medicines, and even Christmas presents for the children. Although the Fund is strictly non-political and engaged only in charitable activities, it is attacked by the communists as being a tool of the CIA. Its administrators in the Soviet Union have been severely persecuted. Alexander Ginsburg, its first administrator, was arrested and sentenced. Sergei Khodorovich, 42, was imprisoned in April of this year and is reported to be suffering from severe beatings. Khodorovich was succeeded by Andrei Kistyakovsky, an Orthodox believer who works as a translator. The cruel pattern again appeared: his apartment was searched and his typewriter--vital to his work--was confiscated; after an interrogation, four men attacked him on the street, beat him up, and forced him into a car in which he was driven to the KGB; there he was told: "See what happens to those who work for the Fund?"

Due to severe illness, Kistyakovsky has recently been relieved of the practical duties of the Fund's administration by another Orthodox believer and father of 5 children;  40 year-old Boris Michailov. The new director an art expert employed in a senior position at the Museum of Feudal Art in Ostankino. recently made the following public statement:

     "It is known that Sergei Khodorovich, who is being held in the Butyrka Prison, has been subjected to systematic beatings.

     "That in June he conducted a hunger strike which lasted at least twenty days;

     "That in August he was beaten up so severely that he is now in the prison hospital with a fractured skull;

     "It is clear that the prosecution has set out to 'criminalize' the activities of the Fund and to tar it s voluntary helpers and recipients of aid with the brusher 'treason'. It is their hope that we shall voluntarily accept the murder of our friend and the shameful light in which they are striving to depict the charitable activity in which we are engaged. But these are vain hopes."

     "Russia has bent her knee only to God. We shall not bow to brute force, nor shall we be silenced.

     "All people, irrespective of race or station, have the inviolable right to appeal for and to receive help, as they are endowed with the God-given urge to be compassionate towards another's plight, and to render assistance. This is the basis on which the Russian Social Fund for Aid to Political Prisoners and Their Families operates. The fund has no other motives and does not contravene the laws of our land in any way.

"With faith in the sure help of God,"

Boris Mikhailov
Moscow October, 1983 '

(Portions taken from KNS #186, 3/11/83)


    Concerning the desperate state of Khodorovich, Natalia Solzhenitsyn issued a statement to the press in which she said: "In the West today such criminal behavior on the part of the Soviet regime will come as no surprise; but we remind people that Sergei Khodorovich is being tortured only because he helped the wives and children, of prisoners of conscience."


In an earlier interview, Mrs. Solzhenitsyn explained that the attacks On the Social Fund directors have in the last year Significantly intensified under Andropov's regime. Not satisfied with charging Fund volunteers with "anti-Soviet agitation,', the communist authorities are trying to fabricate reasons to warrant the much more serious charge of "treason against the homeland"--which carries the possibility of a death sentence. This is motivated by the purposely fabricated assumption that prisoners receive money from the Fund in exchange for information concerning camp and prison conditions.

       It is not only the Fund's directors who are subjected to this inhumane treatment. The recipients themselves are harassed with apartment searches and interrogations. The wife of one prisoner visiting her husband was told by the guard: "If you accept aid from the Fund, we'll leave your husband to sit here and rot."

      Mrs. Solzhenitsyn made it clear that the fate of Sergei Khodorovich depends on how world opinion will react to his arrest.

(Russkaya Misl', 20/10/83)


      What is our reaction? not only to the arrest of Sergei Khodorovich, but to the long term incarceration of thousands who are equally innocent of any crime. How little charity we expend on those suffering for charity's sake. Let us pray more fervently that God may grant them courage in the trial of their faith. And may we be inspired by their example, in this approaching Nativity season, to brighten someone else's life with an act of charity. Please, remember the 'Prisoners' Fund'.