Orthodox America

  The Cry of the New Martyrs – The Price of Celebrating Pascha in Prison

It was the day of the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection which we recognized according to the Orthodox Church practice as being April 18(n.s., 1982--ed.). Around a modest table there gathered 14 prisoners-Orthodox, and those of other faiths wishing to congratulate their friends. Among us were believers, and also those who chose not to call the voice of conscience within them the voice of God. One of us--Miroslav Marinerich --read a prayer, but the words of the Resurrected Love and Forgiveness had not yet sounded when it pleased fate to test the sincerity of our prayer, A grouper supervisors drove away those who had gathered; the political prisoners--Miroslav, Victor Nekipelov, and Mikela Rudenko--were charged with "organizing an assembly, prayer and insubordination ," for which they were thrown into solitary confinement for 15 days.

     For celebrating Pascha the prisoner Oleg Shevchenko was deprived of a personal visit with his relatives which was permitted only once a year and was later given 10 days in solitary. Others present were also punished, among them a Jew, Leonid Lubman, who had come to congratulate his Orthodox friends.

     Alas, those times are long gone when Eleanor Roosevelt was shown model prisoners reading the Bible and the Koran in Soviet prisons. Now prisoners are unable to get a Bible even by declaring a months-long hunger strike (1980-1981, A. Ogorodnikov); it is pointless even to think of being able to confess to a priest: in solitary and during transport crosses are torn off; it is forbidden to receive church service books and even prayers.

     .... We cannot and do not want to bring to Caesar that which rightfully belongs to God. .... Those participants of the Easter peace marches in the West which are so actively supported by communist propaganda--do they realize that during those same April days prisoners in Soviet labor camps were thrown into solitary by that same communist power?

     We wish all Christians, and together with them all of mankind, to live in peace, goodness and truth--but not at the cost of trampling underfoot the higher good given by God to the soul.

Glory to Jesus Christ! 

(From an open letter to Pope John-Paul II; "Possev," May, 1983)