Orthodox America

 The Cry of the New Martyrs – In Search of Evidence 

     In the course of trying to gather evidence against Orthodox Christian Pavel Protsenko (OA #61), the KGB summoned his mother-in law and told her plainly: "The charges are sufficient. Pavel will sit out his term in prison."

    The case against Protsenko was built upcn a 32-page typewritten text on the contemporary situation of the Russian Orthodox Church. which was confiscated together with two pre-revolutionary religious books when Pavel was searched at the Kiev railway station in Moscow on March 29 of this year. A document detailing the course of investigation over the months that followed gives some insight into the procedure typically used by the KGB in sending Christian activists into the Gulag.

    After returning home to Kiev, Protsenko was arrested on June 4 and charged with "slandering the Soviet state and social system.'' His wife and year-old daughter Xenia had left the city shortly after the Chernobyl disaster, and Pavel had spent the night in the apartment of an elderly nun, Mother Seraphima, who had asked Pavel to help her compile the biographyof her uncle, a bishop who had written a study of asceticism. Early in the morning two investigators came and unceremoniously took Pavel away. That same day the nun' s apartment was searched; a typewriter, Lev Regalson's Tragedy of the Russian Church, and numerous manuscripts were confiscated, including materials related to the above-mentioned biography which was being prepared, as the nun later explained, for publication by the Moscow Patriarchate.

    On this and the next day searches were also carried cut in no fewer than 17 other apartments in the city, with the confiscation of icons, church calendars and theological works published by the Moscow Patriarchate, religious poetry and type-written texts. Later, those living in the apartments and others were individually summoned for interrogation by the KGB in connection with the case against Pavel.

    In questioning the "witnesses" the investigators tried to characterize Pavel as a political dissident, claiming that he had sent anti-Soviet materials abroad for publication --including, allegedly, the reminiscences of an old woman on the life of a Christian community of the 1920's which Pavel had copied out, and the manuscript confiscated at the railway station. After six hours of interrogation, ore of Pavel' s acquaintances, Leonid Tsipin, was made to believe this fabrication and signed a statement to the effect that Pavel's activity harmed the Church. Another witness, soil specialist Alexander Matranovsky, was interrogated for nearly 12 hours. Given to read the manuscript in question, Mairanovsky declared that he failed to see in it anything anti-Soviet.

    The investigators also tried to establish the fact that Pavel had ties with the West. His mother-in-law was asked: Does Pavel receive money from abroad? You don't know? Another person was questioned concerning the possibility of Pavel' s connection with the Solzhenitsyn Fund, [1] They likewise tried to demonstrate that Pavel was the leader of all alleged Christian Union of Ukraine; this story was soon discarded.

    As in many similar cases, the investigators brought into question Pave’s mental state. His stepson Andrei was asked what kind of relationship he had with Pavel. Had Pavel consulted a psychiatrist? Was there nothing strange about his behavior? No fits of anger? Was Pavel normal? "My stepfather is a highly respectable man, a loyal citizen and a Christian. There is no question about his mental health, but physically Pavel is very ill" (he suffers from pancreatitis and hepatitis), Most of the witnesses called spoke very highly of Pavel as a Christian and as a person. One said: "He has a clear mind and is deep-thinking. He is balanced and a man of few words." In spite of this testimony, Pavel was sent to the Pavlov psychiatric hospital in Kiev for examination. Later a friend was told that the reason for this was Pavel’s "incorrect behavior" and his refusal to give evidence. Fortunately, the attempt to have him diagnosed as mentally unstable failed, and within a month, in September, Pavel was returned to the investigation prison.

    In some cases attempts to secure, evidence were accompanied by intimidation, Medical doctor Sergei Kiselev, after making some slanderous remarks about Pavel, justified himself by saying he had no other choice: "I have to think about my child." But for the most part, those questioned held steadfastly to the truth--and suffered the consequences. Sergei Naboka refused to give any evidence whatsoever against Pavel and was subsequently dismissed from his job as a librarian. Nadezhda Mogilka, choir director in the Church of the Ascension, was summoned repeatedly and warned that she, too, may be arrested, but that her late, unlike Pavel’s, would not become known abroad. Another woman, Yekaterina Tkachenko, ignored a number of summonses to appear at the KGB office until warned by her bishop that if she wanted to continue as choir director in the In Vladimir Cathedral she would have to go to the interrogation and conduct herself there "like a genuine Soviet citizen."

    It is interesting that three of those interrogated were asked by the KGB to explain the number of Jews turning to the Christian faith. "The Jews have always been the best atheists, haven't they?" In her reply to this question, Tkachenko quoted from the Gospel.

    1 n reading the description of the investigation, one is struck by the amount of religious books and samizdat clandestinely circulated. One of the searches turned up a dozen leaflets calling for there-opening ofthe Kiev-Caves Monastery for the Millennium of the Russian Orthodox Church. Those interrogated were invariably asked what literature they had received from Pavel. Often the answer was "a Bible."

    It was in the interest of the avowedly atheist State to have Pavel sentenced, to have him put away where he could no longer spread the light of the Gospel which h. did so readily by word and deed. Lack of success in collecting incriminating evidence did not prevent the KGB from bringing Pavel to trial. An American lawyer, Glenn Scott, expressed his willingness to defend Protsenko, but was refused a visa by the Soviet Embassy In Washington, On November 19 Pavel was sentenced to 3 years ordinary regime labor camp for "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda,"



    Pavel’s wife Irina, threatened with arrest herself, asks for prayers for her husband. "And since the will of God is often seen through actions, I ask for action as well as prayers. I ask you to send petitions for the release of my husband, most importantly, to Gorbachov. Please include with your petitions requests that Pavel be permitted to have a Bible and prayer book. 'God is with us..,! '"

[1] In May of this year the KGB opened a criminal case against the Fund which it has accused of having ties with the CIA.!