Orthodox America

  The Cry of the New Martyrs – A Continuing Vigil

Atheism is the heart of the whole communist system – Solzhenitsyn


    Since our last appeal on behalf of imprisoned Orthodox Christian Alexander Ogorodnikov (OA #63), additional information has reached the West concerning his whereabouts and the conditions of his present incarceration. As reported by Keston College, these are detailed in two statements written by Ogorodnikov to the local procuracy, citing 14 separate instances of "violation of the rules governing the management of corrective labor institutions" and protesting discriminatory actions taken against him.

    Personally, Ogorodnikov has experienced some of the worst treatment in his eight years of imprisonment, which he cannot but see as an attempt to break him physically as well as spiritually and emotionally. Keston reports:

    "Despite specific permission from the deputy commandant, Major Grinko, to wear a baptismal cross, Ogorodnikov's cross was forcibly removed from him with great violence on August 6. His passive resistance--he put the cross in his mouth to protect it--was countered by his arm being twisted and attempts to pull his mouth open, strangle him and to force his teeth apart. He was then taken to the guardroom, where he was thrown on the floor, handcuffed, sprayed with teargas, and punched and kicked in the jaw and the kidneys, until, almost unconscious, he was too weak to resist further."

     Although Ogorodnikov does not expect the Khabarovsk procuracy to act on his protests, he wrote in order that no one might accuse him in the future of neglecting official channels in his demands for justice:

    "I know that you serve the same idol as my tormentors. This statement is a form of profession of my faith in my Lord Jesus Christ and his Most Pure Mother, a warning to my persecutors that 'God will not be mocked' and that the Church--'the pillar and ground of truth'--will never be overcome by the gates of hell, which has been confirmed by her two thousand years of persecutions, trials and heresies. Persecution only purifies the Body of Christ, and our faith is tempered in its furnace. The Lord will hear our groans forced out between gritted teeth and will strengthen His children with spiritual power. The groans of Christian martyr s form the background to the American-Soviet agreement on increasing contacts and the exchange of delegations and information about the situation in the two countries. But the Church is out side the political structures. Western appeasing liberalism gives state atheism a free hand, but does not shake the profession of faith by prisoners of conscience. In isolation and in solitary confinement, through our principles and our faith, we shall affirm the saving gospel of the risen Christ and defend the Image of God in man from satanic attack."

(KNS 118/87)


It has become palpably obvious to us hat it is very easy to live according to the truth. You just have to make a determined stand against the pressures of the frantic world and God will help you and strengthen your convictions.   (Vladimir Poresh Alexander’s close friend and leader of the Christian Seminar)


Fast Draws Support

        In our article focusing on Ogorodnikov's case, mention was made of a fast which was to have been conducted on his behalf in London by Anglican minister Dr. Richard Rodgers and Orthodox Christian Athanasius Hart. Due to continued concern for Irina Ratushinskaya, Dr. Rodgers decided to forgo the fast in order to campaign for Irina's release to the West for medical treatment (see below). Nevertheless, the fast took place as scheduled and appears to have been very successful --if not in securing Ogorodnikov's immediate release, at least in drawing media attention and in turn eliciting influential support among government and church authorities.

     The success of the fast rested, in large measure, on the well-organized efforts of "The Alexander Vigil" Committee whose members widely publicized the fast. Brochures, circulars and postcards were distributed, describing Ogorodnikov's desperate plight and urging people to write to the Soviet ambassador and to Gorbachev, appealing for Alexander's release. The prayers generated by this publicity were of great encouragement to Br. Athanasius who was able to endure the 24-day fast (water only) without suffering any ill effects.

    Highlighting the calendar of events scheduled- by" the Vigil Committee to coincide with the fast were: visits of Members of Parliament who read Scripture outside the cage in a show of support for Alexander, a candlelight vigil at which excerpts from Alexander's letters were read, followed by an all-night (9:30 pm - 12 noon! ) vigil of prayer and fasting, and a peaceful demonstration of support outside the Soviet Embassy. There was great joy when, on the last day of the fast, Dec. 24, Irina Ratushinskaya and her husband came to the cage where 'they joined Bisholp Kallistos of Diokleia and the Anglican Bishop of London. Their presence at the close of the fast attracted considerable media attention. England's principal TV channels, BBC and ITV, gave the event very sensitive and generous coverage--about 3-minute segments on the major news broadcasts. CBS was also present.

     The success of the fast provided needed momentum for the international campaign for Alexander's release. May it encourage all of us to make the subject of this campaign known to our Congressmen and, more importantly, to conduct a constant vigil in our hearts, persevering in prayer--as Alexander has persevered--until his release and reunion with his wife and son.