Irina ratushinskaya.7


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An introduction to the contemporary Russian writer, Irina Ratushinskaya, a disciple and protege of the late Alexander Solzhenitsyn. This essay is an attempt to show that a Christian witness to grace and truth in the midst of suffering and oppression can still make a difference.

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Irina ratushinskaya.7

  1. 1. The Lords Candles In The Gulag :The Story of Irina Ratushinskaya and the Odessites.Scholarly Research and Writing. Professor: Dr. Glen Blalock, Ph.D. Joseph David Rhodes, M.A. Stephen F. Austin State University (Nacogdoches, TX.) December 10, 1997
  2. 2. 2 The Lords Candles In The Gulag :The Story of Irina Ratushinskaya and the Odessites. The writer consecrated to such a mission risks the contumely of a rejecting world. The truth he tells differs from the worlds accepted falsehoods. " The lonliness of doing right is one of the mysteries of a Christian life " -- so wrote poet Marianne Moore just before her death. The writer and any other Christian must be willing to endure this loneliness. He must be willing, if necessary, to go with John Bunyan to Bedford Jail; to endure with Alan Paton the persecution of an inhumane government; to sacrifice with Boris Pasternak and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn the Nobel Prize; to persevere, again with Solzhenitsyn, in raising his voice against godless oppres- sion and religious compromise, even at the cost of banishment. (D. Bruce Lockerbie, The Liber- ating Word : Art and the Mystery of the Gospel. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1974, p. 125). . . . Yet while he was evidently reluctant to commit himself fully to such apocalyptic speculation, he was deeply interested in it. This interest stemmed ultimately from his effort to comprehend and affirm the statement of Christ in the Gospel of John: " In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. " In this effort Dostoyev- sky looked for "signs" and "portents" that the darkness of the modern world would indeed be overcome by the church idea. If he became too extreme in this, then this extremity must be attributed to the seriousness with which he approached the Revelation of John as an ex- planation of overcoming the world expressed in the Gospel of John [ Cf. Dostoyevskys letter of Jan. 1, 1868 to his niece, Sofya Ivanova] ( Bruce K. Ward, Dostoyevskys Critique Of The West, The Quest for the Earthly Paradise. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier Univers- ity Press, 1986, p. 90). What a mixed bunch we are: a Catholic, a Pentecostal, several Orthodox, an unbeliever . . . later we were to be joined by a Baptist. Yet we were always deeply respectful of one anoth- ers convictions. And God did not turn His face away from our small patch of Mordovian soil ( Irina Ratushinskaya, Grey Is The Color of Hope. New York: Vintage International, 1989, p. 122). The purpose of my talk tonight is to connect the idea of the Christian witness,especially that of contemporary Christians undergoing persecution for their faith incertain parts of the world, to that of the question of "Mimesis" in literature, therepresentation and participation in reality through memory. By the way of an analogy, inrespect to Mimesis understood as "myth", the play of the imagination according to thecultural perception of the world, I want to make a counterproposal, i.e., that of aChristian Mimesis, which I now shall argue is the overcoming of mythic imagination.* This is a paper which was submitted in a Graduate course while I was studying History and working as aGraduate Assistant at Stephen F. Austin State University (Nacogdoches, Texas) from 1996-1998.
  3. 3. 3That is, I shall argue that by certain Christian testimonies to " the concrete and empiricalexperience of suffering and Gods grace (or presence),” the vivid witness to those who assaints (believers) actually have faced battles with the evil of persecution and oppressionfor the sake of their faith, there is an overcoming of "myth" and a genuine apodicticexperience of reality. Let me warn the hearers ahead of time that in making thispresuppositional move that I am cutting across many popular assumptions of bothcontemporary culture and philosophical theory. But, as a blend of Irish and Scotsmen, Ihave never lacked for brashness. Furthermore, as Christian believer, I must agree withthe Apostle Paul, that the Gospel is a mighty power (Gk., dynamis ) of which no one needbe ashamed (Romans 1:16.17; I Corinthians 1:18-31; Galatians 6:12-16, etc.). A key contemporary example of the Gospel power at work, I think, I canindentify by some recent important case studies in Russia and Eastern Europe. Thesestudies take seriously the matter of Christian prayers and the sacrifices made by manybelievers behind the former Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall. Lest you think I am pullinga transcendental rabbit out of a historical hat, I would refer you the careful work ofscholars like Michael Bordeuux, Lynn R. Eliason, Kent Hill, Geoffrey Hosking, PaulMarshall, and Barbara von der Heydt.1 Thousands of individuals have reported andhundreds of case studies have been made, and thus a vast archive of materials existswhich provides historical and scientifically respectable confirmation for a religious revivaland a spiritual perestroika among those nations and areas subjected to doctrinaire Marxismand atheism for nearly the last fifty years. Specifically, Barbara von der Heydt in doingher research for Candles Behind the Wall : Heroes of the Peaceful Revolution that ShatteredCommunism interviewed some 200 people from all the former Soviet Bloc nations,especially the Czeck Republic, Hungary, East Germany, Poland, Russia, and Rumania.The result of her study was a body of solid confirmations that a new illumination throughand about Christianity has been taking place in the 1980s and 1990s despite decades ofsecular humanist propaganda against such possibilities.2 One of the best reporters of whom I am aware on the situation of Russia vis-ˆ-vis Christianity is Lynn R. Eliason. In the Epilogue to his excellent study of thisphenomena from 1987-1990 he made several interesting remarks: . . . . Fortunately now the Cold War has ended, and with it the hate, hypocrisy, mistrust, and paranoia generated by decades of misunderstanding. Having remov- ed the blinders from our eyes and discovered that people everywhere are people , we lean that the Russians, too, have souls. To our shame, it took the leader of the "Evil Empire" to impress this notion on us. . . . Soul to the Russians has a far broad- er meaning and deeper implications than Americans derive from the word. It takes in every uniquely Russian feature and spiritual attribute all the way from the single individual to the people as a whole . . . Dostoyevsky once equated Russias greatness with the universality of her soul. In fact, he tied future world hopes to her ability to bring unity through brotherly love.3 Recent events such as Millennial celebration of Russian Christianity which wasobserved by several Soviet cities in 1988, as well as certain significant contemporaneouspresentations in art and literature drew attention to the theme of Russians Christian
  4. 4. 4"soul" which even attacks by militant Marxist atheism in the twentieth century has notobliterated. Again Eliason quotes the sentiment of Dostoyevsky who said that a personcannot live without worshiping something.3 While he and other students of contemporaryRussian history recognize the inherent dangers of excessive reactions to communism(such as the militant and racist nationalism of individuals like Zhirinovsky), many criticsof society and philosophical reviewers, both communist and noncommunists have takenfor granted the constructive, healing role of spiritual faith. Reform-minded leaders andcivic spirited politicians in many cases have recognized the need for worthy spiritualideals and regeneration of the nations soul. Yet from the standpoint of image andexperiential commentary as distinct from either literary or philosophical theory, is hisclosing illustration: On the eve of Leningrads fabled White Nights in June of 1990, I wassitting with perhaps 1500 other people in the magnificient Smolny Cathedral await- ing a performance of Rachmaninovs Vespers Mass by the M.I. Glinka Choir. This concert signaled the beginning of an entire week of late-evening pro- grams devoted to sacred choral music. . . . The day had been cold and cloudy, no unlike many others I have ex- perienced in that city on the Baltic. What light there was found its way through a generous array of windows on both sides of the nave and was in- creased many times over through reflection against its solid white interior. Members of the choir, who were were dressed in red and black, provided a stark contrast to this sea of white. Fifty singers formed a living wall of icons separating the main body of the church from a more holy sanctuary. Like an- gelic images on iconstasis, they became windows to heaven. . . . My journal describes the sounds emanating from this exalted choral group as having crossed the threshold of the divine. The more heavily in- toned lower notes (of a quality that only Russians can produce) carried into the arched cupola far above and returned as an echo to blend indescribeably with the softer high tones. Mortality and eternity merged. Like Prince Vlad- imirs emissaries in Byzantiums Hagia Sophia Cathedral, I felt myself trans- ported to higher realms. Even now I cannot fathom the feelings brought about by that unique spiritual experience. Toward the end of the perform- ance, the "white nights" sun broke through the clouds adding light to light. The fartherest thing from my mind was the familiar saying, " Poor Russia, so far from God . . . . " For here, as in numerous other circumstances, I found the Russians to be infinitely closer to their source than many of us would think possible . . . .4 Another witness to the incredible soul of Russia is the half-Russian, half-Ukrainianauthor and Nobel- Prize winning dissident, Alexander Solzhenitsyn. His works such asOne Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Cancer Ward, The First Circle, August 1914, TheLove Girl and the Innocent, The Candle in the Wind, and he Gulag Archipelago have been re-
  5. 5. 5ceived not only as marvelous examples of twentieth-century realism and not just " Sovietrealism "), but as eloquent testimony to the moral and spiritual dilemma of the formerU.S.S.R. and her satellite Marxist powers. Since the main subject of our essay, Irina Ratu-shinskaya is many respects both a disciple of Solzhenitsyn and has shared in his Gulagperspective, we wish note some key points about his protest against both Marxist-Lenin-ism (i.e., Dialectical Materialism) and his plea in behalf of Christian art as witness to truthand life as gifts of God. Kathryn F. Feuer, for example, notes the agreement among criticalreviewers that Solzhenitsyn is "unashamedly a moralist" and that he displays what MaryMcCarthy has called " The Tolstoy Connection " as his talent for irony and literary protestin both small phrases and whole novel chapters " transforms polemic into high art."5 Inthe critical anthology which Feuer edited, we have several valuable perspectives onvarious substantive and technical aspects of Solzhenitsyn literary corpus. Here Feuer andthree other reviewers are briefly cited in order to paint a clear- er picture of the traditionor style in which Ratushinskaya found her initial inspiration previous to her own life-experiences in the Soviet Gulag and the fiery trial of her own faith in God. We began with another quotation from Feuer: It was Mhajlo Mihajlov who first noted, from a comparison of Notesfrom the House of the Dead with Ivan Denisovich, that both the mental and physical torments of Soviet prisoners appeared worse than those of Tsarists prisoners. The power of evil not only breaks a mans body, it also twists the heart and shrivels the spirit. Occasionally, however, there is the rare individual whom subjection to evil strenghtens and ennobles. From starvation and suffering, Dostoyevsky and Solzhenitsyn came, not to understand as an intellectual con- cept, but to know that mans selfhood rests on something other than the mate- rial conditions of life; persecuted by their own countrymen, in the person of their governments, they emerged with an intensified love of country; depriv- ed of freedom and even of the right to be alone, they learned the reality of in- ner freedom. Shorn of trust in the natural goodness of their fellow men, both came out, nevertheless, with what Alexander Schmemann has called " a lucid, seeing love. " This love, however, is like the calm eye of the hurricane: in Dostoyevsky the surrounding storm taking the form of the rage to know, to probe ideas to their ultimate meaning or absurdity; in Solzhenitsyn taking the form of a rage to understand, to comprehend the past as it created and keeps creating the present, and as part of this enterprise, a fervor to expose. Thus we come full circle, for the aim of Solzhenitsyns investigations like the aim of Dostoyevksys probing, is the moral redemption of Russia.6 Michael Aucouturier is a sophisticated and insightful French critic and he has inseveral articles and studies (including one in the Feuer collection) portrayed Solzhenitsynas "a realist" whose works without necessarily operating on an explicit "symbolist" design(distinct from "formalism" also?), nevertheless "achieve the symbolic realm of all true
  6. 6. 6art".7 Thus, he contends, that because Solzhenitsyn is a great artist his purpose is not toseek exactitude about places like the Mavrino Special Prison, the forced labor camps ofKolyma or Magadan, or even the cancer ward of a Tashkent hospital, although hecertainly did use the naked truth of the facts to expose the tortuosities of the system soadmired by the Marxist ideologues. Such an expose required geniune courage and talent,neither of which Solzhenitsyn lacks. But Aucouturier observes that Solzhenitsynsgrandeur, and his unpardonable crime as a writer in the official eyes, was to have madehis camp experience the hallowed setting for reflection -critical and decisive reflection-upon Russia, todays world, and humanity.8 Perhaps without directly intending to do so,and even defending himself against the charge of intentional mimesis, Solzhenitsynscharacters like Ivan Denisovich and Matryona do become symbols of the sufferingRussian people and his description of the cancer ward becomes by its own inner necessityan allegory of the spiritual sickness which gnaws at post-Stalin Soviet society.Aucouturier then accepts the suggestions of Albert Thibaudet that all true realismcontains natural and implicit "symbolism" which means that Solzhenitsyn’s anecdotes arein the grand tradition of "epic" realism of Flaubert, de Maupassant, and Tolstoy. But themain point is that the force of Solzhenitsyns symbols lies in an actuality, i.e., a realphenomenal world of common human experience, for which he cannot be heldresponsible. Aucouturier later gives this concrete example: We have noted above that in Cancer Ward Solzhenitsyns narrative pro- gression expanded into a poetic vision of the world in which this method found its fulfillment and its complete justification. Similarly, we see here how the technique of the semiindirect style issues forth in the creation of flesh and blood characters more complex and true to life than those of the The First Circle and, above all, closer to us. One may illustrate this double evolution through the character of Oleg Kostoglotov. Hardened by seven years of forced labor, contemplating life with a stubborn mistrust, but now ready for softening and rebirth at the first breath of life and love, Kostog- lotov embodies the revelation of the immanent meaning of life in that mere beauty which is Solzhenitsyns fundamental poetic intuition. With his para- doxical mixture of mistrust and naivete, of roughness and gentleness, of wary astuteness and moral rigor, Kostoglotov is also the most living and successful of Solzhenitsyns characters . . . .9 Yet another sagacious critic of Solzhenitsyns art is Wolfgang Kasack, whoseessay, " Epic and Dramatic Structure in Solzhenitsyns Work" (in Feuer, pp. 34-46) is quiteuseful for understanding the particular ways in which the Russian novelist employsframeworks of time and space in his major novels to provide a realistic life-like contextand yet indirectly contain symbolic markers. He follows too G. Luks notice aboutSolzhenitsyns careful functional use of detail, a special feature of his novelistic art, whichunderscores the necessary empirical objectivity that in the labor camps " every detailmeant an alternative between preservation and downfall. " Thus, in the narrative of Ivan
  7. 7. 7Denisovich the little piece of sawblade smuggled into the camp, or the last granule of ofmillet in the bowl of the zeks bowl verify, Luks contends, reveal that such details in theGulag world, unlike in free society, are literally a matter of life and death.10 But beyondthe correlation of not so insignficant details within the time structures, flashback episodes,and narratives within narratives, Kasack points out that it is the authors dramaticdiversity, achieved by choosing very different figures for the narrative ( like Tolstoys useof multiplied military events) which is significant. He states: " Every sphere in the materialas in the moral world is drawn into the work. His desire is to attain truth throughdiversity. "11 It should be clear then that Solzhenitsyns work is that of the openness anddrama of real life, and so Kasack comments that " his prose can to some extent beunderstood as a reaction against socialist realism (that is, against the unrealisticidealization of reality in accordance with the patterns impoised by the CPSU) ", and "similarly the form of his plays reveals a reaction to Soviet drama of earlier periods. "12 Now we take our fourth and final evaluative example of Solzhenitsyn, theAmerican journalist and popular historian, Robert Conquest. Conquest, incidentally, haswritten a book about the Stalinist Gulag himself, The Great Terror (New York and London:Macmillian, 1968). He lavishly praises Solzhenitsyns modern three volume classic, TheGulag Archipelago as " a truly exceptional work: For in it literature transcends historywithout distorting it. " This is quite an important sentiment which we will shortly hope toshow can be applied equally to the testimonial narrative of Irina Ratushinskaya.Conquest also makes the pertinent observation in his essay that George Medvedev, a neo-Marxist reviewer in the West and an ideological opponent of our hero, has conceded thatthe factual record provided by Solzhenitsyn s indisputable.13 But then he lists three"heresies" which condemn Solzhenitsyn in the eyes of left-wing intellectuals and WesternMarxists (for which he apparently applauds him!): (1) Solzhenitsyns work rejects thethesis that the Gulag can be blamed all on Stalin and the "personality cult". He therefore“ breaks totally with the myth that has corrupted and deluded so many commentators onthe Russian Revolution and the Soviet regime: the myth of a constructive and humaneLenin. "14 (2) His [=A.S.] next heresy or "blasphemy" is his negative comparison ofLeninist and Stalinist repression and terror with the Czarist regime of 1826-1908. " More-over, the czars victims actually plotted against the state; their relatives were not alsosentenced; the non-capital prisoners were not starved and sweated to death " [He alsocompares the process of de-Stalinization with de-Nazification in Western Germany]. (3)But the most important lesson for those in Western political culture especially is theevidence that they do not really understand the radical antihumanitarian nature of theSoviet Marxist system. Conquest acknowledges that Solzhenitsyns writings have madethe effort to imagine it not only possible, but easier. Thus, he is the most likely successorin the work already begun in the 1940s and early 1950s by Boris Pasternak.15 Now, we turn to the proper matter of our essay, the Story of Irina Ratushinskayaand the Odessites according to her book, Grey Is The Color of Hope (Translated by AlyonaKojevnikov. New York: Vintage International Edition, 1988). Immediately striking is her
  8. 8. 8"Authors Note" : " Readers may wonder, quite justifiably, how much of this book is truth,and how much is fiction? The answer is that there is no fiction at all; I do not have enoughimagination for it. " Now, probably Ratushinskaya is overly humble about herimagination, for she is a distinct and charming poet. However, with certain namesdeliberately masked to protect the unwary innocent friend or family member fromreprisal by the KGB, one is surely inclined, I think, to give her testimony a fair andserious hearing. In the pages of her book (about 357 in all) she paints in miniature whatSolzhenitsyn depicted on a larger scale in his Gulag Archipelago. The details of her arrestas she is picked up from her school in a black Volga, being taken home by friendly ifgenerous-sounding KGB men, her transport via a Stolypin railway car to transit prison,her arrival at the " Small Zone " a few weeks later, the meticulous accounts of her fellowinmates - their relationships, hardships, struggles, and joys - her punishments in PKT andSHIZO, the two homes that she and the other women shared and nurtured within thecamp, the interplay of faith, hope, and love among the core group of Christian women, theseveral hunger strikes and the various tortuous drills and punishments of the campwarders, and then the final chapters about her release and the closing of the "Small Zone"are startingly realistic and believable. That they are essentially true is confirmed by thesubsequently confirmed facts. Here is what we know about Mrs. Irina Ratushinskaya. She was born inOdessa, Ukrainian SSR, on March 4, 1954. After receiving a degree in physics in 1976, shetaught at the Odessa Pedagogical Institute. However, she was arrested on September 17,1982, for her dissident activities. She was charged with an old standard crime, noted longbefore by Solzhenitsyn: " anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda ". On March 3, after longweeks of rigorous interrogation and a mock trial, she was indicted, one day before hertwenty-ninth birthday, and sentenced to seven years hard labor in a "strict regime" laborcamp with an additional five years internal exile. The nature of crime was that she wrotea poem (which was dedicated to A. Sakharov) and made allusion to the evils of Marxistthought coercion.16 One of her poems, "Pencil Letter" was written while she was in the KGBPrison in Kiev in November 1982, awaiting trial. In April of 1983 she was sent to a laborcamp at Barashevo in Mordovia, which is three hundred miles southeast of Moscow. Forover three years she was held prisoner there in the special administrative unit called the"Small Zone", which was a special prison facility for women prisoners of conscience. Surprisingly, in July of 1986, Irina was taken back to Kiev where sheremained again in KGB detention for three months. Then, she was finally set free onOctober 9, 1986. This was on the eve of the Reykjevik Summit between Premier MikhailGorbachev and President Ronald Reagan. It is certain that because of the internationalpressure of Christian organizations like the Keston Institute and humanitarian groups likeAmnesty International and the Red Cross, that Irina and others releases occurred. Beforeleaving the Soviet Union in December of 1986, Irina wrote several other poems whichdescribed her life as a prisoner and her new freedom. She left Moscow for West. She ismarried to Igor Gerashchenko, a human rights activist. For a time during 1987-1988 theylived in the United States and Irina was a poet-in-residence at Northwestern University at
  9. 9. 9Chicago. Later, after she had published two other books, they moved to London wherethey currently reside. Grey Is The Color of Hope is a non-fictional documentary journal filled with amyriad of vivid pictures and stunning situations. One might begin with the example of anot atypical situation in the third chapter where Irina is riding through Moscow in a largetruck with a canvas hood. One of her two young guards, discovering that she is "political"destined for "strict regime" offer her a chance at getting out of her sentence early byhaving "a quickie" with the one of her choice, since pregnant women are sometimesgranted clemency. The story continues: Luckily, I have enough sense to take no offense at their generosity. When all is said and done, in their own way they honestly want to do me a good turn. As tactfully as I can, I explain that while I think they are both fine specimens of manhood, I am a married woman, and faithful to my husband. "Religious, are you ?" . . . . "Yes, I am." To them, this is a perfectly acceptable explanation, and the subject isclosed. No—then no. They are, in fact, immeasurably more sensitive than KGB men , whose response would certainly have been: " Wheres the husband who will wait for you for seven years! " How many times I heard such remarks during the seven months I spent under investigation!17 Ratushinskaya thereafter continues the theme of the essential humanity of the ladsguarding her at this juncture, as she explains to them how her poetry was responsible forher journey to Lefortovo. They even offer her cigarettes, which she graciously acceptseven though she does not smoke (since she knows she might later share them with afriend). After her one brief wash at the temporary prison, her head is swimming withfaces of shaven heads and zeks, erstwhile fellow-travellers who may be thieves or possiblymurderers. But in her musings, she begans to pity those "unfortunates" who like herselfwill have to live under vicious camp "laws" which mercilessly debase and exploit humanbeings and even the Gulag keepers themselves. Falling to sleep, she prays, " Oh, Lord,save my unfortunate people and have mercy upon them!"18 That Irinas prayers are sincere may be seen in the way that she comforts a dear oldBabuska, Granny Tonia on the next leg of her journey. The poor woman has beensentenced to five years because she tried to bribe a KGB informer who had discovered thatshe made a little living selling medicinal moonshine to her neighbors. Now she wouldhave to leave her little cottage and her cabbage garden to others, and probably die inprison. Irina meets other pathetic creatures accused of various crimes, some genuine andmost trumphed up charges like her own and learns about her destination and thenotoroius female Communist administrator, Valentina Tereshkova, who introduced thezek uniforms and identity tags. The prisoners accompanying Irina on her journey call hera "prize bitch."19 During this conversation about prisoners uniforms and their totalunsuitability to the harsh Gulag weather, Irina shares with her new acquaintances
  10. 10. 10insights she which recalls from the handbook of Solzhenitsyn. Some of the youngerguards also attentively and sympathetically listen. In chapter six Irina finally arrives at the "Small Zone" after spending several days ina cold, filthy, and damp cell in the transit prison in Potma. As soon as she arrives at herfinal destination, her last "civvies" (civilian clothes) are confiscated except a pair of tightsand a woolen kerchief. Thereafter, Lyuba, one of the warders, issues her the official zekwardrobe and escorts her to meet the resident "politicals" in their little dwelling inside thebarbed wire surrounded by guard towers. She is thereupon promptly introduced to TanyaOsipova, Raya Rudenko, and Natasha Lazareva, the three younger women in the tinyhouse. Later she meets the more mature Tatyana Mikhilovna Velikannova, and she is thenintroduced to the history of the Zone and its heritage of courtesty, its family ways, and itsfearless and superbly useful bright yellow cat, Nyurka, whom Natasha will call the"Mordovian Sentinel" for its ability to capture mice and rats. Irina also becomes wellversed by her comrades in the work ethics of the Zone - the women make quality workgloves for those in the labor camps and farmers. She is also informed of the principles ofhunger strikes for proper working conditions and for certain indispensable personalfreedoms. During their introductions, the young officer Shishokin candidly admits thatthese small women in the political Zone are harder to bluff than two hundred in thecriminal camps. Irina also learns about the horrible punishment routine in SHIZO, whichthe camp admistrators frequently use to attempt to brainwash the prisoners and forcethem to conform to Marxist/Soviet values. Another question to which Irina is quickly introduced is matter of the identity tagsand the groups common decision to not wear them. She is also briefed on the supervisorof the camp and the work "brigades", Senior Lieutenant Podust, who turns out to be, aswe see later, something of sadomasochistic Nazi type of a Marxist, a blonde b----h. Havinglistened to the fair but passionate words of Tatyana Mikhailovna, Irina adopts their causeas her own, and on that day becomes another of Podusts mortal enemies. She is ready todo this, even though the authorities may cancel her scheduled visit with her husband,Igor. But refusing to be either bullied or blackmailed the women unite in the first of themany common causes over the next three years, and they prepare for the worst. . . . During the next few chapters Irina learns the stories of her fellow women sufferers.She learns about Natasha, who is from Leningrad, and is serving sentence for producing asamizdat journal, Maria , devoted to feminist issues - arrested in 1982 for "anti-Sovietagitation and propaganda". She also gets to know better Tanya Osipova, a wize at fixingthe ancient black and white television set in the Zone and a sweet, sentimental lady whocries over Cyrano de Bergerac , yet who is strong enough to endure several hunger strikesto get her confiscated Bible back from the camp authorities. Then there is Irinas other newfriend, the simple and hardworking Raya, who is the Zones best cook, a marvelousseamstress and who lovingly cares for her tiny garden plot of herbs, carrots, and potatoes.Together they prepare to face SHIZO, the Gulag, the Marxist State, and many troubles assisters and friends under God. On pp. 51-55, Irina introduces the reader to Raya horde of old padded jackets andthe babushkis rags stored in the ramshackle "projection hut". In this episode we are
  11. 11. 11introduced to the whole matter of Orthodox Christians, predominantly middle-aged toolder women, who in suffering for their faith in Jesus and their loyalty to the deposedPatriarch Tikhon, became a virtual catacomb church in the U.S.S.R., and hundreds ofthousands who became victims in the Soviet camps for refusing to work on the collectivefarms and use Soviet money or passports. Irina describes their situation: From the point of view of the Soviet government the True Orthodox were, naturally, malicious violators of internal passport regulations, parasites, and worst of all, unregistered religious believers. It follows that they received sen- tence after sentence. In the camps they refused to work, which meant spend- ing more time in the internal camps. Yet some survived, and our babushki were from their number. That is how they were referred to in the Zone —ba- bushki--because by that time most of them were very old and ill. The other zeks and the guards called them nuns. Later, by association, we came to be known as nuns, too . . . . Even upon release, they would refuse to accept the document attesting to the completion of their sentence. Off they would go, without a single scrap of paper, heading for a new and certain arrest and sentence. From their point of view, this was perfectly normal: were they not suffering for God? In their eyes, it is we who act unnaturally: we submit to Satan and his minions -- the Soviet government--in order to escape persecution. And Satan, they know, will never give up of his own accord-he will merely exploit any sign of weak- ness to his greater gain, penetrate even deeper into your soul. That was and is the reasoning of the True Orthodox. Some of them are still alive, living in internal exile. Yet the exile sentences of some of our babushki have expired, and they did not return to the Zone; so Satan was defeated, after all, forced into retreat. Others of them are still to be found in some of the camps, with calm, serene faces, ever ready to lay down their lives for the Lord; to what greater honor can one aspire ? How many of them are there, International Red Cross? No answer. They dont know, how could they ? How many of them are there, Amnesty International ? Silence. They do not know either. How many of them are there, official Soviet Patriarch of All Russia, Pimen ? He, too, is silent. May- be he really does not know: the True Orthodox are outside his jurisdiction, so why worry about them? How many of them are there, the KGB of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics? Silence. They do know, but wont tell.20 Irina tells us of her tears and a lump in her throat as she mused on the powerful faithand the loving self-sacrifice of these "dear ones". She quips: " How much human warmthis stored up in these beggar-like witnesses to the ingenuity of our babushki ? There areconcentration camps that have become memorial shrines--Auschwitz, Treblinka--but eachtattered garment in that box had had a longer life than the period those camps existed. "21
  12. 12. 12 In stark contrast to the sacrifical love and pacific faith of the elderly Christian ladiesIrina Ratushinskya is the portrayal of the Small Zone commandant, Senior LieutenantPodust, the "blonde fiend", called "IIse Koch" by the repatriots of the mens zone.Ratushinskaya hints that this womans personality maybe be somewhat that of asadomasochistic dominatrix (" I am certain that her sweetest and most unfulfillable dreamwould have been of the Small Zone collectively licking her boots " ). 21 We are told at herdelight in reveille, strip-searches, punishments, and such. It is also subtly suggested thatshe is behind the bad food (the minuscles portions of bread and meat) which is poorenough, but made worse by the excessive additions of salt which causes the prisoners,already starving or semi-starving to have distended bloating and gastrointestinaldisorders. Other repressive measures besides virtually freezing the prisoners to death inSHIZO (where temperatures sometimes drop below 8*C and the pipes drip), are frequent"inspections", reduction of locker space (already quite tiny for all the zeks personals:books, clothers, letters, personals, etc.), and threats about production quotas. However, incontrast to the heartless and zealous bureacrat, who actually rarely frighten the spirituallycentered and emotionally disciplined women of the Zone, there is the decent andreasonable, Vasili Petrovich, who supervises glove production. Whenever he can, he givesthe poor women in the Zone permission to substitute for one another in delivering quotasand pleads in their behalf for proper tools and means to work (" Vasili Petrovich is alwayspleased with us, and will affirm that we have sewn up everything he gave us; he knowsour limits and never tries to load us beyond our capacity ").22 During her early days in the Zone (the first few weeks) things become routine, theZone women began to form their relationships and turn their tiny quarters into somethinglike a home and a place of refuge within the heart of the Gulag. One symbol of this specialpeace and harmony were the meals taken in the tiny kitchen with joyful sharing of theduties of preparation and prayer. Another important thing which brought both bodilybenefits and emotional satisfaction to the inmates was the tiny vegatable garden whichRaya tended and watered, where the politicals grew carrots, asters, cucumbers, gladioli,dill, onions, potatoes and other little herbs. Their husbandry and maintenance of this tinyspot caused prisoners in other camps to envy them and psychologically upset theircaptors and tormentors. Besides all these simple things, the women shared little journalreadings (from the scarce materials they were permitted to have through the camp kiosk)and reciting poetry and stories to each other during down times from official harassmentand forced labor. When they can they have precious little tea breaks where they drinkpotions made from wild strawberry leaves, raspberry canes, nettles, etc. and musinglymock the KGB who are listening: " But we will keep laughing come what may; even onthe darkest days, let the KGB listen and wonder about the laughter floating over theirconcealed microphones, the laughter of the Small Zone " (p. 79). The main cast of the women in grey, the "politicals" is nearly complete, but in thedays ahead, two new zeks, quite the opposite from one another, join the group throughthe decisions of the Soviet superiors. These new arrivals play an important rolethroughout most of the remainder of the narrative. First, there is Jadvyga Bieliauskiene, anolder Lithuanian woman, who had been sentenced more than once by the Soviet State for
  13. 13. 13her political connections (she had taken a marksmanship course as a schoolgirl), butprimarily because she was a devout Catholic and had been involved in the "criminalactivity" of instructing young people and children about God and operating an amateurreligious theater. She had thus received a second sentence (eight years) beyond her firsttwenty-five, from which she had been released early. She was in poor health because oftuberculosis and treatment by camp antibiotics; though she needed a special diet, she wassubject to the camp retinue of foods cooked in synthetic fat and hard labor. "Pani"Jadvyga, a straight thin woman, speaks fluent Lithuanian but only broken Russian. Muchof her "spare" time in the Gulag is spent in prayer for her children (so that they will notlose their faith) and helping her sisters in the Small Zone by sewing elbow patchess anduseful garments for work. Irina describes her beautiful work and observes tenderly: Her faith is the cornerstone of her existence, but she sets no store by de- nominational differences; there are many confessions, but God is one, after all, and it is to Him that we shall all come in the end. He who does not be- lieve now will find faith later, in Gods good time. JaJadvyga is a woman of iron character, yet at the same time she takes such care of us that at times we feel almost ashamed; when it is all said and done, she is old enough to be a mother to most of us.23 But another sharp contrast in the situation follows as the reader isintroduced to a person much the antithesis of Pani, Tatyana Vladimirova, who isobviously a product of the criminal camps and an inverterate liar as well as a narcoticaddict. After the core group of the Zone have conversed with her a few hours, theyunamiously conclude that their new "acquisition" with her contradictory tales of out-smarting the KGB and her secret anti-Soviet organization "out there" is probablypsychiatrically unbalanced romantic liar, and not a political dissident. They also areconvinced that she probably is not a "plant" by camp officials, though they are afraid shemay easily turn informer or worse. Vladimirova indeed attempts to set the other womenagainst one another by malicious gossip, but they confer and decide to wait, ignoring herfor the time being. As the days pass, her hysterial threats and rude agressiveness movethem to shun her and stay away from her spying.24 After this, during the next hundred pages or so of Ratushinskaya prisonjournal, we are introduced to three new Zone inmates and several important transitionalevents in the total story. The first is Galya Barats, who husband Vasili were originallyfrom Trans-Carpathia, but later were reckoned by the U.S.S.R politics as Ukrainian"politicals". They had orginially been members of the Communist party, and had evenlived in Moscow. But they soon became involved in two heresies which the Party couldnot forgive or overlook: they found faith in God and joined the Pentecostal movement inthe Soviet Union. This meant they lost all their status as citizens, and Galya arrived at theZone only with her underclothes (the sisters, led by the saintly Pani Jadvyga soon madeher clothers from the meager store of cloths in the house, however). Next we meet EdiaAbrutiene, whose husband is Vytas, Lithuanians, who simply had wanted to emigrate and
  14. 14. 14stirred up such a fuss about it that they were charged with "slandering" the Soviet system(article 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code. After Vytas had been imprisoned and released,Edita was arrested and sentenced to four years in the camps and two years of interal exile.Edita had been on hunger strikes and she absolutely refused to work at all in the Zone.This created a dilemma for the other women, who creatively solved it by persuading herto work for them, as their "housekeeper". This does work for awhile. Yet, it is Edita,who does not share the core convictions and Christian faith of the other dissidents, whoeventually breaks and joins with the demented and brainwashed Vladimirova in herattacks and denouncements of the causes of the original group. She in fact becomes thedrug-primed stoolie of Podust and the KGB operatives in the Small Zone and the nearbycamps. Yet at first, she is won over to sympathy with the women after Podust tells avicious lie to the others about her being a carrier of syphilis. In this instance, the womenrally around her and she stands with them (a cause celebre which among other thingshelps end Podusts camp career). Important events take place in the Fall of 1983. First, during late August inone of Podusts contrived and desperate attempts to force the women to wear theirnumbered name tags, various warders and prisoners from other camps are brought in todestroy Rayas little herb and vegetable garden. Some of the women at last refuse tocooperate, and after the debacle the others lead by Irina and Tanya, replant it from theirfew hidden seeds and roots. They also write letters of protest to the Soviet Presidium,though they realize it will do little good. One of the most beautiful and moving passagesin the book comes with Irina first scheduled meeing with her husband, Igor. One isespecially impressed at the caring and loving gifts and services which the poor but lovingwomen of the Small Zone provide for this special occasion. They diligently sew Irina anew grey skirt and a blue Ukrainian-style blouse, and Gayla set her hair and devises asuperb coiffure. Although the meeting comes breathtakingly close to official cancellation,Irina is finally allowed a two hour visit with her husband and it is emotively enthrallingand dynamic scene. They share vital information, even though the warden Masha is alsopresent at the table to monitor conversation (the little dialogue abot Lech Walesa beingmarvelous). Their parting is painful and tearful, but not without hope.25 Immediatelyafterwards, however, the camp authorities, primed by the KGB, begins the first rounds ofSHIZO punishments for Tatyana Osipova and Natasha Lazareva, while the rest of theSmall Zone (excluding Pani Jadvyga, who is too weak, and Vladimirova, who despiseseveryone else). In this episode we learn about the first level of physical deprivations, thestomach pains and nausea, and emotional blackmail of the camp torturers. But we alsohave our first real glimpse at the fortitude and loyalty of the main Zone circle, which notonly makes their reputation as determined "politicals" (which the other camps hearabout). We see in such small details as Gaylas "fast" and Tatyanas sewing of a moppingtowel for the floor out of old glove scraps, that now these women are a family and asisterhood in both the cause of freedom and in Christian love.26 The authorities continue to harass and endevor to intimidate these dangerouselements, according to the "humane procedures" of Soviet law which includes not only
  15. 15. 15SHIZO, but force-feeding and required re-education. A key turning point in the narrative(as well as in the actual events of Irina and her friends real lives) came in late Septemberor 1983 when Podust, the camp doctor, the notorious Volkova, with the assistance ofseveral camp guards, attempt to force feeding tubes down Raya Rudenko, TatyanaVelikovna, and Ratushinskaya. The object of this exericise was either to break the will ofthe weak hunger striker or else to inflict more pain on the bodies of the starving. In thisinstance, the women again turn the tables on their captors and tormentors by screamingout their names, phone numbers, and the situation to listeners within a crowed hospital.Fortunately, because the denizens of the Soviet State fear the exposure of their lies andtheir repressive deeds (other prisoners might pass the word on to sympathetic listeners onthe outside, etc.), they back off. In the next chapter Irina wakes up with her partner in apsychiatric cell and realizes that she is still alive and has not been subjected to the routineforced ingestions. The women take a stand on the scriptural promise of Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 andupon their respective releases from SHIZO and the hospital incarcerations begin a newseries of spirited protests. But of key importance is their return to their "home" in the Zonebarrack-house where they prepare for the departure of beloved (though unmusical)Tatyana Mikhailovna. In a typical scene after these trials, something that is repeatedmany times over the next three years, the women recover their strength, share their littlebits of bread and herb soup, and enjoy the fellowship of those who have freedom in theirmind and spirit: " In fact, there is not a great deal of difference between the times whenwe eat and our hunger strikes. Still, well manage. We are all overjoyed to be togetheragain. Pani Jadvyga says grace, and we dip our spoons into Rayas soup " (p. 137). Thus,in the midst of deprivation and oppression, these few believing souls maintained theirdignity and shared their spiritual riches.27 Ratushinskaya adds later in a witty sarcasm: "No doubt about it, Velikovna was a bad influence on me: all her advice ran counter to theMoral Code of the builders of communism . . . And I strove, strove and strove again tolearn patience. There was plenty of time; those who had determined the years I had forlearning had been generous with their terms " (p. 144). At this juncture in the book, Ratushinskaya records that other letters ofprotests were sent out through "inside" and "outside" mail ( the official mail and thesecretly issued samizdat ). We learn of their "Madrid" hunger strike (to coincide with themeeting of the signatores of the Helenski Human Rights Commission, etc.). We also beginto get new glimpses of Irinas growing confidence that God had not abandoned thesuffering zeks altogether to their tormentors, but that a witness of their trials and of thefaith that sustained many would be the later conscience of the nation (" Somewhere at theback of their uniformed-encased hearts there are stirrings of shame, and conscience, andcompassion -- all those qualities which will be the salvation of my people one day. ")28Though she is fearful of the future, knowing that the "disciplinary work" of the campofficials and the KGB will doubtless continue (and it does for nearly two hundred pagesand twenty-five more chapters), that the little group in the Small Zone have " The touchof this hand " (p. 151), the light and presence of Christ among his witnesses and those whoknow his love.
  16. 16. 16 This fellowship of fidelity allow the little group of starving women to resistthe various "reform" devices of their jailors, as the efforts to supply the camp kiosk withbetter food and toiletries which can be purchased by those on good behavior and not onhunger strikes. They mess up a later visit by the commission of the CentralAdministration of Corrective Labor Institutions (GUITU) when they point out the fraudand systematic deceit of the camp officials concerning such basic food staples as breadand butter, as well as vitally needed medicines, much to the chagrin of the KGB majorspresent and Lieutenant Podust. Yet, above the deprivations and physical abuses of thecamp, the "politicals" in the Small Zone (in the spirit of Dostoyevsky and AlexanderSolzhenitsyn), object chiefly to the shamless lying and moral hypocrisy of the State and itsinstitutions which Tatyana and others simply call "The perpetual lies". Here is a goodexample of such hypocrisy: But if the Party claims that there are no political prisoners in the USSR, Shalin will still insist that we dont exist . . . . Is this nay less bizarre, than, say, proclaiming " I am teapot, " or " Theres a Martian in disguise among us "? This sort of idiocy can drive an unprepared person to fury and loss of self-conrol. Luckily, we were all ready for this even before our arrests: we were prepared for it by the Soviet press, by the KGB, by the "political brief- ings" in our places of work. We were tempered to this madness by the the en- tire official style of life in our country. And we rose against it. How could could Penteostal Christian Galya have possibly remained a Communist and at the same time carried carried out the Partys bidding to assert that there is no God, whenever and whereever she was ordered ? Could Tatyana Mik- hilovna have possibly read the mandatory "political information" at work ? Could Pani Jadvyga " wholeheartedly support the policies of the Party and the government " after being consigned to the camps as an adolescent sim- ply because she happened to be Lithuanian? Yes, we got our sentences. We know what the camps mean: cold, hunger, tyranny, separation from our fam- ilies. But instead of direct reprisals, we have encountered reprisals masquer- ading under a "humane" mask. For instance, they asked us in SHIZO: " What are you women complaining about ? This radiator is hot. " And to "prove" it, the person who said these words calmly laid a hand against the ice-cold pipes: see, its working perfectly! The temperature in the cell was 8* C, but we could hardly pull out our hidden thermometer just to expose the lie . . .29 During late October there were other important developments whichdetermine much of the remaining story of the inhabitants of the Zone. First, although PaniJadvyga is finally admitted to the hospital, the camp doctors refuse to treat her for hercondition (and feed her properly). She then resigns herself to death, and requests that herbody be returned to her family in Lithuania where she can receive a Christian burial nearthe Catholic Church in her home town. The officials refuse her request, so this frail ladybegins her "fast" in protest, and cannot be dissuaded even by appeals from the rest of the
  17. 17. 17group. Tragically also, Edita learns that her husband and son had been refused theirmeeting and she herself begins an angry strike against the cruelty of State. The othershesitatingly join them in time. It is about this time too when the last major character inthe narrative is introduced, Lidija Doronina, who the group called Pani Lida, a Latvianpeasant, who had experienced three arrests and imprisonments in her life since 1925: onceunder Stalin in 1942, once in 1970 (being tried under the Article 183-1 of the Latvianrepublican Criminal Code), and finally in 1983 on charges of "anti-Soviet agitation andpropaganda". She was a devout Latvian Catholic and had spent time in the infamousVorkuta camp and elsewhere before arriving in the Mordovian Zone.30 After she and herhusband had struggled to eek out a living and a tiny pension in the late 1970s, she wasslandered again in the early 1980s. Disgusting with the Soviet system and the unethicalbrutality of communism, she actually renounced her citizenship in 1984 and demanded tobe sent to Switzerland to live with relatives. She proved to be one of the most enduringand endearing of all of Irinas comrades in the Gulag. Ratushinskaya draws this picture ofher: Thats just what she did do [refuse to wear the damnable identificationtags] later on, for that very reason and set everything out in writing. It was not wise to fool around with Pani Lida: although she is incredibly kindhearted and ac- comodiating, there is a limit beyond which it is better not to push her. After we brought her up to date on the situation in the Zone and the impending strike, she said she had no intention of working anyway. The state could be content with the thirty-two rubles a month it was saving on her pension. Shes reached retirement age, so thats that. As for boycotting Podust, she will wait: " I have to make up my own mind about her. Dont think I dont believe you, but I will feel better myself when Ive seen and heard her in action. Maybe shes not an entirely lost soul ? "31 Just how lost of a soul Podust really is becomes clearer in the next fewchapters of the book where we hear of Podust conspiracy with Major Pazizin, ColonelShlepanov, and Major Shalin dragging a half-naked and ferverishly ill Natasha Lazarevathough the snow and their later revision of the events (pp. 176-181). In this instance Irina,Raya, and the others write a letter appealing to world opinion and hope to send it out byway of special "outside" couriers. The letter and its contents do get out in 1985, whichprobably accounts for the pressure on the Soviet government led by Mikhail Gorbachev torelease political dissidents and prisoners of conscience.32 The remainder of the book (the last twenty chapters, or pages 196-355, to beprecise) is Irinas spendidly detailed and horrendously vivid memoirs of the groups laststruggles against the camp administration and punishments of PKT and SHIZO (the verylast trip in 1985, Irina believed to be her last trip, but she survived to tell the tale alas !).Following that we have already spoken - the major details of her transportation,subsequent release, and emigration to the West. What I should like to in the next fewparagraphs is to simply outline some more examples, and in a few cases briefly quote
  18. 18. 18some passages to substaniate my thesis of Ratushinskaya and company as witnesses,candles behind the Wall of Soviet oppression and ideological darkness of the CommunistState (Cf. pp. 212-213 and her poem entitled " I sit on the floor ", written in SHIZO,December 16, 1983). Examples of Candles In The Gulag: 1. Irinas Prayer in the Gulag (When Natasha was almost dying with ab- dominal inflammation and respiratory bronchitis), ch. 29: pp. 224-225. [Oral reading for presentation]. Motto: " Strange things happen when you have nothing to depend on except Gods help." (p. 225) 2. The camp rejoicing over the death of Yuri Andropov, one of the worst of KGB persecutors of dissidents and the sworn enemy of all Russian Christians (pp. 338-241). The arrival of Lagle Parek to the zone, a cheerful fair Estonian Christian whose grandmother made a apt comment on the Soviet decrees (" Lagle never forgot her grandmothers smile, and pitying comment: They think that they are the master of eternity? "). 3. The special Small Zone birthday party for Irinas thirtieth birthday : the gifts, the poetry recitations, and the family "feast" of a biscuit cake and lemon tea. (pp. 243-247). 4. Irinas isolation in a "box cell" on March 15, 1984. There she writes, reads her Bible, and sews, glorying in her peace and praying for the others, espec- ially Edita and Tanya (pp. 253-255). 5. Though denied the basic decencies of life such as proper bathing conditions and feminine napkins, and subjected to strip-searches before groups of coarse leering KGB officers, Irina retained her decency and humanitarian values. Thus, she writes: But in doing so, you must not, under any cirmcumstances, allow your- self to hate. Not because your tormentors have not earned it. But if you allow hatred to take root, it will flourish and spread during your years in the camps, driving out everything else, and ultimately corrode and warp your soul. You will no longer be yourself, your identity will be de- stroyed, all that will remain will be a hysterical, maddened and bedevil- led husk of the human being that once was. And this is what will come before God should such a creature die while still behind bars. And this is just what "they" want. So, when you look at any nut or bolt of that machine--whether he has red or blue pathches on his uniform--or you try to think that maybe he has children who may grow up to be quite different from him. Or you may find something amusing about him: laughter dissolves anger. Or you may feel sincerely sorry for him: no
  19. 19. 19 matter how grim your situation, would you swap places with him? Of course not ! You see . . . ? But if you can spot no spark of humanity in him, no matter how hard you try, remind yourself that cockroaches are exterminated without hatred, but rather with a feeling of revulsion. And "they" --armed, well-fed and belligerent--are like vermin in our big house, and sooner or later we shall be rid of them and live in clean- liness. Is it not pathetic that they have designs on our immortal souls? All this in sum brings about one marked change in your physical ap- pearance; by the end of your first year, you will have what are known as "zeks eyes." This look in a zeks eyes is impossible to describe, but once encountered, it is never forgotten. When you emerge, your friends, embracing you, will exclaim: "You eyes! Your eyes have changed!"336. The Eleven of the Zone celebrate two Christmases and two Easters:Irina discourages a male camp admirer with amorous intentions (pp. 262-270). She explains that she is married and has religious convictions, andhe accepts her defense.7. Irina experiences conviction and shame for having lied to a camp com-mandant about her the reason for the cancellation of her husband Igorsvisit (pp. 275-276). Later for her ten-day hunger strike in protest of the can-cellation, she is put down for two months of PKT after SHIZO.8. December 10, 1984 [?]: All of the group of the Small Zone, except Olya,are sent to SHIZO. Later Olyas protests gets her send there as well. Here is,I think , the key passage, which justifies my analysis: We shall quote it atlength: The "highlight" of this particular SHIZO spell was the administra- tions effort to stamp out religious singing. Galya and Pani Lida had al- ready become a very accomplished duet at singing psalms and hymns, and what better occupation can there in a SHIZO cell than to praise the the Lord? The regime supervisors, who never objected to the most lewd to the most lewd ditties sung by the criminal prisoners,were terribly in- censed: " Stop that at once!" They stormed and threatened, but they had chosen the wrong targets for their wrath: Pani Lida and Galya were both perfectly prepared to accept punishment for singing psalms. Those of us not endowed with musical talent entered the fray: " What is it that you object to? The fact that theyre singing, or that theyre singing reli- gious songs? " . . . It must have been the latter; had our friends started singing some popular rubbish, nobody would have said a word. But our administra- tion could hardly admit to political prisoners that the objection was to songs about God, and risk this fact being publicized by Western media
  20. 20. 20 a week later. So they tried to wriggle out by claiming that prisoners are not supposed to sing at all, unless they do so as part of an “approved” independent amateur group activities " . . . .349. Later, most of the group were released on Christmans Eve, having wrap-ped Olya in as much of the babushka underclothes as they could, for herremaining days in the cold and damp of SHIZO. Then, back at Small Zone,in their tiny cottage of warm and love, they celebrate an ecumenical Christ-mas: We gather around the table, and the words of the Lords Prayer ring out in Lithuanian, Latvian, Russian, and Ukrainian, although the Or- thodox Christmas is still to come. Pani Jadgyga divides up a Commu- nion wafer from Lithuania, so that there is a bit for everyone. This wafer, no thicker than a sheet of paper, was sent to her by relatives in an envelope. The censor let it through; either having no idea what it was, or refrained from consfiscating it without a direct order to do so. " Silent night, holy night, " sing Galya and Pani Lida in two lan- guages. And, we despite our various creeds, never doubted for a moment that God was looking down upon us all at that moment. Then we pray for Olya, that she, too, might be eased in her solitude: that she would not be too cold, that she would not succumb to sad- ness . . . . On New Years Eve we sang traditional carols called Kolyadki at which Olya (who had returned by that time) excelled. We also ob- served the ancient Slav ritual of " sowing, " as we chanted: " Sow, grow, rye and wheat, for happiness and health, for the New Year . . . .” We had no wheat, of course, so we used crumbs of bread . . . . We even had a small but real Christmas tree: Vasili Petrovich brought it for us when he delivered that last batch of gloves. We decorated this tree as best we could. (p. 307). There is much more in Ratushinskayas story we could relate, but here weshall stop. In her Epilogue she calls attention to the fact that while most of theprisoners in the Soviet Gulag wore black, the color of the “politicals” in the SmallZone was grey. Grey was the color of hope, I think, because of the persons insidethe zek uniforms - Christians filled with light of Christ and Christmas hope in thebleak and dingy winter of late Soviet despair. Later, in the fall of 1989 A.D., manyother Christians were singing and holding lighted candles at the Wall between Eastand West .35 It was a time of hope. Yet, there has been such hope for peace and love,ever since Mary and Joseph, finding shelter in a cave with beasts and a manger,wrapped rough grey rags around one special child, a child full of Gods own lightand love. Later, shepherds greeted that baby born in Bethlehem, even as they
  21. 21. 21 recalled the singing of angels under the starry December sky. Grey was the color of hope. Once again, gray is the color of hope, for God’s truth dwells in it. That Light yet shines! Even in our dark twentieth century, that Light still shines brightly! Appendix A.: Review of Candles Behind The Wall . Candles Behind the Wall: Heroes of the Peaceful Revolution by Barbara von der Heydt Certainly one of the most profound events of human history was the collapse of theSoviet empire. To view it through the half-shut eyes of journalism is to see it as merepolitics but on a grand scale, a top-down sort of affair that only the likes of MikhaelGorbachev or (more plausibly) Ronald Reagan could have engineered. Jeanne J.Kirkpatrick put it aptly when she said "The most important event of 1989 was a non-event." As this book explains with fascinating stories of those who led the bloodlessrevolution, what really defeated the Evil Empire and liberated more than 400 millionpeople was a mass awakening of moral conscience and a spirit of freedom that calmlyand matter-of-factly rejected communism. This was the result, we learn, not of politicalmachinations but of the faith of thousands of Christians, peaceful revolution-aries," whoconfronted evil with only their faith in the good and in the power of God to make itprevail. You will read in this book of heroes and martyrs with names journalism has notmade familiar to us, but which were well known to the KGB, like Rudiger Knechtel,Alexander Ogorodnikov, and Fathers Gleb Yakunin and Dimitri Dudko. I cannot readthese stories of astonishing personal bravery and sacrifice without being deeply moved;they have left me with a greater assurance of the power of moral truth and the Spirit ofGod. [Hardback, 266 pages].1. Reviewer: Unknown ?2. Source:
  22. 22. 22 Endnotes:1 Gorbachev, Glasnost, and the Gospel (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1990), pp. 113-127, and passim ;also by M. Bourdeaux, The Politics of Religion in Russia and the New States of Eurasia (Armonk: M.E.Sharpe, 1995); Perestroika of the Russian Soul: Religious Renaissance in the Soviet Union (Jefferson,North Carolina and London: Macfarland & Company, 1991, pp. 1-8; 119-125; The Puzzle of theSoviet Church, An Inside Look at Christianity and Glasnost (Portland, Oregon: Multnomah Press incooperation with the Institute on Religion and Democracy, 1989) and The Soviet Union On TheBrink : An Inside Look at Christianity and Glasnost (Ibid. 1991).2 SeeThe Awakening of the Soviet Union (Enlarged edition; Cambridge, MA.: Harvard UniversityPress, 1991); Their Blood Cries Out: The WorldWide Tragedy of Modern Christians Who Are Dying forTheir Faith (Dallas and London: Word, 1997); Candles Behind the Wall: Heroes of the PeacefulRevolution that Shattered Communism (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1993), and "CorruptionIn Russia: No Democracy Without Morality " , Committe Brief, No. 13, June 15, 1995. U.S. SenateForeign Relations Committee.2 Perestroika of the Russian Soul: Religious Renassiance in the Soviet Union , Op. Cit. , p. 137.3 Possibly, the source of this thought is Dostoyevskys remark that the Russian mission to the Westwas one of universality: " our destiny is universality, won not by the sword but by the strength ofbrotherhood and our fraternal aspiration to reunite mankind. " Russia is not to conquer the West," but to `stand before the West as as a light, to allow the God-man [Christ] to "shine forth inopposition to the ideas of the West ". It is evident from context that he was speaking of bothdenatured capitalism and Protestant/ Catholic Christianity which had lost the mystic unity withGod and man he believed that Orthodoxy had preserved. Cf. his Letters of May 19 and August16 , 1880 to K. Pobedonostev , Polynoye sobranie soch inenii v tridsati tomakh , p. 58, and The Idiot ,p. 586 (IV, 7) cited in Bruce K. Ward, Dostoyevskys Critique Of The West, Quest for the EarthlyParadise , p. 187.4 Perestroika of the Russian Soul: Religious Renassiance in the Soviet Union , p. 138. On Dostoyevskysperceptive analysis of the tragedy of the human situation and its ground of hope in Christ, see thefine analyses such as George A. Panichas, The Burden of Vision: Dostoevskys Spiritual Art (GrandRapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1977), Introduction, pp. 9-22; Jessie Coulson, Dostoevsky, A Self-Portrait (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1962), pp. 198-231; Victor Terras, TheIdiot: An Interpretation (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990), 1-8, 19-28, 72-84; and W.J.Leatherbarrow, Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamarzov in J.P. Stern, ed., Landmarks of WorldLiterature [Series] (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 1-20.5 Ibid., pp. 138- 139.6 Solzhenitsyn: A Collection of Critical Essays . Edited by Kathryn B. Feuer (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:Prentice-Hall, 1976), p. 1. See further, the Introduction, pp. 1-24. More recently, among the manystudies of Solzhenitsyns literary work and his philosophical theory as an author, we have theprofound monograph by Vladislav Krasnov, Solzhenitsyn and Dostoyevsky: A Study of the PolyphonicNovel (Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1980). For an overall appreciative andpanoramic analysis of Alexander Solzhenitsyns moral philosophy and Christian worldview see
  23. 23. 23Edward E. Ericson, Solzhenitsyn and the Modern World (Chicago: Regenry Gateway, 1993) fromwhich one can draw much insight.7 Ibid., p. 12.8 Feuer, of course, notes some important differences between Dostoyevsky and Solzhenitsyn. Forexample, while they both share the idea that Christianity is mans only hope and that beauty (truthin art) will redeem the world, Solzhenitsyn probably would not share the Slavophilic belief whichsome have attributed to Dostoyevsky, that Russia has a special messianic election by God.9 Ibid., p. 1, and pp. 25-33. In another place, Robert Louis Jackson persuasively argues that the storyof "Matryonas Home" is a translation of a post-Gulag experience of Solzhenitsyn into a literaryicon of Russian life in the contemporary world. See the article by Ragsdale listed in my thesisbibliography.10 Ibid., p. 26. See his next two or three powerful paragraphs!11 Ibid., pp. 32-33. One can probably surmise at this point that I am not altogether happy with thetraditional notions of "Mimesis" exemplifed in the work of Erich Auerbach (Mimesis: TheRepresentation of Reality in Western Literature. Trans., W. Trask . Princeton, N.J. : PrincetonUniversity Press, 1957) or in the essay by W.J.T. Mitchell, "Representation" in Frank Lentricchiaand Thomas McLaughlin, Critical Terms for Literary Study (2nd Edition; Chicago and London:University of Chicago Press, 1995), pp. 11-22. Though I begin there, as one must. I contend, withSolzhenitsyn and Ratushinskaya we either need to invent new terms and concepts, or else take atface-value the Biblical Greek notion of martyreia (John 21;24,25; Acts 1:8; 5:13-20; I Corinthians15:1-10; II Peter 1:16-18; I John 1:1-4; Jude 1-4; Revelation 1:1-20; 21:1-3ff.; 22:8,9 ).12 Ibid. , p. 36. Cf. Luks work , Solzhenitsyn (Neuwied and Berlin, 1970), p. 17.13 Ibid. , p. 41. He also observes that Solzhenitsyn endeavors to maintain as objective a stance aspossible as an author and let the characters speak for themselves and the reader judge for himself,as Chekhov does in his dramatic work, p. 42.14 Ibid., p. 45. We are inclined to think too that the 1965 production of Boris Pasternaks Dr. Zhivagoachieves a similar realism with profound philosophic import, as I have argued in one of my letters.15 Ibid., pp. 90-91. Cf. further pp. 91-95 where he lays out the detailed comparative and socio-political insights which Solzhenitsyns Gulag provides for comparing Tsarist oppression ofconvicted traitors with the Soviet-Communist oppression of ideological enemies and theirfamilies, etc.16 Ibid. , p. 93.17 Ibid., p. 95. Earlier, on p. 23 K. Feuer had asked this rhetorical question: " Can the obedient,lovable nature of the Russia Solzhenitsyn cherishes be reconciled with the love of freedom, withknowledge that survival is not worth any cost, the precepts through which he hopes Russia mayrecover her soul? Only history will tell; and some part of history will be shaped by whatSolzhenitsyn has written, is writing now, and will write - the history not only of Russia but of usall. " Her words have virtually come true since 1989, and others like Kent Hill, Michael Schammel,and Eric Ericson, have been making a literary record of these real world facts. Now, we wish toturn to other witnesses for love and humanity, which we shall call Candles in the Gulag,Ratushinskaya and her circle.18 Besides the short poems contained in passing in Grey Is The Color of Hope , Irina Ratushinskayasmain body of pre-prison poetry and her prison compositions are found in her Pencil Letter, Englishtranslation by several translators (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989). During her interment, shecopied her poems in a near mircoscopic hand onto small strips of paper which were hidden andthen smuggled out of the camp by trusted couriers. Cf. Grey Is The Color Of Hope , pp. 20-21.
  24. 24. 2419 Ibid., p. 22. In chapter 9, we are introduced to Lieutenant Podust (contrasted with the zek"lawyer", Tanya Osipova), who is so totally overbearing and cruel that Irina can only disgustinglycall her the "blonde fiend" and "Ilse Koch" because of her inhuman demands and inspection raidson the zeks lockers.20 Ibid., pp.52- 53. In the remainer of this chapter (8), Irina discusses the eight Orthodox babushkiwho passed through the Small Zone, especially Granny Many and Granny Shura, their awe atcreation, their meekness, yet sternness of principle, their forgiveness, and their holiness. But ofthe most practical impact in her situation were the special underwear and flannel footclotheswhich the babushki made of rags and which were now helping to preserve the health and life ofthe other female zeks even in Ratushinskayas tour in the Zone (pp. 54-56).21 Ibid., p. 55. She adds, " And our Zone existed even then, and the "bustiers" wrought by thebabushki lay in their box, awaiting the next spell of SHIZO. " The benefits to cold and freezingprisoners in the camps at later time is immeasurable, as Ratushinskaya observes. Eventually,however, the camp authorities burnt all the non-regulation underwear!22 Ibid., p. 62.23 Here we are summarizing pp. 63-71, an important transistional chapter. Ratushinskaya alsoremarks about the fairness and honorable character on Petrovich on p. 69. She notes that he is "the only member of the Barshevo camp personnel who really works " and that he " was alwaysphilosophical about our strikes - politicals are politicals, what can you do?".24 Ibid., pp. 81-85. "Pani" is a title of courtesy, like "Madam". Pani is a secret "nun" since religousorders are forbidden in the U.S.S.R. Her sentence was the result of Kuri Andropovs sweep againstdissidents. Chapters 12-13, 85-95. Ratushinskaya comments dryly: " Vladimirova had chosen herown punishment, so it was up to her to bear it. Our aim was to ignore her tantrums and try tocarry on as though she were not there. "25 A summary of pp. 96-113.26 Cf. the opening quotation at the top of the paper. Summary of chapter 16. pp. 114-122. Irinacomments, "Semantics aside , though, the fact remains that Galya, like the rest of us, will dependonly on water and prayer to sustain her until Natasha and Tanya are back " (p. 122).27 Another stunning example of the bonds of faith and love of these women come in the descriptionof how Tanya and Natasha, on another trip to SHIZO on the "cucko", the transport train sharethe news about Irina with her family who happen to be on the same train and whom theyimmediately recoginze, pp. 138ff. The scene of Tatyana Mikhailovnas parting from the camp on"transportation" is equally moving, and on pp. 143-144, we begin to see the explicit revelation ofhow Tatyana, Raya, and Pani Jadvyga witness to their Christian faith in the way they say goodbyeto their beloved compatriot.28 Ibid. p. 149. In this same context she speaks of the beautiful native Lithuanian poetry of PaniJadyga who spoke of the Lord coming unseen as a guest among the women in the evening and herown poetic pieces which were later included in her published collection, Pencil Letter (New York:Alfred Knopf, 1989).29 Ibid. , p. 157. Ratushinskaya spends three chapters, i.e., 26-28 describing the horrible cold andvirutally unbearable suffering of SHIZO, pp. 196-218. In chapter 28 Irina and Natasha nearly diein their second or third extended punishment tour in the winter of 1984. However, by 1985 variousreporting agencies had made the Small Zones intense sufferings a matter of public knowledge tothe West.30 Cf. Irinas extended account of her story on pp, 165-170.31 Ibid., p. 171.32 Ibid., pp. 217-218. See comments above in note 29.
  25. 25. 2533 Ibid., p. 261.34 Ibid., pp. 305-306.35 It is is interesting to compare Irina Ratushinskayas account of how the Christian ladies in the"Small Zone" practiced their faith with courage and joy to the account of Father Vaclav Maly ofKOR in Czechoslavkia in 1978-1989 ( KOR is an acronym in Czech for" The Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted ", which formed in 1978 to protest thearrest of Christians and political dissidents like Vaclav Havel). Father Maly was repeatedly put inprision, beaten, tortured, and mentally abused. However, he testifies to the power of faith overpolitical and military force: " His salvation came with the realization that they did not have anyultimate power over him. They might have the power of might and force, he thought. But they lackreal power, the power of truth. Theyre living within the lie, as Solzhenitsyn called it. What theycall power--money, might, political gain--held no power over him at all. Though he was powerlessin their eyes, he really was powerful. He actually began to feel pity for them. They didnt knowwhat they were missing. " For the entire account of this story see Bud Bultmann, Revolution ByCandlelight (Portland, Oregon: Multnomah Press, 1991), pp. 75-90.