Nikolay Yerofeyevich Boykohas been well known to Gods people of the persecuted brotherhood of unregistered churches since 1968, when his name first appeared on the lists of prisoners sentenced for faith in Jesus Christ in the Soviet Union.
Since the day he first turned to the Lord, he joyfully confessed the name of Jesus Christ to all people. For this he was repeatedly deprived of his freedom.
Only God knows how many derisions Nikolay Yerofeyevich endured in captivity. His oppressors denied him meetings with visitors, withheld his letters from him, and intended to literally destroy him by placing him in a refrigerated cell while he was ill with pneumonia.
But the Lord, in His indescribable mercy, watched over the life of His servant. Nikolay Yerofeyevich remained unbending and did not take the path of collaboration with his persecutors.
Although his oppressors did not intend to ever free Nikolay Yerofeyevich alive, the dear brother with Gods help lived on, staying faithful in the fire of incredible trials. And in answer to the prayers of the Lords people, in 1988 he was given back to the brotherhood of churches that had remained independent from government control.
Nikolay Yerofeyevich spent the subsequent fifteen years of freedom in earnest ministry. With whatever strength he had, he carried on pastoral ministry, served as a member of an interregional ministers council, and was the responsible minister working to build up churches in the Odessa district of the International Union of Churches of Evangelical Christian Baptists (IUC ECB), formerly known as the Council of Evangelical Baptist Churches (CEBC).
He reached the considerable age of eighty-two years, shining proof that our lot lies completely in the hands of the Lord and that existing conditions do not in the least determine the length of ones lifeonly Gods will does. Despite the harsh path, he reached the finish line with great strength and went to be with the Lord at a patriarchs length of days. Lifes battle he finished victoriously.
I was born in the small village of Pribuzhany, three kilometers from the city of Voznesensk in Nikolayev Oblast (administrative division of Ukraine). My mother could not remember the actual date of my birth and because the archives had been burned in the civil war, the date could not be verified. The date of birth in my documents is January 9, 1922, which I arbitrarily gave when I wanted to be admitted to technical school. Later I found out I was born the same day as a distant relative, meaning February 26, 1923.
My childhood was difficult. Famine raged in the Ukraine in 1933. Four children in our family died as infants; only two sisters, a brother, and I were left alive.
My parents considered themselves Orthodox but did not believe in God. I do not remember that they ever spoke to us about God or taught us to pray. I was told there was no God and I believed it. I never heard of believers, never met any, and one could say I did not have the interest.
During my first three years in school I was an average student, but between fifth and seventh grades I rose to excellence. I was elected class president. Then I entered the Komsomol (Communist youth league) and became secretary of that organization.
My responsibilities included collecting monthly dues, leading thematic discussions, and planning various events. Churchgoing was not among the activities of devoted komsomols.
After I graduated from high school, I wanted very much to be admitted to the Kherson naval technical institute in long-distance navigation. The competition was stiff and, in addition, the tuition costly. My family had almost no money and I had to part with my dream. I graduated from an ordinary technical school and worked in a ceramics factory.
From dawn to dusk my parents toiled to total exhaustion in the fields of the collective. I tried with all my strength to help them considerably with work around the house. Sometimes I even substituted for Mama in the kitchen, cooking something simple for the family.
On June 8, 1941, the Voznesensk regional military recruiting center called me up for the army. I arrived on June 11 to the artillery division deployed in the city of Lida, not far from the Polish city of Belostok. I settled into field school on the farmstead of a rich landowner where I trained altogether ten days.
Saturday evening, June 21, we watched a movie, not being particularly concerned about anything. But early Sunday morning we were awakened by a series of automatic gunshots and explosions of bombs dropped from airplanes by the Germans.
Outside the hysterical uproar did not subside. Several soldiers dashed into the clearing where we had marched previous days and fell under harsh gunfiresome were killed, some injured. I also rushed outside. The Germans were dropping burning phosphorus bombs from airplanes and firing relentlessly at the fallen soldiers. I darted back and forth around a big tree, dodging bullets.
Of the officers ranks only the duty major remained alive, he being with us in the field school. The rest of the officers living in town were killed that night.
The military divisions fled but the surviving recruits were left behind in the field school. The third day the major withdrew to make contact with central command and that night we were led out from town. On the road they gave out several packets of wheat concentrate and warned us under no circumstances to enter even a single house asking for something to eat or drink since the resentful local residents would kill Russian soldiers.
Our food supplies quickly ran out and we went hungry. Along the way we encountered the slain but out of conscience I could not take their survival rations from them. Yet I was afraid to go up to any of the local homes.
Armed soldiers walked ahead of us breaking trail; they fired defensively and we slipped through behind them. I walked ten days with neither sleep nor food. I learned to sleep while walking. Less than six kilometers from Minsk I entered a small house on the edge of some village.
"Son, this place is full of Germans!" The woman of the house threw up her hands in horror.
"Would you happen to have any clothes to change into?" I asked.
She gave me some pants and a shirt and advised me to walk straight through the village because miry swamps surrounded it.
The village was spread out. The street was wide. Whistling some tune, I sauntered along pretending to be a local.
The sun climbed high before I walked half way through town. Suddenly I heard from behind, "Halt!" I realized they were shouting at me but pretended not to notice.
"Russ halt!" they shouted still louder and more insistent.
I looked around.
"Kommen, kommen!" said a German and with a gesture of his hand motioned I come to him.
"No," I lied.
He momentarily snatched off my capa shaved head
"Soldat, soldat!" and he led me to a small house.
He ordered me to sit.
As soon as I sat down I fell immediately asleep. I awoke only that evening, and only then from a strong blow. Apparently, they had been beating me a long time but although I felt the blows I could not wake up. A German appointed me to a column of prisoners consisting of both civilians and military, among whom were many commanding officers as well as regular soldiers.
They prodded us on to Brest by way of Baranovichi, Slonim, and Volkovysk. We were held in the city a short while and then sent by train to Germany. Once we arrived in the city of Kyustrin they lined us up in rows of five and conferred a number to every prisoner.
"Are there any Communists?" they asked through an interpreter. Silence.
"Commissars? Commanders?" No one stepped forward.
"Are there any komsomols?"
By that time I was so exhausted and weary I did not want to live. I thought better just to let them shoot me so I raised my hand. A few others timidly raised their hands after I did and we stepped forward.
The Germans went among the rows of haggard soldiers thoroughly scrutinizing each face and without difficulty pulled out eighty-five more! From ones face it was not hard to tell who was who.
We were then redirected to the concentration camp "Sachsenhausen," not far from Oranienburg, the camp to which all the commanders and Communists were driven. We were fed rutabaga and turnips and rationed three hundred grams of bread a day baked with beets and sawdust mixed in.
They put us to work unloading building materials from barges. We carried bags of cement and threw bricks to shore passing them in a chain from hand to hand. We were dressed in old green overcoats and inner shirts soldiers had worn back under the tsars. By that time we were worn down to mere skin and bonesnot an exaggeration. The overcoats hung on us like on scarecrows and to move in them was impossible. We took them off and worked only in our inner garments. People died like flies from the dampness, cold, and hunger and I saw those starving to death not having received the Lordwhat an awful death it is! People also died from beatings.
Life lost all meaning for me, but despite the hopelessness of our situation, I did not think about God during those terrible years because they had convinced me He did not exist.
Time passed. My strength slipped away. The prisoners were taking turns carrying bags of cement from the barge to shore. I was all of eighteen years old but so wasted that a bag of cement weighed more than I. Two stronger prisoners of war who had just arrived put the bag on my back and I, scarcely able to walk, set out. Closer to shore the bag took over and I stumbled. I felt myself just about to fall with the bag forcing me down but no matter how hard I tried to stay on my feet, I collapsed anyway. The bag fell next to me and broke open, the cement spilling out. A guard seeing this scene rushed at me with a bayonet-tipped automatic. He would have pierced me straight through if I had not, mustering the last of my strength, rolled to the side. He reached me anyway with the bayonet and it penetrated my leg above the knee. In the heat of the moment I ran. The German raised his gun. The prisoners screamed out loud; he did not pull the trigger. Only then did I feel blood streaming down my leg. I bound up the wound with a strip torn from the back of my shirt and of course it became infected. The infection spread.
The concentration camp had neither doctor nor medical orderly and not a single medication. The wound did not heal. By now I could not walk to work. I realized my life was coming to an end. But I was so young! I felt sorry for myself. For what purpose did a person live? Was there meaning to life? These and many other questions arose in my soul and anguished me, but I could find no answer to them.
"It would be better to leave this life than to be so tormented!" the intrusive thought of suicide forced its way in. But my heart rebelled, "Why die so young? Living things no smarter than bedbugs live three hundred years! Should a man really, wise creature that he is, so foolishly end his life?!" Inside the struggle grew and provoked a sort of search, although still not entirely conscious, for the meaning of life.
The winter of 1941 to 1942 fell cold on Germany. Our camp was hidden from view deep in a forest wilderness. We found ourselves constantly surrounded by guards. Raw cold hung in the barracks and there was nothing with which to heat. The head officer of the concentration camp drove all the invalids into the forest to collect wood chips and brush.
Even with a stick I could hardly walk but they compelled me to gather sticks as well. Those who were in better health carried armloads of brush to the furnace. I dragged the dry branches into piles with a stick, now and then bending down to lift up a larger branch. Thus I made my way gradually along. Then, suddenly under a bush appeared something of a dirty piece of paper. I bent down and picked up a page folded several times over. Just in case, I decided to unfold it and if it were blank to throw it away. Carefully, so as not to tear the wet paper, I unfolded it. Something was written, and in Russian at that! I looked aroundwould anyone see? And I began to read "Our Father "the Lords Prayer! From the crown of my head to the soles of my feet an unexplainable joyful quiver ran through my whole being. I read it, savoring literally every word. I staggered at this prayer. I wept. It meant that doomed people such as I had a Father in Heaven! From this thought I felt an inner strength I had not known before. A feeling of joy mysterious to me poured into my soul worn out with suffering. To this day I cannot find words to express the blessedness of spirit I sensed at that moment as I held that homely piece of paper with its priceless words! "There is a God!" my heart triumphed. "There is a God!" This was the turning point in my life. I could not call this priceless find a coincidence!
If I had found that prayer in German, what would have been noteworthy about that? It was Germany. But to find the prayer in Russian, here deep in the German backcountrythat was a miracle! It was clear that only a Russian prisoner could have brought it to this land of sorrow. And who knows how that unfortunate one, perhaps dying, had let it fall from his hand?! The Lords ways are inscrutable!
Carefully folding the moist page, I hid it in my shirt pocket. When I arrived back at the barracks, the first thing I did was to memorize that prayer, for the paper might be confiscated but who could snatch it from ones memory? And I not only memorized it, but morning and evening prayed this prayer of God. This was my first deliberate turning to God. I was actually afraid to forget to pray. As I recited the words of this extraordinary prayer, I felt how tenderly the Lord was touching my heart.
Several days I diligently, without mistakes, repeated the words that had become precious to me and then started to think deeply about their meaning. What strength flowed from every word!
"Our Father " that meant I was no longer an orphan, forgotten by everyone!
"Who art in heaven "that was where my God lived! Why had I not known that before? Moved to the depths of my soul, I decided that I had the right to make my need known to God. "Lord! If You exist, save me," the groan wrenched from my soul. "If You exist, help me. You see my conditionnot much longer and my life will be cut short "
Not knowing anything of the teachings of Christ nor knowing that God answers prayer, yet I expected that something in my life would change. Judging from conditions in the camp and watching prisoners dying daily, it was unthinkable to expect medical help. But after a very short time, all of a sudden an interpreter entered the barracks and announced, "All invalids, cripples, and sickto the receiving room for the doctor!"
My joyful and confident heart trembled. "This is God answering my prayer!"
The hapless people gathered and went in one by one to see the doctor. Of all the sick the doctor designated four for surgery, including me. Three days later they loaded us onto a trailer and pulled us with a tractor under guard to the hospital. The surgeon operated on my wound, placed a dressing, and ordered me, "Do not unbind it." I obediently walked around with that bandage until it wore off.
I did not forget the Lords Prayer and noticed that after I prayed I became embarrassed to argue or smokemy conscience condemned it. I stopped smoking, tried not to yell, and my conscience eased up. Later I understood that this was the Holy Spirit convicting me of my bad actions.
Within a few months after the operation, a bauer (farmer) came to the camp and asked the head officer for several prisoners to dig potatoes. "I have one invalid who can gotake him "
The prisoners, myself included of course, joyfully flew into activity hoping we would be able to eat potatoes in the field. For two weeks we were taken to the potato digging. That year raw potatoes seemed more delicious to me than cooked ones might normallyI was that wasted from hunger. While working we wiped the gray tubers with a flap of our overcoat or shirtsleeve and ate them. For lunch the owner boiled potatoes in their jackets especially for uswhat an unheard-of delicacy! The prisoners noticeably grew stronger and behold! The harvest ended.
Because I was still disabled I was sent along with several other prisoners to the concentration camp "Simensschtadt." Gods mercy was manifest in this also and of course it was an answer to my prayers.
From the new camp we helpless and exhausted invalids were driven on foot three kilometers to a factory where, whether able or not, we were to construct wooden plank sheds. The factory owner was concerned that each worker contribute to the production no matter what it took so they fed us a little better. They brought lunch to the factory. Although no one had ever taught me this, my heart was prompted to ask a blessing on the food. I knelt down in the presence of everyone, prayed, and then ate. After the meal I thanked God for the food.
The German who brought the food noticed that I was praying and he brought me a dictionary so that I would have a way to explain myself. Actually, I had known a little German since grade school. Sometimes German newspapers ended up in camp and I carried on with my self-education. Gradually I became familiar with the language, found out what was going on at the front, and told the news to my companions in misfortune.
"Do you believe in God?" the German was amazed.
"Yes," I answered with only one word because any contact with him was forbidden. A little later he brought me a religious book in Russian from some Catholic faith. It told about Christ, but as I later understood, its stories were extensively distorted. Out of ignorance I took them at face value. I did not know any betterI did not know the truth.
We were kept for a long time constructing sheds. This is how we built them: First we prepared the site, then we drove the support posts. We hoisted the beams onto the posts and then attached the planks to them.
The supervisor spoke to the workers in German but no one understood him. The prisoners just looked at him in bewilderment, not knowing what to do, and he beat them with a rifle butt.
"Nikolay, interpret what he wants from us. Why is he beating us?" the boys asked.
Just like that I replied, "Take shovels, position the wagon cars, and prepare the construction site."
The boys set to work contentedly. This did not escape the supervisors notice.
"You understand German?!"
"Come along. You will be my interpreter."
From that point on I translated all the supervisors directives while working as an equal with the boys.
Right at that time the interpreter for the camp itself ran away (he had been born in Moscow) and the camps head officer ordered me to become interpreter. Thus I interpreted at work, in camp, and even in the hospitalthe sick had been coming to the doctor but he could not understand their complaints.
In 1943, a person showed up in camp in a German uniform yet speaking pure Russian. We wondered what this meant and were wary of him.
"Announce throughout the camp that everyone come to the assembly halla meeting will be held immediately."
I gave the announcement.
It turned out that he was a Russian officer, a vlasovets (follower of the Russian turncoat general Vlasov) recruiting prisoners to the front. "Whoever wishes to join the Vlasov army, hand in a written statement to that effect," he suggested and promised to stop by our barracks from time to time.
Some had already submitted statements. I started to talk them out of it. "What are you doing? This means killing your own, brother against brother?!" By that time the conviction had already clearly formed in my understanding that it was sin before God to swear at someone, so much the more to kill.
The prisoners out of desperation were ready to do anything to break free of that place. "I will leave, get a little stronger, and then definitely desert to my own side "
"It will be harder to escape from there than from here," I dissuaded others while myself not wanting to fall under the gaze of the vlasovets. As soon as he showed his face in the barracks I left for the most distant corner and hid. They looked for me, yelling, "Where did our interpreter go?" I did not respond. Several times they could not find me and I got away with it. Finally one time they discovered my hiding place and led me to the office of the camp head.
"Why have you been hiding?"
"I do not want to be recruited for that army," I admitted openly.
"So what are you? Bolshevik? Communist?" And thus it began! Although I was the interpreter they beat me badly.
"Tomorrow you will go off to work, Bolshevik!" ordered the camp head.
I went back to the barracks and started to think. I could walkmy leg had gradually healed. Likely they would shoot me on the road as a Communist if I went out to work. I started to pray earnestly to God. More than once I had seen how wonderfully He protected me but I was still afraid of death. I prayed almost the whole night, "Lord, protect me."
In the morning I stood with my work division in the camp yard. The chef from the kitchen encountered me there and asked, "Where will you go today?" I explained what had happened. He asked the division foreman not to lead the workers from the camp yard just yet while he himself ran to headquarters.
"I do not have an interpreter in the kitchen! I am already beside myself! I tell them to get certain food and they bring something different. Allow Boyko to help me " He managed to obtain me.
In the kitchen I recovered physically and felt myself drawn to my homeland. From the newspapers I knew that our army had already neared the Orden. At this point another young fellow from Leningrad reinforced my intention to escape, "You know, as soon as our side crosses the Orden the Germans will either shoot us or send us to the Americans. It would be better to leave "
Trying not to draw attention, we carefully prepared to escape and one night we ran away. They shot at us but we were already far enough away that the bullets did not reach us. We ran the whole night. During the day we traveled carefully since we were dressed in prisoners clothing. But when we saw that the Germans themselves were running about in a panic, whomever, wherever, without giving us the least bit of attention, we walked along more boldly. We crossed the front lines! We saw our ownRussians!
When we met up with our own soldiers we explained where we were from. And yes, from a look at our clothes it was not hard to believe us. The soldiers sent us to the commander in the rear. There I was assigned to the field artillery and went with our military toward Berlin.
Amazingly, I encountered prisoners from the camp from which I had escaped. "You are alive?! That can't be! We saw your bodies!" It turned out that the camp administration, so as to frighten the rest of the prisoners, brought in two corpses. "Whoever runs away can expect the same fate," they threatened.
Through all this I clearly understood that the Lord had heard my prayers and answered them. After this I began to view life completely differently.
The horrible years of war came to an end. All the soldiers dreamed of one thingto return as soon as possible to their homeland and to their families, to all that was near and dear! And for the most part everyone did leave except for the few still detained in Germany.
In December, 1945, the military command completely unexpectedly informed me that a criminal case had been instituted against me as a traitor to the homeland.
The captain conducting the investigation wrote in the case files: "Boyko voluntarily surrendered with a weapon in hand "
"Excuse me!" I retorted. "How can you, an officer, write such a lie?! I ended up a prisoner of war before even passing the basic combat course. I had not sworn the oath. They did not even have the right to give me a weapon! Even those who had taken the oath before the war started were issued only one rifle to three!"
"You were a komsomol. You should have found a weapon and shot yourself rather than surrender alive!" announced the officer.
"That is another matter! But why write, he voluntarily surrendered with a weapon?"
It was entirely useless to explain. The tribunal handed down the sentence: "Fifteen years hard labor, five years exile, and five years forfeiture of rights."
I was sent to Vorkuta to serve out my term of punishment.
What a merciful Lord! How would I have lived through all this if I had not met Him, if I had not learned to pray to Him?! Not a day went by that I did not call on Him. I was convinced that God existed! I was convinced that He heard my prayers and that He knew the truth no matter how unjustly they sentenced me. The knowledge that Gods hand was guiding me along the mysterious path comforted me such that I knew no disappointment or doubts.
The transit group of prisoners arrived in Vorkuta and thus my wanderings from prison to prison began. How I yearned to meet believers among the prisoners and to hear something about God. My faith in the living God grew stronger as He answered my prayers. True, at first I was amazed and confounded and thought, what if this were just a coincidence? Time and again I fully verified each answer and came to the firm conclusion that they were the marvelous works of Gods hands.
Now I understand that at the time I did not actually know God as I should. I only believed that He existed. Later I many times met people who although they did not deny the existence of God, yet did not possess the living faith that would have brought them assurance of salvation. They did not have eternal life and this testified to the fact that in reality they had not acknowledged their own sinfulness and therefore had not come to know the saving right hand of God.
In the camps I worked as a machinery fitter, fixed mining equipment, and gained reasonable skills in water systems. Therefore I was tossed around from prison zone to prison zone.
In one of the camps, as I walked past a seated prisoner I noticed he was reading a small booklet and I could not help but ask about it. The prisoner, hoping it would be uninteresting to me, explained, "This book is about God. A priest loaned it to me for a time " I did not leave him alone until I talked him into letting me have it for at least a few hours. Nikolay Ivanovich Soloshchenkothat was the name of the believergave in to my insistent request. And thus for the first time in my life I held the holy Book! It should not be difficult to understand my joy. As a starving soul I drank in the holy words like a sponge, finding at last the answers to the questions troubling me. From the holy pages heavenly joy flowed into my soulGod had spoken to me. And then I trembledI realized I was not just a sinner but a perishing sinner. How could such a holy God endure me and answer my prayers? My heart was smitten. Both joy and bitter sorrow poured into my soul. I cried and rejoiced. And then all of a sudden I was sent to a different camp and had to part with that precious Book having only skimmed it.
My whole life I never forgot that flame of hunger to hear and read the holy Word that engulfed my whole being. It lit my heart aflame and I persistently searched for believers in every camp, constantly eavesdropping on every serious conversation among the prisoners.
Suddenly the happy thought came to mindI would write a letter to my sister and have her pay any price to buy and send me a New Testament! But in those years not only religious but even fiction literature was forbidden in the camp. Taking that fact into consideration, I asked my sister that if she bought one to let me know before she sent it. Since I was working with the sick I hoped I could obtain one of their addresses so my sister could send the precious gift to me through them.
Time dragged agonizingly. A new group of prisoners arrived in the campwould there be believers among them? I sadly looked over the newcomers. My attention was drawn to a quiet young man, Stepa Boytke. As a youth, he had ended up in a juvenile colony, lived there until he reached the age of an adult, and since his term was not up had been transferred to the general camp. As it turned out he was from a Mennonite family, a German. We became friends and often spent our free time together. He told about the life of believersthis was of utmost interest to me. He said that at their church services children sing and recite poemsI could not imagine this in the least. Could children actually participate in the service?
Finally I received a letter from my sister: "Nikolay, that which you requested I found and sent to the camp " Can you imagine what went on in my soul?! The Holy Scriptures had been sent to where they were categorically forbidden! I lost all sense of calmevery day I went and checked the list of packages received. I waited and then it came! My last name was listed!
"Stepa! What shall we do? The Book came!"
It was obvious that without Gods intervention Gods Book would not be given us.
When I first skimmed through the New Testament I noticed that fasting is a strength that reinforces prayer. "You know what, Stepa? Lets fast. The Lord protected my life in captivity and brought me out of such a horrible abyss. Would He not help us now so that they would give us the New Testament? God knows how much I thirst to read His Bookit cannot be that God would not give it to me!" With firm faith and trust in the Almighty God we appointed a three-day fast and only on the third day did I go to the distribution.
Usually when giving out packages the head of operations was present along with the military doctor, the distributor to hired employees, and the distributor to prisoners (he carried out the dirty work of opening the packages while the rest thoroughly examined the contents).
"From where are you expecting a package?"
The distributor then untied the fabric wrapping of the package, pulled out the nails from the lid of the box, and lifted it off. I looked in and my heart quickened its beatO God! Right on top with nothing hiding it, of significant size bound in black leather with a golden cross decorating the front cover, was a Bible! In my heart I cried out to God, "Have mercy on me, O God! Keep Your Book for me!"
The head of operations took the Book with a brusque gesture and began to casually page through it. I prayed, not taking my eyes from the officer. He leafed through to the end and returned to the first page.
"A Bible?!" he loudly read with amazement and glanced scornfully at me. "You there you want to become a priest?"
"Not everyone who reads the Bible necessarily becomes a priest," I answered and continued to pray.
The officer slammed the Bible shut and threw it on the table. At that moment the military doctor announced, "Nothing prohibited!" and looked questioningly at me. "What shall we put the food in?" Only then did I remember I had forgotten to bring a pillowcase. The prisoners usually went for packages using a pillowcase for a bag.
"I forgotI did not bring anything," I explained myself guiltily.
The distributor quickly took stock of the situation and handed me the wrapping from the package. Stretching it out, I put it down and the distributor with one dexterous move swept off the food thrown on the table and with it, the Book!
"Thank you!" I blurted out hastily and hidden by one, then two doors I ran! I ran so fast not even horses could have caught up with me! I did not feel the earth under me! I thought suddenly they would remember and it would be all over! But no one ran after me.
Later remembering that event, I understood how the Lord has the power to dim the minds of wicked people such that they are not in any condition to carry out their malicious intentions.
I ran into the barracks. Stepa was still on his knees praying to Godhow precious it was to me to see the earnestness and thirst of that young man to have the Word of God!
"Stepa! We have it!" I exclaimed ecstatically, holding up the bundle. "We need to hide it immediately!"
We decided not to leave it in our barracks and found a secret place in a different barracks. For three days we did not take the Bible from its hiding place. What if they noticed! Later the camp administration conducted countless thorough searches to find that precious Book I had received, one could say, straight through the hands of the censors themselves.
When convinced no one was watching us, we tremblingly drew it out, hid ourselves in some tall weeds and began to read. I opened to the first page and was confused. Was this not the Book?! I had read a different one! Only later did I understand that this was not just a New Testament but the whole Bible. As I read it there was much I did not understandI blamed this on my own ignorance. The hunger arose within me to grasp its meaning. I prayed much about this, wept, and read page after page on my knees. And then God arranged yet another circumstance such that I could read the Bible both day and nightwithout request from me I was reassigned to night shift as an instrument fitter, adjusting instruments and electrodes.
I read the whole night through and during the day tried to remember what I had read, but what was this? However hard I tried I could not remember anything of what I had read. For some time already I had noticed lapses in my memorythe knowledge I gained in school had vanished, as it were. I did not remember a single formula, a single law, which I used to know and understand. This was the result of the hungry five years in concentration camp, people explained to me.
Now how would I remember what I read from the Bible? So I prayed, "Lord, I need to not just read but also apply what I read in my life, but my memory lets me down " After this prayer, the Lord turned my attention to the words of the apostle Paul, "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). I was thinkingafter all, only God could have created in me the desire to remember the Word of God. So then He would send even memory to me! Praying earnestly as I read, I noticed that I was remembering more than before. Thus God fulfilled the desire of my heart that He Himself had sent! And all that I memorized during those years (that was 1948) I remember well to this day. Was this not the mercy of God?
Soon I was sent, as always, to another camp and Stepa and I were separated.
Those to whom God has shown the mercy of being in captivity for His Name know how many times a day prisoners are searched. Led off to worka search. Returning to the zonea search. Someone brought something illicita search. A new group transferred ina search. Previously they had searched me not particularly rigorouslyI did not have anything forbidden. But now I had a Bible, and in a rather large format at that! I was transferred six times or more that year, meaning twelve searches before the entire camp. Leave the Bible behind? Such a thought did not even enter my mind. How could I part with it?! I had no other option but to always carry it with me. As soon as they announced a coming transfer I fasted until I reached the other camp.
I remember one time a prisoner found out that they were transferring me to a different camp and asked me to pass on a photograph to his friend. I did not know that it was also forbidden to have photographs in the camp so I placed it in a notebook that I had made myself by sewing together scraps of paper from the ends of cement bags.
A transfer. I was fasting that God would keep the Bible. The guard that day was one of the most obnoxious. "Empty everything onto the ground from your pockets and pillowcases," he ordered.
As I complied that photograph fell out of my notebook. Trampling all my handmade notebooks underfoot he yelled, "Gather them all upyou go to the punishment cell!"
"Lord, I am willing to go anywhere if only the Bible stays with me!"
I sat in the punishment cell. The guard called out, "For punishment, come scrub the corridor floor."
"I would scrub two corridors if only the Bible would survive," I thought.
God protected my Bible with His miraclesthese were for me unforgettable lessons of the might and power of God. They strengthened and established my faith. Most important was to abide in constant fellowship with the Lord as Christ instructed: "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (John 15:7).
Often the guard soldiers would page through the Bible during a search but not understanding anything, would close it again without opening to the first page where it was clearly written "Bible." Very dangerous moments also occurred but I always fasted and prayed inwardly that God would hide from cruel eyes His Book, which had become dearer to me than life. The Lord knew my need and thirst and kept my Bible safe up to the day of my release.
As I read the Bible I did not find in it those events with which I had had the pleasure of becoming acquainted in the New Testament and I wondered why. Although I did not understand much, yet I earnestly read page after page. I turned over the last page of the book of the prophet Malachi andamazing! I read, "The New Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ." The next page said, "The Holy Gospel from Matthew." Now, only now, did I discover that the Bible consisted of two parts! Here were those familiar events! How happy I was! All was much more understandable and attainable in the New Testament. I obtained greater clarity as I reread one or another of the chapters several times. But that was not all.
My conscience was troubled but how was that? Reading the holy Book and yourself sinning? That was exactly the way it wasI did not want to get into an argument but I argued, I was against yelling but I yelled. What was going on? And then I read the words of the Apostle Paul, "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me" (Rom. 7:19-20). That was the problem! I could not control myself because I was a sinner. But how was I to free myself from sin? Rereading those verses, I grew discouraged. But when the words of the Gospel came to mind that Christ came to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance (Matt. 9:13), the light flooded into my soulI was that very sinner! Kneeling down, I called out to God, "Lord, You see what a sinner I am! I cannot deliver myself from these vices (and I began to list my sins). I ask You to free me from them " God heard my prayer. I came to know Christ as my own Savior. In that prayer I also told the Lord I wanted to consecrate my entire life to Him. "Lord, if it be according to Your will, I will be Your servant from this day forward. Lead me to where You want me to be, and whatever You command me to do I will do." I was overjoyed I had obtained salvation and been fully freed from known sins. I knew that dwelling with God in heaven for eternity awaited me.
The Lord caused my spirit to be born again from that dead life and from then on the Holy Spirit prompted me to testify to people of the love of God and of salvation in Christ. The Lord gave me such wonderful peace of heart. I prayed, "Oh God! You showed me the path of salvation. Help me to find Your children among the prisoners." Having prayed, I began to earnestly tell people about God. The Bible, of course, I could not loan out to just anyone to readit would be confiscated and never again be returned. At night I wrote out copies of the Gospel of John and distributed them to those who wanted to read them. I copied it over many times.
I worked alongside non-prisoners hired at the Vorkuta machinery factory. Once, the time to leave for work came and the foreman had forgotten my time card. "Run quick and look for it!" he ordered his assistant. That person did not find it either and the convoy could not hold back all the workers for just one such as I. "Thats it!" he cried. "You are on your own, Boyko! We are closing the gates!"
They ordered me to return to the barracks and immediately the thought came that the Lord must have left me in the camp for a reason. Maybe I needed to testify to someone about God. With nothing else to do I thought I would walk through the zoneand it was bigand strike up a conversation about God with whomever I met. Half the day passed without meeting anyone sincerely interested. I went into my barracks, climbed to the top bunk, and continued to think. "Lord, there are no accidents with You. Why am I here today?" Then suddenly I heard
"Is Obetotskiy here?" one young fellow was asking.
"We dont know him," answered several prisoners. But I knew this personhe worked in our brigade of machinery fitters.
"He is at work right now," I explained. Then I listened as the prisoners lying on the bunks by the door went on to ask the boy.
"How old are you?"
"I am eighteen. I was transferred here from the juvenile colony."
The young man looked more like a schoolboythin, tormented, sad.
"Why were you sent to prison?"
"I murdered the chairman of the collective," the boy confessed despondently.
"It served him right!" laughed the criminals. "That is the least he deserved!"
"You approve of murder?!" I joined the conversation. "And you convinced me you are believers?!" I made them embarrassed. "The Bible says murder is a great sin."
The young man listened thoughtfully. I talked with him a little, said that Obetotskiy would come after the change of shift, and we parted.
The next day an unfamiliar prisoner came to our barracks looking for believers in God and they pointed him to me.
"Are you a believer in God?"
"Then a young man is calling for you."
I dressed and went out. I looked around and on a bench I saw the young man with whom I had talked the day before, sitting and weeping.
"What is wrong?"
"After yesterdays conversation I lost all sense of peace. You said murderers will be in hell. Will God forgive me even though I am a murderer?"
"Of course!" I assured him. "God is strong to forgive every sinneryou just need to fully repent."
With these and many other words from the Scriptures I comforted this boy who was sincerely grieving over his sin. I also showed him the secret hiding place where I kept my Bible and offered he carefully read it. He did read from it but the dark expression on his face remainedhe was despondent. Once, he admitted he was continuously tormented by thoughts of suicide because the person against whom he had raised his hand always stood before his eyes. In the New Testament I found the account of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and how the robber received forgiveness of sins and I gave it to him to read. With hungry eyes and a heart pounding anxiously, he read the precious lines. I watched him as gradually his face lit up with Gods light, formerly unknown to him. He was beaming. He calmed down. Hope in the mercy of God had been kindled in his heart.
Only after these encounters and conversations did I understand why they had not found my time card or called me to work for several days. Truly there are no accidents with God. Soon he was taken for transfer so we parted. He returned the Bible to its place as we had agreed.
The life of prisoners condemned to extended terms deprived of freedom was dismal, monotonous, and joyless. From time to time it would come to life somewhat when a transfer group arrived, through a rough sorting out among the prisoners of their territories of influence and the grilling of tormented newcomers for prison news.
One such bleak evening, I poured out my soul to God as usual and lay down to rest. At night while I slept, I do not know who said to me, "Another ten-year term awaits you, but for the Word of God." I could not forget such a thing. Waking up with a start, I prayed from my heart, "As is pleasing to Your will, O God!" Since my repentance I was ready to spend not only a new ten year term but my whole life in prison if only to preach to these desperate people about Christ. I took personal note of this dream and prepared inwardly for new trials, not having yet completed my first term.
The New Testamentwhat a delight to the spirit in it! I read and followed it but much was unclear and who would explain it? And so I came running to that tried and true method of mine, fasting and prayer. I always fasted for three days and nights at a time despite the heavy labor. Through fasting and prayer the Lord not only strengthened me physically and spiritually, but also revealed precious truths.
These words in the book of Acts perplexed me: "Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him" (Acts 12:5). In my imagination the church was a building. How could a building pray? Either this was a misprint or I was not in a condition to understand what was written. "I will fast," I decided, "and the Lord will reveal it to me."
That very night a guard woke me.
"Get up quickly! A transfer."
Opening my eyes, I looked at the neighboring bunks of prisoners from my brigade. All were asleep.
"Why aren't you rousing the others?" I was upset.
"Do not talk! Get dressed quicklythe convoy is already waiting."
Nothing being explained, I submissively went out. I was sent to a different mine.
Where I would work or with whom did not interest me. The first thing I asked when arriving at that other camp was, "Are there any believers here?"
"There are!" they answered me and described an old water carrier. It turned out that in this camp they considered people of diverse faiths believers.
I found the elderly man. He was a sincere brother, a believer from Zaporozhe OblastYegor Lazarevich Bashmakov. He immediately suggested I pray. Joy overflowed my heartI was meeting a true Christian for the first time. I wept on my knees. The brother came to life when he found out I had a Bible and his eyes shone. Taking it up, he began to cry like a child. "How were you able to bring it in here?!" Words cannot convey what sweet conversation we enjoyed! How we were comforted in spirit!
That evening, suddenly it became clear that I had been brought to this camp by mistake and they immediately demanded I return to my former place of work. By now, I saw in all this the wonderful providence of God as the brother answered all my accumulated questions that needed clarification. He answered freely, convincingly, briefly. "Turn to this verse of the Holy Scriptures." I would read it, and the veil of mystery would disappear! How simple everything was! The elderly man also taught me to use parallel passages of the Bible.
"Can a building pray without ceasing?" I asked like a child. "What is a church?"
"Turn to Acts chapter eight and read verse three."
"As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison" (Acts 8:3). "So this is what the church is!" I exclaimed for joy. "Now I understand, I understand!"
Yegor Lazarevich suggested I read the thorough booklet he was guarding by Yakov Kreker, Alone with the Savior. I buried myself in reading and obtained great spiritual wealth!
"You know, I will write out a copy of it so I do not forget."
"They are just about to call you for a transfer!"
"Lets pray to the Lord about it. I believe they will not send me until I have copied it."
We prayed and I hurriedly began to copy it over into a notebook of sewn-together pieces of paper from cement bags.
I was not led off to work because there was no work of my specialty. I wrote all evening and all night. While everyone else slept I enjoyed drinking in the wonderful truths of God.
At morning roll call I went out to the guardhouse. "There is no convoy. Return to the barracks and wait!" So I happily went back to copying. I caught a few snatches of sleep, always writing and writing. Every morning I went out and returned, and thus it went until I had completely copied the booklet. I had just finished when they returned me to the camp from which I had been taken, finally having found a convoy and a vehicle to drive me back. My faith was strengthened. Most valuable was that God knew my needs and was wonderfully working through all the little events of prison life. They may seem insignificant to some, but to me, so unworthy, each one of them demonstrated the great mercy of God!
God cultivated my soul and strengthened my faith by sending encounters with different believers. I simply could not understandwhy did people of various religious movements read the same Gospel and yet interpret it differently? I talked with some believers about the Holy Spirit and became wary of their insistent, even obsessive conviction that believers should without ceasing speak in other tongues. By this time I had already read through the New Testament several times but nowhere had I come across anything of the sort.
"You misunderstand this matter," he emphasized with superior knowledge. "I was once the same as you."
"What were you?"
"And what is a Baptist?"
"Then what movement are you?" he asked with amazement.
"I do not know," I answered, definitely sincerely confused, and then asked a new question. "What is a movement?"
"I used to be Baptist but that was a mistake and now I am a Pentecostal," he interpreted his viewpoint to me.
Hearing that, my mind demanded an answer to the questionof what movement was I? I came into the barracks, knelt down, and prayed, "Lord, reveal to me through Your Word of what movement I am." I opened the epistle to Jude and read, " it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). Which faith was delivered to the saints? I looked up a cross-reference for that verse and read, "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel" [or evangelical faith] (Phil. 1:27). Not Orthodox, not Catholic, but evangelical should be faith! In confirmation of this thought I read from the gospel of Mark, "Repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). How clear it all was! Why to this point had I not noticed that since one needs to believe in the gospel, my faith was evangelical! From my heart I thanked the Lord for the answered prayer.
"I am from the evangelical Christians!" I triumphantly told the Pentecostal when I met him next.
"That means you are a Baptist!" he instructed.
A new riddle! And a new question, "What are Baptists?"
"Those baptized upon confession of faith," he explained good-naturedly.
"Well, I am not yet baptized so that means I am not a Baptist," I clarified for myself and rejoiced that the Lord sent me answers to difficult questions through His Word.
I also happened to talk with Seventh Day Adventists. I felt that I was not in agreement with their arguments. I prayed, "Lord, give wisdom and instruction." And then I remembered the verse from the Scriptures, "For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof."Although I remembered the words, I did not know where they were written in the Bible. By visual memory I did recall they were on the top right of a page. I opened the New Testament and, beginning with the epistle to the Romans, paged through to Hebrewsand I found it! (Heb. 7:18) My opponent found it difficult to challenge the clear words of the Scriptures.
Thus I studied the Bible with the Lords guidance, for the most part at night when everyone else was asleep. Once I was so buried in thought I did not hear the cruelest guard enter. I froze. According to the camp rules of order, when administration enters prisoners should rise. I stood. I was praying. He approached. In front of me lay the open Bible and notebook with notes. He took the Bible and began to read. My heart trembled, "Lord, protect it!" My heart was already prepared for the punishment cell. If only the Bible would survive! The guard unhurriedly read, read some more, and then silently placed the Book on the table and just as silently went out. The whole time I had been crying out to God. As soon as the guard closed the door, I quickly hid the Bible and lay down. Covering myself with a blanket, I continued to pray that the guard would not remember, would not come back. Praise God! God showed mercy this time alsothe Bible was preserved. I was continually being convinced of Gods might and of the power of prayer.
The Lord taught me to turn to Him with every need. I was assigned to the job of plastering because no work of my specialty was forthcoming. Although in my youth I had helped my father carry tiles, I could not plaster. Now I had to. How I disliked that dirty job! The substance ended up more on the floor and on me than on the walland my attitude was bad. I decided to pray, "Lord, help me to love this work because if it were not according to Your will they would not have made me plaster." The Lord heard my prayerI set to work with joy and every day it went better and better for me. No longer spilling the compound everywhere, I myself stayed clean and now I even enjoyed plastering. I came to this personal conclusionif you love a job then you begin to do it with joy, from the soul, and it always goes better!
Later, while doing major repair work in one of the Vorkuta prison zones, I found in a barracks under the floor boards a notebook full of Christian hymns. I very much liked the content of the hymn, "Oh, a poor sinner am I! Yes, I am such " but I had never heard Christian singing. So I chose a melody myself and sang it from the depths of my soul.
Everyone knew that I was constantly looking for believers among the prisoners. Once, I went for my portion in the mess hall, like every prisoner with my own wire-handled tin can, and sat down to eat. Seven men of an elderly age entered the building. All were husky and broad-shouldered, although as thin as any other inmate. In my spirit I sensed that they were looking for me, which was exactly the case.
"I greet you, brothers," I addressed them as they approached.
"Hello," I heard in answer and realized they were probably Orthodox.
"Tell me, are you brothers?"
"Which kind of brothers?!"
"We are Orthodox."
"Well, would there happen to be any of my brothers in this prison zone?"
"You mean you are not Orthodox? You betrayed your faith?!" they reproachfully attacked me.
"I never had any faith. I was an atheist but now I have come to believe on the Lord. Anyway, who are you?"
"This is a priest of such-and-such church, this is so-and-so " they began, listing their names and the parishes where they had served.
These were venerable elders who had lived under the reign of the tsars. Now, in 1952, I was to meet them.
"I ask you whether there are any of my brothers, evangelical Christians, in this prison zone?"
"Introduce them to me, please." The old men did not object.
"Do you have eternal life?" I was interested to know as we walked along.
"Who among people can know that?! That is known only to God "
"In that case, you are preaching to people about Christ, telling them that everything does not end at death and that eternal life lies beyond the grave, and yet you yourselves do not possess it."
"Young man, you need to earn it!" in a condescending tone they tried to bring my thinking around. "And do you have it?"
"I have it."
And suddenly, that elderly gentleman for whom I had instinctively felt a degree of respect when judging by appearance began to hurl harsh words at me.
"You know, now that we are arriving to my brothers, I will more reliably explain to you that I have eternal life."
They brought me to the barracks where the brothers were.
"I greet you, brothers!"
And immediatelywhat a different spirit. The elderly brothers and I, young, joyfully greeted one another. We wept for joy.
"Brothers! I have a full Loaf of Bread!" When they found out I had a Bible, they cried like children. Looking around in all directions to ensure no none of the authorities were coming, I carefully opened the Bible and read from the first epistle of John. "God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" (1 John 5:11-12). For me, the Gospel was authoritative. On the foundation of the Word of God I was convinced, with the Holy Spirit testifying to me, that I possessed eternal life.
Seeing that I had a Bible, the Orthodox men changed their tone of conversation, becoming softer and more respectful. They even asked my elderly brothers, "Tell him to also share it with us to read."
"Brothers," I did not object, "when I am at work you may read it, only be careful."
From later conversation I found out that the Vorkuta believers had passed a New Testament through to our brothers but they had not taken enough carethe operations enforcement officer caught them reading and confiscated it.
Several months later I found out that soon I would be transferred to a different camp. I was sorry to leave the brothers without spiritual food, but I could not give them my own Bible.
"Lets pray and fast," I suggested, "and they will return the New Testament that they confiscated from you. Faith is needed and God will come to help "
"No, brother Kolya! Would they really give it back?"
I told them about the many miracles which the Lord had done in my life and how for four years I had carried my Bible from camp to camp through all those searches. They were amazed and agreed to pray. The New Testament had been confiscated from brother Zhukov so I advised him to go to the operations enforcement officer. All of us were fasting.
"Whats the news?" I was interested to know when I returned from work.
"He threw me out of his office and told me not to come back."
"We will continue to fast. They will give it back for our persistence," I encouraged the brothers. The next day the operations enforcement officer threatened brother Zhukov, "If you come one more time, you will go to the punishment cell."
"We will not get discouragedwe will continue to fast. Tell the officer this, For the sake of that New Testament, I am ready for anything because it is my spiritual bread!'"
When the officer saw brother Zhukov for the third day, he asked, "You what, came yourself to the punishment cell?"
"Officer, put me in the punishment cell, only give me back the New Testament. You could withhold a ration of breadI would manage without food, but not without the New Testament. No, it is my spiritual bread."
The officer stared long at the brother, intently and searchingly.
"Oh well, come over here!"
The brother went up to him. The officer opened a drawer of the desk and there lay more than one New Testament.
"Which one is yours?"
The brother, not believing his eyes and ears, pointed to the New Testament.
"Take it, old man! But if you end up here again, you wont get another book and youll never get out of the punishment cell!"
"Thank you, thank you!" the brother thanked him as he left the office.
I returned from work and went straight to the brothers.
"Nikolay! Can you imagine? He gave it back!" the brothers were overjoyed.
"See what the Lord can do according to our faith?"
We knelt down and from our hearts, with tears, thanked the Almighty for hearing our prayers.
I left content that the brothers had the Word of God. The wonderful memories of the mighty works of God would warm their souls to the ends of their lives. I never saw them again.
I was taken seventy kilometers north of Vorkuta to Khalmer-Yu. The Holy Spirit prompted me to fearlessly witness to the prisoners about the joy given in Christ and the Word of the Lord took root in the hearts of three prisoners in that zone. Rejoicing in salvation, living one in spirit, we gathered in our free time to read the Bible. One of us always stood watch in order to warn us in time if the administration appeared. In good weather, although we hid in a hollow grown up in weeds, we still took the greatest care, sitting such that each of us was looking a different direction. The Lord carried out a work in our souls through His Word. He strengthened me in faith and dependence on Him but also tested me, teaching me unforgettable lessons.
Once, the brothers and I were in the barracks reading about the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. A brother (the same age as I, from the city of Saransk in Mordovia but not a church member in our brotherhood) asked,
"Nikolay! How could the devil show Christ all the kingdoms of the world in one moment?"
"The devil just showed in Him a picture of them, just as we, for example, might watch a movie."
As soon as I pronounced the words, "showed in Him," the horrible thought immediately came over me that with those words I had blasphemed the Holy Spirit. I flung myself on the bed and a sob shook my chest. The brothers bent over me, not understanding what had happened.
"Brothers, I wont tell you anything right now. Go to your barracks." And I myself continued not just to cry but to sob. To the extent I had been convinced that I had obtained salvation and had eternal life, to that same extent I was sure that I had blasphemed the Holy Spirit in that moment and would forever perish, that I no longer had salvation neither in this age, nor in the age to come. The tears finally stopped and I just sighed heavily and thought, "Lord, is that really true? Is it so?" And suddenly, as if from far away, the thought crossed my mind that this was a treacherous lie. This thought grew clearer and more distinct: "Satan was deceiving you and you did not even notice how masterfully he did it." Joy warmed my spirit, growing with every moment. Although the tears had already dried from my eyes, after this delightful thought they again rolled thick and fast down my cheeks. But this time they were tears of deep joy from God. They were tears of thanksgiving. "Praise to You, Lord, that this is false, that this was a frightening deception from the devil."
Later I understood the trick the devil was playing. I had said that "the devil showed in Him a picture," but it seemed to me that my mouth pronounced, "the devil in Christ." Through this thought satan wanted to defeat me once and for all, but God came to meet my stricken heart, teaching me to be watchful and to recognize the tricks of the enemy of the human soul, an accuser and liar.
This lesson, although it was difficult, stood me in good stead throughout the rest of my life when I later, by the Lords mercy, became a pastor and teacher in the church. Young brothers and sisters, church members, sometimes reached the point of despair from thoughts, obviously false, that they had blasphemed the Holy Spirit. Having undergone in my own experience all the horror of satans deception, I helped despondent souls make their way out of the labyrinth of the devils lies and understand that they had not blasphemed the Holy Spirit.
Life in the camp took its normal tedious course. One evening I prayed as usual before bed and fell asleep. I awoke with the distinct and unusual joyful thought, "What would you do if you were freed in a year!" Prayerfully thinking it over, I said, "Lord, although I have already spent thirteen years away from home and another seven years lie ahead uncompleted of this term, yet I want to make a covenant with You--I want to be baptized before I go anywhere else. Only after that will I go home as a church member so that I can preach to all my family and friends about how You protected and saved me." At first, when I was under the initial impression of these thoughts, my soul was somewhat restless, constructing joyful plans, but as one gray day passed after another without the slightest hint of change, the keenness of the impression faded away and I forgot all about it.
Sufficient time passed (for me that year dragged on long) after these exciting thoughts of mine. One night I awoke because the duty guard was reaching up to the second tier of bunks where I was sleeping and was tugging persistently at my foot.
"Get up, and quickfor a transfer!"
"What transfer? When everyone is sleeping?!" I did not understand.
"I said quick! A transfer to Vorkuta."
"Why am I needed there?"
"They are summoning you to trial."
"What trial?! I have not committed any crime whatsoever!"
"Lets not talk "
I jumped down, quickly gathered my things, went to the guardhouse and sure enough was sent under guard to Vorkuta, straight to trial. A person thinks over everything carefully in a time like this. Would they add a term? Did some serious accident happen at work attributed to my fault? Did someone slander me? And so on and so on. All sorts of troubling assumptions besieged my heart except that which I was to hear: "For lack of criminal content and for conscientious attitude toward work the remaining term of punishment is hereby removed."
I was at a complete loss of what to thinkhow could this be?! Ordinary criminals had been released immediately after Stalins death but I was a convict with a hard labor assignment and had a long term remaining. And why had I alone been summoned to court and released?! "Lord! I have never complained to anyone," I prayed in my soul. "I am unendingly happy that I have received eternal salvation and now I am even ready to spend the rest of my life in imprisonment and tell people about You, that You give salvation and eternal life to Your glory instead of unending torment in hell."
What an unexpected turn of events! With God, truly nothing is impossible!
Just as soon as I had received my documents of release, I remembered that exactly one year earlier, in the eve of 1954, the question had arisen within me, "What will you do if you are freed in a year?" Now I had been released! What God had foreordained came to pass! The knowledge that my lot was in Gods hands warmed my soul.
While in the camp, we kept up some connection with the Vorkuta believers through a brother who was a new Christian. He was allowed to work outside the prison zone without guard and met brother Malega, who had been exiled to this locality for faith in God and worked as head of the railway station in Khalmer-Yu. Together with brother Grigoriy Ivanovich Kovtun they had founded the Vorkuta church. Brother Melega told the Vorkuta believers about us. Through him I had obtained the address of a brother living with his family in Vorkuta and the day I was released I went to his house. His wife received me graciously, "We heard about you, dear brother."
And so, for the first time in my life I was present at a Christian church service. All, absolutely all, was new and unusual and I was trembling with excitement. The Vorkuta meeting of Gods people was filled with such enthusiastic participation! The lively group of the redeemed by Christ, of about sixty church members, lived like one family! And they all received me, a complete stranger of whom they had only heard, like a family member! This amazed me and moved me to tears. Now I understood what Christs church meanta holy family of those related by the blood of Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters who were children of a Heavenly Father! And it was an eternal relationship! No one had the power to touch these bonds because they were a spiritual unity of hearts!
I wept through the entire first service. God gave me joy incomparable on earth! In speaking with the brothers, I told them my treasured desireto receive holy water baptism as I had promised the Lord so that I would return home as a church member in order to testify of salvation to my family and friends. But at that time the church did not have an ordained minister.
"I am willing to be baptized in winter through a hole in the ice and I am also willing to wait, trusting the Lord."
I found an apartment for a place to live and worked in the same Vorkuta mechanics factory, only this time as a hired employee. The Vorkuta church met from house to house for services, keeping strict secrecy.
My understanding of God and of walking before Him that I had obtained from studying the Holy Scriptures in imprisonment did not differ from what I heard in the church meetings and in conversations with the brothers. I was all the more established in the right way of God that He had revealed to me. I rejoiced that the Holy Spirit oversees the Holy Scriptures and reveals their truththe meaning placed there by God Himself for every sincere heart, for every Christian who is reverent before the Word of the Lord and ready to obediently follow His commands. I also understood that the Spirit of God could not work differently in the hearts of the redeemed, prompting one to one thing and others to the opposite.
The brothers and sisters of the Vorkuta church were of one soulpraising God not just in the services but also zealously testifying of the Lord to the residents of Vorkuta perishing in sins. Those who were sincerely seeking the path of life and were languishing under a load of sins came to the church services, turned to God, and received the joy of salvation. Regrettably they were few in number.
Prisoners for Christ lived out extended sentences in the Vorkuta camps, suffering for their faithfulness to the Lord and His Word. One of them was a brother young and dear to my heart, Nikolay Georgiyevich Baturin. At the time I was released he was on daytime parole and sometimes came to church services. He could not be kept long in the evenings to talk because he was to show up back in the zone at a strictly designated time. Later I wrote back and forth with himwhat a wonderful impression his letters and spiritual musings left on my soul. How dear he was to me with his meekness and faithfulness to God!
Once, a young man came to my apartment in Vorkuta. Apparently he was looking for someone like-minded and came across me. A conversation sprang up quickly but the talk did not go wellhis and my views of God and of the Holy Scriptures differed diametrically, one could say. In spirit I sensed he was not a sincere Christian.
"Could you tell me of what movement you are?"
I needed this encounter in order to be further established in the true understanding of God's Word since I was still a novice in faith.
"Christ is God revealed in flesh," I testified to the young man on the basis of the Holy Scriptures.
"You understand incorrectly," he objected. At every one of his false arguments I opened the Bible and brought to bear concrete verses of Scripture. He could not refute the clear evangelical truths, became angry, and as he left he slammed the door so hard the walls shook.
While awaiting baptism, I wrote home about my early release. Correspondence developed among me and my relatives. Then, suddenly a telegram came from my sister: "Kolya, come immediately. Mama died." This sad news was a serious test of my faith. Having prayed, I was strengthened in hope on God. I told the brothers about my decision, that I could not break my promise to God, and that I would not go home until after I was baptized.
The northern spring was in full swing. The sun literally ate up the snow. Powerful streams of melt water made their way to the Vorkuta River. The water in it rose higher than its normal level, the ice softened, and the river broke up sooner than usual. And my soul was full of joyful anticipation. "Lord, when will I make my covenant of faithfulness with You?" The news that an ordained minister had been released from bonds spread through Vorkuta as quickly as lightning. The entire church knew that I was yearning in anticipation of someone to baptize me. A members meeting was scheduled and I stood before the church for examination. I requested them to ask me more questions. "You know my background and who instructed me. I had to grasp all the truths of the Scriptures on my own, fleeing very often to fasting and prayer. Make it clear whether I correctly understand the evangelical truth." My answers did not provoke concern in anyone and the entire congregation unanimously received me into church membership.
Snow still lay on the river bank and enormous chunks of ice jutted out when I, overjoyed, was buried in the waters of baptism! Out of my overflowing joy that I was a member of Christs Church, the water seemed hot to me. And so, in 1955, in fulfillment of the promise I made to God, I joined the holy family of the Lords people! I promised to serve God with a dedicated heart. And only then did I go to my hometown.
I had spent three years and ten months in concentration camps as a prisoner of war, followed by eight years and nine months in the Vorkuta camps. Finally, having been released and then baptized in the Vorkuta church, after the long years away I went back to my hometown of Voznesensk where my sister lived.
I had written back and forth to her while in the camp in Khalmer-Yu. At that time I asked her to search out evangelical Christians in the city and she fulfilled my request. She found believers and sent me the address of the Voznesensk youth and pastor. How I rejoiced through written fellowship with the people of God! With spiritual instruction they supported my dependence and faith in the Lord.
And nowthe joyful, unforgettable meeting with the Voznesensk church! I quickly merged as one with the youth because in spirit we were related like family, loving the Lord.
I had played musical instruments ever since my school days so we bought guitars, mandolins, and balalaikas and for the first time in that church praise sounded forth to God on musical instruments. Great joy filled the hearts of the whole church and especially the youth!
I did not want to leave the friendly church and my new young Christian friends, but since I could not obtain work I was obligated to tear myself away and go back to the North for the time being.
Immediately after my release, my supervisor in Vorkuta had not wanted to let me go since I was a specialist. But here I was, returning to Vorkuta of my own accord! "Stay here! Why would you go anywhere else?!" he had tried to talk me into it with some special incentives.
As it turned out, I alone was listed in my parents' will to obtain their house after their death. The right to inherit it was left to only me since my sisters and brother refused their portions. Hearing this, my supervisor brought out his last weightiest, as it seemed to him, argument in the hope that this would stop me from returning home again. "Nikolay, you will regret it! We have much more freedom here than there..."
I understood the hintin the North the KGB operated much less effectively than in Ukraine and in the central regions of Russia. His forewarnings did not dissuade me, however. I quit my job and, committing myself to the loving Lord, went home.
Having returned home, I asked the church to accept me as a member. The several months of testing flew by quickly and the Voznesensk fellowship (at that time it numbered about ninety people) unanimously received me into their ranks and immediately assigned me work with the youth.
We gathered enthusiastically and energetically for choir and orchestra practices and sang from our souls. Sometimes we enjoyed studying the Word of God but most often these services were spent in simple conversation about questions that interested the youth.
I did not have the courage to preach in church, considering myself poorly informed in the Scriptures. When we went with the youth orchestra choir into the village, though, I would preach. We usually let the believers in a village know ahead of time that we were coming so they would invite their unbelieving relatives and friends to their homes at the designated time. The Lord blessed our diligence. Many village youth were among the visitors. The hunger with which they listened to the sermons and spiritual songs from young people like themselves was obvious. In those years the bus service in the oblast was poorly developed. We walked on foot to a village eighteen kilometers from Voznesensk except for some of us who could afford to ride on bicycles. Sometimes a passing car stopped and then we tried to send the sisters. We visited nearby villages after the Sunday morning service and distant ones in the middle of the week. Thus we reached Brat Raion (administrative subdivision of an oblast or krai), Arbuzin Raion, Maryanovk, Constantinovk, Borganovk, Kosubovk, and Aleksandrovk.
In my life I saw many wonderful expressions of Gods power. One such incident from the first years of living in Voznesensk remained vivid in my memory. I came home about one in the morning after orchestra practice (I usually was the last to leave). I had just fallen asleep when someone knocked at the door, and the knock was so loud that the windows rattled. I jumped to my feetthe house was light! The light was from the street! I ran to the doormy sister was knocking and yelling, "Kolya, save us! We're on fire!"
Her house stood on the opposite side of the street, and next to it was a haystack. Praying, I grabbed a bucket of water and ran. My sisters home was not burning, but her neighbors was. The roofs of the houses at that time were almost all thatched with tall marsh grasses such as cattails. Easily lit aflame, the thatch flies upward and then falls as a smoldering fire wherever the wind takes it. Already many spots on my sisters haystack and the roof of her house were burning. Unless plenty of water were poured on them, the house itself would burst into flames. The water in the bucket was coming quickly to an end, but the smoking and burning flying grass was falling and falling. I looked, and below near the house a bush was burning. I realized a bucket of water would not save the house. I looked at the skynot one cloud! The night stars were shining. Moreover, the breeze did promise rain. I prayed with faith, "Lord, You see everything. Help! You can do anything!" The water in the bucket was gone again in a moment. I cried out, "Pass up some more water!" In trembling anticipation I looked at the skyfrom somewhere a dense storm cloud appeared and a quiet fine rain began to fall. Gradually mustering strength, it saturated everything around with water. The flames subsided and the rain stopped. Now and then a burning piece of straw thrown into the air and falling down would be quenched when it fell on the damp roof. With deep emotion and inner delight I thanked the Lord for the miracle of His mercy, for the answered prayer! "Who am I, Lord, that You would hear me?!" A fire truck drove up and finished extinguishing the neighboring house. The relatives, calming down, carried back into the house their valuables that they had hurriedly brought out in case of a fire, and I went home. I lay down but could not sleep. An inner voice prompted me, "Go and testify that God worked a miracle. He sent the rain!" I submitted. I went to my sister's house where they were all sitting around the table, rejoicing that the fire had not spread to their house.
"Give thanks to God! He was the One Who sent you the rain! Any other way and you would be left sitting on an ash heap." I channeled their discussion in the needed direction as I told how the Lord had answered my prayer.
"Thats it! We had no way to figure out from where in that clear starry sky that cloud came, and the rain?!"
But they quickly forgot Gods mercy. Only later, as my sister started to draw near to God, did she often remember that incident and was amazed how God hears the prayers of His children!
I decided to visit my brother who was living in Kriv Rog in an apartment his factory had issued to him.
"Lenya, we are brothers. Why are you wandering about on your own? Move in with me. We will fix up the house and live together," I offered.
He agreed and moved in. We lived in very friendly manner although he was an unbeliever.
Voznesensk was a southern citynot far from the Black Sea. Friends from the Vorkuta church came to us with their families for summer vacation; my brother and I received them into our home with joy. Their visit also brought encouragement and confirmation in faith to the church. Their youth together with ours traveled with great zeal from village to village with the Gospel.
I had difficulty finding a job although I had specialty trainingI was a metalworker of mountain mining equipment and possessed sixth-degree qualifications in water systems. Of course there were no mines in the city but water systems were needed everywhere. Wherever I went to apply for a job, they would take my documents and tell me, "Report for work in three days!" Meanwhile they would run a background check. At the appointed day I would comeand meet trouble. "Excuse me, but the supervisor has hired someone else "
"Nikolay, you will never be hired with your past. Enroll as a student in cobbling shoes. There will always be a penny in your pocket," a believing brother advised me.
I took the advice, but cobbling apprentices were paid only fifteen rubles a month from which a percentage was additionally deducted from persons without children.
In 1956, I decided to get married. I told my bride Valya, a sister in the Lord, that ten years of suffering for the Lord awaited me. "Before we enter into marriage, you should know about this and make the decision counting on this. Maybe this is only the beginning of suffering for Christ--I do not know. But the Lord showed me that they will sentence me for ten years. Do you agree to such a troubled life?"
"Let what comes to you come also to me! All is in Gods hands." I heard the answer. The Lord united us for all of life, giving us one heart and one narrow path of following Christ.
(I will tell an event from ahead. Twelve years later, when there were already eight children in our family, I was sentenced to ten years of deprivation of freedom as a minister of the church, in fulfillment of the revelation which the Lord had showed me while I was still in Vorkuta.)
Our family grew and I could not support them on fifteen rubles a month, so I decided to make and sell shoes in the market. By that time I was a master cobbler. But the police did not allow me to realize the fruit of my labors because I was supposed to pay them also.
While searching for an appropriate job I worked as mason and plasterer on a remodeling and construction brigade. In time I learned that the city building management was urgently looking for a water systems specialist. I went to the department of skilled labor. The woman looked intently at me. It turned out we had been classmatesshe recognized me and I remembered her. Rapidly looking through my documents, she hurried to inform the department head about me and apparently spoke well of me. "Come for work!" she confidently told me when she returned from the department head's office.
At first I was servicing four boiler rooms and then they assigned me the remaining five. That summer I fixed all the defects and the next winter not one complaint was received against the work of the boilers.
Everything was in place with work when unexpected difficulties arose with my sistersthey did not want my unbelieving brother Lenya to be living in our parents home and my sister demanded her portion. It was not pleasant. After all, I had pulled Lenya from a good job and he had left an apartment in Kriv Rog. Gathering all the relatives, I said, "I will give Lenya my part and find something else for myself." God helped me to buy a piece of land while my brother stayed on living in our parents house, paying our sister her portion. The conflict was over without a flare up, praise to God!
In 1959, the pastor of the Voznesensk church, an elderly man, went completely blind. A certain Kovalenko was ordained in his place. He immediately warned me, "Do not go any more with the youth to the village to visit believers or preach the Gospel." The words of prohibition sounded somehow harsh and indisputable.
"Why?" I was taken aback.
"The regional executive committee forbids it. The rumor reached them that you are trying to persuade people to your faith."
"Godless people can say a lot of things but you know that we are doing a holy work. We promised to come to a village with the stringed orchestra."
"I told youyou shall no longer set up any visiting trips!" the pastor announced categorically.
"This forbids us to evangelize "
"If you had been called out into a woodlot at two in the morning like I was, you would not be talking like that " with bitterness and helplessness he revealed the secret to me.
"We are called to tell people about Christ," I tried to somehow encourage him.
"You are young and don't realize that they will hang a lock on the door of our house of prayer (church building) because of your evangelism "
"But what if they hang locks on the hearts of believers?"
"Now dont you become know-it-all! You see, all the blame for evangelism in the villages lies on you."
After this conversation the pastor invited me to the church council, consisting of the twenty founding members who had registered the fellowship. These were old church members who in the 1920s had languished in prisons and exile for the Word of God. Hearing the pastor's arguments, they all fell silent with a sense of doom.
I also was confused. Could it be that I was misunderstanding the Scriptures by not adjusting myself to the situation developing around the church? Again and again I searched the Scriptures, examined myself, and was confirmed in spirit that God's Commission needs to be carried out both in troubled and in favorable times.
Despite this, I was supposed to submit myself and the youth stopped evangelizing from village to village. But in my heart I yearned for fellowship with the saints and we gathered in the city with aged brothers and sisters. Then these meetings were forbidden as well. The spirit of the youth was in constraints as all holy activities were suppressed. They had assigned me to carry on spiritual work with the youth, but even the littlest positive initiative called forth displeasure and indignation from the pastor of the church.
Young brothers and sisters who had sincerely repented came to me with their difficulties. "What do we do? As soon as I turn in to the church my written request to be baptized, KGB agents come to work and try to make me change my mind so that I would throw away that faith?"
I knew that several young friends had been refused baptism for several years and I asked the pastor about this.
"What can we do?" he threw up his hands helplessly.
"How do the enforcement officer and the KGB find out that a young person wants to be baptized?" I asked.
"We simply hand over their written statements to the regional executive committee, like any other ordinary activity," explained the minister. "Since the committee forbids it, I do not have the right to baptize a youth."
"In Vorkuta they baptized me without asking anyone."
"Every power is from God! We must remember that. Whoever does not submit to the authority, does not submit to Gods establishment," the pastor instructed me, being himself incorrectly instructed.
With each passing day, new limits were placed on true service to God in the church. Children and youth under eighteen years old were forbidden to be present at church services. I could not agree with the pastor's arguments that this was right.
The words of elderly men from the Vorkuta camp who had spent decades suffering involuntarily for the Word of God came to my memory. I decided to fast and pray and ask for an answer from God on how to carry out ministry in such a dark time for the church. I wept much, checked my own condition, and besought the Lord to reveal His will.
In the journal of the AUCECB (All-Union Council of Evangelical Christian Baptiststhe government-sponsored union of churches), Brotherly Messenger, I read that soon "The New Position of the AUCECB" would be published, with which not all believers would agree. Supposedly Gods people and every church would be expected to receive these documents and carry out ministry in accordance with them. I took this as a hint that they wanted to introduce something dangerous into the life of the church. When I had the chance to read the full text of this document, it became clear that they were directing the church in a deviant way.
Grief enveloped my soul. I began to speak about this with believers but I saw that no one was attaching any special significance to it. A brother, a deacon with whom I spent an entire night in conversation, tried to reassure me by emphasizing one thing: "Value the times. It is good that this is happening, and not worse " Such advice did not calm my spirit.
I decided to go to Moscow to the general secretary of the AUCECB, Aleksandr Vasilyevich Karev, whose sermons I loved to read in the journal. I heard the same from him, "We should submit to the authorities, for the authority is from God."
"Christ said not to forbid the children from coming to Him, but the ministers do not even let them into the church. In this they are violating the Holy Scriptures " I set forth my arguments.
Aleksandr Vasilyevich confidently said, "That was for one time but now we are in another " This flow of conversation extremely amazed me. I returned to Voznesensk with a heavy heart.
Soon the senior pastor over the oblast, K. L. Kalibabchuk, visited our fellowship. They told him, of course, how I was annoying the local ministers through my disagreement with the new way things were in the church and he wanted to speak with me in the presence of the other brothers. The discussion was difficultI had been a church member for only four years while their lengths of Christian service numbered in the decades. They tried to prove that we should submit to the existing authorities. In spirit I did not agree, as I understood that the authorities cannot demand submission from the Christian in matters of faith.
After the conversation, K. L. Kalibabchuk asked the local ministers to be lenient toward me. "Brother Boyko still has his first love toward God! Do not put special pressure on him. Pat him on the back and let a little time pass. He will eventually cool off, grow quiet, and settle down "
All these years I had maintained written communication with the brothers of the Vorkuta church and of course I wrote about the progress of Gods work in our regions. "Nikolay," they invited me in a letter, "come, we miss you " My wife did not object, "Go, get away for a little while from all these concerns I will handle the children fine " (Our fourth child had just been born.)
It was a joyful reunion with friends. I told in detail about the difficult conditions for spiritual life in my fellowship. This was news to them. "Our brothers do visit other churches and find that something incomprehensible is taking place all over the country," the Vorkuta brothers sighed concernedly, but what exactly was happening they could not understand and they did not know what advice to give me.
The brother responsible for the Vorkuta church offered me the book by I. V. Kargel, Light from the Shadows of Future Good. By the time I had read a few chapters, I was so drawn into it that I could not pull myself away. However hard I might try, it would be impossible to keep it in my memory. The truths contained in that book were important not just for me, however. I wanted to pass them on to the people of God in my church upon my return home so I asked the brothers permission to write out a copy of the book. I bought three ordinary graph paper notebooks and with minute handwriting wrote day and night. I had no desire to sleep or eat. Although I was not much of a writer, my hand did not tire. So as not to lose time in travel, I spent the night in the house where the regular church services were held and wrote through the whole night.
In a month I had copied out three notebooks of ninety pages each. The precious book was in my hands! My happiness was unsurpassed. What deep exhortation from God I received through this great work of dear Ivan Veniaminovich Kargel!
The brother, seeing my hunger, brought out another book by the same author.
"Have you read, Interpreting Revelations?"
"No," and I right then took up reading it. Through the thoughts contained in this book, the Lord showed me that turning aside from the evangelical truths was sin. I understood also that I was standing on the right path and was strengthened significantly.
I began to write out a copy of this book but had only succeeded in completing a few chapters when a telegram came from homethey were asking me to come home soon. The brother loaned me the book so I could finish copying it at home. Later I returned the book to its owner in the care of someone who visited me.
I was returning by way of Moscow and wanted to stop by to visit my aunt in Zagorsk, eighty kilometers from Moscow. My train was to pass through the station without stopping. I worried that I would have to go back to Zagorsk by electric tram and thus lose much time. So I prayed, "Lord, help! Everything is possible for You!"
The train passed through the station and continued on through the city, then suddenly began to slow down and came abruptly to a stop! Quickly gathering my things, I asked the conductor to open the train car door. He sympathetically opened it. I jumped from the running board into a snowdrift (it was winter) and at that point discovered the reason for the stop: ahead a drunk had slid onto the tracks off a sheer vertical snow embankment and had no way to climb out to a safe place. How the Lord answered my prayer! I was extremely thankful and rejoiced like a child at this mercy of God!
Arriving in Moscow after visiting in Zagorsk, I stopped by A. V. Karev, but was already lifted up in spirit.
"Aleksandr Vasilyevich," I addressed him. "I have read your articles extensively. Before you wrote one thing but now you are saying something different "
"There was a time when we wrote what we understood to be true, but now is the time of the authorities and we should submit to them "
"They are forbidding us to preach the Word of God to those perishing! And our pastor also does not permit "
"You need to obey them, dear brother."
"But obey whom moreGod or the brothers?"
"Listen to your elders. They sat in bonds for their faithfulness to God. Do you really think that they understand the Scriptures worse than you? You are still so young "
"I do not think that they understand the Scriptures worse. The Word of God calls us to preach the Gospel but they are trying to persuade us not to."
"Dear brother, submit to them anyway. If difficulties arise, address them to the pastor over the oblast."
In discussing these sore points with the older ministers, I fell into a vicious cycle. Completely aligned with the criminal work of suffocating the church, they sent me from one to another of them. It was difficult for me to find a way out of the exclusive circle of this deviant understanding.
The years 1959 to 1960 were times of my independent spiritual formation. Reading the Holy Scriptures, I became firmly convinced that I needed to obey God despite the circumstances. I often spent time in fasting and prayer.
After my second conversation with A. V. Karev in Voznesensk, Kalibabchuk came again. He spoke a long time with me and then summoned me before the council of twenty founding members.
"You are not keeping pace with us by telling everyone that we are going down a deviant path " I was faulted for this and on May 1, 1960, I was excommunicated in a members meeting "for not submitting to the authorities and to the church."
A great sadness lay on my heart but the disappointment did not overwhelm my spirit. I did not doubt Gods salvation and the presence of Christ with me. After being excommunicated, I continued to attend church services but unintelligible verbal attacks spewed from the pulpit. "Dissenters! They are destroying the church!" I did not understand to whom the preachers were referring; at that time I did not know anything about "dissenters."
Weighed down in soul, I went to Odessa. I knew the Odessa ministers by correspondence and had heard good comments about them. I arrived at the home of Nikolay Pavlovich Shevchenko, who had just returned from a trip to Kiev. We got acquainted. From the very first minutes, a broad, trusting feeling arose between us.
"I traveled to Moscow to petition about the seizure of the Odessa house of prayer. No one is giving their attention to the needs of believers," the brother mourned. "They sent me to Kiev and there the ministers advised, 'Meet in homes and be content that at least you can fellowship like that '"
"They already excommunicated me," I shared my concern with the brother.
"We need to go and talk with your brothers..." He hoped to find mutual understanding with them.
And soon they came to Voznesensk: Stepan Nikitovich Misiruk, Nikolay Pavlovich, and three other brothers. They were not offered the chance to preach. At the end of the service, one of the brothers who came extended greetings and asked, "Tell us, please, why you excommunicated brother Boyko?"
"Because he does not submit to the law and does not obey the church!" the pastor answered, and explained to the whole church that these were "dissenters" who had come!
The brothers tried to explain something but the pastor disrespectfully interrupted them, not allowing them to say anything to the Lords people.
The Voznesensk youth loved me but were afraid to openly support me since the ministers had warned both the youth and their parents that they should refrain from fellowship with me.
The Odessa brothers came a second time, but this time the pastor did not even receive a greeting from them. At the end of the service, the brothers asked the church members standing in the yard of the house of prayer:
"Was brother Boyko excommunicated for sin or for something else?"
"Because he did not obey the brothers! He does not comply with the Legislation!" they explained.
"Brother Nikolay is right. He is standing on the correct path," timidly commented those grieving the leading ministers departure from the truth.
The brothers who came offered several clarifications: "To not baptize youth, to forbid children to be present at church services, and to stop preaching to sinners about Christ is sin, contrary to the Scriptures. If the godless are compelling us to violate the Word of God, then in works of faith we must refuse to obey, as the Apostles once did."
Having heard this instruction, sincere souls were strengthened and openly said, "This means that brother Kolya is right in submitting more to the Lord than to people." For such expressions, first seven families were excommunicated and then another sevenmainly fathers and mothers of large families.
Instead of preaching as before, they were from the pulpit discrediting the "dissenters" and me in the service. I decided to no longer attend that church since because I was there people could not listen to the Word of God, hearing only slander against faithful followers of Christ.
Fifteen people were excommunicated and the Odessa ministers advised us to meet separately. Most often the church services were held in my home, and to the joy of all of us, many children were present. God showed us mercy and blessed childrens lessons began. Parents brought their children to the service in any weather.
People in the registered church quickly noticed this gratifying change and began to come with their children to our church service. The parents were promptly excommunicated. Our group grew to twenty-three church members and was strengthened spiritually.
"Why are children present at the church services of the separatists while in our church they are not allowed?" asked the ministers in the registered fellowship. They were disturbed, summoned Kalibabchuk, and complained that people were leaving their fellowship. He amazingly permitted children to be brought into the house of prayer. "You answer for your children before God," he said.
The church members of our group sincerely rejoiced at this change. "Why not return to that church? Maybe all of a sudden they will permit youth to be baptized?"
"Let's take our time. Maybe this is just a shrewd maneuver intended to remove the stumbling block causing believers to come over to us," I cautioned them against a hasty step. And it was exactly so. Seeing that not one of the separatists who had left earlier came back to the registered fellowship, Kalibabchuk announced from the pulpit: "According to the Legislation on Religious Cults, we do not have the right to bring our children to church. At one time, I permitted you to do so anyway on your own initiative, but now we are categorically forbidden to do so. Instruct your children at home!"
The Lord had kept us from an incorrect step because He was watching over us with love. Together with our young children we conducted church services and praised the Lord.
Change also came about in my living conditions. The earthen hut in which we had made ourselves comfortable fell down from age and moisture such that only mountains of earth were left of it. Praise to God, the children were not showered with it. My wife managed to slip out with only the Bible. All our unpretentious furniture was literally crushed. We temporarily found places for the children with neighbors and we ourselves slept in the surviving corridor.
We had no money whatsoever with which to obtain a house. My small paycheck sufficed only to feed the family. But the police, not understanding our situation, for some reason threatened to force us to obtain a place to live.
The Lord did not leave us. When I told people at work about my situation, they advised me to take a house plan to the bureau of assets and apply for a building permit from the city council. I took it in and they signed their agreement to my plan.
But with what financial means would I build a house? The Lord met us with His wonderful care in this alsoat work they gave us beams and boards salvaged from destroyed barracks. They usually distributed them already sawn into pieces for firewood. I asked them to give them to me whole and so gradually gathered the needed materials.
Our church was friendlywe helped one another in big jobs. When I began to build, God put it on my heart to do everything myself, with only my brother and uncle helping me. At first, the believers were offended. "Why do you disdain our help?" But later they understood that this was the way it needed to be. (Later I was intensively interrogated during the trial, "Who helped you build the house?" Neighbors and my brother were brought in as witnesses that believers did not help. My foes apparently intended to confiscate the house and leave my big family without shelter. But the Lord took care of this in advance by prompting me to build it on my own.)
With Gods help I built the house. We bought many chairs and I made small benches for the children. The first thing we did was to invite the church to hold services in our house. All was spacious and comfortable. Joyfully we praised God together as a church.
In 1961, God raised up a great revival among His people in our country. The Voznesensk group of believers responded with joy to the call of the Lord through the Initiativnaya Group* and was included in the application to the convening Chresichaina congress of Evangelical Christian Baptist churches. From all our hearts we joined the persecuted brotherhood with its suffering and difficulties.
With unrestrained wrath the enemy of human souls took up arms against those grieving over the destroyed saints. I met with one of the brothers and we, earnestly inspired in the revival work, exchanged addresses. In 1962 he was arrested. The head KGB agent in the city of Nikolayev, the deputy prosecutor of the city of Voznesensk, and police officers descended on me with a search.
"Is your husband coming home for lunch?" the uninvited guests questioned my wife.
"It is a long drive."
The head KGB agent gave command to the police officers, who summoned me from work, seated me in a "bobik" (police vehicle) and, as never happened in any other case, we were let out through the gate.
"Why did you lie to us in saying that your husband does not come home for lunch?" he reproached my wife with an insolent grin.
"You brought him, so here he is," my wife answered calmly, although she looked alarmed.
"Set about to the search!" the head KGB agent commanded his coworkers.
"Do you have a warrant from the public prosecutor?" I tried to stop them.
"We have the deputy prosecutor with usthat is sufficient!"
"Even in the presence of the public prosecutor himself official permission is needed."
"Bring in the witnesses!" the head KGB agent ordered, completely ignoring my protests. "And you," he pointed at me and my wife, "take the children by the hand!"
We seated the children on the bed next to us. The head KGB agent sat at the table, pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket, and smoked demonstratively.
"I request you not to smoke in my home "
"I am at my place of work and I have full right to do what I want!"
"In your office, yes, but in my house you do not have that right, and in the presence of small children at that."
"I am supposed to!"
A policeman brought in the witnessesour neighbors.
"Sit at the table opposite," the head KGB officer ordered me.
I sat down and he began to write. Then he took a deep puff and with wild delight let out all the smoke in my face.
"You should be ashamed to conduct yourself this way in someone else's home. You are a well-educated person. Why so humiliate yourself?"
"We have yet to talk to you!" he threatened me arrogantly. "Get on with the search!" he urged those under him.
"Without a warrant you cannot do a search," I again objected. "And do not involve the witnesses in an illegal deed."
Confident in their rightness and impunity, they thoroughly searched every crack in the house and in the attic. They looked in the oven and in the furnace ash pit, searching for something in the ashes. With rods they pierced the ground in the garden.
All the spiritual literature, including the letters of the Initsiativnaya Group, my handwritten copies of the books by I. V. Kargel, several general notebooks with poems and hymns, sermon outlines, spiritual notes that I had compiled while reading the Bible in Vorkuta, and photographs were all confiscated. In my inexperience I had not expected a search and had not taken care to hide my precious books.
In August, 1962, the persecuted brotherhood spread sad news: Nikolay Samoilovich Kucherenko, a minister of God, passed away in Nikolayev under interrogation at the KGB. When I found out about this and saw with what cynicism and malice the KGB of the city of Nikolayev carried out the search in my home, I committed myself in prayer to a similar fate and made the inner decision rather to die than to be unfaithful to the Lord.
My preparations were not in vain. Soon after the search they took me straight to the Nikolayev KGB. I climbed up a metal staircase to the fifth floor of the old building. KGB interrogator Galizdra led me into an office and said in a kind-hearted tone, "Boyko, we need your autobiography. You have plenty of time. Sit down and calmly write." Inviting me to a table, he put down a sheet of paper and pen and then left the room.
I started to write, but then I prayed and immediately the clear thought came that within these walls they already knew not just my biography, but also those of my grandfather and great-grandfather.
"Well, how is the writing going?" the interrogator entered to check what I was doing.
"I am not accustomed to writing such things, especially when I have no idea of the purpose "
"We need it. Do not hurry, just reconstruct everything in your memory and write. We are not rushing you." Then he went out again.
I set down the paper on which I had begun to write, tore it into fine pieces, and threw them through the small open windowpane. They flew around in all directions like snow. I was praying in my thoughts. Then I heard someone running up the stairs. A guard in a military uniform opened the door and after seeing that I was sitting alone, he just as quickly ran back downstairs.
Silence. I prayed, "Lord, if I die, so let me die, but help me to remain faithful to You "
I heard measured, unhurried steps. Galizdra entered.
"Did you write it?"
"Give it to me."
"I tore it up and threw it out the window."
"You are lying!"
He looked out. "There is nothing there."
"Apparently, someone down there swept them up."
"I must search you "
"Why did you tear it up?" he asked, not finding anything.
"You know, before you summoned me here, you already knew all about not just me but also my distant relatives."
"Ahhh! So this is how you behave yourself?!" the expression on his face changed. "Well, lets go."
We went down to the third floor and entered an office where the deputy head of the KGB and another interrogator sat.
"Sit down, Boyko."
At first they asked distracting questions to start me talkingwhat sort of family I had, where I worked, and when and how I came to believe. And then the unexpected:
"Where did you meet with " and they gave the last name of the arrested brother with whom I had exchanged addresses.
"I will not answer questions about my fellow believers or about my convictions."
"You do not have the right to invade my inner life," I answered quietly but confidently.
"Boyko, we know that you are an expert in your field and that your photograph is on the wall of honor Why don't you want to give us the information we need?" (The interrogation was being conducted in Nikolayev but the photo was in Voznesensk!)
"I already answered."
"You were raised in the Soviet system and were a secretary of the Komsomol organization. Why don't you want to help us? Tell us, have you met with Kryuchkov? How many times have you been in Odessa?"
"I will not answer such questions."
"What do you mean? Don't you know where you are?" the other interrogator was outraged.
"I know. At the KGB."
"That is so, Boyko. Now no God will let you out of here."
"If needed, the Lord will bring me out of here."
"We know that you already spent a term where polar bears live, but now we will send you to where not even the hardiest beast dare wander!"
"Even there where the hardiest beast dare not wander, Christ will pasture His lambs!"
"How long will you torture us?!" he pounded his fist on the table.
"You are three and I am onehow am I torturing you?"
"How long will you dance around in here?" he pounded on the table again in a rage.
"I am quietly sitting on a chair "
"Boyko! We will teach you a lesson!" they continued to threaten.
"Tell me, please, are you Communists?" I asked.
"Yes," he answered, dropping his threatening tone.
"Who is Lenin to you?"
"And my Guide is Jesus Christ. For Him I am ready not just to suffer but to die. And although no one is persecuting you yet, you distort and violate all the laws of your guideboth the Decree and the Constitution," and I began to cite the main theses of the Decree from memory.
Then I read excerpts from the brochure God and Freedom written by the academician Strumilin and published in Moscow in 1960.
"This is your man writing "
"We have a democracy," the interrogator stated in a condescending tone.
"Why then do you publicly announce in the city squares that there is no God, yet believers are forbidden even to bring their own children to a house of prayer? From L'vov to Vladivostok all the stores are overflowing with atheistic literature, but in not one of them can you find Christian newspapers or books! Why?"
"We have a socialist democracy and you need to understand this "
"You are interpreting it as is convenient to you."
Two days passed in such conversations. At lunchtime they led me out to the duty guard. Nearby were stairs to the basement. "Down there they probably tortured brother Kucherenko," I guessed and inwardly prepared for the same fate.
On the evening of the second day the interrogator led me to his office on the fifth floor and then left the room. In time he led in a man and a woman, witnesses.
"I invited you in from the street so that you, as witnesses, would sign a document that this person refuses to give any sort of evidence."
While the interrogator drew up the document, I conversed with the witnesses. "I believe in Jesus Christ, and they (I pointed to the interrogator) are interfering with my inner spiritual life. According to the law, they do not have the right to do so because the church is separate from the state "
"Are you really so young and yet in our times you believe in God?!" the witnesses were amazed.
I continued to tell them about myself and about faith in God.
"Cut it short!" screamed the interrogator. "You took it into your head to preach within the walls of the KGB!"
"Only write why I refused to give evidence," I asked the interrogator.
The witnesses signed the document and left, but me they freed only the next morning.
"Do you have money for the road?" the interrogator asked unexpectedly.
"Here is money for you for the trip home and a note you will show your supervisor at work. And do not think, Boyko, that God freed you! It was us, for the sake of your four children. But this is not our last meeting. We will not leave you without attention "
I returned home to find my wife in mourninga minister who had joined our group from the registered church had come and said, "It's all over, Valya. Nikolay will not return "
It turns out that the very same day as I was taken, he had been summoned to the city police department. He never told the conversations they had with him or what they threatened. They let him go that same day and he immediately returned to the registered fellowship. He repented that he had attended the separatist church and he was received back, only not as a minister but as an ordinary church member.
I told the church all about my conversations with the KGB. "What will we do from now on?" they asked me. "Will we continue to meet?"
We did not change the church services. The church grew and the children praised God. We continued to travel out to the villages with the Gospel. I was the only preaching brother, one could say.
They threatened us, they persecuted us, but our earnestness to God no one could quencheach of us was aflame with love to Christ. The church knew that I had sentenced myself to death. "If we suffer, we suffer, if we die, we die. If only we would remain faithful to the Lord!" I convinced the brothers and sisters. Looking at my sincerity and readiness, they all were strong and did not get discouraged. Visits from the Odessa ministers also contributed to the spiritual work of the fellowship. They held the Lords Supper with us.
Sometimes the senior minister of the AUCECB in the Odessa Oblast, A. G. Kvashenko, visited us. He was warning churches belonging to the persecuted brotherhood of threatening dangers. He told what unattractive work the ministers of the AUCECB were carrying out and that they, together with the persecutors, were preparing to come against the true church. He told how ordinary believers were collaborating with the authorities.
Everything was just as he said. From 1962 to 1968 I was under the intense watch of KGB agents. They placed my house under constant surveillance, including even neighbors in this job.
Since I worked in building management located in the city council building, the group of KGB agents that arrived from Nikolayev to watch me both worked and rested in one of the offices of the city council. As soon as I showed up, they tried to enter into conversation with me. Apparently, they had been assigned to invite an atheistic lecturer to try to change my mind since I was a former atheist and komsomol. I spoke with so many lecturers I lost count.
The Lord taught me to not depend on my own mind, but rather continuously abide in prayerful fellowship with Him. I always inwardly called out to the Lord and completely cast myself on His Word, "But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost" (Mark 13:11). Whether they were summoning me to a lecture or leading me into the office for an interview, I went praying, sat praying, and was in unceasing contact with the Lord as the conversation went along. "God! Have them understand that they are dealing not with me, an insignificant human being, but with You! Glorify Your holy Name!" And the Holy Spirit, in accordance with His faithful promise, brought to nothing their godless arguments.
"How are you, Boyko?" a lecturer asked me in a friendly tone of voice (a second stood next to him).
"Do you actually, being a Soviet man that studied in Soviet schools, believe in some sort of God?"
"I not only believe, but know and am deeply convinced that God exists!"
"The cosmonauts went up into space and did not see God anywhere!"
"That does not amaze me in the least!"
"Why? The whole world is celebrating."
"You might lower yourself deep into the nether parts of the earth, you might lift yourself up high into the cosmos, but although you do not acknowledge it, deep down in your heart that is under that shirt you want to see God."
"If He existed, the cosmonauts would have seen Him."
"Tell me, do you have a conscience?"
"I do," they answered.
"And a mind?"
"And we have minds."
"Then show me your conscience and your mind. If you do not show them to me, then what does that make you to be?"
The lecturers glanced around silently.
"A world-renowned surgeon can thoroughly search out the whole person but not find a trace of love, or fear, or mind, or conscience, or memory. Because a person is not just material, but also spiritual, you can show me neither conscience nor mind. And God, my dear ones, you cannot see with physical eyes. He is not material. The Bible says, 'God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth' (John 4:24)."
A different Communist asserted in conversation with me that he believed in only what he could see.
"You are deceiving yourself," I stopped the venerable man. "Tell me, have you seen Ivan the Great or Peter the First?"
"But do you believe that these people once lived?"
"I believe so because history speaks of them."
"And the Bible clearly, attainably, and thoroughly informs us of God. Therefore we believe in His existence. Actually, there are many things a person takes on faith, because he has a soul in him."
"Nikolay has no soul!" the Communist objected dogmatically.
God has designed us so that we can speak and think at the same time. I did not know how to convince him to the contrary so in my thoughts I cried out to God and He helped me. Outside the window in front of us grew a beautiful tree.
"Be so kind as to tell me--is that tree alive?"
"Clearly it is alive."
"You and I are also alive, but what is the difference between that tree and us?"
My partner in conversation thought for a moment.
"I will remind you of one very simple truth you and I were taught in school: a person is a contemplative being while a tree is non-contemplative. That means that both you and I have a soul and that it is immortal."
This high-ranking and cultured person knew this elementary truth, of course, but the enemy of the soul, through the domination of atheistic upbringing, had exterminated simple and correct thinking in people.
The Voznesensk unregistered fellowship was part of the persecuted brotherhood, the spiritual care of which was borne by the Council of Evangelical Baptist Churches (CEBC). Conferences were held in our region for ministers of the CEBC, as were general gatherings for believers in the oblast. I, as the brother responsible for the Voznesensk church, was invited to these gatherings and I tried not to miss a single meeting.
Our church participated in petitioning on behalf of the prisoners. But I did not know about the May 1966 delegation to Moscow and therefore was not present. Later I found out how the persecutors acted toward these faithful defenders of the work of God who were upholding the ministry of the church independent from the world.
In 1967, at the end of April, yet another brother and two sisters were summoned to the city council. A KGB agent from Nikolayev warned us:
"If you gather one more time for your prayer meetings or we hear that you want to organize such a meeting, we will find out and arrest! And you," he pointed at me, "will be first!"
"We will not cease meetingwe have that right. As far as prosecutiongo ahead and judge for that is your right," I answered.
"Remember, Boyko! I have talked with you for the last time! I will not beat around the bush with you any longerof this I assure you!" the KGB agent interrupted me harshly and categorically.
Who could have known that the words of this threatening man would come to pass so quickly! That conversation was truly our last with him! On May 1, after the demonstration, he hung himself in his apartment. They buried him without any honors.
My children loved to say poems in the church servicethey remembered them well. When I would come home from work, they would tell me what they had memorized that day. Spring 1968, my oldest daughter placed in her textbook a sheet of paper with the poem "God Exists" and came to school with it. Her classmates somehow took it and, passing it one to another, read it with interest. Then the poem fell into the hands of the teacher, who read it aloud in the teachers lounge and, of course, it ended up with the principal of the school. In connection with this, he called me in.
"We found on your daughter a poem of religious content. Why did she bring it to school? You know that in our country the school is separate from the church?"
"I did not make her to do that. Apparently, she forgot to set that sheet aside."
"With us, religion is not forbidden. You adults may pray, but do not impose your convictions on children."
"Only in words is religion not forbidden. In actuality, many believers are in prisons and labor camps for faith in God specifically in our days. Several faithful Christians such as Nikolay Kucherenko from Nikolayev and Nikolay Khmara from Kulunda were tortured for their faith."
"That cannot be! That cannot be!" the principal was amazed and taken aback by my accounts.
"I myself was once an atheist, but then, while a prisoner of war, I found a piece of paper with the Lords Prayer. I began to pray this prayer and God heard me and answered my requests. After this I came to believe on Him. Now my wife also and our children are believers, but KGB agents persecute me endlessly for my faith."
For the principal, this was big and frightening news. He could not believe my words.
In that same year of 1968, I once was away from home to fix the pump of a believing sister. I was just getting into the job when my daughter came running, "Papa, some man is asking for you to come " I returned.
"Nikolay Yerofeyevich!" my supervisor at work met me. "You need to urgently connect the water supply to a new home."
"I know all the ground communications in the city, but the pipe fitters bear responsibility for that route. I do not have the right to encroach into their work."
"Just show where it can be connected," he instructed.
I sat in his car and we went. After looking around in the manhole, I thoroughly explained to the supervisor from where and how to bring the water supply into the basement of the new home.
He and I came up from the basement and there stood the head KGB agent of the city of Voznesensk!
"Oh, Boyko!" and right on the street he asked first one and then a second question.
I answered them.
"Boyko! You are a wonderful expert in your field and a good family man. Why would you believe in God?! We can give you a beautiful apartment "
"I thank you! I have my own house, six by nine meters. I do not need anything better!"
And againquestions and answers. I also asked him a question.
He amazingly admitted, "You know, Boyko, I am not competent in such matters. If you like, I can arrange a debate with a lecturer for you."
"Debates occurred under Lunacharsk; now there are none."
"I could still arrange it if you only agree."
"And after the debate you will " and I laid my fingers in the form of a lattice, like bars.
"No! What are you talking about?" he assured me. My supervisor overheard our conversation.
"Ivan Ivanovich," he addressed the KGB agent, "I would not exchange one hundred men for one Boyko. He delivered us from every irresolvable emergency! We had numerous defects in our system before his arrivalhe eliminated all of them! He does not drink, does not smoke, does not get angrythe whole city respects him! Wherever there be any sort of accident, even at night he is there in an instant!"
"I know. I know he is a good man. One thing spoils himhe believes in God."
This was a Saturday. The next day, Sunday, I went by bicycle to the church meeting. Figuring that my house would be under constant surveillance, I evaded the watchful gaze of the informants by starting out in the opposite direction. Having rode several blocks and convinced that no one was following me, I rode to the home where the church service was scheduled.
(The husband of a believing sister later told us that since about eleven oclock that morning police officers in cars searched for the place where the believers were meeting. Only between twelve and one, once the church service had ended, did they find us.)
That day the Odessa youth came to us. There were more children at that service than church members! The blessed service finished and some left. The youth remained along with several children. And suddenlythe police! With them were the head KGB agent of the city of Voznesensk, Ivan Ivanovich, and his coworkers. Glancing into the living room and convinced that I was there, he entered. A search began. They tore spiritual literature out of the hands of believers and checked their documents.
"And these youth are from where?" the special service agents were interested to know, pointing at the Odessa youth.
"These are our friends in Christ."
"You had better be gone!" they threatened them, and me they placed in a police "bobik" and took me home.
On the porch sat my brother and my wife with the childrenthey had arrived home from the service ahead of me.
The KGB agents boldly entered the house.
"Begin the search!" directed a KGB agent.
"And again without presenting a warrant?"
They brought in the witnesses and conducted the search. I had nothing besides a Bible, the hymnbook Gusli (Stringed Instruments), and general notebooks with poems. Since 1962, not one search had been conducted in my house.
"Well, shall we take him?" a police officer asked the head agent on his way out.
The KGB agent shook his head in the negative.
I understood that the situation surrounding me was growing more complicated. Attempts to have me change my mind with the help of lectures had not yielded the result they needed. Since I would not deny my faith in God, they decided to isolate me.
Two months after the search, on June 20, 1968, I arose early with an uneasy heart. Walking over to the sleeping children, I prayed over each one of them. Valya, entering the room, understood it all.
"My dear, the time for my arrest has come of which I told you about before our wedding."
"To whom will you leave these seven crumbs?" (My wife was expecting our eighth.)
"Valechka, I am their father but my strength and opportunities are limited. I commit you to the almighty and omnipotent God "
My wife cried. We prayed and wept together and I went to work.
I had just entered the workshop when they told me that the supervisor was calling me. Two strangers were waiting for me in his office.
"They want to talk with you," the supervisor said, glancing sympathetically at me.
They invited me into their car, brought me to the public prosecutor's, and began the interview.
"Do you really in our times believe in God?!"
"I am a committed Christian."
"Why do you need God? You are an outstanding specialist. You could be given a decent apartment!"
"Excuse me. I will never agree to exchange eternal life for the temporary, however good it might be!"
"You have so many childrenat least you would have pity on them "
"My children are under the guardianship of their Father in Heaven." The KGB agents repeatedly reminded me of my children and I wondered whether they were intending to take them away from us as neither my wife nor I had relatives who could take them into their care. I placed my hope on the Lord regarding the children as well.
"Well, what a fanatic you are!" the agents abruptly changed the tone of the conversation. "Pray by yourself, pound your brow on the floor if you wish, but stay home!"
"I will cite for you an excerpt from the Gospels, But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another (1 John 1:7). Fellowship is an integral part of my ministry to God. I cannot fail to attend church services. This is tantamount to not believing in God."
"If you would but go to an Orthodox church "
"I have nothing to do there."
"Then if you would go to a registered "
"I will go where the Lord leads me to go."
"In that case, we will sentence you!"
"And on the basis of which law? The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion to everyone."
"According to the ruling of the 23rd Congress of the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union)!"
"How many innocent people have been done away with on the basis of such pronouncements and then later rehabilitated posthumously!"
"That was back in the times of the personality cult when we were outrunning the stick "
"You are outrunning it even today. The time will come when eventually, with your own mouth, you will agree that you acted against the law in your dealings with me in a way similar to the excesses which you have just acknowledged. Therefore, I will not answer even one question concerning my convictions or my fellow believers. Do not ask such questions."
"You will!" the KGB agent pronounced strictly and authoritatively.
"I will not."
"I will force you to!" he yelled and sprang to his feet in a fury.
"Excuse me! But if this wall of your office is white, you will never force me to say that it is black."
"Those are not the kind of things we force!"
"You do not threaten me with death. What is death to me, when I believe in immortality?!"
"Lead him out of here!" he ordered the guard.
I never considered myself to be a bold person and I openly acknowledge that God, in answer to the prayers of the church, sent me the courage not to fear talking with my enemies about the work of God. The Lord clearly upheld me, giving me strength to consign myself even to death.
On the second day after the arrest, the interrogator summoned me for questioning. Someone knocked on the door.
"May I be present?"
"If Boyko does not object."
I did not object. The interrogator questioned me about many things, even from long before. As soon as he asked about my convictions, about fellow believers, or about ministry trips, I was silent.
"May I ask Boyko a few questions?" asked the visitor, who turned out to be the editor of the Nikolayev regional newspaper, Yuzhnaya Pravda (Southern Truth).
"If Boyko agrees."
"Please, go ahead and ask your questions."
"Boyko, you were raised in our system and yet you actually believe that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary?"
"With God, not one word remains ineffectual. With a word He created the universe, made you and me, and by the powerful might of His word Christ was born."
"Tell me, who drew you into this sect even though you were a komsomol?"
"In my youth, yes, I was an atheist. The saying goes: He who was never young was never stupid. I grew up and the time came for me to start thinking. Wrong deeds began to bother me and went contrary to my reason. It turned out I was powerless to resist them. But when I turned to the Lord, He flushed out of my soul, like a volcano, all sorts of impurity and blasphemy of flesh and spirit! From that moment on I hold dear honesty and all that is holy and good, that comprises true beauty and harmony of the human soul. Yes, I was once a komsomol but at that time I drank, stole, and behaved like a hooligan. Now ask the residents of the citythey almost do not recognize mewhether anyone has noticed anything bad?"
The editor looked at me with an unkind, judgmental gaze. "It would be better if you were a thief, drunkard, and murderer than to believe in God!..."
"Then I will not have anything to discuss with you."
"Do you see how he behaves?" the interrogator said in a complaining tone. "I will not take up his case here; I will send him to Nikolayev."
He kept his wordin two days I was no longer in Voznesensk. Later I found out that after my arrest KGB agents spread about the rumor that they allegedly found a two-way radio, anti-Soviet leaflets, and a stock of weapons, and so as to antagonize the residents of the city against believers, claimed that I sacrificed a child. The city buzzed like an overturned beehive. Everyone awaited the trial, to know the truth. One after another the newspapers published slanderous articles against believers and particularly against me.
The investigation went at top speed. They summoned for questioning not only believers, but also teachers and neighbors. Despite this, the judge was unsuccessful in obtaining the needed evidence. They also summoned my older sister. She did not say anything bad about me; however, she did sign the interrogation report sheet.
My wife lamented over her: "Maria, you defended Nikolay but then why did you leave your signature? They will write on your sheet whatever they like and at the trial say they are all your words "
The next day my wife went to the public prosecutor's in case it would work out to meet up with me or even just to catch a glimpse of me. Maria went with her.
Having entered the interrogators office, Maria asked to read the evidence she had given the day before. The interrogator, KGB agent Ipatyev from Nikolayev, held out the sheet to her. She held it in her hands for no more than an instant, succeeding to read only one phrase that she had not said: "It is necessary to take away his children " In horror she ran headlong out to the street with that interrogation report. She ran and tore that sheet into fine shreds and threw them around.
The interrogator certainly did not expect such a revolutionary action. He ran after her. "Oh, what bizarre old ladies!" he angrily exclaimed in exasperation. It was useless to catch up with Maria. The bits of paper were already spread in all directions.
The interrogator intimidated my younger sister Yuliya (she worked as a chief accountant), saying, "If you do not renounce your brother, we will fire you from your job!" So she gave testimony: "I do not consider him as my brother and I renounce him because he went down an unnecessary path."
I did not hold anything against her. She was an unbeliever and did not have strength to stand up against the coercion to renounce me. (Later she asked my forgiveness. Now she is a member of a registered church.)
Even my brother they did not leave in peace. He worked on the fire brigade and was held in high esteem by the fire chief. He conducted all the documentation conscientiously, faithfully completing his duties. The review boards (they participated after my brother spoke only good of me in the interrogation) did not find anything compromising.
After a series of interrogations, they obtained a signed statement from my brother that he would bring my children to the public prosecutors for questioning in the presence of their teachers. Not recognizing the treachery in doing so, he brought the three oldest (Lyudaeleven years, Veraten years, and Pavliknine years). At the prosecutors, he happened to meet up with my wife Valya and my sister Maria.
Valya froze when she saw the children. From sorrow of heart she wanted to weep. From Maria she already had found out that the persecutors truly intended to take away the children. Valya was expecting our eighth child and, in danger that they would call the ambulance, prayed and asked the Lord for strength to undergo everything calmly.
"Pavlik, son, here is money for the train. Run with all your strength down Lenin Street and quickly ride home. When you get there, take the rest of the children and immediately go somewhere to hide before they come and take you all away " she instructed our son and he carried out everything. The children sat all day in the vineyard of a believing sister.
Police officers came several times on "wild goose chases" to my house, looking for the younger children. But the house was empty. Pavlik had taken the younger children off and Valya found herself at the prosecutors with the older childrenLyuda and Vera.
"Lenya, what did you do?" exclaimed my wife to my brother. "They are just children! They could say something and be witnesses against their own father! The children just woke up, are not even dressed to go out, and you brought them here like this!"
"I never intended for the children to be witnesses!" Lenya justified himself.
But it was too latethey were leading Lyuda into the office for questioning. One could hear that she cried the whole time and insisted, "My papa is good! My papa is good!" When they brought her out of the office, she helplessly went limp and could not walk. The worry and nervous tension evidently had robbed her of her legs.
My second daughter, Vera, being a child and not recognizing the seriousness of the situation, laughed the whole time at the questions and did not say anything, neither did she agree to anything. They offered her candy and then promised to buy her beautiful shoes if she would only say that her papa forced them to go to church. She laughed and did not say a word.
After the questioning, Maria took the children to her own home Early the next morning, Valya headed with our sons to a cousins and spent a week there. All the younger children they took to believers in the village of Pomoshnaya.
Around our home wandered not just neighbors but also KGB agents. "Where did the mother disappear to? Where are the children?" they puzzled, arriving at a closed-up house. God hid the small children and not one of the informants noticed as they were taken away to various places.
Valya, seeing that the KGB did not give up their surveillance of the house, went to the Council of Prisoners Relatives of the Evangelical Christian Baptist Churches, which sent a telegram to L. I. Brezhnev and communicated to all the churches about all these unlawful disturbances against small children. After the petitions, persecution of the children stopped.
The plan to abduct my children was thwarted but the KGB did not leave my brother in peace. They set up an industry workers meeting against him, inciting the collective to petition the public prosecutor to arrest him.
"Yes, we are blood brothers. But what exactly is the crime deserving of such a hounding?" my brother spoke in open outrage.
"What is going on, comrades?" indignantly asked the industry chief. "If he were the believer, maybe! But Lenya is an unbeliever! He is just his brother!"
After some time Lenya received a call from Nikolayev. "Urgently bring a parcel (grapes and other food) to Nikolay in prison." But this time he asked advice from the relatives. "Arent they setting up a trap for you? Let Maria go," decided the relatives, so Maria took the package.
The interrogator was furious when he saw her. "Why didnt Lenya come? We specifically called so that he would bring it!" And they did not accept any of the packages
Lenya was summoned many times to the Nikolayev public prosecutors but he was already forewarned and did not go. A KGB agent enlisted even Lenya's own coworkers to watch him and help construct a case against him. My brother could not survive that and was fired from work.
Personnel from various government agencies came often to my home with inspections and searches. They even confiscated the documents of rehabilitation after my previous conviction. While my wife was in the maternity hospital for the birth of our new child, a believing sister looked after the children.
"How the KGB agents pestered us!" she complained. "This one checks one thing, that one another. They looked in all the corners several times! Once, when they climbed up into the attic, what I really wanted to do was to take the ladder away "
From the day of my arrest until the trial, from June 20 until September 25, our neighbor who from the window of her house she could see well into our yard did not go to work a single day! All that was said in my house and in the yard was made known to the KGB. The relatives and believers went out into the garden to talk there. Although my family had to live under such intense conditions throughout the investigation of my case, the Lord comforted and heard and the relatives uncomplainingly bore all the difficulties along with me.
In September, 1968, the case was handed over to court. That evening they drove me away from Nikolayev for the trial scheduled in Voznesensk already the following morning. They brought me in a "voronok" ("raven"--black KGB vehicle) to the Voznesensk civic center and led me surrounded by police workers into the courtroom. While they were leading me in, my sister Maria managed to yell, "Kolya! So many slanders have been poured out on you! They are not letting anyone into the trial, even relatives!"
"In that case I refuse to stand trial!" I managed to answer.
Hemmed in by the crowd, they led me into the courtroom.
The process was conducted as a mock trial. They set up television and radio equipment and fastened up a loudspeaker in the market adjacent to the civic center. At first, people crowded around the loudspeaker. Later, when the deceit could no longer be disguised, although the questions of the judge and the public prosecutor could be heard distinctly, the volume was deliberately turned down as soon as I began to speak so nothing could be heard. So people left.
"Boyko, I am your defense attorney," a former judge whom I knew greeted me.
"My defendant is God. With His help I will defend myself."
"I am a government defense attorneyfor free," he explained.
"I do not need your defense."
There were many people in the courtroom but all were strange and unfamiliar except the school principal and the teachers. It turns out (I found out about this later) that they had gathered all the active komsomols, Communists, and deputy sheriffs from the entire oblast. During the trial they put them up in a hotel and fed them in a separate dining hall.
After some time a side door opened. I watched, and coming first were my sister with her daughter, then all seven of my children in single file, and after them, my wife.
If I had seen her crying it would have been difficult to calmly participate in the trial. But as she entered the room she lifted her hand and loudly greeted me, "Kolya! In the Name of Jesus Christ, stand firm!"
Those seated in the hall turned in her direction. She walked into the middle and again cried out, "Stand firm, Kolya, in the Name of Jesus Christ!"
Her spirit of rejoicing encouraged me. I sensed a surge of strength. I did not expect the Lord to so wonderfully support and encourage me through my wife!
The Nikolayev public prosecutor entered the hall with the public plaintiff, a woman lawyer also from Nikolayev. They read the concluding charges and I asked to say a word.
"Citizen judges and public prosecutor! How could a person who does not know me and does not know the residents of the city or the workers of the collective where I worked represent the community as plaintiff?"
"That is not your business," snapped the judge.
"In that case I refuse to accept the plaintiff. Moreover, Voznesensk has its own public prosecutor and his two deputies. Why is the public prosecutor from Nikolayev a member of the trial?"
"That is also not your business. Answer this questionwho enticed you into this faith?"
"No one did. The Lord found me and drew me to Himself."
"Boyko, many lecturers spoke with you and could not change your mind. Where did you obtain your education?"
"The Bible says, But if any man love God, the same is known of Him' [or given knowledge of Him] (1 Cor. 8:3)."
The teachers, showing hatred toward my children, lied, "Boykos children are neglected, secluded, and uneducated "
"Citizen judges! Evidence has been brought to this case of my son Yashas learning. The following is written, Yasha, as a preschooler, already knew seventy Christian poems He did not know seventy, but fortythat is certain, I guarantee you. Now judge for yourselfhow neglected, how 'wretched,' as you call it, can a child be who has memorized so many poems containing twelve or more verses?"
"All the children frolic around at change of class, running about, while yours gather together and whisper to each other."
"Our children are meek, not used to pushing one another or running in the school building. They are self-restrained, not misbehaving and not acting like hooligans."
"You strongly force your children to attend your prayer meetings!" the next teacher was outraged. (Thirty-four witnesses were listed in the case!)
Back when my daughters class was received into the Pioneers (junior Communist youth league), all were to be promoted. My daughter was the only one who had not brought the neck tie.
"Boyko, why do you not have a tie?" asked the Pioneer leader.
"I will not be a PioneerI believe in God," my daughter answered. "March home and do not come back without your tie!" yelled the leader, and pushed her so hard that she fell down and injured her knee and elbow such that they bled. She came home and said, "Mama, look how the leader pushed me! Even if you force me to enter the Pioneers, I will not go!"
Aware of this incident, I asked Lyuda to tell about it during the trial. She was not afraid and told about it in a loud, clear voice.
"Citizen judges, here you see who is exerting force," I corroborated the words of my daughter.
On the first day of the trial, I was forbidden to speak any more.
The pastor of the registered fellowship was also included among the witnesses at the trial.
"Comrade Kovalenko, what can you say about the defendant Boyko?"
"He preached from the pulpit not to submit to the laws of the government and the Constitution."
It was painful to hear such words from a believing person. I had never pronounced those words from the pulpit. In private conversation I had said that I did not agree with the Legislation of Religious Cults because it contradicted the founding laws of the country.
On the second day, the judge brought the "material evidence" on which my criminal case would be based. It was the spiritual literature confiscated during the search.
"Are these your books?"
"The search in my home was conducted without warrant from the public prosecutor so I did not sign the confiscation receipt. Allow me to look over the books and I will point out which are mine."
The clerk handed me the books. I set the ones I did not recognize aside. She handed me my Bible! I lifted it up and said, "Citizen judges! Respected public! This is the Bible of which the Russian critic Belinskiy was not so bold as to pronounce a condemning word, but only said, The Bible is the Book of all books! This Book opened my eyes and showed me the true way, purpose, and meaning of life!"
And I put it down. I took up the hymnbook Gusli (Stringed Instruments) and holding it up also, I said, "This is a printed collection of religious songshow rich is the content of these songs!"
"This is my general notebook," I showed those sitting in the hall. "With my own hand I wrote out poems of a purely religious content in it."
The rest of the books did not belong to me.
The residents of the city tried to file through the courtroom so that they could look at the "material evidence of my criminal activities": at weapons, a stock of which had allegedly been uncovered in my house, and at a radio, by means of which I supposedly made connections with America.
But no similar items had been presented as evidence in the trialthey just appeared out of nowhere! It was simply that the persecutors needed, in justification of their lawlessness, to spread slander and turn the city community against my family.
The clerk took away the books and the table stood empty. In the hall the noise grew as the listeners lost interest. The public prosecutor's address was accompanied by shouts. The judge tried to bring about quiet with his bellit was useless.
After the conference of the court, the sentence was read: "According to Articles 209 and 138 of the Ukrainian Codex of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republicfive years of deprivation of freedom to be served out in strict regime labor camp and five years of exile." (Ten years! Just as the Lord had revealed to me while still back in Vorkuta.)
"Boyko, what will you say to the court as your last word?"
"Citizen judges! I thank my God that He has counted me worthy of this great and unearned honor to be a living testimony of the living God in our godless twentieth century! Whether it last many years or few, I beseech God that my suffering and that of my large family would be the last suffering of Christs Church on earth."
The judge did not allow me to finish speaking. "Enough, Boyko, enough!" I was not even granted the customary meeting with my family in Voznesensk after the trial and was sent immediately to Odessa because the people were greatly troubled.
The local residents were confused. "They deceived the whole city! They did not find anything against Boyko!" the supervisor and engineer where I worked expressed. For these statements they were fired from their jobs. Not one person from the factory where I worked stood witness at the trial!
The principal of the school where my children studied walked out of the courtroom before the end of the trial when he saw that they were prosecuting me for my convictions. After my trial he went on a drinking spree and was fired.
The minister who had left our fellowship because of the threats and gone back to the registered church, being himself broken down in spirit, weakened the hope of the believers of the Voznesensk church. "There is no point in gathering for churchno matter what they will not free Nikolay " And to my wife he said, "After strict regime he will never return! It is useless to go to visit himthey will not allow him to meet with his family "
The believers were confusedsome went back to the registered fellowship, some moved to other cities. Regrettably, several cooled down spiritually and left for the world.
The son of that minister who had been broken in spirit also stopped going to church and said, "If Uncle Kolya sees freedom, I will repent and serve the Lord."
Such a person, judging from similar examples, is deceived by satan and finds himself on a slippery path. What if it please God that I give my life in bonds for the work of Christ? Does that mean he will then not repent?! God knocks on the heart of the sinner and concretely shows him the true path but the person puts off repentance until "later." Satan uses this lie to destroy those who believe him.
Although the enemy of human souls set about to cause believers of the Voznesensk church to waver and disburse, sincere and faithful children of God were left all the same. They were not afraid to talk with my wife, as were some believers; they came and helped her with whatever they could. One elderly sister, an invalid, was so inclined in heart toward my family that she actually came to live with us despite the fact that her own children were strongly opposed to it.
But only four or five sisters came to the services in my house. Seating the children, Valya and one of the other sisters read the Word of God and then, bowing on their knees, they cried out to the Lord for the protection of the persecuted people of God and for those in bonds for Christ, languishing in prison for their faithfulness to the Lord. They prayed also for themselves, that they would withstand in the persecution that had befallen them.
My children were mistreated in school. They were put to grief for not being Pioneers, were expelled from school, and for three weeks were not allowed into class. Later their grades were consequently marked down, showing them to be failing students.
Children of other prisoners of the persecuted brotherhood were mistreated the same wayschool officials purposely made them fall behind and later designated them to special schools for mentally delayed children. There, deprived of parental guardianship, they "treated" them with psychotropic drugs and consequently several were disabled for life. Who except the Lord could comfort parents in their griefparents who understood that even children would have to suffer for their fathers' faithfulness to God?!
From prison in Odessa I was sent to Vinnits Oblast to a granite quarry in the 39th prison zone, since my case specified I was "for use in especially heavy work."
When my group of prisoners arrived, as usual there was a search, a shower, and then to the barracks. Placing my things on the bed, I had hardly finished praying when I heard the quick steps of two prisoners coming toward me down the corridor.
"You are from the new group of prisoners, aren't you? Tell me please, where can we find Boyko?"
"Why do you want him?"
"I need him!" he answered in a word, nervous.
"Tell me why and then I will show him to you."
"The head of the health center said that they caught a big fish! You yourself must realize that they have brought a great criminal into the zone! We want to meet him."
"That would be me "
They looked around, not knowing whether to believe my words or not.
"Under which articles was the sentence handed down?"
"The 138th and 209thUkrainian."
"I have served ten years and know all the articles, but not those!"
"Because I believe in God and did not agree with the illegal Legislation of Religious Cults and because I allowed children and youth into the church for church services I was sentenced to five years strict regime and five years exile."
"The head of the health center said that you sacrificed a child. Is it true?"
"If you have already been ten years in prison, you well know that for murder, one is condemned to execution no matter what the form in which it was carried out. Under extreme circumstancesfifteen years! But I have five and five."
The boys thought silently. Sometimes, until you guide a person into a logical way of reasoning he just accepts whatever is presented to him without discerning the heart of the matter. But when he begins to analyze it, to compare and contrast, then he realizes that he was cleverly deceived.
The boys stood in bewilderment and did not walk away. I began to testify to them about Christ, about the God in Whom I believed, about eternal life, and about eternal torment.
"So what are youa Baptist?" asked a young man who had been silent to that point. "I sat in the Voroshilovgrad prison with such people! Quite the people!" he commented good-naturedly on believers, giving a thumbs-up.
The administration, in pursuing a clearly malicious purpose, had spread a slanderous lie about me. But the prisoners, having clarified all the details with me, spoke the opposite about me for all to hear.
"We already saw Boyko! We know the articles by which he was sentencedhe is not any big fish! If he had sacrificed a child he would have been shot!"
Thus the intended evil God turned into goodthe prisoners related well to me.
In the morning I stood with the prisoners for roll call in the guardhouse from where we were led out to work. "Why are you here?" everyone questioned me again. I answered. Amazed, they did not argue. Returning from the change of shift, even more prisoners gathered around me. I was obliged, one could say, to speak to all of them again and again about Christ and about my service to God. The plans of the enemies fell bankrupt and they could do nothing to turn the prisoners against me.
"Where did I see you?" one prisoner asked, agonizingly searching his memory.
"I spent a term in Vorkutawere you there?"
"No. But I well remember your face! Ah, I remember!" he grinned. "I saw you on television! That is exactly itI saw when they aired your trial!"
"That could be!"
"As unknown, and yet well known "! (2 Cor. 6:9). Praise God!
By the time a few months had passed of my term in the camp, it was no longer possible to hide myself from the prisoners. The warrant officers, if they did not find me in my place, looked for me in other barracks and, as the political indoctrination deputy had ordered, chased away the prisoners who gathered around me.
So as to somehow entertain the people, the camp head gathered them in the club for political lectures. More than once I sat in the punishment cell (shtrafniy izolyatorabbreviated SHIZO) because I never went to those classes. Returning from the club, the boys would with great pleasure tell me all about them.
"Uncle Kolya! The camp head announced that soon there will be a big amnesty and many of us will be freed. But no privileges will be imparted to such ones as Boyko! And we will not let anyone go who has contact with Boyko! he frightened us."
The camp head provoked not a little curiosity by these announcements and even some prisoners whom I had not met before were instinctively drawn to me. After this meeting even more people began to gather around me.
I had a Gospel with me. One of the prisoners who attentively listened more than once to my testimony about the Lord opened his heart toward the truth. I gave the Gospel to him to read and he read it through from beginning to end. He repented, was established in the joy of the salvation he had received, and began to fearlessly testify to others about Christ.
Now there were two Christians in the camp and of course this was a state of emergency for the administration. They placed the brother who had repented in the punishment cell. The head officer was furious beyond measure. "I will force you to gnaw on the kormushka!" (The "kormushka" was the small window in the door of the cell through which they handed food to the prisoners.) They also placed me in the SHIZO for fifteen days. The brother spent his fifteen days and then he was called out for work. He did not get discouraged. On that very same day he was sent back to the SHIZO for another fifteen days, although that was in violation of the camp rules that a prisoner must spend at least one night in the barracks and only then can he be punished again.
Not knowing how to keep the prisoners away from me, the officer invited a lecturer to the zone and forced everyone to come to the clubhouse. The converted brother and I stepped to the side in a quiet spot to talk to one another.
"Boyko! I advise you to go to the lecture," the guard responsible for the zone told me.
"What sort of lecture?"
"On an atheistic theme."
After praying about it, we decided to go. The hall was full because the guards went through every barracks and gathered everyone to the clubhouse (there were more than a thousand prisoners in the camp).
They enteredthe chief of operations, the political indoctrination deputy, and the lecturer. He had taught for twenty-eight years in an institute of atheism.
Atheistic lecturers usually referred to contemporary scientific accomplishments and phenomena of nature in trying to prove to the listeners that there was no God. This one did the same. He obviously expected he would attain his goal and he began to convince the prisoners that believing people are the most ignorant and not knowledgeable in the least.
"I see that primarily youth are among my listeners. Do not believe in any God," he addressed the audience. "Your bright future is Communism! Although you have committed crimes, yet we will bring you up in the Communist spirit "
The lecturer repeated that phrase several times and finished contentedly.
"May I ask a question?" I raised my hand.
"I see you are an atheist, meaning you do not believe in God. But you do believe in spirits."
"No!" he announced decisively. "I do not believe in any sort of spirit!"
"But then how can you bring up youth in the Communist spirit?"
For three minutes such laughter filled the hall that our ears were ringing. I stood up in the middle. The laughter began to die down.
When I was still at a distance from the lecturer, he brought order.
"I believe in the spirit which I breathe."
"Forgive me, but we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide "
The laughter erupted louder yet. The political indoctrination deputy, coming to the aid of the lecturer, announced, "The lecture is finished! You may go "
The next day the major who had invited that lecturer told me, "Probably, that lecturer will never come back to us "
"Did you hear how he laughed insultingly at God and at believers? The Lord struck down this threatening giant with simple arguments. This is not my accomplishment. My God struck him down so that he would not extol himself."
"He will probably be dismissed from the Party " sympathized the major.
True enough, no more lectures were scheduled in the camp and I had numerous conversations with the administration.
The head of the colony (a colonel and a deputy member of the Supreme Sovietthe highest governing body of the USSR) called me to headquarters and showed interest in my convictions. I told him how I had come to believe and in Whom I believed, emphasizing quotations from the Bible.
"We do not sentence for faiththere is no such article."
"Before you stands one sentenced for faith and for violating the illegal Legislation on Religious Cults, which contradicts the Constitution."
"What exactly did you violate?"
"Practically speaking, the legislation forbids all religious activity. It is forbidden to baptize youth, and I baptized them. It is not allowed to preach the Gospel, and I preached."
In addition, I quoted statements of Lenin about freedom to confess ones faith.
"Lenin never said such things!"
"If you so desire, you can find this quotation in his tenth volume, page 66, third paragraph. It is also in the sixth volume, on pages 365 to 366, On peasant poverty."
"Very well, I will check," and he wrote it down, looking intently at me. "If you so firmly believe in life beyond the grave and are not afraid of death, then hang or shoot yourself," he presented me with the devilish temptation and I realized the emptiness of his atheistic soul.
"In the Bible it says that murderers will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Their portion is in the lake of burning fire and brimstone (Rev. 21:8)."
The head of the colony did not call me in any more. Whenever I encountered him in the zone he was always smilingapparently he had confirmed that I had correctly cited those excerpts.
I later found out that he had left his first wife because she became a believer and he then married an atheist.
I worked in the camp loading granite blocks. To do this by hand is very difficult and at first my arms were in unbearable pain. It seemed to me that if they would only be amputated, at least the pain would abate.
The supervisor demanded that we load quickly. He unjustifiably threatened to reduce our food rationsif he were to do that it would certainly be impossible to meet the quota.
"Supervisor, I did not work for six months while the investigation and trial were underway. After the trial, I spent a long time in prison," I tried to explain.
"Just look how people work!" he pointed at a wiry youth who easily and freely picked up the granite stones and threw them aboard the vehicle.
"If you were to place a famous weightlifter on scanty food for six months and what is more, not give him the opportunity to train, he too would lift small stones with difficulty."
But the administration remained unyielding. I grew despondent out of extreme weariness. And then the thought dawned on meI was suffering for the Lord while the other prisoners were enduring it for their crimes. I began to pray that God would strengthen me and send me love for this work. And the merciful God heardwhen I came to the quarry, the granite seemed as if it were lighter! Strength was added to my arms and my hands did not hurt as badly. The Lord taught me a lessonour strength is in our love to suffer for the Lord!
When my leg that had been damaged by the bayonet while I was a prisoner of war swelled up, they transferred me to do granite trimming. The work was labor-intensive, also by hand, but easier than loading the granite.
More than two years passed. The UDO (uslovno-dosrochnoye osvobozhdeniye -- probational early release) commission came to the camp and summoned me to headquarters for a trial. I entered the office. There seated were the public prosecutor, the camp administration, the division officer, the political indoctrination deputy, and the judges.
"Boyko, we have summoned you to the UDO commission," explained the division officer.
"Excuse me, but I did not apply in writing for it."
From almost the very first day the administration had offered me a position in the SVP (sektsiya vnutrenevo poryadkasection of internal order), implying that I would bear an armband with those initials and help to keep order in the zone. "As soon as you put on the armband, you will be immediately freed!" they promised me. "I will not even take it in my hands!" I refused. And now they decided to beguile me through other means.
"I applied on your behalf!" the division officer bragged.
"Boyko, do you plead guilty?" asked the political indoctrination deputy.
"Citizen judges! Respected administration! The time will come when not only I but also each of you as well will acknowledge that I am innocent!"
"Even if everyone else admits it, I never will!" said the chief of the regime division, Captain Moskalenko, raising himself from his seat.
"The time will come when you also will admit it "
"We are offering you freedom, only plead guilty!" they tried to talk me into it.
The public prosecutor wanted to ask a question but the political indoctrination deputy stopped him.
"Do not ask this philosopher questions. He will immediately begin to quote statements of the guides and will say where, on what page, and in what volume it is written. If he will not plead guilty, let him leave."
And I left.
From the camp library the prisoners brought me books or magazines containing writing about God or believers. I wrote down what was interesting in my notebook and next to it, wrote my own commentary. These notebooks were confiscated in a search.
"Boyko, is this your writing?" the head of the regime division, Moskalenko, called me in.
"Let me see it Yes, mine."
"This will all go to the KGB!" slowly, with metal in his voice, he emphasized every word.
"Please go ahead and turn it in! They have confiscated quite a lot from me since 1962let them read this too," I smiled.
The camp administration was slightly afraid of the KGB agents. The captain thought that I would be frightened and my calmness amazed him to the utmost.
"Boyko! Where is your God and why doesn't He bring you out of here, seeing that you believe Him?!"
"You know, the believing professor Vladimir Philimonovich Martsinkovskiy writes in his book The Meaning of Suffering about how he visited prisons in the time of the tsars and distributed Gospels among the prisoners. Tell me, in our time, for what amount of money would you let me into the camp to preach about Christ? Not for anything!
"Look at how wisely God has directed the circumstances: you condemned me like a criminal against the law and you brought me into the camp where criminals from the entire Soviet Union are gathered! I would never have met either them or you! But here I am! And I am preaching! And you are not chasing me out! You do not have the right to!
"Notice this alsobeing an atheist, would you ever have begun reading religious literature?! But you confiscated from me a notebook with Christian writings and are obligated to read all that is written in themit is your job!
"In addition to all that, you have called me into your office and are demanding an account of my hope. And I am happy to testify that God exists, eternal life exists, and eternal torment exists. Things are such that if you do not repent, then you will stand trial before the Lord, where you will no longer be able to lie saying that you never heard about God."
"Go away! Even in my own office he is speaking propaganda!" the officer was highly upset.
During the third year of my term in the camp, one Sunday I was waiting for the arrival of my family for a visit. Not far from the barracks, just beyond the forbidden zone, was an automobile highway. From the second floor of the barracks it could be seen well and one could even talk back and forth although this was categorically forbidden.
"Nikolay, someone came to see you! They are calling to you from the highway," they told me.
I went up to the second floor and saw brother Nikolay Klimoshenko from Kherson. I asked him, "Where is Valya?" With hand signals he let me understand that she had not arrived yet. By evening she had still not arrived and the meeting did not take place.
In the camp every Sunday a movie was shown, but I never went.
"Well, did you like the film, Little Fugitive?" my compatriot, who lived one section over from me, asked the prisoners.
"Soon you will see a big fugitive!" he laughed.
No one paid any attention to his words.
That night all the prisoners were roused and roll call taken. They counted twiceone prisoner was missing. He had run away! It turned out that the one missing in the count was my compatriot, who had said as if joking, "Soon you will see a big fugitive."
They gave the signal for bedtime. I had just lain down when the duty guard said, "Boyko, they are summoning you to headquarters " I prayed and went.
"Where did you take Ivan?" that was the name of the runaway prisoner.
"I was sleeping and know nothing."
"You were friends with him! During the day someone came to you and you talked back and forth. A car was seen on the highway. You assisted him in the escape!"
"I know nothing."
They sent me back to the barracks but the rest of that night and the entire next day I was called time and time again to headquarters and threatened with a new term.
The escapee would receive a long termtwelve years of strict regime. By the loudspeaker they announced that a dangerous criminal had escaped. They sent dogs in search but they could not track a scent. The dogs ran circles in one place.
To escape from the camp was practically impossible. The administration from Vinnits arrived. Two versions rose to the topeither he ran away with the help of Boyko or else Boyko offered Ivan in sacrifice.
For three days we were not taken out to work. They opened up all the plumbing cleanouts and let out fifty cubic feet of water from the fire reservoir, hoping to find on the bottom the corpse of Ivan whom I had allegedly sacrificed. They organized a thorough search everywhere but discovered nothing.
They suggested that I had assisted his escape anyway, having made arrangements with the guards.
"I do not believe that Ivan ran away on his own," emphasized the camp head. "If not for Boyko, then how could he have left?!"
On the third day we were told that Ivan had been pulled off a train and returned to the camp. The administration, in bewilderment, interrogated him. "Show us how you could escape!"
Ivan was an outstanding athlete. As soon as the guard in the tower turned his back, he easily jumped across through the forbidden zone with the help of a pole. So as to cover his steps, he made his way down the river on the pole. When he found a crossing point, he threw the pole away, came to a station, got on a train, and took off. At the Kozlyatino station he looked out the window of the train car to orient himself as to where he was and the railroaders noticed him, as they were the first to be warned that a dangerous criminal had fled. Another term was added to Ivan's sentencethree years of strict regime for escaping. Of course Ivan was interrogated, "Did Boyko help you?"
"Boyko did not even know about my plans."
After this the administration changed their attitude toward me and stopped threatening, "We will add a term! We will!"
A shop operated in the camp producing iron-reinforced concrete goods. In it was a boiler. The water systems technician maintaining it was released and they could not find another, so the unattended equipment became unfit for use. They were already threatening to dismantle the factory as salvage. The administration was at a loss what to do since this particular shop brought the camp the greatest profit. To invite me for the job meant putting themselves in danger because my case specified, "For use in hard labor." For a long time they debated this question and then decided that I would work there as both water systems technician and stoker and in the summer make repairs. The work in the boiler room was, of course, much lighter than with the granitethus the Lord, contrary to the harsh directives, eased my stay in the camp.
And then, in the village just opposite the camp, the boiler system broke down. It was winter. It was cold.
"Boyko, we have an impossible emergency! Come to our rescue! The women from the village announced that if you do not make a boiler they will bring the children into our office to warm them up."
"That village is outside the zone! And I do not know what is up with those boilers," I did not decide.
"We will go with you--just take a look."
They brought me under guard to the village. I inspected the boilersthey were intact, they were cast iron, but a big layer of scum had built up because they had not washed them out for a long time. When the heated cast iron no longer boils the water, the boiler must be replaced.
"Boyko, we called Voznesensk and they told us that you make boilersmake us one too."
"Without inspection from the supervisor of boilers I have no right to."
"Those are our problems. You make the boiler."
I agreed. They brought me to the village under guard. I took measurements for the entire construction and made a boiler in the camp. They transported it to the boiler room of the village. I installed it myself and fired it up myselfpraise God, it heated! Everyone was pleased and the work became much easier for me. So I worked in the camp as water systems technician until I was sent into exile.
After finishing the five year term of imprisonment in the strict regime camp in Vinnits Oblast, I was sent into exile to the village of Birilyussi of Krasnoyarsk Krai (large administrative division analogous to an oblast).
When I arrived, I could not find any of the village administration and in search of a place to spend the night, walked from one end of the village to the other. None of the residents agreed to take me in as malicious rumors had already been spread about me.
"Spend the night in the empty shed," they offered me. I looked around insideit was full of rats. Frightening.
Reaching the farthest little house, I decided to ask the owner for some hay. Rain was imminent and he was putting up hay in the haycock.
"Why do you need hay?"
"I am making a bed in a shed so I will not sleep with my head on the ground "
"Where are you from?"
"From far away." And I told him who I was and why I turned up in the village.
"You what, believe in God?"
"One believer lived here in exile with us. He lived near us "
"If you may, allow me to spend the night in your shed because that one has many rats."
"I will check with my wife right now." Returning quickly, the owner said, "She agreed, but only for one night."
I spent the night with them and then went to the chairman of the village council. He looked over my documents and, before officially granting me a position as a stoker in the school boiler room, he asked again and again for a long time, "Tell me, do you drink heavily?"
"I do not drink."
"Not long ago a boiler, the electrical station, and three diesel engines explodedwhile everyone was on a drinking spree! I am asking you a serious questiondo you drink vodka heavily?"
"I do not drink at all."
"Get out of hereeven I like to drink! There are no such people who do not drink vodka!"
"I will be the first nondrinker among you."
"We shall see "
For a long time they checked me out, tempting me however they could until they were convinced that there are people who do not drink.
In time a KGB agent dropped in on the village and warned the school principal that I should not gather children and youth around me, but conversations with children went on all the same.
Soon my wife Valya came to visit me with two of the children. She told about the unceasing persecution of the brothers and sisters of our brotherhood, including in our city. We were already thinking to move the entire family to me in exile but the village of Birilyussi was situated in a remote and isolated place, occupied mostly by elderly people who almost all drank. In the spring the village warmed up and people walked around on the wooden boardwalks, sometimes even taking the children to school on horseback.
Half a year of exile passed. The residents had become used to me, now convinced that I was not at all the frightening person the KGB had presented me to be. The children would come running up to me in the boiler room. The principal, academic director, and the teachers would also drop in.
Not far from the boiler room where I worked was a bus stop. A group of students (eighteen peoplethey had come on vacation to their parents), became thoroughly chilled while waiting for the bus so I invited them to come in with me. They left one person behind to tell them when the bus came and the rest entered.
Two of them immediately began joking around, figuring out how to get drunk.
"Boys, that is sin," I stopped them. "In this boiler room no one drinks or smokes."
"What sin? Educated men do not believe in God and neither do we!"
The students could remember the Italian materialistic philosopher Giordano Bruno (1548-1600).
"But do you know what the last words he pronounced were, when in the year 1600 he was being burned at the stake in Rome?"
No one knew.
"In the book by the Austrian philosopher Hollicher (1911-1968), Nature in the Scientific Picture of the World, the words of Giordano Bruno are mentioned, 'I die a tortured man, but my soul from these flames will be lifted up to paradise.' You consider G. Bruno a materialist, but he believed he had a soul!"
"We never heard that."
"Find that book in the library and get acquainted with it. Isaac Newton, the Father of Physics, openly stated that God spoke forth the first impetus in all the heavenly mechanism! But you are asserting that learned men do not believe in God."
"Listen, are you a Baptist?" asked one of them.
"Comrades! For the first time in my life I have seen real live Baptist! Always heard of them, never seen one!"
The watchperson yelled, "Bus!" and they poured out onto the street.
The Party leader for the village, a teacher, called me in to have a talk with him.
"You have many children!" he underlined his knowledge of the fact. "They are back home but you are sitting here. Why do you have this faith? You are going alone against our entire government. If you would have changed your views you would have been free long ago!"
"I am a committed Christian and I firmly believe in God."
"You are going against our current of life."
"Only a dead fish swims with the current. I am a living Christian; therefore I will never make any compromise whatsoever with my conscience."
The Party leader remembered our conversation. No matter how many times we later encountered each other in the village, he always said smiling, "Only a dead fish "
And then six of my children came to live with me in exile. They were good students in school and had decent clothes and shoes. They helped me around the housechopping wood and carrying water. In the fierce Siberian cold (the thermometer column indicated - 54 oC!) the local residents suffered frostbite to their faces, but my children did not.
"Just look at those southerners here!" people were amazed.
"My children are in double-layered clothing! God warms and protects them!" I testified to them.
Church services were held in my house. Brothers from Novosibirsk baptized two sisters in that village and another two were drawing close to God. During the service my children played instrumentsone on the mandolin, another on the balalaika, others on the guitar (there were two guitars).
My childrens classmates were among those who came to hear the Word of God. One fifteen-year-old girl came home after the service and her father (a Party member and Communist) put her out of the house in a drunken fit. She came back to us. Her mother related not badly to believers; this was more irritating to the godless father and he wrote a complaint about me to the KGB, saying I allegedly went house to house and seduced people into my sect.
The residents of the village would invite me overone to assemble an electrical outlet, another to fix a washing machine. Several asked me to plasterI did not refuse anyone. I did not accept any money from anyone for my work, and of course I did not drink when they tried to treat me. In every house I did not let an opportunity slip to tell about the Lord and about salvation.
A KGB agent came to the village and went to the addresses indicated in the complaint. The residents did not deny that I had come at their request and given them help in one way or another. They also did not hide that I spoke to them about God. "He did not drag us anywhere " they assured him. The school principal and the teachers commented favorably about me. The Party members complaint was not substantiated. Later the KGB agent came again to look for those whom I had "enlisted" in a sect but did not find them.
Some students coming home to Birilyussi for vacation passed by my house and heard singingI was playing musical instruments. They wanted very much to spend time with me. One of them showed some initiative and they gathered in the clubhouse and invited me. Our conversation extended far past midnight. At two in the morning no one was tired or wanted to leave. They listened to my testimony about the Lord and about my repentance.
On Christmas (January 7 in the East) the young people again invited me to the clubhouse. The club leader also expressed interest.
"I heard that you play the guitar?"
"Not very well, but I do play."
I had not brought my guitar with me but they brought theirs, a seven-stringed instrument. I sat at a table and sang with accompaniment, "Oh, I am a poor sinner "
The telephone rang. The club leader was talking with someone while I continued to sing. Later, she brought the telephone over to the guitarso someone on the other end of the line could listen.
"Well, how was it?" she asked the listener on the other end of the line about my playing, when I finished.
"Do you know who was singing and playing? Anyway, you would never guess! It was Uncle Kolya, the saint!"
Listening was the teachers daughter and while the conversation continued, she came over to the clubhouse with her young husband. They asked me to sing that same song. Then I sang for them, "Everything will be different " and "Christ, the merciful Physician " By then the hour hand indicated two in the morning.
"Uncle Kolya, write out those songs for uswe will memorize and sing them."
Of course I wrote them out right then. The next day they boasted, "The whole day as we worked we sang your good songs!"
News of that evening spent in the clubhouse quickly reached the administration. The secretary of the district Party, the secretary of the district Komsomol, and the chief of police arrived urgently to the village council from the raion (administrative subdivision of an oblast or krai). It turns out they had already strictly berated the youth for arranging such an assembly in the club.
They summoned the two believing sisters to the village council and said, "We will fine you for attending prayer meetings and as for Boykowe will sentence him to a new term!"
The sisters told me about everything.
"Probably they will summon me too," I presumed.
"Sooner rather than later, because when we left, two of the most active members of the village council were already sitting there."
And sure enough, they came for me. I prayed and went. I was invited into the office and the reproaches and threats poured forth.
"You were sent into exile for correction, and what are you doing here? Spreading propaganda! We categorically forbid you to go about preaching your ideas!"
"I am a believing man and was sent by God to this isolated region not to be silent, but to tell you that if you do not repent, you will perish."
"What kind of believer are you anyway, when you do not have a single icon in your house?!"
On the basis of the Holy Scriptures I explained extensively why I did not worship icons.
"You whatsaw God, that you preach about him?" asked the chief of police.
I looked out the windowhis car was standing on the street.
"That is probably your car?" I asked.
"It is mine."
"Tell me, did it put itself together or did it have an assembler?"
"Of course it had a constructor!"
"But did you see him, that you are so certain?"
He was silent.
"And does the village council building where we are talking also have an architect who drew up and approved its general plan?"
"It does," he was compelled to answer.
"So also does the universe have a Constructor. You are educated people and know that nothing appears or disappears in the world by itself. The universe has a Creator and He has not stopped holding in His mighty right hand the building of this world, although you do not believe in Him. He loves you, cares about you, and sends you the sun and rain to the earth so that it would be good for you. What is more than that, God sent to earth His Son, Jesus Christ, Who died for my and your sins on the cross of Golgotha so that your soul would not perish."
The conversation stretched out and the men who had been invited to the village council for some sort of case lost patience.
"You are dealing only with Boyko! If you do not need us, let us go."
The administration became alarmed and got down to the business for which they had come.
"So, Boyko! We will not talk long with you. If you continue to carry out propaganda, you will receive a new term!"
"That is your business."
"You what, do not want to return to Odessa?"
"For me there is no difference where I preachin Odessa or in Birilyussi."
Several months passed after that conversation. I received a summons to appear at the court of the raion. I needed to travel thirty kilometers. At the time a believing sister from the village was at my house. Together with the children, we bowed on our knees, prayed, and I went.
I arrived. I announced my arrival and was called into an office. The judge asked,
"Why are you in exile? On the basis of which article?"
I told this guardian of the law about the Legislation of Religious Cultshow treacherous it was, how it went against all reason, and how it contradicted the founding laws of the country. He did not interrupt. And I, sensing the prompting in my heart, told him about salvation and about Christ. He listened long to me, which happens sufficiently rarely during trials.
"Up to this very point you have been carrying out propaganda! For this you were sentenced and now you need to be sentenced again."
"That is your business."
While I was still at home I had prayed and prepared inwardly for a new term. Something unexplainable was happening to the impetus of the trial and I decided to continue my witness.
"Do you know what? The way I just told you about Christ, about your personal Savior, about the God in Whom I sincerely and strongly believe, is exactly the way I also told the other people who asked me. I did not forcefully push anyone to come to believe in God.
"That is enough! Go out!"
I went out and waited a very long time. They apparently called around and consulted with each other although, as I later understood, my question had already been decided.
They invited me into the office and announced, "So Boyko! In order that you would not muddy the waters here and not draw away our youth, clear yourself out of here! Your term has come to an end!"
I had been in holding prison on the way to Krasnoyarsk Krai for three months. According to the law, one day in holding counted as three days in exile. That meant that for those three months they took nine months off my term of exile. They had already taken off several months for the time leading up to the trial, so that in exile I spent only four years and not five.
When school let out I returned with my children to Odessa. This release was unexpected. I had prepared for a new loss of freedom but God saw differently. From the depths of my heart I was thankful to my Savior for everything.
Freedom But my soul was not seeking calm, comfort, and rest. My heart yearned for fellowship with the saints, with friends near and dear in Christ.
The joy of meeting was exchanged for sadnessbefore my release the minister of the Peresip church in Odessa had been arrested. The church was left, as it were, without a minister. Although a deacon had been released after a two year term of imprisonment, the enemies let loose all the might of fear and seduction against him and against the work of God and he registered the church autonomously from the persecuted brotherhood.
The grief of my soul gained strength. Day and night I lifted up prayer to the Lord and cried out to Him to shed light on my pathhow was I to act? The only fellowship in the city that had belonged to the the Council of Evangelical Baptist Churches (CEBC) had fallen under the authority of the world order of this century. My spirit was confused with difficult second thoughts and doubts. I was only slightly acquainted with the fellowship in the village of Usatovo near Odessa. To become a member of a registered church would mean to agree with the anti-evangelical Legislation of Religious Cults: to not bring children to the church service and to not allow the youth to evangelize. This meant to go against the Lord and not fulfill His commands. I had hardly finished a prisoners troubles when the Lord led me into a new period of more complex difficulties. How would I find the right way out?
The Lord saw the suffering of my soul at the stepping away of Gods people from the truth. Meeting with the ministers of the CEBC, I obtained clarity in many of the difficult questions. I was strengthened, although ahead loomed a spiritual battle that would not be easy.
"Brother Nikolay, you need to become a member of the Persip church and lead the work of God in such a way as to free it from sinful registration," the minister advised.
A ray of sun shown into my soul weary of sighing. I agreed, but understood that I was agreeing not to a rest but to a harsh battle with enemies of the work of God. Thus it began all over againthreats of KGB agents, summons, and another arrest.
Soon the question came up in the church of ordaining me to the ministry of pastor. Two candidates were nominated, one of which was me. (While still in the Voznesensk church they had wanted to ordain me, but our foes knew this and hurried to isolate me for ten years.)
The Odessa church numbered more than one hundred members. I worriedwould I be able to bear this ministry worthily? The thought was laid on my heart that if not one of the members of the church stood against my being ordained, that would mean that the Lord was calling me.
The whole church waited in prayer for the members meeting. Three ministers of the CEBC arrived on Saturday and spent the entire day in discussions with the church and with my family.
In the evening an alarmed local brother came to me, "Dear brothers! The house of prayer is surrounded and they are watching it intently!"
The ministers bowed their knees and prayed, "Lord, if the ordination of this brother be pleasing to Your will, You are strong to destroy their intentions " After the prayer, they, having received confidence from the Lord, firmly and decisively said, "Let's go to the church service, trusting the Lord!"
The next morning it was calm at the house of prayer. The persecutors, desiring to disrupt the ordination, tried with their own people to create panic in the church.
At the vote in the members meeting not one objection was raisedonly one elderly sister was opposed and only because she did not know me. So the church and the ministers blessed me to carry out a pastors ministry in accordance with the Word of God, not giving place to the world in anything. They instructed me to have brotherly fellowship only with churches maintaining the spiritual center of the CEBC and to walk in the freedom of Christ, for which many faithful ministers had laid down their lives while others were in bonds.
After the ordination I went to the youth meeting and asked, "My dear ones! Have holy jealousy for the work of God! Visit believers everywhere, wherever you can go! Clear every good initiative with the ministersnot one holy activity will be suppressed!"
The youth revived in spirit. I organized a youth choir and Christian folk-instrument orchestras for adults and junior youth. Young brothers preached in the church services. Sunday evening services following the Breaking of Bread were entirely conducted by the youth except when they were away visiting surrounding fellowships of the persecuted brotherhood or evangelizing wherever they could.
This became known immediately to the KGB. Biding time and convinced that the spiritual life of the youth had noticeably come to life, they summoned me before the regional executive committee.
"On what basis were you chosen as pastor? Why didn't they clear this with the executive committee, nor with the religious affairs enforcement officer?"
Not waiting for an answer from me, they handed me a form and suggested that I fill it out immediately. When I had read it, I said:
"The church is not an organization and I am not an administrator. I cannot give account in spiritual ministry, as you demand through filling out this form. Yes, and you should not be demanding this."
"The minister of your registered church is the one who holds the certificate of registration. You are a nobody to us! We do not recognize you and therefore you do not have the right to carry out ministry!"
"The church is separate from the government and decides itself whom to choose for the ministry."
"Your church is registered and should submit itself!" a KGB agent present during the interview repeated with emphasis.
"I was chosen by the church and have already spent ten years for refusal to register a church."
"We categorically forbid youth and children to be present with you in the service!"
"The church decides such questions independently. The doors of the house of prayer are open to everyone."
Summons to the regional executive committee continued and they found reasons for themI had not allowed a Pentecostal to preach in the church and I did not change the time of the Sunday morning service to a later hour "so that the entire church would be present at the First of May demonstration."
"You must exert your authority over believers to convince them to go to the demonstration," the executive committee instructed.
"I will never do that."
"Logvinenko (the senior minster over the Odessa Oblast) submits to us! The Pentecostals, Seventh Day Adventists, even the Gypsy baron submit! And who are you?"
"A minister of God is obligated to submit to God in the activities of ministry and to obey Him rather than you."
The spiritual life of the church did not die down. May 2, 1979, about six hundred believers from Moldova and nearby oblasts of Ukraine came to the Odessa church for a Christian gathering. We carried the benches out of the house of prayer. The youth, standing shoulder to shoulder, filled the entire hall. The crowdedness did not constrain the freedom of spirit.
The service had just begun when they arrivedthe religious affairs enforcement officer, KGB agents, police, and deputies.
"What crowd is this? Disburse immediately!" the enforcement officer thundered through a loudspeaker.
The believers stood tightly together to one another, so as not to allow the opportunity for the rampaging ones to make it to the front. A Gypsy brother from Zakarpatya was preaching. The head of the KGB addressed me through his loudspeaker.
"Boyko, terminate this! Dismiss your crowd and disburse!"
"Excuse me. A church service is being held here. Do not violate order."
"Boyko! Come here!"
Having taken council with the ministers and praying, I approached the head of the KGB (he was standing in the doorway of the sanctuary).
"You have fifteen minutes to see that no one is here!"
"I am a minister of the church and I can offer your demands for review by the believers. As they decide, so it will be."
Returning to the pulpit, I announced, "Brothers and sisters! The city administration is commanding us to disburse within fifteen minutes. Do you agree?"
"No!" the congregation answered in a single voice.
"Brother," I turned to the preacher, "continue speaking the Word."
The Gypsy brother continued.
"Stop!" the head of the KGB commanded authoritatively.
"When I was an unbeliever, I robbed and you did not forbid me, but now I am preaching about Christ and you are yelling Stop! I am a Gypsyhere is my passport!"
"The countdown of the fifteen minute deadline given to you has begun!" the head of the KGB repeated aggressively.
The service continued. The violators of order tried to enter the sanctuary. The believers linked arms.
"Ten minutes remain! Five minutes!" After these words the head of the KGB gave the command to "set to work." Police officers began to crowd the believers standing tightly together. The walls of the house of prayer might not withstand such an onslaught and collapse. I prayed that the Lord would protect us from that.
The deputies grabbed the sisters, some by the hand, some by the hair, and twisted the brothers arms around behind their backs. Someone from among the believers yelled, "We are outside!"
The police officers did not step away at this and thoroughly looked over those exiting. Next to me a husky brother was stepping out. "Follow me," he asked me. I went out and stood in the crowd of believers.
"They are looking for you! They need only you! Leave!" the brothers communicated.
Praying, I went to believers in a neighboring home. They told me that eight brothers had been taking to the KPZ (Komnata politicheskiy zakluchonnikh--jail for political prisoners). I asked that no one disburse until the detained brothers were released.
All the believers had gone outside. I was not among them. A KGB agent commanded the minister who had the certificate of pastor to convince the believers to disburse. He started to admonish, "You need to obey and disburse "
"If they do not let the detainees go, we will all go into the city to the police department" they communicated their intentions to the remaining responsible brothers.
"Disburse, or we will spray water!" Nearby stood a fire truck, having arrived for that purpose.
"Spray! There are many of your agents here "
The head of the KGB, afraid that the believers would stage a procession, gave orders that the detainees be brought to the house of prayer. After that, having prayed, the brothers and sisters went different directions in groups into the city and testified wherever they could about Christ.
Some time later I took time off work to carry out the ministry of cleansing and sanctification in the church. With Gods help and the participation of ministers of the CECB, this blessed ministry was completed.
In 1980, I was summoned to an interview with the religious affairs enforcement officer. Two brothers came with me.
"And what people are these?"
"These were sent by the church, my brothers."
"They must leave."
"If they leave, so will I."
"I need to speak with you alone."
"The entire church will know the course of our conversation. I keep no secrets from the people of God."
The enforcement agent was compelled to conduct the interview in the presence of the brothers. He presented familiar claims: Why were children present at church services? Why did youth travel around and preach? Why did we not value church registration?
There was one other stranger in the room.
"May I ask Boyko a few questions?" he addressed the enforcement officer. He consented.
The stranger asked several questions on a religious theme and I answered them.
"I ask you to grant a television interview."
"In that case, tell me--who are you?"
He gave his last name.
"Finally I have seen the person who wrote slanderous articles and said malicious things about me on television! I agree to grant an interview, but under one conditionthat we go on the air live."
"That will not pass "
"Why? I do not know what questions you will ask and you do not know what I will answer. Allow us to have an open conversation and people will sort things out."
"No!" he refused, "No!"
I knew that they would only allow on the television show what answered to the interests of the world directors of this century. Preachers trying to get on the air should consider thiseven if the preacher succeeds to convey 99% truth to people, 1% of lie from the side of the commentary is sufficient to confuse the listener.
After the disbursal of the youth gathering in our church the question came up about giving up registration, and it was very difficult to discuss. But when it was brought up for review and voted on in the members' meeting, only twelve people, known for a long time to the church for their disagreeable natures, were against it. The church made the irrevocable decision to give up registration.
Soon I was invited to a brothers meeting in Kharkov and when I returned, I was informed that the brothers council had decided every member of the church should put in writing their decision regarding giving up registration. I was amazed at such a malicious turn of events.
"How is that so?! We sought Gods blessing, prayed, and decided this question before the Lord, and now all of a sudden everything has been changed?"
They tried to convince me that suddenly ordinary church members might be summoned to the KGB and be frightened. If church members had not personally signed the statement, the KGB could say that the ministers were the ones who gave up the registration on their own initiative. Just as intended, although more than one hundred people signed, the brothers still hesitated to hand in the statement of refusal of registration and the registration papers themselves.
Meanwhile the foes all the more frequently and frequently began to summon me, this time to the city council, that time to the KGB. The special service agents with great force tried to persuade me to collaborate. But to all their arguments I answered, "No! Because it would not be pleasing to the Lord."
"Your church is registered autonomously. Why do you receive directives from the CEBC and subjugate yourselves to them? Why did they create the Council of Prisoners Relatives and why do you support its work?"
To such questions I gave such an answer, "This is an inner church matter which you should not invade "
More than once I was fined because children and youth were present at our church services.
Since I never went alone when summoned to the KGB, its agents resorted to shrewdness. As soon as I arrived at work, a mechanic told me, "Someone is waiting for you in the yard " I thought that one of the brothers had come and I went out. KGB agents beckoned me into a car and drove out onto Bebelya Street. The led me into an office. I prayed in my thoughts. One more agent entered. The conversation began.
"Nikolay Yerofeyevich! You are a Soviet man, a former secretary of the Komsomol organization, and you live in a port city to which various people come by sea, among whom could be spies. And your house of prayer is open to all. Help us. Understand, it is essential to us to work "
"I am a minister of the church. To look for spies is your job. It would be better for me to die than to become a Judas. You do your work and I will do mine."
"You must keep pace with us. There is nothing scary about this work," they assured me.
"I am a believer and you are atheists. It is impossible for us to keep pace with each other and I will not speak with you further on this topic."
"Remember from where you returned not long ago!" one of the agents pronounced in a rage.
"I have not yet managed to forget "
"Boyko! We will get rid of you!"
"Apart from Gods will not one hair will fall from my head "
"Do you know where you are?"
"At the KGB on Bebelya Street. I am in your hands. Arrest me. I am ready. I will only say this to youa revival in Russia is yet to come of which you have not the slightest imagination!"
"What?! A counterrevolution is underway?" raising himself up out of his armchair, the agent asked in alarm.
"God will send a spiritual revival and sinners such as you will repent!"
For several minutes the agents sat as if numb.
"Boyko! We will condemn you, but under a different article and you will never get out of prison!" he threatened and turning to the guard, said, "Lead him out of here!"
The guard led me out onto the street. I thanked the Lord and when I arrived at the church service, told the church about everything.
I realized that I had very little time of freedom left. Taking into consideration the threats of the KGB, I expected a cruel trick from them such as a sneaky act at the factory where I worked, and therefore I was watchful and prayed earnestly.
I did not have long to wait. Once I stepped in for duty on the night shift. The weather had warmed up so we turned the boilers on only just before morning. The whole night I read. In the morning I decided to light the boilers, but before doing so, I checked the condition they were in. I looked and there was no water visible through the glass of the water level window, meaning the boiler was empty. I opened the lower faucet and no water came out. I looked at the duty logthe signature of the previous worker was there but no note about the defects.
Checking the blow valves, I remembered that in a dark corner there was one other valve. I went over to it and it was completely dismantled!
I thought I would light up the second boiler, which had water. I lit it but the flame was straw-coloredthat boiler would never heat up. It was seven oclock! I needed to give steam to the factory but the arrow of the thermometer was falling drastically.
In an hour the responsible stoker came with the next shift worker and asked, "Why is there no pressure in the boilers?"
"One boiler is out of commission. Someone opened it and let the water out but did not make note of it in the log."
"Who let the water out? I will write up a report."
"Write it up. I do not know who let it out but I do not have the right to light an empty boiler."
It was clearly a trap. They thought that I would not check and would light up the empty boiler, which was on liquid fuel. As soon as you put a flame to it, all the pipes would melt down and the boiler could explode.
"And I cannot reach the needed temperature in the second boiler," I said to the responsible stoker.
"I will write up a report against you!"
"That is your business," I said to him and went into the shower-room. I took a shower, changed clothes, and returned to the boiler room. I looked in and saw that the responsible stoker and the next shift worker had already put the system back together, filled the boiler with water, and begun to heat it. I realized this had been the work of the responsible stokeralthough he was no expert, if he had not let the water out himself he would not have had the right to light the boiler without knowing the reason why it had been empty.
"On the bulletin board hangs a paper for you to write an explanation of why a shift of work at the factory was disrupted," the stoker told me.
"Not a shift, but only one hour (from seven until eight oclock in the morning)--I will not write anything."
I came for the next shift and was interested to know from my replacement, "How could that have happened?"
"Did you not understand? It was done specially to you. Not only did they let the water out of the boiler! What is more, the smoke ventilator on the second boiler was hooked up so that instead of pumping air out of the boiler and creating a vacuum, it was blowing into the boiler!"
"So that is why I could not light a good flame and raise it to the needed temperature!"
"You went home and I began to heat but there was no draw. I called in the electricians and they discovered that someone had switched the leads so the steam fan was running in the opposite direction."
I was even more convinced of the cruel trick intended, but I went to work.
Before lunch the supervisor of control gauge devices came and demanded I write an explanation.
"I will not write anything. If the director calls me in, I will speak with him myself."
An hour later the head mechanic came and also demanded an explanation. I did not agree. He wrote a memorandum against me to the director, who invited me and the mechanic into his office. I laid everything out in detail for him.
"Who gave the command to let the water out of the boiler?" he asked the mechanic.
"I did not give it," he answered.
"Then who did?"
"Boyko! After all, he is a water systems technician!"
"Vladimir Nikolayevich! They not only let out the water but also turned the ventilator backwards on the second boiler, so as to disrupt work at the factory."
The director asked the supervisor of control guage devices, "Did you give the command to switch the contacts?"
"Then who did?"
"Boyko! He is a master of all trades!"
"Vladimir Nikolayevich! Am I really such an enemy of myself that I would arrange a thing like this on my own shift?! Discern for yourself. Intentional sabotage is going on here and I will be compelled to turn to the commission on conflicts."
"Boyko, go back to work!" he let me go. I understood that the director had not been involved in this unpleasant story, which would have resulted in accidents and a trial for me if the Lord had not interceded for me and had not helped to reveal their intentions. Such schemes of the enemies continued right up until the arrest itself. But praise God, the Lord protected me in a marvelous way.
From the circumstances developing both in the church and at work, I understood I did not have long to be in freedom and therefore I hurried to do all the heavy work around the house, including replacing the rotting and sagging ceiling beams so that they would not come crashing down on the childrens heads. Having replaced the beams, I ended up renovating the ceiling and at the same time building a room where I could receive believers who came to me for personal counsel. The house was not large for a family of eight children and I had no place to go with those who desired to pray.
Only my own brother helped me in the construction. We raised the walls, tied them together with the beams, and put up the rafters. The work was in full swing when I was summoned to the KGB. I prayed that the Lord would give me time to finish the construction. After the interview, the KGB agents let me go.
Back to work again. One day we were plastering the ceiling with clay mixed with straw. Suddenly the dog began to bark fiercely. She never exploded like that at believers. That meant unfriendly strangers had come. My wife went to the gate. Then, turning around, she said with her voice shaking, "Nikolay, this is for you."
Uninvited guests--the religious affairs enforcement officer and KGB agents--entered the yard boldly, as if they had known us a long time.
"Hello!" they were first to begin the conversation. "How is the work going?"
"Praise God," I answered.
"You will not be together long," a KGB agent said quietly, coming up to my wife.
"Why?" guessing what the comment was about, my wife asked just to make certain.
"Soon we will separate "
"However the Lord is pleased "
"Are you a believer too?" asked the agent, pretending to show surprise although he well knew that my wife was a Christian.
"Yes, I am a believer too."
"You have so many children! What are you thinking?"
"As the Lord needs it to be, let Him lead us so."
Inner readiness to suffer for the Name of the Lord and full agreement with the will of God, whatever that may be, irritated the persecutors.
"What strange people you are?!" they said indignantly and left.
My wife closed the gate after them.
"What if they arrested you right now with the work not done," my wife began to worry.
"Valya, my dear! They will not take me until I completely finish building. Believe, and God will send us according to our faith. Let's pray." As I comforted my wife, I myself was comforted.
We knelt down in the unfinished room. Through the cracks between ceiling beams blue sky could be seen, where dwells the One Whom we love, Whom we serve, in Whom we firmly believe. He would hear our request. With Gods help I plastered and whitewashed the walls, laid the floor, installed and painted the window frames, and set the glass. The work was finished!
And only after that, on September 29, 1980, did they conduct a search during my absence in my home (and also in the homes of two other believers).
"Where is Nikolay Yerofeyevich?" a police agent insistently asked my wife.
"At our daughters," she answered hastily and later greatly regretted it. At the time I was working with my son-in-law in their greenhouse. I watched as a police car drove up.
"Boyko, we need you for a short time. Lets go."
"To Suvorovsk Raion." Praying, I went with them.
At first they brought me to the police department, then to the public prosecutor's where they filed for an arrest warrant and placed me in an interrogation cell.
For the church and for my family, although my second arrest was not unexpected, nevertheless it was sorrowful. A church members' meeting was held the very next day at which the unanimous decision was made to refuse registration because the bodies of power were only using it to break up and suffocate the church. To the written statement refusing registration, the Peresip church attached the minutes of the members meeting and the documents of registrationthe certificate of the church leader and the certificate of the executive body. The statement was cosigned by the founding members of the fellowship who had earlier signed to receive this sinful registrationit held signatures of the members of the executive body of the fellowship (three members), the members of the auditing commission (two members), and fifteen members of the committee of twenty. Copies were sent to the Leninsk regional executive committee, to the Odessa Oblast religious affairs enforcement officer, to the Council of Evangelical Baptist Churches, and to the Council of Prisoners' Relatives of Evangelical Christian Baptists sentenced in the USSR.
In the first interrogation session I explained to the interrogator that I would not answer questions about the church or about my fellow believers and that I would not sign any minutes of the interrogation. I asked him to make note that I did not need an attorney. I would openly testify to whomever would ask me something referring to personal convictions and my personal dependence on God.
"Boyko, understand that you are required to give me evidence," insisted the interrogator.
"About the inner life of the church, about the ministry of the brotherhood, about who came to visit me and where I met with believerssuch questions I categorically refuse to answer. That would be pure treason."
The persecutors were interested precisely in those very questions but I kept silent. In time my case was transferred to a different interrogator and I did not answer him anything either. The senior interrogator advised him in my presence, "Put more pressure on Boyko."
"Then I will not answer any questions whatsoever."
"We will sentence you anyway!"
"That is your business."
The new interrogator addressed me excessively harshly. Because I did not enter into any conversation with him, the case was given to a third interrogator to handle. He had hardly even summoned me for interrogation when he closed the file.
With the interrogation finished, they brought me to meet the defense attorney.
"At the very beginning of the investigation I made it known that I am not in need of defense. My defender is God and the Holy Spirit," I explained to the attorney and he left.
A few days later they again assigned me an attorneya woman.
"Soon the court process will begin. I am your attorney."
"Pardon me, but I repeatedly explained that I am not in need of defense."
"Do not be afraid, Boyko. I will defend you."
"Tell me, are you a Communist?"
"Even if you sincerely want to defend me, they will not allow it."
"Why? I am familiar with your first court process. You defended yourself not badly."
"I am a believing person and I do not wish anything bad for you. If you will defend me honestly, then after the trial you will no longer have work as an attorney. Have you considered this?"
And I told her how they fired the academic director of the school because at an interview, in accordance with the grades in the record book, she reported the positive character of my children.
"Why?" she was amazed.
"Because a battle with believers is underway in our country on a government level."
"I cannot refusethey require it of me," she admitted.
"They will sentence me anyway and instead of being my defense, you will be my second prosecutor."
"Boyko! I very much ask you that when the trial begins you write a written refusal. I will be very grateful to you "
The factory where I worked was not conducive to accommodating a large number of people so the trial was held in the clubroom of the Odessa cable factory. I was led into the meeting hall from the rear entrance. When I entered I knelt among the chairs and prayed.
KGB agents, police, and the administration and Communist workers of our factory all found places in the hall. Fifteen people sat in the hall, designed with seven hundred seats. None of my family or friends were among them.
The judge, the public prosecutor, and the public plaintiff entered. The judge began to read out the charges.
I asked, "Citizen judge! Tell me please, is my trial open?"
"It is open."
"Why are my wife, children, and witnesses not here?"
"No one came to your trial!" the public prosecutor lied shamelessly.
"Then how will you sentence me without witnesses?"
"That is none of your business!" snapped the judge fiercely and self-confidently.
"In that case, I refuse to participate in the trial."
"You have that right."
"At the entrance I saw several people desiring to be present at the trial."
"I went out on the streetno one was there!" added the public prosecutor.
The judge had already read half the list of witnesses when the door opened and I heard the crying of my daughter.
"My dear Papa!" my daughter said, entering through the opened door. "Many friends came to your trial. The police are not allowing anyone in, even Mama."
"The public prosecutor announced that no one was at the door and I refused trial," I answered my daughter.
"Boyko! Be seated in one of the empty places in the hall," the judge offered my daughter.
Of the enumerated list of witnesses only one person responded. A recess was announced.
At that point my wife, the children, and several brothers and sisters entered the hall.
The trial continued. Of nineteen witnesses, only two came.
"Do you know the accused?" the judge proceeded with cross-examination.
"I know him. We were sent as deputies to their house of prayer. People were singing there and reciting poems, and Boyko led in anti-Soviet propaganda."
"How did they call the accused?" asked the judge.
"There they called him Father Nikolay." The evidence of the second witness was analogous.
"The accused! Do you have questions for the witnesses?"
"I explained to the court that I would not participate in the process."
Because of the absence of witnesses, that day the judge announced five recesses and then carried the session over to the next day.
As it turned out, the trial had been announced for December 22nd and the summons they sent out reflected that date. In danger that many believers would come to the trial, they decided to begin it four days early. At the end of the first day of the trial, they drove around to all the witnesses and invited them to come December 19th.
I did not participate in the court process on the second day either, although many Communists and my fellow believers were present. I also refused to give a speech in my defense, nor a final word, although I was well prepared to do so.
The children were crying. A guard soldier was confused, "Why are you crying?! Your father will not be convicted of anything! Now he will be released and still bring your behavior around with a belt " When the sentence was readfive years deprivation of freedom to be served out in strict regime camps and five years exile according to Article 138 part 2 and Article 209 part 1 of the Ukrainian Codex of the USSRthat soldier threw his hands to his head in horror
Daughter Lyuba Boyko remembers:
Papa smiled when he heard the verdict. We threw him live flowers: "Papa! These are to you for your faithfulness!" The believers present in the courtroom sang lustily, "Living for Jesus, with Him to die "
This message from friends, and especially the song, stirred my heart and served as a great encouragement. The courtroom ceiling was high and the acoustics were magnificent! My friends sang from the depths of their souls. The panel of judges disappeared as if none of them had ever been there. To my right and left stood guard soldiers; the chief of guard (a captain) paced nervously near the podium. The police and KGB agents stood and listened as if stunned. None of those present left the courtroomthe singing resounded. The soldiers took me under my arms. Flowers fell on me and on them. How many flowers there were! The singing still did not come to an end. The captain quietly gave the command to the guard and they led me to the fire escape stairs. We went down them from the second floor. A "voronok" ("raven"--black KGB vehicle) stood ready. As soon as we were seated in it, it took off.
I was taken with such speed to prison that we were in danger of an accident. When I got out of the "voronok," the chief of guard stood pale as wax. Obviously he was bewildered, finding himself for the first time in such a situationflowers, singing, greetings.
Within moments it became known in the prison that some Baptist had been sentenced in Persip and that after the verdict "they threw flowers and sang a revolutionary religious song."
From prison I sent two appeals to the Odessa Oblast court. The court sentence remained in effect and by March 8, 1981, I was already in transit.
Daughter Lyuba Boiko remembers:
On March 8, sixty youth from the Persip church came to the Odessa-Malaya station. We searched out the "stolipinsk" (high-security) train car with prisoners and began to knock and call out lustily, "Papa! Papa!" A soldier looked out.
"Does your father have eight children?"
"Yes!" we answered in chorus.
"Who are all the rest?"
The soldier told Papa that we were standing outside the train car. Papa asked to go up closer to his son Pavel and was able to speak with him a little.
"Uncle Kolya! What shall we buy you for the trip?" friends asked me. I requested something sweet. They brought it and gave it to the chief of guard but he did not pass any of it on to me.
The prisoners in the train car were interested to know, "Are you that same Uncle Kolya to whom flowers were thrown at the trial?"
"Tell your youth to sing that song they sang in the courtroom."
And so the youth sang, "Living for Jesus "
"Sing some more!" the prisoners asked. The hymn began to ring out, "Christian, bear your wonderful flame "
Daughter Lyuba Boyko recalls:
The "stolipinsk" (high-security) train wagon began to draw up to the passenger platform and joined up to the Odessa-to-Kharkov train. Police officers did not allow anyone onto the platform next to the prison train car. But the Lvov train drew up to the neighboring platform. Many people congregated around. We could once more come close to the wagon where Papa was. We knocked, but the Kharkov train set out In farewell, Papa said, "Be careful, children! Remain with God!"
The prisoners saw how the police drove the youth away from first one side of the train car, then the other. They heard the singing, and friends continued singing until the train left.
"Who are you, a teacher?"
"I believe in God and I bear the ministry of a pastor." Christian youth from our fellowship were outside the train car. "Tell me--where am I being sent?"
And so left behind were Odessa, the dear church, and my family while aheadthe unknown, which God would direct.
And then we came to the first stop at the Razdelniy station. I looked out the windowmy daughter was coming running with friends! They had succeeded in reaching this place by car in order to see me and to say goodbye one more time. They ran along the platform waving their hands, "Uncle Kolya, goodbye!"
"Just look!" the prisoners were delighted. "They even made it here!"
I managed to tell my friends only that I was in transit to Khabarovsk.
We arrived in Kharkov. A prisoner (a senior in the criminal world) warned, "Compatriots! Whoever is going to the Far East, see to it that no one lifts a finger against Uncle Kolya! Is that clear?" And I, as the baton in a relay, was passed from one transit prison to another. Everywhere I went the prisoners gave orders not to hurt me and told how the youth had seen me off with singing.
I had many conversations with the prisoners in the transit prisons. Several prisoners specifically incited against me were brought into our cell and they demanded that I come over to them.
"Do not go anywhere!" the transit prisoners that knew me did not let me go.
"Hey you, priest! Stop your sermons! Come on over here and we will talk with you!"
"If you do not like them, do not listen," the boys answered for me, "and Uncle Kolya is not coming over to you."
However much they tried, it was useless. The Lord demonstrated his protection to me through the prisoners and no one could cause me harm. Praise be to Him!
The transit prisoners arrived at the village of Start in Khabarovskiy Krai (twenty-seven kilometers from the city of Komsomolsk-na-Amure).
Having become familiar with my case, the head officer of the colony, Lazutkin, cynically inquired further:
"So, you believe in God?! Here with us, you will cease to believe! We will break you."
"They wanted to break me in my youth but could not. I am a convinced Christian and will not break."
"They didnt try breaking you with the villains in this den of thieves! You will go to the SHIZO (punishment cell) and to the PKT (inner dungeon) and from there we will carry you up to the cemetery and on the marker write, Here lies Boyko!"
"Do not threaten me with death, for I believe in immortality Force is the utmost sign of your powerlessness."
"We shall see!" the officer glared ominously.
Back in the barracks I prayed to God, "Lord, You see their threats and You know that I fast on Wednesdays for the families of the prisoners, on Fridays together with the whole brotherhood, and now I ask, give me strength on Sundays to fast that they would not break me. It would be better for me to die than to break. I want to stay faithful to You till death "
The village of Start was truly a special zone where they did break prisoners. In contrast to other camps where they held one political lecture a week, here they had five! And if a prisoner were absentfifteen days in the SHIZO. On the third day I ended up in a punishment cell where the walls, floor, and ceiling were concrete. Before entering, they force you to completely undress and sit up and down ten times. They check your ears and force you to open your mouth in case you might have hidden something! You hand over the clothes in which you came and you put on those that have lain for years in the box by the entrance to the punishment cell. They are completely infested with vermin. As soon as I put them on, lice started crawling onto my body. On the front, back, and just above the knees of these special clothes the big letters SHIZO were written.
They barely feed you with six hundred grams of bread and some boiling water; they give you hot food every other day. Sometimes it so happened that the day they gave hot food was a day I was fasting and I did not eat, so the whole week I lived on dry fare.
As I entered the cell, I warned the prisoners that I was going to pray so they would not think that I was ill and would not pull me up off my knees as once happened.
I survived the first fifteen days and did not go to the next scheduled political lecture. The division officer wrote up a report. The political indoctrination deputy summoned all the division officers (there were seventeen in the camp), the operations enforcement officer, and the head of the regime division. They literally fired questions at me and compelled me to write an explanation. Usually I wrote something like this, "The explanation of Boyko, unlawfully sentenced according to Articles 138 and 209 of the Ukrainian Codex of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. I am a committed Christian " and so on.
After the interview they wrote a new order for fifteen days. Thus began my wanderings from punishment cell to punishment cell.
Walking up once to my cell, an officer asked with a venomous smile:
"How are you doing, Boyko?"
"I live on, chewing bread, drinking boiled water, and still praising God!"
He shut the door in a rage. Most frightening for them was when a person did not get discouraged in suffering because then they understood their own powerlessness.
"What are you living on, Boyko?" a different officer once asked me.
"In the Bible it is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God' (Matt. 4:4)."
That one left too, angrily slamming shut the "kormushka" (feeding window). My torturers were not successful because the Lord strengthened me to bear everything with patience.
The Lord showed me that if they broke me, the exact same highly perfected verbal attacks would be turned against all the sincere imprisoned ministers. I asked the Lord for strength rather to die faithful, but not to be broken. He heard my prayer and gave me the strength of spirit to stand until death. In those difficult years I sensed in my heart the prayers of Gods children of the entire brotherhood, which were raised for me to the throne of God.
They placed me in the "presskhat" ("press-hut"), a separate cell within the punishment cell where they put those who had not been broken in the SHIZO. In this cell are prisoners, wards of the administration, specially prepared to hound and maliciously insult others.
As soon as I entered the "hut," the prisoners working for the administration started to pick at me. In the cell across the hall, the prisoners heard my voice and started to tap out a few words in code.
"Uncle Kolya, how did you end up here?"
"I dont know."
"And who over there is raising their voice at you?"
"I dont know who is here."
"Comrade! Answer--who is sitting over there?" they demanded from the cell opposite.
Three responded, but the one who had been especially picking at me and had threatened me was silent. After the prisoners from the cell opposite threatened him, he gave his nickname.
"Fly! If you touch Uncle Kolya with so much as a finger, well take your head off," they yelled at him in their own jargon.
Fly was subdued immediately. The prisoners asked me questions and I answered them, but Fly made me be quiet.
"When the questions stop, I will be quiet. As it is, I am obligated to answer."
The Lord here also protected me from the criminal world.
The following fifteen days I was placed in Cell #10 with its massive walls. It was impossible to converse with anyonenothing could be heard. There were two people in the cell and a third was brought later. All the youths were of a strong build.
Some time later the officer opened the door of the cell. In his hands he held a petition from believers.
"Get lost, you! You robbed people in the church and now they are writing petitions about it!"
"Citizen officer! If I had robbed believers, would they really be interceding on my behalf? If I had taken something from someone, even a penny, then the KGB would use it to its fullest extent against me."
The officer left and the young men drew near with questions. Toward evening they started to pester more. I was continually abiding in prayer.
The punishment cell was cold. The young men were in warm clothing and warmed themselves by sitting together, but I had on only the cotton SHIZO clothing and I was chilled. At night they gave me no peace, walking up to me and wanting to beat me furiously, but their fists hung in the air at a distance of forty or fifty centimeters above me. God stopped themin this I saw the special protection of my Heavenly Father, Who protected me according to the prayers of Gods people.
I came out of the punishment cell exhausted, unshaven, and dirty. In the SHIZO, they refuse all of these favors.
The head of the thieves cant met me.
"Uncle Kolya, were you in the press-hut again? How did they treat you? Was it difficult?"
"This time it was very difficult "
"Who was in with you?"
"They were let out before I was."
A young prisoner walked by in front of us. He called him over.
"Walk over to Barracks #10 and call Sasha." The young man left and the thief continued, "Our boys say that it is good to sit in the punishment cell with youthe time passes quickly in conversation "
While we were talking, Sasha walked up. Seeing me, he became flustered.
"Which cell were you in?" the thief started in on him.
"In number ten with Uncle Kolya."
"Well, and what were you up to there?"
Sasha turned imploringly toward me, "Uncle Kolya! Uncle Kolya, really nothing "
"So there you were a hero and here?"
Other prisoners walked up. Turning to the thief and to him, I asked, "Boys, I beg you, do not beat him. He himself understands "
"Uncle Kolya, this is none of your business! You just came out of the punishment cellgo and rest."
In 1983, I ended up back the prison zone of the village of Start. This Sasha himself told me that they gave him a good licking anyway and he asked my forgiveness.
The camp administration was unable to break me in the simple punishment cell, or in the "press-hut," or by the prisoners turned specially against me who feared the thieves more than the administration. Therefore they decided to place me in a punishment cell with the villains, but bring me out for work each day.
"This means that Uncle Kolya will supply us with something to smoke!" the boys were overjoyed.
"I am a believer," I repeated the phrase well known to them. "Bread or something edible I can bring in any amount, but drugs or something to smoke I will never bring because this is sin and I cannot be a participant in sin."
"Why do we have someone like this in our cell!" the boys began to make noise but I was praying earnestly.
"You know, this believer in God is an Odessite," a prisoner began to tell about me, and they divided in their opinions.
"Boys, understand that the administration specially placed me with you. They did not break me in the 'press-hut' so now they want to accomplish this through your hands."
"Are you sure? What would our chief say to us then!" several were frightened. "Why would we help them break a believer?! It would be better if we obtained our warmers (food, things to smoke, narcotics) by some other means if only no harm be done to Uncle Kolya by our hands."
"Very well!" they agreed. "Whatever food you can bring, bring."
Wake-up call was at six in the morning. That very day I left my share of bread in the cell and on days I was fasting I gave virtually everything away and went to work. When I met the head thief in the zone, I explained what the administration intended to do. "I will bring the boys bread, but not things to smoke, nor narcotics. If I sin, then Gods protection will not be over me and then they will break me." He listened to me and asked his friends not to involve me in bringing anything except bread. I brought in three or four portions of bread during the fifteen days, when the duty guard was kind.
And so they were unable to break me through those villains. I understood that God was protecting me according to the prayers of His people. In the punishment cell especially I sensed the effectiveness of the prayers of the saints. God visited me with such joy that I even wept in delight. The Holy Spirit lifted up the prayers of the redeemed to God and He strengthened my heart from heaven so that I never grew discouraged.
Daughter Lyuba Boyko recalls:
There were no letters from Papa for three months. In September we went to the Far East to find out whether he were alive. We came to Komsomolsk-na-Amure and on to the village of Start. They told us they would not give us a meeting with him because Papa "was behaving badly and had sat the entire summer in the SHIZO."
"Why didn't you answer our inquiry?" we inquired of the head officer. "We knew that our father was being eaten by lice."
"There are no lice! The prisoners are eating well!"
"If you do not give us a meeting with our father, we will complain to the Central Administration of Camps in Moscow."
"Here come some unescorted prisoners--ask them whatever you want. They will tell you that he is even eating meat."
"If a prisoner answers that he has not seen meat, then the next day he will go to the SHIZO! Show us our father so that we can see what condition he is in."
"Well, what do you think? Shall we bring women into the camp?" the head officer asked the political indoctrination deputy.
"What are you talking about! They will laugh at us!"
"Come tomorrow and we will decide this question."
In the morning we arrived. The administration immediately deliberated the grounds for this.
"If Boyko is not in the SHIZO, give him a meeting of twenty to thirty minutes," ordered the head officer to the political indoctrination deputy.
"Boyko is in the SHIZO!"
"Grant it anyway or they will complain."
While in that camp I received neither letters nor postcardssuch pressure was placed on me to break me. But I responded to it all in the way that I should, knowing that the Lord was overseeing everything.
I emerged from the punishment cell. As I was being led out for work, I was immediately summoned to the head officer.
"Your children came to see you. In answer to their persistence, I permit you a twenty-minute meeting."
And I was straight from the punishment cellunshaven, unwashed.
Daughter Lyuba Boiko recalls:
We came to the admission control point and we talked to Papa with a telephone from the other side of the glass. We wanted to come closer but they yelled at us, "Forbidden!" Papa took off his cap and prayed. We prayed on our side. They had just brought him out of the SHIZO. Papa asked a little about the church and about home.
"Papa, there has been no news whatsoever from you. In the church they told us, Go, and do not return until you see your father.' We have been here several days already. Papa, is it true that there are many lice in the punishment cell? The camp head said that you are eating meat here and that there are no lice."
Papa turned down the collar of his undershirthe was black from blood and dirt. His entire body was bitten by lice In the punishment cells it is half dark and they do not allow glasses into the punishment cell. Without glasses, Papa could not see the lice to kill them. The lice bit him so badly that no healthy spot could be seen
The head officer, in violation of the law, eavesdropped our conversation. Unable to endure it, he opened the door and entered.
"Where is your truth?! Look, our father is being eaten by lice!" we were indignant.
"Such is Boyko! I, being a humane person, allowed you a meeting so that your children could see you, and you are displaying the camp conditions before them?!" he assailed Papa and drove us out.
My saddened children left the room. The camp head got even more worked up.
"So you are slandering the Soviet authority?!"
"Where is it?"
"What do you mean, Where is it? I am the Soviet authority!"
Pulling my shirt off over my head, I went up close to him.
"Look for yourself and be convinced that this is not slander!"
The head officer, seeing the lice, squeamishly jumped back from me.
"As long as you are in the Far East, Boyko, we will not grant any meetings!" he threatened.
The head officer kept his malicious wordin that camp I had no more meetings with family.
Nine times I was placed in the refrigerated cell, the walls of which were covered with ice. The ninth time I became extremely chilled. The temperature was raised but I was breathing with difficulty. When the fifteen days were up, I went to the health centerpneumonia. An x-ray confirmed the diagnosis. For three days I was off from work.
I had just come out of the health center when I was summoned to headquarters over the loudspeaker. I prayed and went. A report had been written against meI had not been at the political lecture.
"Boykofifteen days in the punishment cell!"
"Well, but "
The head of the regime division, Major Maksimenko, wrote up a statement and ordered me to the SHIZO.
"Citizen officer! I had a fever and was let off work "
"I know, but you are not being let off from the punishment cell!" he announced with rather inhumane harshness.
"I have pneumonia! According to the law, you are required to cure a person first and then place him in the punishment cell."
"Boyko! We need you to die sooner!" he pronounced, satisfied with his own cynicism.
The cell door opened. I was searched as usual. I changed into the SHIZO clothing and the door slammed shut. Although it was a single-person cell it already held two people. I warned them that I was a believer and needed to pray. After I prayed, I told them that I was sick, and yes, they saw my condition.
That evening I prayed for healing and the next morning repeated my request to the Lord. Toward evening, my fever broke and I felt completely normal. The Lord had healed me! I rejoiced and thanked God.
I spent the fifteen days and, as soon as I was let out, I was sent immediately for an x-ray. They did not find pneumonia.
"How could this happen?!" the doctors were amazed.
"I have a PhysicianHe is the Physician of all physicians! He is Christ! He healed me!"
I went to the barracks and wrote a letter to my family and also to the Council of Prisoners Relatives about how the camp administration had set forth their intentions to destroy me in the camp. A petition from the church immediately came directly to the camp and to other echelons of power.
Shortly thereafter, two majors from the political department arrived at the camp. I was summoned to headquarters over the loudspeaker.
"Boyko, are you a believer?" they asked.
"You are not allowed to come up with factitious illnesses to get out of work!"
"Pardon me, but believers do not do such thingsthat would be sin."
"We checked the health center recordsthey gave you neither oral nor injectable medication and yet you came out of the punishment cell healthy, when others earned themselves tuberculosis there. Petitions are being sent that we are terrorizing you in the camp, but you are completely healthy?!"
Raising my hand toward Heaven, I said, "I have a PhysicianHe is the Physician of all physicians! He is Christ! He raised the dead! What is my pneumonia to Him?"
"Are you actually convinced that God exists?"
"I am convinced and I know that God exists!"
"The Bible contains so many contradictionshow can you believe such fables?"
"I have yet to meet people condemned because they believe the Krilov fables. If the Bible were a fable, then what kind of fable is it that people would be sentenced for it, and what is more, repeatedly for lengthy terms?! The fact of the matter is that when reading the Bible, one needs to have faith. Faith is the key to contact with God and His Word."
(Later I wrote a poem on this theme, the last verse of which is as follows:
We all come home through a door
Instead of breaking through walls with the brow of the head.
So is the Bible without faith:
You might read it for centuries and not understand it.)
After this conversation, the major from the political division called over the head officer to consult with him. "Listen, Lazutkin, when you are enrolling Boyko for the punishment cell, do not invite all the regular soldiers or that Boyko will change their minds and draw your own officers into his sect."
And sure enough, when preparing to send me to the SHIZO they did not summon any more regular soldiers.
In less than a six month period I sat in the punishment cell ten times for fifteen days at a time, during the cold season of the year. Twice I nearly froze in the SHIZO. I was unable to sleep more than thirty to forty-five minutes in a twenty-four-hour period. When two or three others were in the cell, we sat back to back and that way warmed each other just a little.
If a prisoner is placed in the SHIZO many times in a row, his body does not withstand and he becomes ill. But the Lord strengthened me. More important than anything is not ones physical strength, but his spiritual. I became very thin but by Gods mercy did not surrender.
Lazutkin summoned me again and threatened:
"If you do not fall in stride with the camp administration, we will spread such things about you through the whole camp that the prisoners themselves will kill you! Then you will come running to us to save you!"
"Citizen officer! The prisoners are not of inferior psyche to youthey perceive a person quickly. Even if you succeed in turning the entire camp against me and I die, I will not come running to you for deliverance because I am already saved in Christ. For me, death is not the end of life but rather the end of suffering and a transfer into eternal blessedness. You would do better to think about yourselveswhat awaits you after death."
"Go with your God to the punishment cell! We will find something for which to sentence you! Know that you will not leave this place alive!"
The prisoners, knowing how the head officer was treating me, respected me even more for my steadfastness.
I was back in the punishment cell againCell #6. I had been here more than once before. In time a knock came from Cell #5.
"Uncle Kolya, are you there?"
"They are fabricating a new case against you. They want to sentence you for the mutiny that the prisoners organized. They say that you were the instigator of the uprising."
"Did you ever see me among them?"
"No. I so much as told them, Leave me alone!' and for that I ended up in the punishment cell. Uncle Kolya, the public prosecutor from Komsomolsk-na-Amure is in the camp right now. They are calling in many people, trying to somehow open a case against you."
I remembered Lazutkins threat, "We will sentence you under such an article that you will never leave here!" According to the law, a person could be condemned to death by the firing squad for instigating an uprising, and if not to death, then to twelve to fifteen years of strict regime camp.
I was speaking across the hall to one prisoner when I heard them knocking from Cell #5. "Uncle Kolya! They summoned me and pressured me to give evidence that you were the instigator of the uprising."
"Of what uprising?" I ascertained.
"A group of people gathered behind the showers wanting to orchestrate an uprising. The organization of it is being ascribed to you."
"Were you there?" I clearly articulated my question.
"I was walking past and they grabbed me and brought me in to the public prosecutor's. They summoned others as well."
"Did you see me there?" I repeated the question.
"No! Bratva said, Whoever slanders Uncle Kolya, we will take his head off!'"
I knew that two false witnesses would be sufficient to open a criminal case against me and to sentence me to a new term. Thanks be to Godnot a single prisoner signed the minutes of the interrogation and entered into the treachery.
For the eleventh time I was sent for fifteen days in the SHIZO, but because they had not succeeded in opening a new case against mebecause they could not find false witnesses and also because petitions came in from the churches and also from abroad--I did not serve out the end of my term and I was sent into transit.
But the date was not a scheduled transit day. A military vehicle was ordered, and three soldiers with automatics. Under guard I was driven first to Komsomolsk-na-Amure and from there to Khabarovsk.
I entered a cell of the Khabarovsk transit prison. Having forewarned the prisoners, I prayed. The conversations began with peopleone would leave and others would come.
With one transit group arrived an unusual prisoner by the nickname of Dzhem. He was tall and well-built. Everyone bustled about in the cell, freeing up lower bunks and setting the table. I continued talking with the prisoners; he listened the whole time but without asking about anything.
In a few days, prisoners who had arrived from the Baltics were brought in. Among them were physicians and teacherspeople outwardly pious and educated. They asked me many questions, and not simple ones. God gave wisdom to answer them on the basis of the Holy Scriptures. They parted with their objections and agreed with the Biblical arguments.
To that same cell, a prisoner from the camp in the village of Start was brought. Dzhem began to ask him about me.
"Do you know how long Uncle Kolya has already spent in prison for faith in God?! They terrorized him terribly in Starthe practically never emerged from the SHIZO." Dzhem listened attentively and then came up to me.
"Uncle Kolya, what sort of sufferer are you?"
"A usual one, just a Christian."
"Evangelical Christian Baptist."
"I am also a Christian, but Orthodox."
Dzhem asked questionsboth sarcastic and serious. I did not pay any attention to the sarcastic ones but answered the serious ones from the Scriptures.
"You are answering as if you are reading!" Dzhem flattered me.
"I do not think it uprather I say what is written in the Bible."
"You do not have a Bible with you."
"It is in my heart."
"Comrades," exclaimed Dzhem to the prisoners, "if all people were like Uncle Kolya, life on earth would be different." Later, he turned to me and said, "I love you like my own father, although I do not remember my own father. I respect people like you."
Another day, the guard read out through the open "kormushka" the list of surnames of prisoners being transferred; I was among them. The "kormushka " slammed shut and the guard walked away. Dzhem went up to the door and knocked. The guard came back.
"Where are you sending Boyko?" Dzhem glanced authoritatively at me.
"That is secret!"
Dzhem was the chief outlaw in the Far East. He was known by prisoners and the administration, which was actually somewhat afraid of him. The guard knew that revenge might be taken so he indicated that I was being sent to Zone #13, to the village of Zaozerniy.
Dzhem sat at the table writing a note and gave it to a prisoner also being transferred. He so skillfully hid the note thatwell, no search could ever find it.
Zone #13 was not far from Khaborovsk. When I arrived, the administration spoke a long time to me, clarifying who I was and how they would break me. Toward the end they had an idea, "Boyko! You will work in Division #8 and sleep in Division #5."
That evening after supper a young man came up to me.
"Are you Uncle Kolya from Odessa?"
"Are you a believer in God?"
He signaled with his hand to the boys and they placed a bowl of cereal in front of me, well-flavored with butter.
"Eat it, Uncle Kolya!"
"What is this privilege for?"
"Dzhem sent us a note, You are chiefly responsible for Uncle Kolya as for my own father! Support him and see to it that no one hurts him!'"
Since being in the punishment cell, I could not eat rich foodI would feel sick.
"Boys, please understand I cannot eat this much."
"Uncle Kolya, Dzhem will take our heads off. Please understand us and eat as much as you can."
"Very well, but next time do not add so much butter."
The first Wednesday in Zone #13 was the day for political lectures. I told the division officer that I would not go and explained why. He passed it on to the political indoctrination deputy, who passed it on to the colony head, but he did not call me in.
A new transfer group arrived to the zone. One of the prisoners who arrived handed me a neatly folded letter from Dmitriy Vasilyevich Minyakov! I was ecstatic when I read it! As it turned out, I had been transferred out and Dmitriy Vasilyevich had been brought into that cell. When he found out that I had been there, he nearly wept. Dzhem comforted him, "Write a letter to Uncle Kolya and I will deliver it by my postal service!" And Dzhem kept his worda letter from that dear brother and prisoner of Christ was handed to me, for which I was deeply thankful to the Lord.
In Zone #13 in Zaozerniy, where I was sent, the entire camp was structured around attendance at political lectures. I stood in the ranks but did not go with everyone else.
"Boyko!" the political indoctrination deputy called me over. "Go to school."
"I will not go to the political lectures."
"I want to speak personally to you."
"I agree," I answered and, praying in my thoughts, I went. He led me into an empty classroom, sat behind the table, and looked intently at me.
"Boyko, have you noticed that I have not once approached the rank in which you are, up until this point when they forced me to do so because of you? I met with the political indoctrination deputy from the camp in the village of Start and found out who you were and have not troubled you. I am not about to try to change your mind. They already worked with you in Start and you remained true to your convictions. I ask of you one thingdo not impose your convictions on any of the prisoners and do not forbid them to come to the political lectures."
"I have never done that and I am not about to do so. But if I am asked in Whom I believe, that is about Christ, I will testify alike to KGB agents, camp administration, and prisoners."
For three hours we talked about various topics. I even told him in miniature Gods plan of salvation.
The two months I was in Zaozerniy no one forced me to attend the political lectures. One of the sympathizing officers even brought me a commentary on the Criminal Code of Correctional Labor Institutions indicating that failure to attend political lectures was not a violation of the regime. Despite this, the question was continually raised to the camp administration, "Why is Boyko not spending time in your punishment cell?" The KGB agents, knowing that the officers were inclined toward my side, urgently transferred me to the closed zone of the city of Sovgavan.
While I was still in Zaozerniy, my wife asked me in a letter to apply in writing to be granted a visit because so far I had not spent time in the punishment cell in that camp. The visit was permitted but the day before that date I was specially sent into transit so that I would not meet up with my family.
At the appointed time, two of my daughters arrived in Zaozerniy. The head of the operations division, recognizing them, announced:
"Your father was taken away just yesterday "
"How can that be?! We traveled across the entire country and our father is gone?" my daughters wept. "Where was he sent?"
"To Sovgavan. You should keep in mind that that city is closed and you cannot get in without a pass "
"How can that be?" my children asked through their tears.
"I am going to management just now and can ask advice where to turn. If you want, you can go with me."
My daughters went to management and were asked to wait in a corridor opposite an office. While they sat there, someone came out and slammed the door so hard that it opened again and one could hear the head of management speaking with someone on the telephone.
"If we grant Boyko a meeting, what will the KGB say?! We will have no leg to stand on! Boyko and Minyakov are the most fearsome criminals "
Sometime later my daughters were invited into the office and categorically informed, "Go home! There will be no meeting!"
"We have not seen our father for so longare you really so uncompassionate? Then when will a meeting be allowed!"
No matter how much they begged, it was useless. Overwhelmed with grief, in tears, they went to the train station and for a long time could not calm down. People could not help but notice them and asked what was wrong. One of the passengers, out of sympathy, promised to drive them into Sovgavan and did drive them! But a meeting was refused anyway. In tears and sadness they drove back to Khabarovsk.
Specifically after these events in Sovgavan, I underwent a heart attack and was registered as level one disabled. Greatly weakened, I walked slowly from the prison hospital to the barracks. The political indoctrination deputy, seeing me, decided to add to my grief. He probably thought that a new heart attack would be the last for me.
"Boyko, your children came to see you but because a meeting was not allowed for you, we sent them home," he said and looked long and testingly at me, waiting to see how I would react to such news.
"Do you think that your harsh response left a good impression in the hearts of my children?! Wherever they stay, they will tell believers about your cruelty."
I entered the barracks with a heavy heart but the Lord comforted me with a postcard from my children from Khabarovsk. "Dear Papa, try to get a meeting. We will not leave until we receive an answer from you," they wrote.
I returned to the head officer but he did not even want to listen. "Not allowed!" Thus my children went home with nothing.
In Sovgavan I met up with Dzhem. When the prisoners returned from work, Dzhem gathered about seventy prisoners and warned, "Comrades! This is the Uncle Kolya of whom I was telling you. Quickly get him a mattress from the storeroom in the depository and place it on a lower level bunk!"
In all the camps I had always slept on the upper bunks. In the camp in the village of Start, I was forced with my swollen feet to climb up anyway, although they knew about my hypertension and heart disease. "First you will attend political lectures and then we will find you a place below!"
Dzhem was soon released. I asked my wife to send him a Bible, and a New Testament for me. Valya sent them and Dzhem passed the New Testament on to me by his connections.
Soon several people in the camp turned to God and new wrath and anger poured from the administration. I was placed in the punishment cell.
Daughter Lyuba Boiko recalls:
Later Papa obtained a general meeting and sent passes to Mama and to me. For four and a half hours we talked with Papa across the table. They even permitted us to pass food on to Papa and he ate some of it. He looked a little better than in the village of Start but he did not hide from us that he was suffering from hypertension. "If you knew how badly my head ached "
He was also sad because just before the meeting many of his precious notes had been confiscated and his boots stolen.
The prisoners, despite pressure from the administration, treated Papa well. After the meeting he went to work. The boys immediately noticed that he was sad and found out the reason.
One of the prisoners told the duty soldier, "If Uncle Kolya does not have his notes and boots by evening, we will take your head off!"
That evening, new boots sat next to Papas bed. And his notebook was found in the snow near headquarters and brought to him.
We had one other meeting while Papa was in Sovgavan. We arrived in accordance to the invitation but waited seven days for the meeting. Papa clapped his hands in the camp, and we, waiting and longing, prayed next to the barbed wire. We were allowed a total of two and a half hours together. For the next four years, until Papa had served out his term, we were not given a single personal meeting."
I did not attend the political lectures in Sovgavan either and the camp administrator became extremely furious at me. He was tall with a rough, authoritative voice.
"Boyko! Go to the lectures!" he bellowed at me.
"I have not attended them anywhere and I will not attend them with you either."
"Boyko! The Soviet authority is strong and firmdo not forget! We will break you anyway!"
"Citizen major, it is useless."
"We will not break you, you say?!" becoming violent, he struck the table with his fist.
"We will finish you off, Boyko! Remember, you will not see freedom!"
"Citizen major, if I am not mistaken, you once taught history."
"Yes, I taught it."
"Do you know who Genghis Khan was?"
"Where is he now?"
The administrator lost steam and fell silent.
"You also know how mighty the Roman Empire was, but what is left of it? Where is its power?"
I continued to stand at the door talking while the administrator sat at the table.
"Citizen major," I said, looking him in the eyes, "the time will come when one will look at you and not see you, because you will be gone."
"Oh, what an anti-Soviet you are!" he flared up.
"Pardon me, officer, but I am telling the truth. Over time nothing in life will last. Today you are strong, firm, and possessing of authority, while tomorrow you will be no longer!"
"Leave the office!" he yelled in his resounding deep bass voice.
I thought that he would immediately register me for the punishment cell but he took his time. Eventually he got his revengeI spent fifteen days in the SHIZO.
In August, 1983, (a little more than a year later), I was brought back to the camp of the village of Start.
"He came back!" the administrative officers met me with malicious pleasure. "At last we will finish you off!"
Thus it beganpunishment cells, six months in the PKT (pomeshcheniye kamernovo tipainner dungeon) and back to the punishment cellsI lost count how many times. The battle waged against me was harshdesigned to destroy me. The camp administration was given the order not just to break me, but to break me in such a way that I would reject the brotherhood, that I would deny God and my faith, and that I would become an informer and work for them. To have me "walk in step with them" was their ultimate goal, the camp administrator instructed. Because I did not give them any hope of this whatsoever, they decided to "finish me off." My persecutors told me this openly, they were so confident that they would get away with doing this without punishment.
"You were not at the political lectures!" the head of the regime department emphasized. "We can meet you half waycome to the lectures, plug your ears with cotton, and do not listen. You can sleep if you wantbut just come," he tried to persuade me in an obliging and ingratiating tone.
But at that time a KGB agent was attached to me in the camp. The smallest concession from my side they took as a sign of agreement to "walk in step with them." In addition, the constant presence of the KGB agent in the zone created great tensionthe camp administration was afraid of him and intensified their cruelty beyond measure. For every lecture I did not attend, they wrote up a report against me.
I emerged from the punishment cell and, as always, did not go to the political lecture. I was summoned to headquarters. I prayed and went.
"Boyko, I will write you a new order to the punishment cell.
At that moment the political indoctrination deputy entered.
"Are you going there again?! Haven't you had enough?" he asked.
"Citizen officer, to suffer for Christ is for me a great and unearned honor. I am ready not just to suffer but also to die for Christ. Imagine itto suffer for the King of Kings, for the Creator of the Universe!"
"Boyko is somewhat off in his head," the political indoctrination deputy said, putting his finger up to his temple. "Let him go to the punishment cell for now."
I understood that their intentions were not charitable. I spent the fifteen days and then was sent to the Birobidzhansk regional psychiatric hospital. There I spoke long and thoroughly with the head physician. I told him about myself and, of course, testified to him of Christ.
"It is very interesting to talk with you. I want to know more about God. You are a normal person!"
The prisoners who had repented through my testimony were also brought for an evaluation at the psychiatric hospital. But they were returned to the zone, as I was, with the conclusion, "No psychiatric deviation."
Unable to place me in the insane asylum, my tormentors came up with new shrewdnessbefore I succeeded in leaving the punishment cell, the regime operations agent invited me to headquarters. I prayed and when I entered the office, stood as usual at the door.
"Nikolay Yerofeyevich, take a seat," he pulled over a chair. "We'll have an important conversation."
"Say on; I will stand."
"No, come and sit down," the operations agent insisted.
"Lord, help me and strengthen me. You Yourself speak through my mouth," I prayed in my thoughts and sat down.
"Nikolay Yerofeyevich," he began far from the point. "About two thousand prisoners are in our zone. They all steal, barter, and sell things from the kitchen. Complaints have reached Moscow. We are beating ourselves over the head wondering whom could we place over the dining hall. The administration unanimously nominated you as candidateyou alone are an honest person among prisoners suitable for this duty. A hired staff woman will help you. All the food will be under your direction. Eat whatever you like and gain some weightonly maintain order in the dining hall. The prisoners respect you and will help you. You need not visit the political lectures "
He promised me "mountains of gold" but I was praying and understood that this was an ordinary trap.
"Is this the only reason you summoned me?! Pardon me, but I am a church minister. Fishing out thieves is not among my competencies. This is your job."
"Nikolay Yerofeyevich, this would not strain you physically. Your obligations include only one thingto obtain food and see to it that in your presence all of it goes into the storeroom and is cooked, not stolen. Help us, please," he continued, trying to talk me into it.
"No," I refused and headed for the door. I grasped the doorknob.
"Hey, wait! Surely you would at least agree to work as a bread-slicer?"
"Slice bread for almost two thousand prisoners?! I have hypertension and my heart would not withstand such a load. I cannot work the night shift."
"Just give an extra ration to a prisoner and he will do it all for you!"
"I have never taken advantage of anyone."
"Nikolay Yerofeyevich, you are such an honest and conscientious person!"
"All along you have been calling me a deficient good-for-nothing, havent you?" I smiled, closing the door behind me.
I returned to the barracks. The duty guard continued the temptation.
"Boyko! A warm place has opened up. Wont you work as a watchman in the store? You could spend day and night there. You will always be full and never have to go to political lectures."
"No, no, and no!"
"Theyll throw you into the SHIZO!"
"Better in the SHIZO than in the store."
It was obviousthey wanted to find any way possible to launch a new criminal case against me.
How hard they tried to entangle me in sin! Once the duty officer came running from headquarters. "Uncle Kolya! A believing sister came to visit you!"
I knew there was a group of believers in Komsomolsk-na-Amure. They had given me a Gospel of John through their relatives who worked in the zone, in the school, and in the PTU (profesionalnoye-tekhnicheskoye uchileshcheprofessional/technical college). I thought maybe this time one of them had grown bold enough to meet with me. I prayed but my heart was troubled. As I approached the school (right next to the two-storied headquarters building), I myself was praying, "Lord, if this is from You, You can arrange the meeting " I did not walk straight into the school building but rather paced slowly around nearby. As I watched, the figure of the "sister" appeared through a window opening. By her clothing and behavior I understood this was an ordinary trap. If I were to go up to her, we would be photographed with a hidden camera and I would later be blackmailedwith whom had Boyko met?! Almost at a run I got away from that place and did not stop thanking God that He protected me.
If a Christian fears to grieve or offend the Lord, if he is watchful, then no matter how many traps the enemy of the human soul sets, the Lord wonderfully protects and delivers him from the net of the hunter.
During a break when I was not in the punishment cell, a militant atheist was sent to me with the hope that he would persuade me to change my mind. I told him how expressions of science reflected truths of God and the Bible. He continued in his assertion"I do not believe in God, only in chance."
"What exactly is chance?" I asked him.
"Predetermination," he answered wisely.
"How can you believe in chance but not in the One Who predetermined it?! Who except God directs the fate of people?! This is under the power of only God!"
Soon a public prosecutor arrived at the zone and, as if an aside, called out to me, "Boyko, tell me something about Christ."
"Well, do you believe in Christ, at least as a historical figure?"
"You know, it has not been proven by science," he said, shrugging his shoulders.
"You are probably a Marxist?"
"Naturally, all Communists are followers of Marx."
"Tell me--if there had been no Marx, would he have had any followers?"
"In this you have answered correctlyif there had not been Christ, where would Christians have come from?"
"You think logically!"
"I would not be thinking correctly if the Lord had not sent me His revelations."
In talking to people you never know what questions lie ahead to answer, but when you are in constant prayerful contact with God, He sends the needed answers as is written in Isaiah, "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn" (Is. 54:17).
Once, the division officer asked with a clearly malicious purpose:
"Boyko, write an explanation of why you do not attend the political lectures in the theater."
"Citizen officer! How much can I write? You have an entire pile of my explanations."
"But I am asking you to write just one more."
I prayed and on two sheets of graph paper wrote: "The explanation of Boyko, unlawfully sentenced according to Articles 138 part 2 and 209 part 1 of the Ukrainian Codex of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. I am a minister of the Odessa-Peresip church which is in fellowship with the ministry of the CECB. I am a committed Christian and for the teachings of Christ I am ready not just to suffer, but also to die. And who exactly are you? No one is persecuting you yet, but you are breaking the teachings of your guides (and I referenced statements of the Communist guides). I must say that all your efforts are the utmost indication of your ideological powerlessness "
My explanation ended up lengthy; I turned it in.
The next evening I was summoned to headquarters. I prayed and knocked at the office door. I appropriately announced my presence and then stood there. In the office paced two majors from the administration. At the table sat a lieutenant colonel and in front of him lay my explanation.
"Boyko," one of the majors addressed me, "you write that you are a committed Christian. With what do you prove this?"
"In my explanation I wrote that I am ready not only to suffer for Christ, but even to die."
"You can write whatever you want! All this is nonsense! Prove it!"
I cried out to the Lord in my thoughts and asked him, "Tell me, please, are you a committed Communist?"
"To be convinced which of us is committed and which is not, it would be sufficient to place me and you against the wall and shootthen it would be immediately clarified who is who."
"Fifteen days in the punishment cell for him!" yelled the major, enraged.
"Lets go, Boyko!" the division officer was trying to lead me out obligingly.
"Citizen officer, pardon me, but they came all the way from the general administration to speak to me. I will still make it to the punishment cell."
"Lets go, lets go!" he took me by the hand, "before they add more of the same!"
"Let them add a hundred yearswhat is that in comparison with eternity?!" I answered as I exited the office.
The administration was highly interested in what I did while in the SHIZO and specifically what I spoke about to the prisoners so they decided to find out. The responsible guard took off his shoes and in stocking feet quietly approached my cell and put his ear up to the door. At that moment, prisoners from the cell opposite cried out, "Officer! How odd! You are allowed to inspect whenever you want, but here you are eavesdropping?!" The guard jumped back from the door in an instant, swept up his shoes, and left hurriedly.
The camp administration could not understand it at all. Why did the prisoners so respect me? And they expressed their respect very graphicallyfor example, when I was being led into the punishment building, all the cells came to life. The prisoners pounded on the doors and yelled, "Uncle Kolya came to us! Time flies so quickly with him!"
In 1985, my five-year term in strict regime prison camps came to an end. The final six months of my term I spent in the PKT (pomeshcheniye kamernovo tipainner dungeon). I had just emerged when the head of the operations division met me.
"Boyko! In celebration of the forty-year anniversary of victory a great amnesty is expected. You have the chance to be freed. You participated in the war and are disabled. Write that you reject your faith in God and all your problems will be behind you. Your place is not in the camp, but in the church. You have a family "
"I do not need freedom at that price. I will never exchange eternal life for the temporary."
Later the political indoctrination deputy summoned me and also offered a compromise with conscience. I answered him with a refusal. But when the operations enforcement officer began to speak to me, he openly announced, "A new article has appeared in the Ukrainian Codex: For systematic violation of the detention regimethree years of deprivation of freedom'!"
"You want to sentence me for not attending the political lectures. But what would you say personally if you, as a Communist and atheist, were terrorized and sentenced only because you categorically refused to attend religious church services and prayer meetings?"
The operations enforcement officer fell silent for a moment and then came to himself again.
"We were unable to break you in five years. On this basis we will sentence you for an additional three years, and using whatever means necessary, we will break you."
"Citizen officer, its useless. God will help me to standI firmly believe it."
"We will run you to the ground but you will never see freedom. You will never see your children again!"
"As the Lord sees fit, so let it be in my life."
After the open threats to sentence me to a new term of imprisonment, the backstage game began. In danger that I would tell my family about the threats of a new term, a senior officer came to the barracks and set about to reassure me.
"Uncle Kolya! You will be set free!"
"Who told you that?"
"The head of special services made a list of twenty-eight disabled persons and war veterans to be released. Your name is on the list."
In time, twenty-eight prisoners, including me, were summoned to headquarters. In place of his prison garment, each was given a collared white dress shirt and a black tie and photographed. They prepared the release documents.
"Where will you go?" they were interested to know about me.
"Home, of course, to my family."
It seemed that I could comfort myself that the day of release was near but the political indoctrination deputy summoned me once again and from his tone of voice I knew that they would sentence me again anyway.
"Nikolay Yerofeyevich! I feel sorry for youyou are a good person. But we have been given a special assignment: to break you using whatever means necessary or else to destroy you, but not to let you go free alive. Why be tortured when something could be arranged "
I testified to him a long time about God, about salvation, and about the meaning of life and as I was leaving I said:
"If you would turn to God and become a Christian, you would act as I am. One can suffer a hundred years for faith in God. A Christian has no fear of suffering eternally in hell, and yet you are trying to scare me with temporary suffering and torture. For the sake of never-ending eternity it is worth enduring anything!"
"Boyko! If all that you are saying is true, then you are the happiest person on earth."
"Yes! I am truly happy that I came to know God and am serving Him."
On May 28, 1985, instead of being released, I was urgently transferred to the Komsomolsk-na-Amure prison. I was not even allowed to write a few lines to my family. I asked the prisoners to communicate with home that I had not been released. They carried out my request. My family received a letter that I had been transferred to prison, but my wife received a certificate of my release from the camp administration.
Daughter Lyuba remembers:
The fifth and last year of Papas imprisonment went by. Ahead lay exile. Mama and we children arranged among ourselves who would be after who in going to exile, taking turns being with Papa We received no letter from him for three monthsMarch, April, and May.
At the end of May an inquiry came from the camp administrationdid we agree to sign for Papa to come home? We sent an urgent telegram: "We agree! We look forward to Papa coming home!" But we still could not believe that he would be released because we had been deceived repeatedly when we showed up for the visits he was due.
Later it became clear that at exactly the same time we were sent the certificate of release, a new criminal case was launched against Papa and he was sent back to the punishment cell. While the investigation was going full speed ahead, we were being appeased with false telegrams so that neither family nor believers would raise a fuss and petition. The uncertainty troubled us and in June we went to visit Papa.
Arriving at the Komsomolsk-na-Amure prison, my daughters began to make inquirieswas I there? They were told that I was not. They went on to the camp of the village of Start and obtained a meeting with the camp head officer.
"You sent us a certificate of release of our father, but he is not yet home. Where is he?"
"What certificate?!" the officer was surprised, as if nothing of the sort had ever happened. "Show me this certificate!"
My daughters, out of their inexperience, gave him the certificate. He took it and tore it up on the spot.
"Your father is in prison! In interrogation punishment Cell No 2 of Komsomolsk-na-Amure! Soon he will be sentenced!"
"We were just at Komsomolsk-na-Amure! We were told that he is not there."
"Go therethat is where he is!"
My children returned to Komsomolsk-na-Amure but a visit was not granted them.
The investigation went on for a month. During that time, the Lord turned two prisoners with whom I shared a cell onto the path of salvation through my testimony. I wept for joy at this mercy of God demonstrated to unhappy sinners and I clearly knew that I had not earned this. He had strengthened me in answer to the prayers of the church. In all the camps where I was, the Lord touched the souls of prisoners and they repented. Little groups of five to twenty people formedthis was a great support and encouragement for me.
At almost the same time as the new criminal case was launched against me in the camp, on May 14, 1985, three leading brothers in the Peresip church in Odessa who had been carrying out ministry in secret for some time were arrested. They were detained for seven days and then driven by car to the house where the church services were being held. "Here are your ministers!" police officers announced to the church. "No one has been searching for them! They themselves were hiding, not wanting to live at home! No one needs themlet them get jobs and live in peace!"
One of them was released, a criminal case was launched against another, and the third was summoned for interviews and strongly pressured to collaborate with the secret service.
Daughter Lyuba remembers:
On July 1, 1985, Papas trial began. Six people were present in the courtroomwe (two of his daughters) and also a brother and sister from the Peresip church.
A side door opened and Papa was led in. He was thin and unshavenonly his eyes smiled. As he reached the bench for the accused, he knelt. The judge and the prosecutor entered. Papa did not hear because he was praying, so he did not rise.
The charges were read out:
N. Y. Boiko, the accused, serving a term of punishment in the department of internal affairs' administration of corrective labor institutions division YB 257/8 of the Khabarovsk regional executive committee in the village of Start near the city Komsomolsk-na-Amure, under pretext of religious convictions, did not attend a single political lecture. In this he habitually violated the officer's order No 110 according to Corrective Labor Codex 8 "On the order of conducting political lectures" Point (a) part 2 of No 110, Point (p) part 3 of No 17, Point (a) part 3 of No 19 and supplement No 9 to the rules of internal order, Articles 7, 30, 43, and 44 of the Corrective Labor Codex of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic (ITK RSFSR--ispravitelno-trudoviy kodeks Rossiyskaya sotsialisicheskaya federativnaya sovetskaya respublika)
Daughter Lyuba remembers:
The first witness was a division officer. He spoke indistinctly and quietly, saying that Papa performed his work unconscientiously.
"Did I work at all?" Papa asked him.
"Do you mean to say that although I am not working, I worked unconscientiously?! Besides, I have level two disability status."
The witness was confused.
The second witness (the deputy head officer of the camp) said amazingly,
"Boyko was diligent! Whenever something needed to be cleaned up or swept out, he was the first. Its too bad he did not attend the political lectures. His one crime in the camp is that he violated the law by staging propaganda! The prisoners listen to him in everything! With any question they run not to me, but to Boyko. Whenever he was placed in the SHIZO, from all the cells they yelled, 'Put Uncle Kolya in with us!'"
I said openly at the trial, "As is quite obvious, today the whole world lies in evil. Citizen judges, you and godless people blaspheme the name of God while we, committed and suffering Christians, glorify it. The words of Christ will overcome, "...Men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven..." (Matt. 5:11-12). Citizen judges, I rejoice, that the Lord counted me, an undeserving old man, worthy of this great, unearned honor! Not only can I believe on Christ but also suffer for His holy Name, for His Church! I thank God for this! Whether you wish to hear it or not, I will tell youthe Gospel will be preached as a testimony to all peoples, including in Russia, and then the end will come!"
Daughter Lyuba remembers:
On the second day of the trial the judges asked Papa,
"What exactly is faith? Of what sort is it?"
"Love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself.' In this is all the essence of faith!" answered Papa.
The judges, looking amazed, asked,
"Boyko, why arent you interested in how many million tons of iron ore are mined in our country?"
"If I became interested in that, who knows what crime you would ascribe to me..."
"Why dont you want to know how much milk the lead milkmaid in Khabarovsk Krai milks?"
"I dont see any of that milk so it doesnt interest me."
That day I told the court what the Lord put on my heart. No one objected and no one could refute my arguments.
"A person is created to live eternally to the glory of Godthis is the only wise purpose of our lives. And death is not the end of any persons life."
"Boyko, are you convinced of that?" the judge made sure.
"I am convinced."
"You believe that there is life beyond the grave, that there is a God?!" sarcastic ridicule and condescension sounded in her voice.
"I deeply believe it, and for this am sitting in prison! I am happy that today I can testify to you of this immutable truth."
"You are a fanatic!" she tried to grieve me. "You will die and perish and that will be the end of it!" she continued trying to bring me to my senses. I am an atheist. I will also die and perish and that will be the end of it! There is no such thing as eternity and there is no life beyond the grave!"
"Citizen judges! I hope you are familiar the phrase from the Holy Scriptures, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6:7).
"I am familiar with it," the judge hurried to emphasize her breadth of knowledge.
"Is it a correct saying?"
"It is correct," the judge agreed.
"You sowed your propaganda in the camp and now you will get a term! It's true, of coursethat saying!" the public prosecutor joined the conversation.
"Citizen public prosecutor, does that mean you also believe in the law of sowing and reaping?!"
"The meaning of the words is correct," the public prosecutor affirmed.
"But I know people who, while occupying high government posts, committed terrible crimes. For this, they never spent a single term in prison and they were buried with great honors. If you acknowledge the Biblical expression to be true, when will these criminals reap what they, without a moment's hesitation, sowed?"
The public prosecutor and the judge were silently indignant.
I continued, "In the Bible it is written, 'It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment' (Heb. 9:27). Whoever he be, if while a person is alive he does not reap what he sowed, then he will reap it beyond the grave! Then he will face a trial that no one will avoid! There is life beyond the grave and physical death is not the end!"
My prosecutors were silent and one or another of them turned red, whether from shame or annoyance I do not know. The public prosecutor broke the silence.
"Boyko! We are struggling against evil in our camps, but you, with your propaganda, have been spoiling our youth."
"Excuse me. Your youth have been spoiled since who knows when. Tell me, by the way, what is evil? Before struggling against evil, one should know what it is."
"Evil is an abstract concept," the public prosecutor answered.
"But are murder, violence, and robbery really just theories far removed from practical reality? Are they abstractions, frozen concepts not operating on the facts?"
The public prosecutor realized the haste and incorrectness of his pronouncement.
"Evil is a negative forcewould you agree?"
"Yes, I agree it is a force."
"And of course it is not an electrical or mechanical force, but spiritual. The bearer of this force is the devil. In struggling against evil, you are, figuratively speaking, chopping branches off a tree, leaving untouched the root from which the evil sprouts, because you do not believe in the real existence of the devil's power, which has taken almost the entire world captive, including you. You are a weapon in the hand of the devil in that you are committing evilyou are condemning an innocent man and doing it knowingly at that."
The public prosecutor's patience came to an end. Stirred, he tried to prosecute me to the fullest extent of the lawfor five years!
"He wont even live two years," the judge said in a half-whisper, shaking her head at the public prosecutor.
"Boyko is a pastor! He organized the Peresip church! He wedded young people! He set up childrens choirs and music workshops!" the public prosecutor heatedly listed my activities, worthy in his opinion of the strictest punishment, and would not be calmed down.
"If you believe in God, why doesnt He set you free?" The public prosecutor was not asking the question, he was reproaching me.
"Christ was persecuted and so will we be persecuted--thus it is commanded."
They granted me the opportunity to say a word in my own defense.
"Allow me to read a poem."
"Please," the judge did not object.
"It begins with the hymn familiar to believers, Many wonderful teachings exist: Struggle with sorrow. Overcome evil."
Many wonderful teachings exist:
"Struggle with sorrow. "Overcome evil."
But many, yes many, generations have passed,
And people cant help but to live wickedly.
People discover Christs teachings and yet
All people walk counter exactly to them.
Weakly giving in, falling silent before force,
Peoples tears flow and flow.
Is it really so hard to part with untruth?
Is it really so hard not to harm others?
Is it really so hard to refuse to do evil?
And to love all as brothers as God commands?
Today we are cast again into prisons
Because we serve Christ sacrificially.
From family and friends they separate us,
But at our posts we always firmly stand!
Christs Church remains invincible!
For our Savior is with us, faithful Shield is He!
From arrows of slander and treachery and violence
With His Own hand He does protect us.
And this protection you will see very soon
When Christ gathers up His own Church,
Then terrible woe will overtake this earth.
Blessed is he who finds the way of truth today.
For the truth of God, for a holy work
I in my old age rush forward in battle!
For Christs Church, for the brotherhood dear
I again give myself sacrificially in joy!
I had hardly finished reading the poem when the public prosecutor raised himself abruptly from his seat and with the same breath blurted out: "Give Boyko another six months term for the poem!"
"Citizen public prosecutor, evil is boiling inside you--it is from the devil."
He dropped his head.
"Boyko, give me that poem please--I will write out a copy of it," the judge was unexpectedly deeply moved.
I passed over the poem. She asked the clerk to copy it and, flipping through the file with the criminal case, found a letter of mine I had written to a criminal serving a second fifteen-year term for murder who had repented. "Make a copy of this, too," the judge said.
After the conference of the court, the verdict was read:
Nikolay Yerofeyevich Boyko is found guilty under Article188-3 part 1 of the Ukrainian Codex of theRSFSR (Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic--Rossiyskaya sotsialisicheskaya federativnaya sovetskaya respublika) and under the given Article is subject to two years deprivation of freedom. When added to the uncompleted sentence of five months and seventeen days deprivation of freedom and five years exile handed down in the December 19, 1980 verdict of the Ilyichevsk regional court in Odessa under Article 41 of the Ukrainian Codex of the RSFSR, a total of two years strict regime labor camp, five months and seventeen days imprisonment, and five years exile are hereby appointed. The term begins April 4, 1985.
Daughter Lyuba remembers:
After the verdict I handed a bouquet of flowers to our dear and beloved Papa. "Dear Papa, these are for you for your steadfastness and courage!" "Thank you," he thanked us.
Unshaven, severely wasted, and weak after three days of fasting, I garnered the compassion of the guard soldiers. "Whatever he was brought you may give himlet him eat " I was led into a room for the condemned. It was very hot and I could not eat much, although I did drink some kompot (boiled fruit juice).
When I left the room I still had the flowers.
"Boyko, although we respect you, how can we, a guard company armed with automatics, escort you through the city with those flowers?!"
"What shall I do with them?"
"Give them to someone."
No one was nearby so I laid the flowers on a bench. The guards at first led me down the main streets in the customary manner--one in front and another behind. Later, seeing that none of the officers were around, they walked next to me and we talked about a persons purpose of life on earth, about Christ, about salvation, why I believed in God, and what this faith gave me.
"For what was the man sentenced? Incomprehensible!" they said sympathetically. We arrived at the prison. I looked and there stood my wife and daughter.
Daughter Lyuba remembers:
After the verdict Papa was allowed to eat and then led away. Meanwhile Mama and I went to the prison. "Lyuba, they are bringing Papa!" Mama saw the guards come walking with Papa. He was talking with them as if with friends. It turns out that the "voronok" ("raven"--black KGB vehicle) was never sent for them and the soldiers led him through the entire city on foot. We immediately went up to Papa. He asked us to get some sneakers to him since his boots were too hot.
"Papa, why are you so exhausted?"
"I am not discouraged--though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16)."
"Kolya, the church has been praying and fasting three days for you," Mama communicated the pleasant news on the run.
"Im thankful! I also fasted during the trial."
"Why was nothing said of exile during the trial?"
"Exile will come. Valechka (endearing variation of Valya), dont worry, everything will be alright. Dont be discouraged!" Papa waved his hand and then was hid from view behind the prison doors.
I was led into prison, searched, and all my valuable notes and songs were confiscated--even the concluding charges which a prisoner should always have on his person.
Daughter Lyuba remembers:
"On July 14, 1985, Papa was delivered to the labor camp in the village of Elban in Amur Raion (administrative subdivision of an oblast or krai) of Khabarovsk Krai. Finally, we were granted a personal visit for September 18 to 19. We arrived late and went up to the administrative building. The guard soldier requested, "Right now they will be bringing in a division of prisoners. To avoid undesirable consequences, go up to the second floor."
I picked up the suitcase and my purse. The soldier volunteered to help. As he lifted the suitcase, it abruptly pulled him to the side.
"How could you lift such a weight?!" he was amazed.
"We lifted and carried it across the entire country," Mama answered.
The inspector came, checked our passports, and announced categorically, "It is appropriate to allow only two adults to visit!"
"What about the third, Lilia? Why are not both children allowed to see their father?"
"Where will you sleep?"
"Wherever! On the floor! Sitting up! If only we could see Papa!"
"First of all, you came late! Your visit will be shortened."
"Would it not be possible to ask the head officer?" Mama was worried.
"Its useless! Everything here depends on me! If a visitation room opens up, I will extend "
The inspector searched all our things for any alcoholic beverages. We prayed and waited for Papa. He was brought in quickly and not searched. We greeted him and bowed in prayer. The other prisoners to whom visitors had come left the room and watched with amazement as we prayed.
Papa wept much during our time of prayer. He thanked the Lord for this reunion the only one in five years! He had not been granted a personal visit the entire term.
On Friday, Papa held the Lords Supper. Mama presented him with a Bible! He pressed it to his chest, lit up with joy, and immediately began to read it. Then he asked about the churchhe remembered everyone and had been praying for them all. Papa extensively talked with us. He answered all the questions that might interest us to know.
There was no end to his stories of camp life. How many mercies the Lord had shown him! Once, all the prisoners came down with dysentery. Papa prayed and told the prisoners, "God will heal me." Sure enough, he was no longer sick.
One of the prisoners had an exacerbation of radiculitis and asked Papa to pray for him. "If you will pray with me," Papa set forth as a condition. The man agreed. Papa prayed and the disease left him.
The prisoners loved Papa. After a lecture in the clubroom they came to him and said, "If you would get up with the Bible, Uncle Kolya, it would not be necessary to round us up to go to the club. We would be sitting there with mouths dropped open! If God were to send more like you to the prisons we would at least know a little about God "
Papa always went joyfully to the SHIZO, always smiling. "I am so feeble," he would say, "and yet I can stand up for the King of Heaven!"
We spent three days plus one hour in our visit! We brought three Vestnik istiniy (Voice of Truth) journalsPapa read them all!
As we were parting he asked us to write letters not just to him but also to all the prisoners for the Word of God since this was a strong testimony to both the administration and the other prisoners.
He gave us his poem, "I go to suffer for the honor of the Holy Homeland."
I go to suffer for the honor of the Holy Homeland,
For convictions of Christ the Lord!
I am ready to suffer in the name of eternal life,
To go the way of Golgothas cross.
I go, suffering irreproachably
To die not in vain but for Christ,
Though evil be deeply ingrained in life
A pure heart is needed in battle with it.
No, brothers, I have not forgotten to be careful
I will not be your guilty fate
I have said all that I can say,
Serving Christ, I offer up myself.
I want to love to heights and breadths
As He loved us and He loves us even now,
As He loved each of us in this sinful world,
I also am ready to die with Him for you.
Though my death be the end of my suffering,
The beginning of eternal life without end.
In it I see the demise of all the sojourning.
And the tender embrace of the Father.
In my fate already long ago it all was clear:
The great purpose and the meaning inherent in it.
Since I die for Christ death is not in vain!
Saving people is our holy destiny!
After the trial I wrote an appeal, a protest appeal in which I pointed out that I had been condemned as a Christian even though more than once in the trial it had been declared, "We are not prosecuting you for your convictions but rather for not attending the political lectures." But the whole point was that I refused to attend the political lectures not "under pretext of malicious violation of the regime of confinement of the Corrective Labor Codex," as was noted in the concluding charges, but rather exclusively because of Christian convictions that I considered it sin to go.
To all the appeals came a standard reply:
"To be left unfulfilled. No basis exists to submit this protest for investigation and a court verdict. The means of N. Y. Boykos punishment indicated by the court have been taken into consideration "
How the camp administration threatened me! "We will exert all efforts to stop you from believing. If you do not renounce your convictions, we will break you with the 'lid,' with the punishment cells, or with the PKT (pomeshcheniye kamernova tipainner dungeon) and we will snuff you out..." and so things went also in the labor camp in Elban. I lost count of how many times I was in the punishment cell for refusal to attend political lectures. Then I was placed for six months in the PKT. My organism did not withstand it--first a hypertensive crisis and a little later, a stroke. My left arm and leg were completely paralyzed.
"We will take you to the health center " the prisoners offered sympathetically.
I did not object, but decided to refuse injections because a KGB agent had been assigned to watch me. I thought he might try to intensify my suffering in the health center. I prayed that the Lord would put it in the heart of the head physician not to force me to receive treatment.
"What is wrong with you?" asked the doctor.
"My left side refuses "
He took a look and then urged the medical assistant,
"Quick, get the syringes!"
"Citizen captain, excuse me, but I categorically refuse any injections."
"I hope in my Physician," I raised my right hand toward heaven. "Christ raised the deadwhat is my stroke to Him?!"
The head physician looked me intently in the eyes. I was silent.
"You dont want them? Then you dont need them!"
I was placed alone in a hospital bed. My right side worked and I wrote letters to the Novosibirsk and Omsk churches with the request to pray for me. In the camp there were also about twelve prisoners who were new believers and they also prayed earnestly for me. In a week my arm and leg regained feeling and I walked as if healthy! My recovery was to the great amazement of everyone since people can lie in hospitals for years after a stroke without any improvement. From the replies to my letters I found out that the very day my friends received my letter and prayed, the Lord healed me. That I became healthy was a miracle of God!
Despite this, I was still sent to the Birobidzhan regional hospital. There a nurse drew my blood with difficulty.
"Where is your blood?" she wondered.
"Left in the punishment cells!"
A day later the doctor told me, "You have no sign of a stroke. You will have high blood pressure and heart disease for life."
I was sent back to the village of Elban. At first I was not placed in the punishment cell for failing to attend the political lectures but later they sent me anyway, sick as I was. And thus it continued until the end of my term.
I wrote a statement to the head of ITK #17 of the village of Elban, Captain M. I. Mostov, in which I informed him that I did not go to movies or attend political lectures because of my Christian convictions and that the camp administration did not have the right to impose an atheistic worldview on me by force. As evidence I cited commentary on Article 19 of the Codex of Correctional Labor Legislation. Point 4, "Primary Requirements of the Regime in Places of Deprivation of Freedom," reads:
"It is impermissible to lay obligations on the condemned that are not based on the requirements of the law. It is not allowed, for example, to count it an obligation that prisoners actively participate in political events (amateur productions and so on) conducted by the administration or attend political lectures. It is hereby prohibited to punish prisoners for refusal to participate in artistic productions or in other mass political events."
I was being punished continuously against the law for precisely this. But in addition to everything else, I was placed ten days in the SHIZO for my written statement.
Frequent headaches tormented me in the punishment cells and I ended up being treated in the health center.. My term came to an end. For some reason, before exile my level two disability status was exchanged for level three, meaning able-bodied to work. Later I understood that this was treachery. Soon I was summoned for transfer.
Here is an excerpt from a letter to the Antonovs, brother Ivan Yakovlevich and sister Neonila:
"I am my beloveds, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies" (Song 6:3).
Peace of God to you, dear and beloved friends, my friends for eternity in Christ Jesus!
I greet you with the love of Jesus Christ Who loved us and Whose Day of coming is drawing near and greatly hastening
I very much wish to see you again at least once on this earth, if He please, to rejoice in Him and to speak face to face--love always thirsts for fellowship. It is very hard on the prisoners of the Lord to have fellowship neither with friends nor even with family.
My term ends soon and I will be sent to Kabarovsk Krai for five years exile. If I leave for exile, then left behind here in the camp will be my friends who love the Lord, are seeking Him, and who also thirst for fellowship with Gods children
We all need to strengthen ourselves and be watchful, for I know that we all live in a most valuable, highly interesting, responsible, and difficult time. The time Christs Church is taken up will be even more glorious and exalted than the day of her birth!
I am writing this letter to you in two sittings because trembles of joy bring tears that keep me from writing. I had to stop and finish this letter after lunch.
With a flame of brotherly love to you, from one of the least of these your brothers in Christ and a prisoner in the Lord, Nikolay Boyko.
One of the last letters to his family from the village of Elban labor camp:
" I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (2 Tim. 1:12). Most important is to be watchful in the Lord and to strengthen ourselves. The Lord will look after the rest.
My dear family! Always remember that the Day of the Lord is drawing near. We need to be ready to meet the Lord not sometime, but today. If a person is not ready today, will he be ready tomorrow? I dont think so. Therefore I ask you all to examine yourselves in light of the teachings of Scripture--always be doing this for His Word is a mirror for your souls. If you seriously and attentively look into the Word of God, you will see the condition of your souls, whether you are ready to meet Him or not.
Test yourselves, my dear ones--are you in the faith? Examine yourselves (2 Cor. 13). "If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness" (Rom. 8:10). "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature " (2 Cor. 5:17).
I will tell you that a prolonged visit has neither been officially denied nor has it been granted. I asked the division officer and he promised to find out but so far has not said why they are not giving it. Already no time is left to wait--today is already July 29...
One of the least of these your brothers in Christ Jesus and a prisoner for life in the Lord, Nikolay.
Before sending me out of the labor camp, the officer announced with complete confidence in his voice, "Boyko, you will not stay long in exile. Your place is here, with us "
He did not even allow me to say goodbye to the growing brothers who had repented in the camp. Even after I stepped outside, the officer still stood watching intently to see to whom I might slip a word or cast a glance, so as to persecute them also.
First they brought me to Khabarovsk. Then we sailed two days down the Amur River to Nikolayevsk-na-Amure. It was very cold in the hold of the barge. The guards drew water for meals from the river and it was icy. I caught cold and my heart, my head, and my stomach were ill.
In the Nikolayevsk-na-Amure prison all the prisoners were crammed into one cell. It was crowded. The toilet was in the basementno way to wash oneself nor to wash clothes.
Only on October 13, by airplane under full guard, did the head of medical services forward me on to the peninsula in the Sea of Okhotsk where the village of Ayan is surrounded on three sides by sopki (Siberian hills) with a small exit to the sea on just one side. We arrived during cold weather; snow already lay on the mountains.
I spent the first night in a hotel and then was sent to a broken-down house where two exiled drunkards lived.
The village was closed--a border zone. In other words, only first-degree relatives could visit me, and they only with a pass.
While I had been in the village of Elban labor camp, as consequence for not attending the political lectures I had been continuously placed in the punishment cell where it was very cold. I would sleep thirty to forty minutes a night, not more. Usually I would first lie on my stomach on the cement floor. Having warmed a small area, I then would turn onto my side for a short time, lying with one arm under me. If one were to lie with his back or side directly on the floor, he would without fail catch cold and get sick. The camp administration expected me day after day to become ill with tuberculosis but the Lord protected me.
I will say openly that I wept for joy at being in the punishment cell. This might be hard for some to believe but it was so. I knew from where this joy poured into my heartthe prayers of Gods people for the prisoners went up to God, especially with fasting on Fridays! God heeded the holy cries and sent comfort from heaven into my cold cell. Yes, although my whole body shook with cold, yet I wept for joy that God counted me worthy of such a great honor not just to believe in Jesus Christ but also to suffer for Him. I was ready even to die in bonds and expected that moment to come. But God had other plans.
My hands and feet grew so cold I could hardly walk. In the morning I had to first rub them and then walk very slowly. I could not even pick up a comb with my hand. During the day, the bones of my whole body hurt so much that it seemed like someone was twisting them off. I did not have the strength to cut wood and it was very cold in the dormitory. Those already in exile had not prepared wood for the winter. I had come late in the year, and unhealthy besides.
From the very first day in exile the local administration compelled me to work since I possessed only level three disability status, designating me as still able to work.
"I cannot work in such a state of health," I explained to the administration.
"You have a place of workas a guard of the base."
"I am age sixty-three, I am a pensioner "
"All of our elderly work!"
Now I understood why they had removed my level two disability status just prior to sending me into exile. They wanted to compel me to work here on the base so as to play a trick on mestage a robbery or fireand thus sentence me to a new term. This calculation was treacherousthe village was in a closed zone and no one could reach me. The head of the labor colony had said for a reason, "Your place is with us and not in exile!"
I categorically refused to work and they began to threaten me. Then I went to the county seat and handed in a written request that they arrange permission to invite my wife and children. They gave permission for my wife to come for a total of only five days although by law one has the right to live in exile with his family.
Difficulties on the path of following the Lord are our birthright as Christians. I thank God that from my very first days since I came to believe in Him He clearly showed me the path on which Jesus Christ walked and I thank Him that this path became mine.
I thank God that I loved not just Christ, but also suffering for Him. To love suffering seems rather unnatural; nevertheless it was so. For me, suffering was not a strange happening or a sad inevitability. Suffering was a sign of Gods good favor toward me. It was a great and priceless gift of God. With all my soul I want to keep that gift till the end of my life on earth and to remain faithful to God in everything.
I know that any metal goes through a refining processonly then does it constitute something valuable in the eyes of the refiner.
I was used to loss. God found me in terrible trouble and saved me, and thus I was born spiritually into suffering and unto suffering for the Lord.
I communicated with my family, with the Department of Intercession of the CECB, and with several churches about how they were compelling me to take that job. I myself went to the public prosecutor and explained the situation as it was shown me by the Lord.
He understood that I was not ignorant of their intentions and said, "Go, I will call the chief of police and the district police officer. They do not have the right to force you to work "
The churches sent petitions, and sufficiently many of them, to the prosecutor. I was summoned to the police but this time for a different reasonfrom Moscow the order came that I go to the Commission for Physical Examination. I agreed and because of my condition was awarded lifelong level two disability status. After that, they completely stopped terrorizing me in connection with taking that job.
December 10, 1987, my wife and son-in-law came to me in exile. Five days passed, the time for her stay ended, and they started to push her out.
"My husband is sick. I will not leave him alone in such a condition. I will not leave, even if you start to carry me off..." she said in an interview with the village administration.
My son-in-law left and my wife stayed. All through December the threats did not cease. I wrote a letter about this to dear friends in faith.
At the post office on January 7, 1988, I was handed a telegram from Mikhail I. Khorev: "Nikolai Yerofeyevich, did they grant Valya residence? Did they give you wood? Let us know." At that time the temperature was far below freezing and we had nothing with which to heat.
I sent Mikhail Ivanovich a telegram in reply: "They are not granting Valya residence and they are not giving us wood."
January 12 they summoned us to the executive committee. How quickly everything changed! They gave Valya her residence permit, allowed us to order wood at our own expense, and even offered us an emergency shelter as a place to live (although in the village many sturdy apartments stood empty). In our joy for everything we thanked God because up to that point we had lived in the mens quarters, which was a hell in miniature.
We moved over to live in the shelter just as a Far-Eastern snowstorm was blowing up. Snow drifted into the roomvery much snow. We stopped up the cracks and lit the stove. We boiled water and washed the floor covered with layers of frozen dirt. The kitchen was as hot as Tashkent (in Central Asia) while the main room was as cold as Vorkuta (in the Far North). From January 20th until May we burned twenty cords of wood in that cold, drafty shelter.
Now living separate from the drunkards, my wife and I were strengthened with prayer and fasting and the Lord healed me from many ailments, except that my heart made its presence known.
Throughout the long years of Christian life we had become accustomed to straitened circumstances. As soon as we remembered that the purpose of Christs coming to earth was not to live and live in luxury but to serve and give His life for the redemption of many, then who were we, that we would expect anything better?! We had completely knowingly chosen the narrow path and therefore expected nothing good from this world.
My wife and I bore the northern climate well although we ourselves are from warm regions. God led me through both extreme cold and heat although I have probably never experienced a climate always tropical. But I believe and know that with the Lord all is well in any place.
The conditions of our life were the simplestin place of stools we sat on round blocks of wood. On Sundays from twelve midnight until four in the morning we gathered in spirit with Gods people, the time difference with Moscow being six hours.
I asked them to transfer me to an open zone so that my relatives and friends could come. But the Khabarovsk Bureau of Correctional Labor Institutions was inclined with hostility against me. They set a goal that, if they did not break me, then they would persecute me in the prisons. "You will see neither freedom nor family! You will not live longer than two years!" they continuously said to scare me. And I truly looked ill but the Lord was my protection.
Soon my wife went back to the children and my son came for the summer. With his help I fixed up the shelter.
The district policeman did not hide his hostile relationship toward me. Once, he met me and asked:
"Boyko, probably everything inside you is boiling against us?!
"Why do you think that?"
"You have served so much time for nothing "
"I suffered for Christ. How can I be offended at you?! I feel sorry for you. After all, you are unhappy people."
"Who told you that?" the policeman asked in a wounded tone.
"I myself know that you, having rejected God, live for eternal destruction. But I believe in God and will live eternally with Him in heaven!"
I testified of the Lord many times to this man but he did not internalize any of it. In the past he had been the former head of a labor camp. He was always in the village collecting allegations against me and compelling the others in exile to work as informants by asking them who came to visit me and who attended the services which I held in my home.
The evening of August 27, 1988, a police car drove back and forth several times past the barracks where I lived, but I did not think anything of it. Later I found out that the car had kept watch all night. The next morning the police officer on duty visited me and invited me to come to the police department that very morning at eleven. I prayed and showed up fifteen minutes early.
"Someone summoned me?"
"Go on in to the passport desk," the duty officer began to bustle about. I prayed and went in. At the desk sat the head of the passport department and a major of the border guard with China. What could this mean?!
"Boyko, two people of your faith came and want to meet with you. You dont object, do you?" the head officer said, glancing at me with testing eyes and looking rather alarmed.
This was news to me--like thunder from a clear sky. Who could have come to see me without a pass? After all, the zone was closed!
"True, they violated the border," the head officer continued to bewilder me. "We fined them but they still want to see you. You are not opposed?"
The worries on my heart immediately eased--who would violate the border for my sake? Only our brothers!
"Of course! I am not opposed!" I agreed on the spot.
They led the brothers into the officeI was meeting them for the first time. Their faces were triumphant! My heart was pounding with joy. We greeted each other, wept, and got acquainted all at once. So many years had passed since I had seen brothers in faith! They had arrived from Tashkent. One of them had been in prison as an unbeliever where he met a brother-in-bonds from Omsk and repented. Having come to love the Lords people, especially prisoners, he snuck right up on me in the forbidden zone!
"You really didnt know each other before?" asked first the border guard, then the head officer, amazed.
"What sort of person is this Boyko? He weeps, rejoices, and calls complete strangers his brothers! After all, apparently he does not even know their first names and probably not their last names either?!"
"We are believers! We are brothers in Christ! We knew each other only through letters "
"You have forty-five minutes to talk!" the head officer said, showing a little generosity and not ceasing to wonder.
The brothers told me of their desire to visit those prisoners who had been in bonds for an extended time and lived in remote desolate places. They reached me first, then they planned to visit Ivan Yakovlevich Antonov and Yevgeniy Nikiforovich Pushkov.
The head officer watched us rejoicing for a long time and could endure no longer. "Listen, you are all adults," he addressed the brothers. "How could you risk traversing the taiga (Siberian forest) on foot?! You made your way one hundred and twenty kilometers through the sopki (Siberian hills)! So many bears and every kind of wild animal live there--what were you thinking?!"
"We are believers. We prayed and the Lord led us. We were not afraid of bears."
"Do bears really tell the difference between who is believer and who is unbeliever?"
"All animals can tell the difference well. Only people cannot. When we trust God, not one beast touches us because all creatures submit to God. But people do not want to submit to God."
"Did you at least have knives with you?"
"Why? Our protection and reward are God."
"You people are more than strange "
"Citizen officer!" the brothers addressed him. "Allow us to go out to Boykos home and see how he lives over a cup of tea."
"Be grateful we gave you the chance to talk here!"
Seeing that we had no secret arrangements to make and that we conducted ourselves simply and openly, the officers left the room and the brothers told how the Lord had led them from Tashkent to Ayan.
"While still in Tashkent we knew," the brothers told me, "that without a pass it was possible to fly only as far as the village of Nelkan. Between Nelkan and Ayan lay one hundred twenty kilometers of desolate taiga. The Tashkent brothers did not advise us to go but we had faith that we would make it on foot. We came to Khabarovsk and the local brothers tried to talk us out of it, Dont risk it! But we went on anyway.
"We came to Bogogorodskoy and met a sister, Nina Andreyevna Vyushkova, who had worked in Ayan in her youth. She urged us not to subject ourselves to the danger.
"'You cannot drive to Ayan and there is no way you would make it through on foot. No roads exist whatsoever--just sopki, taiga, and impassible swamps '
"'We depend on the Lord--He knows how to lead us there.'
"From Bogogorosk we arrived in Nikolayevsk-na-Amure, and from there flew by plane into Nelkan.
"'How do we get to Ayan?' we asked the local residents.
"'Only by plane,' they answered us unequivocally. 'But you need a pass to fly there.'
"'Please just show us which direction to walk.'
"'There are no roads whatsoever through the taiga! Nothing shows which way to walk--understand?' the locals passionately explained.
"'If you know, point out the general direction to us,' we did not give up.
"'These telegraph poles go to Ayanyou wouldnt actually follow the wires, would you?!'
"Deciding these were a reliable landmark, we prayed and set out! We walked one day, then two. At night one of us slept and the other kept watch by the fire. We had only a little food with us--mostly we carried Christian literature. We tried berries and whatever edibles we came across.
"The third day two border guards arose right in front of us, as if straight out of the ground.
"'Halt! Where are you going?'
"'Who are you? Spies? Your documents!'
"'We arent spies at all. Here are our passports.'
"The border guard opened one passport, then the other. His eyes grew round and his face stretched long in bewilderment.
"'Listen--you are from Tashkent going to Ayan?! To whom?'
"'To a brother in faith.'
"'Who is this brother?'
"'Nikolay Yerofeyevich Boyko. He is spending a term of exile in Ayan.'
"The border guard put our passports in his pocket and led us to a border post. And here the questioning began.
"'Why were you going by foot?'
"'We did not have a pass.'
"'Sit over here,' and they left us with some soldiers.
"The officers went out, apparently to make some calls. Did an exiled man by the name of Boyko really live in Ayan? Meanwhile the soldiers gathered round us. With delight we told them about Christ and within moments gave out all the Christian literature we had with us. Nowhere previous had we seen such thirst for the Word of God as in this desolate border post.
"Three hours later the officers returned. They fined us as a formality and drove us in an all terrain vehicle to Ayan, exactly the place we wanted to go! Here we were detained for the night."
Not only the Main Administration of Labor Camps in Khaborovsk but also the KGB found out about the extraordinary journey--all were placed on the alert! They feared that these two young people from Tashkent had come ahead as reconnaissance and that a whole group of kidnappers would move in after them to "free Boyko from exile"!
Later the village administration sharply rebuked me. "Even the Decembrists (dekabristimilitants exiled to Siberia after staging a December, 1825, uprising in St. Petersburg) never did such a thing as your Baptists!"
We brothers were still talking when the administration came. "Gather your things! A car is driving up now and will take you away."
We went outside and there stood KGB agents, the district police officer, and a crowd of people. The news of arrival of brothers to see me spread as quick as lightning through the village and beyond.
"Explain what kind of people you are," the district police officer addressed the brothers. "How were you not afraid to make your way through the taiga?! Just ask Boyko how many bears come into Ayan, not to mention roam in the taiga!"
"Yes, bears come into Ayan," I confirmed.
"The Lord protected us and we did not even see any bears! And anyway, even hungry lions dont touch believers!" The brothers told the Biblical account of how Daniel was thrown into the lions den for his faithfulness to God.
"It is difficult to interview you," the police officer sighed. "Tell me, for what purpose did you risk your lives?"
"We already said--to visit our dear brother and prisoner for the work of God, Nikolay Yerofeyevich Boyko."
"Did you know one another previously?"
"From a distance. Christ made us one family."
"Who exactly is Christ?"
The brothers answered these and many other questions openly, just as things actually were, and boldly testified of God.
A car drove up.
"Get in," a border guard invited my dear guests.
"We will now pray and ask Gods blessing on the brothers return trip," I said.
We were permitted to do so. Each of us prayed to the Lord in a loud voice in the presence of the curious crowd. We parted, weeping for joy. The brothers seated themselves in the "bobik" (police vehicle), accompanied by the border guard and two police officers.
I went back to my barracks and continued to weep for the great joy God sent me through the brothers visit. I thanked God again and decided to write a letter to Tashkent, since the whole church was probably worried about them. I sat down to write Oh! To whom would I address it? I did not even know the last names of the brothers!
I went back the police department and knocked at the office of the head of passport control. I was allowed to enter. I stepped in and there they all were, disputing with a KGB agent in their midst. They were still discussing this state of emergency!
"Citizen officer, excuse me. I wanted to write a letter to Tashkent but I do not know the last names of my brothers "
"Fancy that!" he turned to those present. "They were his brothers! He knew neither their first nor their last names! And yet they had that same smile on their faces and the same kindly expression."
"We are brothers in Christ," I repeated once more the phrase now familiar but absolutely unintelligible to them.
"I know one of their last names but the other wait, Ill find it," the officer answered me, and smiling, set about to look through the documents lying on the desk.
"Boyko! An impassible taiga! Bears! Are they really in their right minds?!" horrified, the chairman of the regional executive committee wondered aloud.
"They prayed and walked with faith. God protected them!"
"What sort of God is out there! Do bears really reckon with God?!"
"Listen, Boykoif anyone else wants to visit you, have them apply in writing for a pass and we will grant it, only please do not risk any lives."
"I did not know these brothers were coming to see me. But if someone tells me ahead of time, then of course I will advise them to obtain a pass."
The head of passport control told me the last names of the brothers and I left.
I wrote a letter to Tashkent, "Brothers and sisters! I have had a very joyful meeting with brothers from your church! According to their faith they received what they desired. But I do not know where they were taken "
That was still a worrisome time for methey could have been taken to the KGB and tried as "spies." In those years, such lawlessness would be on the order of things. I prayed to God for my dear brothers.
Soon I received a letter from Tashkent:
"Dear brother, dont worry! After meeting you they visited I. Y. Antonov and Y. N. Pushkov and are now on their way home "
The brothers were free! I rejoiced at this mercy and thanked God. In time I received a letter from the brothers themselves:
"Nikolay Yerofeyevich! We were driven out of Ayan like sons of the King of Kings! They called in a special airplane and flew the two of us to Nikolayevsk-na-Amure. From there we traveled to Khabarovsk, and from Khabarovsk to Tashkent. We are grateful to God that we saw you "
After the brothers visit, the attitude of the village administration noticeably changed toward me. They had seen the simplicity and sincerity of believers and our love toward one another. Obviously, they had risked their lives for the sake of a meeting with me and the administration couldnt help but be filled with sympathy for me.
The district police officer began to visit me fairly often.
"We were told that Baptists are aggressive and hate the Soviet authority From what I see of you, you are good people."
"For us, every authority comes from God. We submit to it in everything except matters of faith."
"What kind of person are you?"
"Read the New Testament and you will understand what kind of person I am."
"Could I read it? Would you allow it?"
"You are obligated to read the New Testament in order to know that God loves you and wants to save you. You should know what awaits you in the future and where you will spend eternity."
In September, 1988, the chief of police summoned me. I saw that he was anxious about something.
"Boyko, have you read the article in the newspaper, Arguments and Facts?" He sighed.
"I read it."
"Do you realize that all believers except you will be released from prison?" he looked at me with a studying gaze and awaited my reaction.
"Praise God that ministers of the churches will be free! As for me, however long God has determined for me to be in bonds, that is how long I will be. I am ready to stay in Ayan until I die in order to testify to people about the Lord."
The officer listened silently and shrugged his shoulders, not knowing what to answer me.
"You know," I addressed him, breaking the heavy silence, "in that case I want to ask you to give me some time off so that at least I can meet my family which I havent seen in eight years! Yesmy grandchildren are already growing up not once having seen their grandfather."
He raised his head and emphasized not too harshly, though still with authority:
"Boyko, you well know that time off is not appropriate for you because you are not working. But then again " and he fell silent for a moment, "Stop back by in three daysmeanwhile I will call the Khabarovsk Bureau "
I went out full of heavy thoughts. In previous years, just preceding arrests of church ministers, without fail the newspapers, radio, and television maligned them before the whole country, not being stingy with slanderous and injurious words. This was done with one purposeto incite the people to scorn believers so later, without danger of public outcry, ministers could be deprived of their freedom for extended terms. This time the situation was developing analogously and, judging from the libel in the newspaper, just as unattractively. One could expect new terms and murder attemptspublic opinion being prepared in advance by the influential paper.
I had lived nearly a year in Ayan. In this time period several police officers had read through the New Testament with their families, and some even through the entire Bible. A group of believers had already formed. At first the local residents were inclined against me but later, observing my life and the behavior of my family, changed their attitude and began to listen to my witness to them.
Three days later I dropped by to see the police chief.
"Did you receive any answer from Khabarovsk?"
"Boyko, I would like to give you good newsyou are permitted to travel home to visit your family. And," turning to the commandant who was more inclined toward me than all the rest, he asked him good-naturedly, "for how many days shall we give Boyko a leave?"
"As many as Boyko wants," the commandant answered calmly without looking up.
Their favorable disposition amazed me but also made me apprehensive. "What about the worsening situation in the country?" I silently wondered.
"If only I could have a month," I was bold enough to ask.
"Write him down for as much as he asked. Let him go. If everyone in exile were like Boyko we would have nothing to worry about and nothing to do."
In my documents, as is fitting to an exiled man, they designated the route I was to follow from which I must not deviate. Were I to do otherwise, I could be detained, the violation reported, and later, I be punished accordingly.
I wrote home about the leave I had been granted. My family, finding out that I was flying into Odessa, thought I had been released.
I arrived at my own home church just in time for the Harvest service.
"Thats why our church postponed our celebration day of Harvest twice already!" friends rejoiced. "God knew that you would come!"
Within a few days, a minister of our brotherhood, Mikhail Sergeyevich Krivko, came to see me. I rejoiced to meet with this dear coworker who in the past, like me, had for the work of Christ experienced worse than bonds.
"Nikolay Yerofeyevich! Our brother the printer, Nikolay Borinskiy, has been released from prison. Many believers are going to meet him and he is inviting you too."
"That city is not indicated on the sheet designating my itinerary."
"Dear brother, lets pray and the Lord will look after that."
"Right, Mikhail Sergeyevich! Well pray and the Lord will protect us from document checks and trouble!" I agreed with pleasure and wholly committed myself to the Lord.
With my heart at peace, I was present at the joyful meeting of Gods people with the dear prisoner. Many friends had not seen me either for a long timethey greeted me and asked many questions. The fellowship was enjoyable.
From there I stopped by my home town of Voznesensk, deviating again from my itinerary.
When I returned home, my wife greeted me with the unexpected news:
"Kolya, a telegram came from the chief of police of Ayan. It tells you to return urgently to pick up release documents."
Everything was happening so unexpectedly that I could hardly believe it--had they really canceled the remaining time in exile? I had been on leave only half the month and suddenly I was to return?! You always prepare for the worst, not counting on anything better.
At that time not just I but many of the prisoners of the Lord were astonished: strong bonds had been rendered powerless and His sufferers set free. The Lords miraculous victory was obvious to persecutors and Gods people alike.
I arrived in Ayan and I actually was released from exile.
The Khabarovsk Krai court reviewed my case on October 14, 1988, because the chairman of the Khabarovsk Krai court raised protest to the July 2, 1985, verdict of the central regional civil court of Komsomolsk-na-Amure in which I, not having completed my previous term, was tried again under Article 188-3 of the Ukrainian Codex and received an additional two years deprivation of freedom for not attending political lectures.
The following was recorded in the decree of the presidium of the Khabarovsk Krai court (I give a very abridged version):
Having reviewed the case and the protest in which the given question regards annulment of the verdict and closure of the case for lack of criminal content, and having heard the conclusion of the public prosecutor of Khabarovsk Krai, in satisfaction of the given protest, the presidium of the Khabarovsk Krai court has determined that the verdict of the civil court is subject to annulment for lack of criminal content
In accordance with Article 19, "Basis for Correctional Labor Legislation," it is apparent that the obligation placed on the convict to attend political lectures had no basis in the requirements of the law. Therefore it is impermissible to subject the convict to punishment for failure to attend political lectures.
The given situation of the placement of Boyko in the PKT and other punishments to which the colony administration subjected him WERE UNLAWFUL. Therefore the verdict is subject to annulment and the case closed for lack of criminal content
I knew that I had not been violating the detention regime. The entire camp administration was also well aware of this. They themselves would not have put such harsh pressure on me if they had not received instructions from the KGB agents, who were assigned to in every way possible not only discredit the ministers of the persecuted brotherhood, but also, as quickly as possible, to deprive us of life itself. For three decades straight, by Gods mercy and help, prisoners for the Name of Christ carried forward the intense battle by not allowing the adversaries the slightest hope that the brotherhood would leave the narrow way and make concessions to the world in the internal affairs of the church.
Documents of release were handed to me. I signed them.
When I was parting with the village administration, the district police officer who had watched my every step came up to me and said in a completely different tone of voice (to where did his condescending gaze disappear?), "Boyko, only now have I begun to understand what kind of person you are "
"How late, how late "
"You have something else divine about you--I would with pleasure read the " he held me back, apparently wanting to somehow redress his previously hostile attitude toward me.
I gave him a Bible and the book by P. I. Rogozina, Is There Life After Death? When I arrived in exile, he had worked hard to make my stay in the village difficult, but now he was simply unrecognizable. May God show him mercy to find the way of salvation.
On December 13, 1988, under the hand of blessing of my Good Shepherd, I returned home to my family and my home church.
I delineate my term of imprisonment: I was sentenced to a total of forty-five years and ten months deprivation of freedom plus five years without the right to leave, but I spent less.
I was tried on December 13, 1945, under Article 58-1b of the Ukrainian Codex of the RSFSR to deprivation of freedom for fifteen years. (I spent three years and ten months in concentration camp. I was in the Vorkuta camps from 1945 to 1954-- eight years and nine months).
On October 26, 1968, I was sentenced under Article 138 part 2 and 209 part 1 of the Ukrainian Codex of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic with deprivation of freedom for five years plus five years of exile. I spent this in its entirety.
On December 19, 1980 I was sentenced under Article 138 part 2 and Article 209 part 1 of the Ukrainian Codex of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic with deprivation of freedom for five years plus five years of exile.
On July 2, 1985, not having served out the end of my term and without emerging into freedom, by verdict of the central regional civil court of Komsomolsk-na-Amure, I was tried under Article 188-3 of the Ukrainian Codex of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and received deprivation of freedom for two years. On the basis of Article 41 of the Ukrainian Codex of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, this punishment was added to the uncompleted punishment handed down in verdict on December 19, 1980. Thus, total completion of the indicated punishment involved deprivation of freedom for two years, five months, and seventeen days followed by five years exile.
In labor camp the year 1984, before being sent into exile, I spent 157 days in punishment cells and the PKT. In addition, I was denied extended visits and, for one month, the opportunity to buy anything from the camp store.
I lost count of how many days I spent in punishment cells at the camp in the village of Start. I do know that there, I was not permitted a single personal visit for five years.
After a long separation, the meeting with the church, with my family, and with Gods people was joyful. Dear ministers of the CECB, Stepan Nikitovich Misiruk and Nikolay Abramovich Kreker, along with brothers of the Odessa district and a multitude of guests from other fellowships, were present.
Thankfulness to God overflowed my heart. He led our entire brotherhood down the path of suffering and He also sent strength to pass through valleys of sorrow. Under the circumstances, it would have been not just difficult but impossible to stand firm in the faith without His support.
I do not ask
That there would be no sadness,
That tears would not flow,
That there would be no grief
Of prison cells,
That I would not taste
The fruit of terror
In Siberian camps.
I do not ask
For honor or praise,
For the good of this world,
For many years to live,
On the bloody path,
For receding waves
On the sea of existence.
I do not ask
For guarantees nor securities
That I be understood
I do not ask.
Only one way
The way He walked.
I go by it.
Death, darkness, hell--
For You are with me
And the obstacles cease.
Oh, how many kilometers
The narrow path has covered!
By the northeast wind
A brother was tried
Every prisoner is gifted with sorrow
And besieged with grief.
But the persecuted brother
Is always firmly convinced:
"Even if I move to the ends of the sea
In loneliness and grief, Jesus is near!
If on the road arise
A regiment of wicked prohibitions
Yet my destiny and duty
Is to tell people about God.
Faithfulness to God!
The restmay it be as God allows:
Either behind the steel barbed wire,
Or the sigh of freedom."
Rapacious falcons of hatred
All circled over him
Praise the Lord for this meeting
With a dear brother!
Immediately after my release I visited churches of our brotherhood waiting impatiently for me. Friends asked to meet with me because over the long years they had wrestled in prayer for me and desired to thank God together that I had been left alive.
The days flew past, spent in more than just joyful fellowship. In those churches where it was needed, I took a responsible role in the ministry of cleansing and sanctification. At the brothers request, I helped in this ministry in the church of the city of Suma.
It was still on my heart to visit the church in the Far East. After a conference of the entire brotherhood held in Rostov-na-Donu, having obtained the agreement of the ministers of the CECB, I went first to Khaborovsk and then to Komsomolsk-na-Amure. In that church, several souls were awaiting a minister to baptize them. No one had commissioned me for this and I always avoided doing the work of God in self-will.
I called the responsible minister in Blagoveshchensk. He answered me, "Do it, pleasewe trust you " And so with Gods help I baptized those desiring to join Christs Church. I also held the Lords Supper with little groups of believers and in churches.
Then I went to Sovgavan. I had been asked to find and speak with a woman drawing close to God in that city. I went to the address and found no one was home so I went out on the street, sat on a bench by the entrance, and watched those walking past.
Sovgavan In the camp here I suffered a heart attack. My children came here to visit me having traveled across the entire countryeleven thousand kilometersbut were not granted a meeting with me. Here the political indoctrination deputy acted very harshly toward me, requiring me to attend the political lectures. "Boyko!" he yelled and pounded his fist on the desk in indignation, "The Soviet authority is powerful! We will either break you or make an end of you!" Over all, there were many things to remember
Time passed, the passers-by flashed quickly in front of my eyes, and no one turned into the house. And then suddenly suddenlythe major, the political indoctrination deputy whom I had just been remembering. It was his thundering voice that had yelled, "Remember, Boyko! You will not see freedom!" The major was approaching, now just across from me. To call out to him would be rather awkward. I prayed, "Lord, if only he would look in my direction " And he not only looked, but when he saw me he was dumbfounded and came to a stop
"Boyko?! Is it really you?!"
"Yes, it's IVictor Pavlovich."
"How did you get here?"
"I came to visit friends. Sit down, please."
He sat next to me on the bench.
"Victor Pavlovich, truth triumphed after all!"
"Yes. Lately I have been remembering you often, Boyko I remember all that you saidand I spoke quite a lot with you. I ask you not to hold offense against me And of course I ask for your forgiveness The times were such that I was forced to, you understand "
"I was never offended at you," I hurried to reassure the highly shaken major. "While talking with you in the camp, I wanted you to understand that life, both mine and yours, depends only on God, not on people."
"I found out that you had been released but never thought I would meet up with you so far from Odessa."
"It was the Lord Who gave you such an opportunity to meet me so that one more time you could hear from my mouth that there is a God and that there is eternal life."
"Boyko, I thought much about your words when you were not around. And now I can say that some sort of power exists! And there is someone "
"Victor Pavlovich! Not a someone but God exists! The living God! Not some force exists, but Gods power! He is God and the Creator of the whole universe. Notice thiswe are not born of our own will and neither do we die of our own will. And no matter what our own will, God will resurrect all people, independent of whether they believe in God or not or whether they want it or not. Everyone, down to the very last one, will God raise and everyone will be judged according to what he did while living on earththus it is written in the holy Book, the Bible."
"Boyko! I am so very interested to listen to you but I have to goI am on the job "
"Viktor Pavlovich, I must tell you yet one more timeif you do not repent you will one day stand before God and because you did not receive Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you will go to hell. And this camp here, to where you going in a hurry and where I languished in punishment cells (I pointed out the zone with my handit could be seen well from where we were sitting), is a paradise in comparison with hell. Do you really want to end up in that place of eternal torment? Do not forgetif you do not repent you will end up there, for not one unrepentant sinner will avoid that fate. Even if you want to be delivered from hell and desire to crawl on your knees your whole life that will not do it, for what a man sows, that will he also reap (Gal. 6:7). Either eternal condemnation or eternal life. The decision must be made todaynow and forever."
"Goodbye. Please pass on greetings from me to my prisoner friends who have come to believe in Christ." (I knew that converted brothers remained in the camp.)
On that note we parted. Later I found out that Viktor Pavlovich changed in his relationship to the prisoners and actually passed on my greeting to them.
Not a moment sooner or later than our conversation ended, a woman went in at the entrance. I understood this was exactly the person for whom I had been waiting. Only God can send such meetings! And timed right down to the second with Him!
I turned my attention to this woman who was seeking God and I told her about the believers living in the port of Vanino. I gave her their address and invited her to the church service. Then I went myself to Vanino, where I carried out a ministry of spiritual cleansing in that little group of sisters belonging to our brotherhood.
Back home, brothers on their way out of Russia to Germany were waiting for me. I arrived at the very moment they started praying that I would return soon, since they already wanted to leave.
The fall of 1991, after conferring with older leading brothers about the trip, I went to Germany to visit the place where fifty years earlier the Lord had found me, a poor sinner, and saved me by a miracle of His mercy. For me this place held more than mere historical value, for here my path to God had begun.
The former concentration camp had become a museum. After fifty years everything had changed to the point of being unrecognizable. Now, the area around the camp was all built up, formerly an unbroken forest in which neither bark of a dog nor crow of a rooster could be heard. A few trees remained of the original forest and several barracks had been preserved and restored as they were formerly, for the museum. Sure enough, the barracks where I had been did not survive.
The tour guide told the visitors and tourists about the daily life of the captives of war. To better the moment, I mentioned that I knew the camp from having lived in it, not through secondhand information.
"When?" at this point the tour guide interrupted her story.
"From 1941 to 1943."
"And you were left alive?" she looked at me with great amazement, knowing that during those very years the death rate in the camp had been at its worst.
"Only the Lord kept me then and cares for me to this day. I am extremely, extremely grateful to God for this."
"Where do you live now?" the tour guide was graciously interested to know.
"Ohyou came to us from far away!"
"This place is very memorable to me," I began my story, and briefly told how the Lord saved me by speaking to my heart through the piece of paper with the Lords Prayer in Russian that I found in the forest near this very spot. The tour guide cried as she listened to me.
I visited many churches in Germany where the services usually last an hour and a half or two hours at the most. But when I was asked to tell about the miracles the Lord had worked in my life, the service would stretch an hour to an hour and a half longer. The local ministers were amazed at the attentiveness of the believerseven small children quietly behaved themselves.
Friends tried inviting me to a sound recording studio so that I would tell about myself but they did not receive anythingI could not get used to speaking into empty space.
God allowed me to spend time with friends in Switzerland and thank them for their prayers, their heartfelt correspondence, and their support of my family.
I was touched by their sincere admissions. "Brother Nikolay, while you were in prison we were very fervent in praying for you. At that time we felt a close connection with God. Now you are free and we are happy for you but sad for ourselves because we live in plenty and have no need to pray."
"Why no need? Pray and fast that you would not perish amid your success and abundance."
It was strikingin Holland I was met with exactly the same words of greeting that included concern for themselves. While there I walked up to a church buildinga large ancient cathedraland started up the first step when a sister nearby threw up her hands in joy.
"Are you sure you know me? Its my first time in Holland."
"We corresponded with you!"
"But youve never seen me "
"Why, we have your photograph! Brother Boyko, you are alive both physically and spiritually but we only physically. We have everything, but spiritually? Spiritually we are poor. Pray for us "
As it turned out, our suffering in bonds had been bringing much good to our friends abroad! God, in leading us through prisons and labor camps, cleansed us and prepared us to meet Him while believers in the West drew closer to God by praying for us.
When I returned home I continued the ministry of evangelism that had begun. As a small group we traveled out to remote villages. After holding a service the group would leave, but I stayed and spoke with those who had received our testimony about the Lord with hungry hearts. I visited them in their homes more than once.
How important it is to instruct souls at the right time, while they, under the influence of Gods Word, sense their guilt and impending doom. How eagerly they then repent. It is not enough to testify about the Lord and then leave. We lose souls that way--we need to teach them to keep the commandments of God and must not leave them without spiritual care.
In my church I try to talk with souls immediately after they repent and persuade them not to cover sin. If a person gives his heart to God but does not fully confess his sin, the devil easily turns him back to the same sinful swamp from which he came. This is especially true in our times, when people have been powerfully drawn into contact with devilish spirits through fortune telling, horoscopes, and psychics. Those who have been connected with occult powers need to not only confess but also renounce their involvement. Without renunciation, the devil will not leave a soul alone and continues to exercise authority and power over it.
Confession and renunciation is carried out primarily before the Lord in the presence of a minister. Satan forsakes the persons heart when he hears such renunciation and God sends to the soul thus freed from occult dependence His witness of forgiveness and strength for subsequent victory over temptation.
After the evangelistic services, groups of new believers formed in the villages of Peychivo, Makarovo, and Zherebkovo.
I also worked much in the registered fellowship in Secretarovka. When they found out about our brotherhood of churches, they realized they were not living according to the Word of God and sought a way out. Their souls were weary of seeing the sacrilegious attitude of young brothers to the Lords holy place and to God in general. Many believers received with joy the ministry of cleansing and sanctification and after personal confession, joined our brotherhood.
In the Peresip church alone there was plenty of spiritual work to be done. I visited believers frequently in their homes and held many conversations in our house of prayer. In addition, believers came to me with spiritual needs. I frequently fasted for those burdened with the occult, that God would cleanse their conscience from this dependence.
My ministry to the Lord was not limited to this. Ministers from neighboring fellowships of the Odessa district often invited me to visit groups recently formed after evangelism to speak individually with those who had just repented and listen to them confess. Several were sick but after confession and prayer over them, the Lord healed them both spiritually and physically.
In 1988 a Christian camp was held on the beach of the Khadzhibeysk estuary. First arrived a group of children age eight to twelve, second came junior youth age thirteen to sixteen, and third came the senior youth. The ministers explained to the children what repentance and confession were and gave an invitation to repentance. First to come forward was the oldest of the boys. After him came a second and then a third until it was hard to count them all.
Since it was time to pray aloud for those gathered at the front in repentance, we decided to pray that the children would not repent simply because others were. After our prayer the group of those repenting at the front doubledit was impossible to hold back these weeping ones from coming forward. Children repented, acknowledging and confessing their guilt in minding the adults far too rarely. Of 116 children, 80 made peace with God!
The next day I asked them, "Whoever repented yesterday, raise your hand." Hands went up.
"Which of you have salvation?" I asked the next question. The answer? Silence. We conducted one-on-one explanatory discussions in which the children revealed all that was on their hearts. I was amazed at the grace of God and that the children were able to with seriousness repent and make confession before God at their age. We instructed them to heed the voice of conscience and to keep their hearts pure. "Christ now lives in my heart! I am saved and have eternal life!" the children who had repented rejoiced.
Back in 1961, when I first met with ministers of the Initsiativnaya Group,* I saw we were of one soul in all questions guiding the work of God because we had one Spirit, the Holy Spirit! In 1993, together with other ministers from the Odessa Oblast, I attended a general brothers conference of representatives of the churches of the CEBC. Great blessing was evident throughout the conference. God had united me to this brotherhood from the very beginning of the revival and it was precious to me. I saw that these ministers had been ready to give their lives for the teaching of Jesus Christsomething only true members of Christs Church can do.
On Golgotha, Christ went the path of obedience to the Heavenly Father and He out of love for sinners gave up His life and shed His blood for the sake of our salvation. We as His followers cannot avoid Golgotha and each will have his own share of suffering and humiliation for Christ. If we stand next to the rejected Christ, then evil will be spoken of us also and our backs will be touched by the figurative Roman lash. But Christ encourages, "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul " (Matt. 10:28). "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17).
A great spiritual battle always precedes suffering in the flesh. A duel with the devil was in store for Christ. He, "Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared," emerged as Victor (Heb. 5:7)! He tasted death in His body but spiritual death did not touch Him.
Prisoners for the name of Christ who have passed through prisons and labor camps know that satan attacks the soul intensely just before the physical suffering is to begin. Often the greatest temptation one undergoes is during the pretrial investigation when the enemies try to undermine the Christians spirit. More than once my persecutors suggested to me, "Lets not bring you to trialjust give the word that you are leaving for Germany or for America " God helped me to maintain victory in spiritsuffering in the flesh was then not as frightening because I always saw the Lord before me (Ps. 16:8).
Arriving in shining eternity, we will regret that we suffered so little for Christ. So let us endeavor to live such that we would be considered worthy of the great mercy not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for Him (Phil. 1:29).
This autobiography of the humble minister Nikolay Y. Boyko was first published as individual chapters in the journal Vestnik istiniy (Voice of Truth) from years 2004 to 2006 under the title, "A Pearl of Our Time." In the present edition these chapters have been gathered in this book under a new title, I Believe in Immortality.
Nikolay Y. Boyko often spoke these words to his persecutors when they threatened to create conditions incompatible with life and thus do away with him in prisons and labor camps. He not only spoke but also believed that the eternal God had prepared him a place in His Homeland where there would be no more torture, disease, and death. Nikolay Boyko agreed even to die if only to remain faithful to his Lord Who loved him. And God blessed him such that he remained uncompromising during the difficult days of testing and the long years in bonds.
From the publishers
* The Initiativnaya Group: a group of brothers led by G. K. Kryuchkov which circulated a written objection to the Legislation of Religious Cults requiring churches to register with the state, thereby agreeing to exclude children from church services, refuse to baptize youth under age thirty, and submit all church activities for the approval of atheistic authorities. Revival spread among believers as a result of this letter and the unregistered churches associated as the Council of Evangelical Baptist Churches [CEBC], now called the International Union of Churches of Evangelical Christian Baptists [IUC ECB].