Interview with V. (Chernivtsi)

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Key information

Title: Interview with V. (Chernivtsi)
Date: 25/03/2011
Interviewer: Nadezhda Beliakova (NB)
Interviewee: Interviewee, V. (V)
Duration: 1 hour(s) 32 minutes and seconds
Location: Chernivtsi, Ukraine


NB When people started leaving the congregation, how did you feel about that? Was this a mass exodus?
V Around 1980, towards the end of the Brezhnev period. That was when there were what they called the dissidents in secular society. Bukovskii was one, I remember
NB Bukovskii, Siniavskii…
V We knew what was happening through the radio, they raised a lot of correct questions, we felt that in our hearts and even prayed for them to become… maybe some of them really were Christians, I think, but they did raise this, and parallel with them, and maybe with their involvement, there was also Sakharov, Siniavskii, it was their involvement, they helped the Jews to leave. After they started to leave, it was in 1975 that the Jews began leaving for their homeland in Israel. Then there was a mission which paid the expenses of those who wanted to emigrate. According to the Constitution emigration was not a criminal offence, I mean, it was the choice of a free... a person’s free choice. Then sometime in the 1980s some believers, especially if they had relatives, here in Bukovina when it was still part of Romania many people left for Canada and Argentina, to other countries, then they turned up in America. If you had an Israeli visa you flew to Rome or Vienna, and from there you were able to change your route. Not everyone wanted… to go to America. From the 1980s, probably to the 1990s, from the 1980s to the 1990s, even up to 2000, believers were leaving en masse, lots of them. I travelled there, met with them, and not everyone was happy to have left. One brother said, 'If when we left the situation with you was as it is now, there’s no way we would have left’. What can you say, back then in 1975, in those years, one day I’m at work and I’m told over the intercom to go to the Personnel Department. When I get there I’m told, ‘Make your way over there.’ I see two men in civilian clothes sitting and chatting. Essentially they tried to persuade me to meet with them regularly, in other words collaborate with them.
NB Was that the first time you were called in, in 1975, or had they tried earlier?
V Well, even before I was in the army the KGB had tried to recruit me, and when I became a preacher they tried even harder. I gather that they researched the situation in churches quite well and those people they considered useful they tried to bring them into their sphere of influence to somehow make contact with them. Because sooner or later they would bring a case against the Deacon or the Presbyter, and they've already got their own man on the inside. Generally all my meetings with the KGB, either at work, or when they came to my home, or in a car somewhere or wherever, it was always 'we should meet up with you, we should talk’, and even then it was not easy to stay clear of them. I knew that if I told them, at least this is what my friends told me in the Council of Churches, that if you were to simply break off all contact then pure and simple you'd have an accident and be killed. In 1974, probably, 1973 in Bălţi Brother Volodya organized a good male voice choir, boys of 18, 17, 16, it was such a good choir, we travelled with an orchestra, it was amazing, and 18 months later he was already dead. They were going on a visit and he stopped, opened the boot of the car and suddenly this car tears by, knocks him over, breaking both his legs and he's taken to hospital. He never left the hospital, he died of heart failure even though he was a healthy man. I still think that they wanted him in hospital and to be in their hands. And so he died. If you tried to break off contact with them, the result would be the same. I knew there was no way I would agree to work with them. If I signed just one piece of paper, I would be in their clutches. I was very aggressive towards the KGB even as a child, and if they had been blown up in our town I would have been over the moon with joy. Around 1975 and 1978 we were subjected to searches in connection with the printing-press, they were tipped off that it was in Chernivtsi. We were searched 19 times over one winter. They would come and turn everything inside out. If there was a Bible that was not printed in Moscow they took it, if they found handwritten collection of songs, they took them. This generated so much antipathy that I thought that there was no hole small enough for me to squeeze through to go and live anywhere but in the Soviet Union, England, Germany, America, especially as we thought that America was a Christian country. That’s probably why the potential emerged for what I would call the antipathy towards the existing order, with all its ideology, so that when it became possible people began leaving en masse. But actually there was no need to do that. No need. Because now we have suffered a great loss. A lot of good cadres, as we may call them, singers, composers, preachers, and in their place all sorts of missions arrived, representing all kinds of doctrines that send your head spinning, with charisma and such great religious awakening, but this does not provide anything actually spiritual. The first time I visited America in 1991 I was there for almost six months, visited various sites with my relatives, there are a lot of relatives there, and I saw that I wasn't needed there. I am needed here. I had no further desire to go there.
NB What about your wife?
V Even more so, on this we are unanimous. She doesn’t even want to go there. I say to her, let's go, at least just one time, ‘well, all right’
NB I see. Thank you very much.