Interview with V. (Moscow)

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Key information

Title: Interview with V. (Moscow)
Date: 01/04/2012
Interviewer: Miriam Dobson (MD)
Interviewee: Interviewee, V. (V)
Duration: 1 hour(s) 09 minutes and 47 seconds
Location: Moscow


MD When you were a child did you go to church with your mother, or was that impossible?
V Sometimes my mother would take me to Trekhsvetitelskii Lane for Sunday morning worship once a month, once every two months. There was always a lot of people there as it was the only church for the city of Moscow and Moscow District. So all the religious believers in Moscow and Moscow District came to worship. Therefore, there was a lot of people there, it was very crowded and there wasn’t enough space, there were loudspeakers and we listened to the broadcast in the corridor. We’d be crammed in some corridor, if there was a chair you could sit down, if not then you’d stand for two hours listening to them singing. This was very important to my mother, for us it was onerous and dreary, boring to look at the backs of people, it was like standing in a bus for two hours. You’re standing there listening, you couldn’t turn left or right, people were packed so closely together. You couldn’t see any faces, you’d just listen to the speakers.
MD When did this change for you, when you were 15?
V Yes, when I began going…
MD Was this a sudden sensation for you, or did it happen gradually?
V I was struck by the devoutness of these people who prayed and trusted in God. They prayed with tears in their eyes, they cried when they told of their sins… this affected me very deeply, and I thought, ‘So who am I then? I’m from a religious family, but why don’t my parents cry like these girls and boys do?’ There were boys and girls aged 15-16 there, they could pray for their sins for two hours, give expression to their thoughts, turn their souls inside out, cry. When you attend for whatever reason an act of worship like this you realize that you are doing something wrong in your life and you need to change something. I probably subjected myself to penance several times and asked God to forgive my sins which I understood and which I felt ashamed to remember. Then I began to feel that I wanted to promise God that I would serve with a good conscience, though I realized that I wouldn’t do what I would promise or want to promise. I don’t like praying, I don’t like reading the scriptures I don’t understand it and I couldn’t grasp why I should spend 2 hours every day reading the scriptures. My children spend 2 hours a day reading the scriptures. I don’t do this because I think that if a normal person has read a textbook once then he understands everything. Here you have to read every day, and get deeper and deeper into the meaning. I didn’t understand what the Holy Spirit is and how it could open up the depth of the scriptures. I read the scriptures as a historical document, as the life of the Jews. I couldn’t get my head around the reason why I, a Russian boy, had to read about the life of the Jewish people who lived 6000 years ago and to bow down before its God, to know all the festivals, the Feast of Tabernacles, the festival of… even today I don’t understand the significance of many festivals, and back then, aged 14, well, you know what I mean… There was a lot of interesting things which were interesting to read and learn to do. Because I was with young people, there were devout people there who sincerely believed in God, and that devoutness infected us all. We sincerely extolled the glory of God, they told us how to extol His glory, how to praise God in the correct manner. Well, there are certain hang-ups that are purely rural which a city dweller finds it very difficult to get rid of when he arrives in the city, and I was a village lad. When I was two years old I was taken to Orenburg District and lived without my parents, with my grandmother and grandfather, until I was seven. When I was seven I was brought back. I had been brought up as a village boy, and I had what you could call the know-how of village life. When I came to the city, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to do when I got up in the morning. The city has its own completely different aspects of life. Back there we didn’t go to shops, we went to the garden or the cellar. Here you have to go the shop, you have to go and work, you have to go and study and do lots of other stuff to get things done. Mother taught us all to work. I love my mother, she’s a wonderful woman! Whenever I think of her, I remember her always on her knees, in tears, praying, she pleaded to the Lord to protect us. Thanks to her self-sacrificing life. She worked at five different jobs and earned a lot of money and so could provide us all with higher education, and for all that she was a devout Christian woman. She was one of life’s optimists, never letting her head drop, she’d say, ‘What are you doing loitering about, if you need to earn some money go and find some work!’ I said, ‘Where?’ ‘What do you mean, I’m a woman and I’m bringing home money. If you can’t, then ask me.’ I said, ‘Mum, can I work for you and you pay me?’ She said, ‘Yes’. So gradually I began helping her with her work, whether as a janitor, cleaning up the entrances to houses, sweeping away the rubbish and lots of other things I got involved in. Well, you know what I mean, I was a child and at first very eager, and then I lost all interest. I got my wage for the month, then stopped working. But my mother continued working, and she did that every day. Mother did not begrudge any money for our spiritual development. She gave us money for trips, she organized prayer meetings in our apartment, that is, she bought food and laid the table. About 30 young people would come, eat and drink. When it’s every weekend that is a lot of money to feed such a large gathering! But still mother did not begrudge the money, and we were very grateful to her that people came to our home, an awful lot of people, including Presbyters, Deacons, and religious believers from other cities would also visit. We brought them home from services, they spent the night with us if they needed to stay over. Each summer we would travel to the village to see grandfather. There were amazing people there, Germans.
MD Ah, yes.
V And when we were a bit older we began visiting their German religious services.
MD Were they in German?
V Yes, in German. We would come and listen to the singing and the sermons in German, then we began asking them, ‘Brothers, we don’t understand anything, can you give at least one sermon in Russian?’ So they began delivering one sermon in Russian, and in the middle of the week sometimes there were religious services for young people entirely in Russian just for us. We sang, we played, we socialized. Gradually we began to evangelize.
MD Was that possible?
V We brought with us an accordion, guitars, we brought young people from Moscow to our grandparents’ village, and in the evening we’d sit down and sing. During the day those who had been swimming and sunbathing with us would come and listen to us singing. Sometimes there would be up to 50 people coming off the street to gather at my grandfather’s house. Can you imagine that? Children not going to school but coming to listen to our Baptist songs! Sometimes we’d sing until one o’clock in the morning.
MD And there weren’t any problems?
V To begin with there weren’t. But when the gatherings numbered up to 50 people, I remember the village Party organizer, the local policeman and another policeman came by. They wrote down the names of all those there and took away all the religious literature that was there, they intended to put us in prison. But because we were under the legal age we were issued with a warning, they bought us tickets for Moscow and in 24 hours sent us back to Moscow on a train. So there were problems. Our parents, that is, grandfather and two other families, were fined quite heavily, a fine of 150 rubles, when their pension was 7 rubles. So you can imagine. Yes, problems… It’s probably the case that problems always arise when a normal person wants to live a pious life. There will always be problems, even in the family.