Monday, May 02, 2005

Irina Ratushinskaya on Sunday Worship

Yesterday was Easter for Orthodox Christians, and Radio 4's Sunday Worship programme was broadcast from the Danilov Monastery in Moscow. Among the guests was Irina Ratushinskaya, the Russian poet who spent four years in a Soviet labour camp. (She was freed largely because of the efforts of Western intellectuals, including our friend David McDuff.)

I was born in the Soviet Union which meant that I was not allowed to be a Christian according to the Soviet totalitarian ideology. I was taught that Communism was a sort of pagan religion for itself; they wanted to occupy all the world, to introduce this regime everywhere and as I happened to be a Christian, a Russian Orthodox Christian, I couldn't accept all these ideologies.

I think I was born as a poet: I could do nothing about it. So my first poems were Christian poems, of course. They couldn't be published officially in the Soviet Union. They were published underground. Some of them were published abroad in (the) Russian language. That was the reason that I was arrested and sentenced to seven years of hard labour and five years of internal exile if I will survive those seven years.

I was 28 then. The idea of the KGB and the Communist authorities was to torture us until we renounced our faith, our ideas, and start working for the KGB. For me it meant more than four years of torture with one demand: just say no to your faith and you would be free.

I never thought I would survive, but sometimes, I felt a very strange thing. They tortured us with cold very often. That meant that I had to freeze in the punishment cell, alone, hungry, half alive and sometimes I felt sudden warmth and confidence and being protected. And in those moments, I was absolutely sure that someone was praying for me.

They prayed for me in Russia, in England, in the Ukraine, in France. I didn't know that. This is my chance to say thank you to those people who helped me by their prayers, not only not to be broken down, but in fact to survive.

You can listen to the episode on the web site for the next seven days, or read a transcript of the programme here.


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