The Trial Should Be Continued
The defendant did not hide anything; he answered all questions in detail.
'Where did the Jehovist literature come from which you distributed?' the presiding Judge asked.
'From across the ocean.'
'Did it have anti-Soviet character?'
'Do you admit that your activity was criminal?'
'Not only do I admit it; I condemn it and I am breaking with the Underground for ever. I regret that I lost my young years, that I lived eighteen years for nothing...'
Hundreds of people who filled the hall of the Cultural Centre of Rascani, were listening with tense attentiveness to every word of the defendant. On the faces of the members of the sect there were guarded looks and confusion; in the eyes of some 'sisters' and 'brothers' there are sparkles of hate. What is happening to Zaporojan? He seems transformed.
Ivan Zaporojan was known as an ardent member of the organization 'Jehovah's Witnesses', not only by the sectarians of the village of Vasileutsi but also by those of other villages. In 1945 he joined the 'Heralds of Eternal Kingdom' and, with all his soul, attached himself to Jehovah's religious teaching. A year later he was condemned for refusing to serve in the Soviet Army. He returned home in 1949, and again engaged in the same activities as before. In 1950 another draft notice came from the regional drafting board and Zaporojan repeated the same thing for which he had served his term before. 'I am not going to the Army,' he said, 'my religion does not permit us to take arms in our hands.' The 'servant of God' was sentenced with all severity of Law for desertion and anti-Soviet propaganda.
To the Soviet State, man is more valuable than anything else. Therefore, its Laws are so humane, and therefore, Ivan Zaporojan was set free before his term had expired. They thought that this man had thought over his situation and had thrown out of his mind and heart everything that connected him with the shameful past. He would live a new life and start thinking the right way. Yet having returned to Vasileutsi in 1956, he again went to see the sectarian leaders.
'I appoint you to be the servant of the circle and a liaison,' P. Geletiuk, the area manager at that time, told him.
Three years passed, and Zaporojan became deputy servant of the group. From Geletiuk he received the journal Bashnia Strazhi [Watchtower] and other secret publications and distributed them among the sectarians, then delivered coded accounts to the 'Area servant.'
It was not with good purposes that the sectarians assembled in Zaporojan's house at night. They befouled with dirt our reality and prayed for the advent of Armageddon.'Do not vote in the elections, do not join the Soviet Army, do not get active in public affairs, because God does not like it,' he taught the rank-and-file sectarians.Zaporojan used every opportunity to make people come to him: their need of support, their failures or their weaknesses...
Well, what happened to Zaporojan? Why did the active preacher of Jehovism make a complete about face and turned his back on the Underground? Why doesn't he, as before, defend the organization of the 'Jehovah's Witnesses' but, on the contrary, unmasks it? Has the leader shrunk in the face of punishment?
Ivan Zaporojan wrote his declaration about his break with the Jehovists on June 8th 1963, soon after his arrest. But it was not dictated by the feeling of fear. After all, he was tried before and he was not afraid, because he deeply believed. Now, however, this belief was not present any more, but, instead, there was realization of the senselessness of further work underground...
It was the thought that the organization of 'Jehovah's Witnesses' suffers bankruptcy in the Soviet country, that it was time to end the double life, that penetrated Zaporojan's conscience four years ago. He tried to chase this thought away from his mind, he regarded it as Satan's delusion, but he was not able toget rid of this realization.
Before his eyes, the sect dispersed; it was deserted not only by some rank-and-file believers, but also by some leaders, such as the area manager Pavel Geletiuk, the section servant Petr Syrgi . . . Also depressing was the break between the leaders of Jehovism in Siberia, which, as Zaporojan learned, was caused by their disagreement concerning the division money. It appeared that there, at the top, people believed not in God but in their worldly life.
Slowly, the enlightenment came about and it was only the sentiment of strict Jehovist discipline developed over many years, and also his wife, blinded by fanaticism, who would not even hear of any break with 'brothers' and 'sisters', that kept him on the old road. So, when Zaporojan was arrested, he finally could breathe freely. Time had come to put a dot over the past. At the investigation, he admitted everything honestly, told in detail about his improper activities and wrote the declaration concerning his break with the anti-social organization of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Eighteen years he lived in vain... Ivan Zaporojan had to pay a high price for his enlightenment. The presiding Judge, I. A. Guranda, more than once mentioned these eighteen lost years to the sectarians present in the courtroom. He wanted these people, who had not yet freed themselves from the influence of religious ideology, to learn a lesson from the bitter experience of Zaporojan and to realize that they not only deprive themselves of the joys of a vigorous, creative and inspired life but, also willingly or unwillingly, take part in an anti-social activity of the organization Jehovah's Witnesses and in its criminal connections with the American imperialism.
The workers of the Rascani District, present in the courtroom, amply learned how pitiful was the role of the rank-and-file faithfuls who became victims of Jehovism.
Although the presiding Judge ordered several short recesses, the trial essentially did not stop for even a minute. As soon as the Judges left their seats and the guards removed the defendant, the kolkhoz members, workers and educated people would surround the sectarians and start a really heated conversation with them. Some appealed to the human pride of the erring ones, others talked about the absurdities of which the Bible is full, still others put them to shame and pointed out the harmfulness of 'Jehovah's Witnesses' . . . And the 'heralds of Kingdom' (mostly women) said something about God and Armageddon, (the place where, according to the book of Revelation, the last battle of history will take place).
These oral skirmishes involuntarily brought to our minds the thought: Why is it so seldom that such community trials take place against the sectarianism in our villages, settlements, towns —where there still remain those 'witnesses' and other 'brothers' and 'sisters' in Christ? Aren't we too yielding to people who speculate with the belief in God? Why do we sometimes miss the realization of our right to an active, continuous and militant antireligious propaganda?
The present Court trial showed that the atheists from Vasileutsi attack the obsolete vestiges rather timidly and do not make war on the criminal Jehovist propaganda. Five of six comrades who appeared as witnesses called themselves agitators. But not a single one of them answered [in the positive] to the question of the judges: 'With whom of the believers do you work? Whom did you get out of the sect?'The sectarian Vera Zabolotna is even a relative of the agitator Maria Tsymbaliuk. When the presiding Judge, Ivan Afanasievich Guranda, asked Maria whether she talked to Vera about her erring, there was a reply:
'I did not, she lives outside of my section...'
Also the other agitators, whom we had the opportunity to hear at that trial, 'work' the same way with the believers. They met the sectarians only in selsovet—the village council, when the Jehovah's Witnesses were summoned there to explain whether they would participate in the elections of the organs of administration.
The candid admission of the defendant as to his mistakes and his condemnation of his harmful underground activity, were appreciated by the Court; Zaporojan was sentenced conditionally to ten years in prison with a three-year term of probation.
The testimony of thirteen witnesses, and the convincing, well-founded statements of the public prosecutor—the headmaster of the school at Nagoriansk, V. K. Kasianenko, and of the State Prosecutor, A. P. Poluiektov, will surely leave their impact on the consciousness of the rank-and-file sectarians, and will help them to realize that the adherence to this reactionary organization constitutes a crime against the country and the people.The trial which ended in Rascani should be continued in Vasileutsi and other villages. Let our atheists be judges at these trials of conscience! Every day a fight should start for a new man. Massively, actively and persuasively one should expose all and sundry religious survivals, and help those who still have the bad luck of being under the influence of a religious ideology, including the Jehovist one, to return to a healthy and valuable life.
Settlement of Rascani
Our special correspondent
Pravda Vostoka [Правда Востока] (Truth of the East), November 15th 1963
The Soviet Saints
[Οι Σοβιετικοί Άγιοι],
Hodder and Stoughton 1968,