Let’s pray for Marina—Marina Ovskyannikova. She was Moscow’s Channel One editor, usually off screen, who boldly came before Russian cameras to hold up a protest sign against Putin’s war on Ukraine. She was quoted as saying, “They can’t arrest us all.”
But Marina was arrested, fined, and released. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn relates his own arrest with graphic details. He even describes what it sounds like to be arrested.
In Russian, it is ya beryu vas pod arrest (I take you under arrest.) And, in Russian, Solzhenitsyn emphasizes the hissing sounds as these reptiles take possession of your body. They have you. You are the center of your world, he writes, and when they take you, your world is in their hands.
Russians whom the regime arrests for protesting the war need our prayers because some may well be in one of the infamous psychiatric hospitals. For the KGB (or it’s alleged successor FSB), a person would have to be insane to be so brave. Or a Christian, which might be worse for the regime.
When I met Solzhenitsyn in 1976, I was so struck dumb by his aura that I could only wordlessly hand him my sky-blue Coast Guard shoulder boards. He had written an entire chapter on sky blue shoulder boards. That is what the secret police wore when they arrested him in 1945, in East Prussia.
Then they rudely and roughly ripped off his officer’s shoulder boards. For a Red Army artillery officer like the young Aleksandr Isayevich, this was to be his humiliation, his being imbruted by the Soviet state. He was dishonored forever as a traitor to the Motherland.
I wanted Solzhenitsyn to have my shoulder boards as a mark of my deep respect. Without my saying anything, his knowing look seemed to communicate it all.
Then my Russian language tutors asked me to pray for Irina Ratushinskaya. She was the Russian poetess held in the Gulag as a dissident. She was subjected to psychiatric torture. She remained true to her faith.
“Do you know her?” I asked my tutors. “No,” they said, “but Solzhenitsyn asked us to pray for Irina. So, we will.” I was young in the faith then. I didn’t know Christians pray for people whom they do not know. I prayed for Irina Ratushinskaya. We all did.
It was ten years before she was released. She was freed in 1986 by Mikhail Gorbachev. It was on the eve of his Reykjavik Summit with President Ronald Reagan. When Irina got out of the Gulag, she said it was our prayers that had sustained her in those long years of confinement.
So, now, I will pray for Marina Osvyannikova and all Russian dissenters, who are in great peril and may become targets of the state or of fellow citizens who support the war. And I will pray for Vladimir Putin, too. My neighbors in this Annapolis cul-de-sac prayed for him on the 700th day of our ritual Pledge of Allegiance. Good Neighbor Becki reminded us, “We pray for our enemies. We were told so to do.”