January 3, 2019

Positivity: Learning to ‘love your enemy’ in a Soviet labor camp

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Lviv, Ukraine:

Dec 20, 2018 / 11:20 am

“I can honestly say that the labor camp was the best place to understand what ‘love your enemy’ really means,” said Myroslav Marynovych, a Ukrainian Catholic who spent seven years in a Soviet gulag in the Perm region of Russia.

After receiving the 2018 Charles J. Chaput Award at the Napa Institute conference earlier this year, Marynoych explained to CNA how the gospel came to life for him in the gulag, and how a stint in solitary confinement led him to write a letter to St. John Paul II.

Marynovych is vice-rector for university mission at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv.

Marynovych was sent to the labor camp in 1977, one year before Karol Wojtyła was elected Bishop of Rome. He was arrested for leading the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, the first non-underground group in Ukraine tasked with documenting human rights abuses and monitoring the implementation of the Helsinki Accords.

He spent 1977-1984 in forced labor camps in Perm, and then three years of exile in Kazakhstan.

Marynovych learned early on in his gulag experience that he needed to guard against an unchristian contempt for the KGB officers and guards.

After an outburst while interacting with a guard when he was in solitary confinement, Marynovych reflected on his actions in his cell.

“This incarnation of anger – is it me? What about my Christianity? I didn’t want to transform myself into a ‘man of hatred.’”

“I started to pray. I started to walk in the cell back and forth, and…I decided, ‘No, I don’t want hatred to overcome my heart.’”

After that realization, “I behaved in a way that is acceptable as a Christian. I don’t need to hate people to say something that they have to hear,” said Marynovych.

The Catholics in his labor camp celebrated Easter twice in a sign of solidarity with their Orthodox brethren, who follow a different liturgical calendar. “That was a sort of prison ecumenism,” Marynovych explained. It also made it more difficult for the KGB officers to pit the two groups against each other. …

Go here for the rest of the story.


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