experience of Valentina Garnovskaya
pgs 191 & 192 of the 2008 Yearbook
*this one really impressed me, because not only was this woman not even baptized yet, but she had only seen a Bible 3 times before they arrested and imprisoned her! Yet her faith was so strong that she held out under these harsh conditions for so long and stayed true to her beliefs.
"My mother and I lived in western Belarus. I met Jehovah's Witnesses in February 1945. A brother came to our house just three times and showed us things from the Bible. Though I never saw him again, I began to preach to neighbors and acquaintances. The authorities arrested me, and I was sentenced to eight years in the camps. They sent me to Ulyanovsk Oblast.
In the camp, I observed other prisoners and listened to their conversations, hoping that I would meet one of Jehovah's Witnesses there. In 1948, I overheard one female prisoner talking about God's Kingdom. Her name was Asya. I was so happy to talk to her about spiritual topics. Soon three more sisters were brought to the camp. We had little literature, so we tried to associate together as much as we could.
In 1953, I was freed, but three and a half years later, I was convicted for preaching and given a ten-year sentence. I was transferred in 1957 to the camp in Kemerovo, where there were about 180 sisters. We were never without Bible literature. In the winter, we hid literature in the snow, and in the summer, in the grass and in the ground. During searches, I hid manuscripts in both hands, covered my shoulders with a big shawl, and held on to the ends of the shawl with my hands. When I moved from camp to camp, I wore a cap that I sewed myself, putting several issues of The Watchtower in it.
Eventually, I was sent to a camp in Mordvinia. There was a Bible there, hidden away in a secure place. We could look at it only in the presence of the sister who was in charge of keeping it safe. The only other time I had seen a Bible was in the hands of the brother who first acquainted me with the truth back in 1945.
When I was freed in 1967, I moved to Angren, Uzbekistan. Here I was able to symbolize my dedication to Jehovah by water baptism. I met brothers for the first time since that initial call. After all, I had only spent time in women's labor camps. All the brothers and sisters in the congregation were zealous in the ministry, and I quickly came to love them. In January 1969, eight brothers and five sisters from our congregation were arrested for preaching, and I was among them. I was sentenced to three years as an "especially dangerous offender." I was sent to solitary confinement many times for preaching.
I conducted Bible studies with interested ones under the cover of a blanket. We were forbidden to talk to one another during walks. If we got caught speaking, we were punished with solitary confinement. We used only hand-copied literature, which we constantly recopied.
I never had my own place to live. All my possessions were in a single suitcase, but I was happy and content in serving Jehovah."