Friday, August 7, 2009

Yearbook Experiences -Solitary Confinement & Literature Duplication

(Ivan Klimko, one of the brothers who duplicated literature -photo on pg 173 of the 2008 Yearbook)

*since the brothers would be sentenced to solitary confinement if they got caught with Bible-related literature, I want to first give a description of what solitary confinement was like in order to really show just how much love they had for the spiritual needs of their brothers and sisters, by continuing to risk the chances of getting caught duplicating literature.

Solitary Confinement (pg 122)
Within the Soviet penal system, solitary confinement was a common form of punishment for such offenses as refusing to relinquish religious literature voluntarily. Prisoners were given worn cotton clothing and confined to cells. Picture a typical cell. It was small - about ten feet square. Dark, damp, and dirty, it was terribly cold, especially in winter. The surface of the concrete walls was rough. A small window was set deep into the yard-thick wall. Some of the glass panes were broken. An electric lamp provided some light; it was set into a niche in the wall and covered by an iron plate with small holes. Apart from the concrete floor, the only thing to sit on was a narrow, benchlike extension of the wall. You could not sit on this very long. Leg and back muscles soon tired and ached, and the jagged wall cut into your back. At night the guards would push in a shallow wooden box for you to sleep on. It was reinforced with metal strips. You could lie down on top of the boards and metal, but the cold kept you awake. There were no blankets. Typically, prisoners in solitary confinement received ten ounces of bread once a day and watery soup once every three days. The latrine, little more than a pipe in the floor, gave out a strong, horrible smell. Some cells were equipped with fans that blew the stench from the sewage pipes into the cell. The foremen sometimes turned this fan on to demoralize the prisoner and punish him further.

(experience of Ivan Klimko, pgs 182 & 172-174 of the 2008 Yearbook)
Along with several prison "educators," each cell had its own educator, a military officer not lower in rank than a captain. The aim of these officers was to make the Witnesses renounce their faith. Anyone who would succumb, that is, renounce his faith, would be freed. Every month the educators would write up a character report on each Witness, signed by several prison employees. For each Witness, though, they always had to write, "Does not respond to reeducation measures; stays firm in his convictions." Ivan Klimko said: "I spent six years out of a total of ten in this prison and was classified along with other brothers as 'an especially dangerous repeat offender.' As the officers told us, the authorities deliberately created exceptionally difficult conditions for the Witnesses in order to observe our behavior."

(matchbook-size Watchtowers - photo on pg 175)

Spiderweb Watchtowers
It seemed to the brothers that the camp administration had developed a special system for searching and confiscating Bible literature from the Witnesses. Some officers were especially diligent about this. Ivan Klimko relates: "One time in Mordvinian Camp 19, soldiers with dogs led the brothers away from the camp territory and conducted a careful search. Each Witness was stripped, even down to the rags he was wearing on his feet. But the brothers had glued a few handwritten pages to the soles of their feet which escaped detection. They had also made tiny booklets that they could fit between their fingers. When the guards ordered everyone to raise his hands, the booklets stayed between the fingers, and again, some of them were saved." There were other ways of protecting the spiritual food. Aleksey Nepochatov says: "Some brothers were able to produce what was called spider-web handwriting. A pen point was sharpened very fine, and each ruled row in a grid-lined notebook could contain three or four lines. A matchbox could hold five or six copies of The Watchtower hand produced in this fine writing. To write with such a fine hand, one needed to have excellent eyesight and be capable of great exertion. After all the lights were out and everyone else went to sleep, these brothers would do their writing beneath a blanket. The only light available was from a barely functioning lightbulb at the entrance of the barracks. When continued over a few months, this work ruined one's vision. Sometimes a guard noticed, and if he was favorably disposed toward us, he would say, 'Still writing, writing-when you are going to sleep?'
Brother Klimko recalls: "On one occasion, we suffered the loss of a great deal of literature and even the Bible. All of it had been hidden in a brother's artificial leg. After forcing the brother to remove the leg, the guards smashed it. They took photos of the scattered pages and published them in the camp newspaper. Still, this was useful in that it showed many once again that Jehovah's Witnesses were engaged exclusively in religious activities. After this discovery, the gloating camp administrator said to the brothers, "There's Armageddon for you!" By the next day, however, someone reported to him that Jehovah's Witnesses were meeting together, singing songs, and reading as usual."

If you look closely at the photo in this previous post, you'll notice the brother conducting the Memorial, is holding a Matchbox Size booklet in his hand. So amazing.