Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Underground Printeries in Russia

the following info and photos are from (pgs 136-139, and 145-146 of the 2008 Yearbook) and reminded me of the talk I uploaded yesterday, about how Jehovah can turn mistakes or negative circumstances into something positive in order to "give a witness" or strengthen the brothers and sisters.

A Publicized Trial
A report sent by a government official from Irkutsk to Moscow stated: “[Jehovah’s Witnesses in Irkutsk Oblast] had developed large-scale underground activities. During the second half of 1959, KGB agencies discovered five underground printeries.” These printeries were located in the Siberian towns of Zima and Tulun, as well as the villages of Kitoy, Oktyabr’skiy, and Zalari. Following the discoveries came the arrests of those involved in the printing.
Four brothers who were initially arrested gave written statements about the printing operation. Cunningly, investigators coerced these brothers into doing so. Then the KGB distorted and published those testimonies in local newspapers. These four brothers were released, and eight others were arrested. Their trial was to be held in Tulun in April 1960. The KGB made preparations for a highly publicized, showy court process. They planned to use the four brothers who had been freed as witnesses for the prosecution. Many in the congregations developed the impression that these brothers had given themselves over to the KGB.

The KGB also intended to use this show trial to destroy the faith of any Witnesses in attendance and to turn the local population against them. With this in mind, the KGB organized pretrial tours of one basement where the brothers had printed literature for several years. Soon the town was buzzing with rumors about the activities of an underground “sect.” When the day for the trial came, the hall was filled with more than 300 people, including newspaper and TV reporters, some even coming from Moscow. Many of Jehovah’s Witnesses were also present.

The Court Was In Utter Confusion
Unexpectedly, however, the KGB’s plans suddenly began to unravel. The brothers who had given testimony had realized their mistake. On the day before the trial, all of them made a firm resolve to do everything in their power to give glory to Jehovah. During the trial, they declared that they had been deceived and that their testimony had been distorted. Then they announced: “We are prepared to sit on the prisoners’ bench alongside our brothers.” The court was in utter confusion.
Moreover, under cross-examination the brothers on trial succeeded in giving answers that did not implicate others. For example, when the judge asked Grigory Timchuk who had built the printery in his house, he answered, “I built it.” When asked who printed the literature, he answered, “I printed it.” When asked who distributed the literature, he answered, “I distributed it.” When asked who bought and delivered the paper, he once again answered, “I did that too.” Then the prosecutor asked: “So who are you? Are you your own manager, supplier, and worker?”

“This Letter Warmed Our Hearts!”
When it turned out that there were no witnesses for the prosecution, the prosecutor accused the brothers of conspiring with foreigners. As evidence, he presented a letter from Nathan H. Knorr of Brooklyn Bethel. Mikhail Savitsky, one of the brothers who attended the trial, says: “The prosecutor loudly began to read a letter that had been intercepted by the KGB from Brother Knorr to the brothers in the Soviet Union. For all of us Witnesses present in the hall, it was a wonderful gift from Jehovah. This letter warmed our hearts! We heard wise counsel from the Bible and encouragement to serve our fellow believers lovingly and to stay faithful under trials. Furthermore, Jehovah’s Witnesses were called on to trust in God in all things, to request from him wisdom and guidance, and also to work closely with appointed brothers. The prosecutor read the letter from the beginning to the very end. We listened with rapt attention. It seemed to us that we were attending a convention!” Though the court sentenced the brothers to various terms of imprisonment, those in attendance remained firm in their determination to serve Jehovah.

Underground Printeries In Siberia
The duplicating of Bible literature was difficult, but Jehovah blessed the work. Between 1949 and 1950 alone, the brothers duplicated and delivered 47,165 copies of various publications to the congregations. In addition, despite intense opposition, the Country Committee reported that during the same period, 31,488 meetings had been held in the country.

The demand for literature was constantly growing, which created the need for new printeries. Stakh Savitsky says: “In 1955 an underground printery was organized in our home. Since my father was not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, we had to obtain his permission. For about two months, we dug a room under our porch, measuring about 7 feet by 13 feet [2x4 m]. During this time, we excavated about 40 cubic yards [30 cu m] of soil. We had to carry this soil out and hide it somehow so that no one would notice. When we dug to a depth of four and a half feet [1.5 m] below the ground, we hit permafrost. So while we were at our secular jobs, Mama would thaw the frozen soil by kindling a small fire on it with dry wood, trying not to attract the attention of the neighbors. Later, we lined the excavated space with boards to create a floor and a ceiling. As soon as the place was ready, a couple moved in. They were to work and live in this basement room. Mama cooked for them, did their laundry, and took care of them. This printery was in operation until 1959.

“In 1957 the brother overseeing the duplication of literature asked me: ‘Can you work in the printery? We need to produce at least 200 magazines a month.’ At first I made 200, then 500 magazines. However, the demand for literature was always growing. The work had to be done at night because we exiles worked under a supervisor in production jobs during the day and had only one day a week off.
“Coming home from work, I would descend to the printery. I almost never slept because a printing job, once started, had to be seen through to the very end. The ink would dry out, so it was impossible to interrupt the work to continue at another time. Sometimes I had to print 500 pages and then go over them making small corrections with a needle so that the text would clearly show up. There was hardly any ventilation, so it was hard to dry the pages once they came off the press.
“I delivered the printed magazines by night to the town of Tulun, 12 miles [20 km] from home. I did not know exactly where they went from there, but I knew that this literature was used by Witnesses in Krasnoyarsk, Bratsk, Usol’ye-Sibirskoye, and other cities and towns.
“In 1959 the brothers in oversight asked me to help build a new printery in Tulun, next to the railroad station. Once again I worked at the familiar tasks, such as excavating soil and setting up lighting, that I had done for the first printery. Jehovah gave us wisdom. Then a family moved in and worked there for about a year. Eventually, the KGB discovered the printery. It was reported in the local newspaper that ‘the lighting was set up in such a way that even experienced electricians had trouble figuring it out.’
“Outside of our family, only a few brothers knew about my work with the printery. Since no one ever saw me in the evenings, the brothers and sisters in the congregation worried about my spirituality. They would come to my home to visit me and encourage me, but I was always gone. Yes, in those times of total surveillance, the printery could be operated only under the strictest confidentiality.”

*Isn't that amazing how they built the underground printery during a Siberian winter? It's hard enough digging just a few feet down when the soil is rock hard, let alone digging an entire underground room when you hit permafrost!