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With God in Russia Paperback – February 1, 1997
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... an incisive portrayal of the struggle for existence in a Russian prison camp. The very simplicity of presentation makes it unforgettable. --Louisville Times
A man of invincible faith and heroic fortitude, who is sustained by a great love for God and his fellow man. His story is highly recommended as a worthwhile reading experience for one and all. --Best Sellers
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Father Ciszek wrote about his younger years of which he was not proud. He was a tough kid and a bully. Without an explanation or an epiphany, Father Ciszek suddenly decided to study for the priesthood. Later, in spite of his father's objections, Ciscek made another sudden decision to join the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). As an aside, the Jesuits can be very obedient and/or very defiant. Father Ciscek fit both descriptions. He was athletic and did exhaustive exercies. Ciscek was also impulsive and once committed to "a cause," he was not to be denied. Ciszek volunteered for the Vatican's Russicum which was a missionary school to send Catholic priests to the Soviet Union
to celebrate Mass and the Sacraments. The undersigned viewed this effort as suicide missions given the vigorus police state under Stalin. Father Ciszek went to Poland and then volunteered to go to the USSR under the guise of a worker in the Urals where he worked hard. An interesing anecdote is that of a Polish Jewish fellow who was fooled by the promises of "The Workers' Paradise." This young man was shocked by the harsh realities of Soviet society.
While working in the Urals as a logger, Father Ciscek was discovered as a Catholic Jesuit priest and was charged as a spy for the Vatican. He was held in the infamous Lubyanka prison for about five years under very harsh conditions. When W.W.II started, Ciszek hoped the Germans would bomb the prison and the prison trains to either escape or get killed and be out of their misery. After physical abuse and torture, Ciszek was sentence to a concentration camp in Norilsk which over four degrees nother of the Arctic Circle or about over 70 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Ciszek worked loading coal which was a dangerous job. Ciszek mentioned working in dark areas avoiding flying coal the size of a skull. Some inmates were seriously injured or killed.
Ciszek also described conflicts between political prisoners and violent offenders. Violent non-poltical prisoners would try to intimidate political prisoners. Such conflcits erupted into violence which guards worked to suppress. Ciszek was clever. He described an incident whereby some thug tried to steal from him. Ciscek reminded the thug that all the prisoners "were in the same boat," and the thug could make a bad situation worse. Ciszek graphically described the murder and violence of prisoner-on-prisoner violence. One man was attacked by an inmate who hit him with sledge hammer. Ciscek mentioned that as Catholic priest, Ciscek had heard the victim's confession and gave the poor soul absolution prior to the victim's death.
On the other hand, some of the more violent offenders were cordial and even protective of Father Ciszek. Ciszek's reputation of honesty and respect attracted other violent prisoners. A Mongolian and an inmate called the Turk or the Ottoman became Ciszek's close friends. Some of the inmates who worked in the medical facilities helped Ciszek to get light work, and Ciszek learned pharmacy, medical techniques, and care. Ciszek also learned to be a mechanic and construction trades. During Ciscek's incarceration, he courageously celebrated Mass and repeatedly administered the Sacraments which was dangerous to say the least.
The concentration camp experience became more dangerous in 1953 when Stalin died. The inmates in "The Gulag Archigelago" rebelled in violent classes with guards. These rebellions erupted in many Soviet concentration camps, and only when disciplined Soviet troops were called to crush the rebellions did "law and order" resume. Ciszek wrote the concentration camp conditions significantly improved, and those who survived the rebellions had better living concitions.
Finally in 1955, Ciscek was released and lived as "A free man restricted." He resumed his priestly duties and was able to establish a parish or sorts in spite of threats. Ciszek was threatened with arrest under Soviet "law" which forbade clergy from getting paid for religious work. Ciszek defended himself by proving he got no pay. He was beloved by Ukrainians, Russian Orthodox Christians, and other Eastern Europeans and Asians. Ciszek so infuriated the authorities that was sent to another town where he worked hard as mechanic and was given several awards for his hard work and skill
Yet, Ciszek wanted to return to the US. In 1955. he managed to get a letter to his sister. In spite burearcratic delays, Ciszek was transferred to European Russia in 1963. He was treated very well by the USSR authorities in Moscow and was "wined and dined." In 1963, Father Ciszek, S.J. flew to the US. While in Moscow, Ciszek visited Lenin's tomb and prayed for Lenin with the remark re Lenin"...he may need more prayers than he is getting here. Ciscek remarked that when he met with US officials, these officials were among the first to refer to him as Father Ciscek.
Father Ciszek's book is full of suspense. To use an overused expression, his book is "a page turner." This reviewer believes that Father Ciszek was either reckless, masochistic, or divinely inspired. A good companion book is Alexander Solzhenitsyn GULAG ARCHIPELAGO. Readers should that Father Ciszek's experience was rare given the massive deaths in Soviet concentation camps. So many died, that Siberian construction workers had to stop work because of mass graves. The book is both depressing and "uplifitng."
James E. Egolf
December 14, 2014
This powerful book gives testament as to what one can endure after giving one's life completely to God. Simply amazing!!!
When I first received this book, I was afraid that it would be dry and tough to plough through. However, I found it extremely difficult to put down once I started reading it and was completely immersed until the end.
Most recent customer reviews
This one doesn't have the zing He Leadeth Me has, but I stuck with it.Read more