Rorate Caeli

A remarkable documentary: "The Communists could never win"

Solzhenitsyn's resting place, Donskoy Monastery cemetery, Moscow

4 years ago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn died in his native and beloved Russia. The Russian Orthodox Church reported on Aug. 3 that:

On August 3, 2012, the fourth anniversary of the death of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Office for the Dead [Panikhida] was said at his grave in the Donskoy Monastery’s cemetery by his spiritual father, Archpriest Nikolay Chernyshev.

Praying at the commemorative service were Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s relatives and friends and his admirers. Among them were the abbot of the Donskoy Monastery, Father Paramon (Golubka), and Archpriest Nikolay Balashov, vice-chairman of the Department for External Church Relations.

39 years ago, also in the month of August, Elizabeth Voronyanskaya, 66, was detained by the Soviet secret police in the Leningrad Station, Moscow. The aged woman would be put under great ordeal, and forced to hand the typed draft of what many consider the greatest book of the 20th century, The Gulag Archipelago. Days later, Voronyaskaya would be found dead in her house, in what was called a "suicide" by authorities, but under extremely suspicious circumstances.

The small circle of the "Invisibles", that had been assembled by Solzhenitsyn following the great success of his first widely published work, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, had acted with loyalty and courage. This small group was made of people who died, were arrested, beaten, tortured, and exiled, all to make the truth of Communism known to the world. By the time of Voronyanskaya's death, the work was already safely outside Russia - but her arrest, forced confession and death moved Solzhenitsyn to the extreme measure of asking for the urgent publication of the Russian original and for translations to be made as soon as possible.

A small group was able to do from inside the Soviet empire what the Council could not bring itself to do in Rome a few years earlier. By its shameful silence on the gravest moral matter of its age, the Council condemned itself. Thousands and thousands of words, and the greatest elephant in the room remained unmentioned by name, even though the Church had not refrained from naming it since the 19th century, and even in moments of intense persecution. May the struggle of the victims of Communism live forever through the witness of those who stood up to it when they had the chance - and those who still stand up to it today.

In order to understand exactly how Solzhenitsyn and the "Invisibles" managed to get The Gulag Archipelago published, we recommend this remarkable 50-minute documentary, which has just come to our attention.


  1. NIANTIC11:21 PM

    Thank you, NC, for bringing to us one of the great lions of Russia, Alexander Solzhenitsyn. What one person filled with true faith can accomplish! Yes, you are so right in saying; "By its shameful silence on the gravest moral matter of its age, the Council condemned itself".

    Pope Paul Vl's Ostpolitik was appeasement to the highest degree. And so many of the "Successors of the Apostles" to their eternal shame behaved like cowards. If the Church needed to apologize for anything than it would have to be for their silence against one of the greatest evils of history.

    I am sure we will not hear any mea culpa's during the forthcoming festivities. I will be watching football games. Pax Christi.

  2. I've heard Solzhenitsyn's 1978 Harvard commencement ceremony sppech compared to Pope Benedict XVI's 2006 Regensburg Address. Is that a fair comparison?

  3. Indeed, the Council did condemn itself. Likewise the pope who called it and the one who finished it, both of whom blocked every attempt by the council fathers to denounce the monstrous evil of communism.

  4. NIANTIC1:40 AM

    Regarding the Harvard speech and the Regensburg address;
    I think Solzhenitsyn speaks with great passion and conviction from his heart and soul and out of his deep Orthodox Faith about what ails the West, and East and what perils will result.

    Pope Benedict XVl speaks basically about the same subject but on a philosophical academic level.

    Different approaches. Both powerful. But have we been, are we, listening?

  5. The Harvard speech contains a truly profound and memorable line: "If humanism were right in declaring that man is born to be happy, he would not be born to die."

  6. Both Solzhenitsyn's Harvard address and the Holy Father's Regensburg address should be carefully studied. FWIW, here are my favorite take-aways:

    If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge, we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era. [Solzhenitsyn, Harvard Address 1978]

    [Note:IF the world has not come to its end...a point picked up by the late Bill Rusher in an article in Modern Age]

    In the light of our experience with cultural pluralism, it is often said nowadays that the synthesis with Hellenism achieved in the early Church was an initial inculturation which ought not to be binding on other cultures. The latter are said to have the right to return to the simple message of the New Testament prior to that inculturation, in order to inculturate it anew in their own particular milieux. This thesis is not simply false, but it is coarse and lacking in precision. The New Testament was written in Greek and bears the imprint of the Greek spirit, which had already come to maturity as the Old Testament developed. True, there are elements in the evolution of the early Church which do not have to be integrated into all cultures. Nonetheless, the fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and the use of human reason are part of the faith itself; they are developments consonant with the nature of faith itself.[Benedict XVI Regensburg Address]

    [In other words, the real and enduring providential nature of the union of Jerusalem, Athens and Rome.]

  7. Gaudium et Spes referenced Pope Pius XI's Encyclical Divini Redemptoris.

    Said Encyclical condemned communism.

    From Gaudium et Spes:

    "In her loyal devotion to God and men, the Church has already repudiated(16) and cannot cease repudiating, sorrowfully but as firmly as possible, those poisonous doctrines and actions which contradict reason and the common experience of humanity, and dethrone man from his native excellence."

    Footnote 16 referenced Divini Redemptoris.

  8. Jack Orlando and Tom:

    A reference so brief, so vague and so general, and which would have been properly understood only by reading another document, cannot in any way have been the ringing condemnation needed in 1965

  9. NIANTIC1:49 PM

    Jack and Tom, with all due respect, that statement you quoted says absolutely nothing about the evil of communism. Only weasels and cowards could have written this bland statement. They must have done quite a lot of handwringing and agonizing before they gave birth to this timid and neutral paragraph. What do you all think St.Paul would have written???? We have to get real, Vll happened during the height of communism which many believed was on an unstoppable march. Total evil, and millions slaughtered in its path. And this statement is all Vll could come up with???? Please.

  10. Really? The well-known footnote reference to Divini Redemptoris?... Are you not embarrassed to use this as an excuse to exonerate the Council from its shameful silence?

    Let us repeat what the post said: Communism, Marxism "remained unmentioned by name", at the height of their influence and power, and in the midst of documents that discussed all matters under the sun. As all readers of the COuncil documents, we are well aware of the footnote. A footnote, that does not even mention anything (which explains our words, "unmentioned by name"), is nothing at all. Please, embarrass yourselves at will, but do not force us to be vicariously embarrassed by you. By even trying to justify this with this comment worthy of contempt and condemnation, you spit in the memory, toils, and sacrifices of the victims of Communism. As did the Council that remained silent on the greatest issue of its day. Thank you.


  11. No due respect is necessary in these occasions, Niantic: I am enraged by this pathetic attempt to use the well-known footnote of GS to in some way exonerate the Council from its silence.

  12. One of the giants of the last century and a great champion of Orthodoxy. May his memory be eternal!

  13. Benedict Carter2:55 PM

    PART 2

    On the appointed day, Father and I met at her home. A small Soviet flat. Poorly furnished with the usual Soviet furniture; a few photographs and many books. There are few people there in all, about four or five. Propped up on two old wooden chairs is the coffin, which is open: Margarite is visible and her colour is already that of the first stages of decay. Father and I sing the “Salve Regina” and he says a few impromptu prayers. The hearse (a rickety old minibus) arrives and the workers ask us to leave the flat: to get the coffin out and down the stairs, they have to take Margarite’s body out of it and put it back in once they have manoeuvred the coffin onto the narrow stairwell. They don’t want us to see them do it.
    We board the bus and are stuck in traffic for an hour and a half before we reach the cemetery. Once we find the plot, we have to break and pull out some of the overgrown weeds which obstruct any view of the grave that has been dug. Father blesses the grave with Holy Water and I light the incense in the thurible. We sing some hymns, Father says a short version of the burial service, and that is that. I feel very tearful.
    And so was laid to rest Margarite, a soul who suffered in Stalin’s Camps for her Catholic Faith, which she kept until the day she died.
    The fall of the satanic cult of Communism was a happy day for her.

    Even more, the restoration of the Church in Russia was a day of great joy for her. She made herself known to the first Catholic Bishop and was asked to help translate the Novus Ordo into Russian, which she did. She attended Mass every Sunday, whenever her ailments allowed. She and Father Ryan came to know each other and were very fond of each other. It was a very great honour for me to know this martyr for the Faith, a great honour. Someone who put a human face on all those books I had read about the GuLAG by Solzhenitsyn, Shalamov and Marchenko. Someone who had known suffering, true suffering, but who lived her life loving and trusting Our Lord.
    May God forgive her her sins, take her into His arms and grant her eternal rest and peace!

    Of your charity, please pray for the soul of a true Catholic, a Russian lady called Margarite.

  14. Benedict Carter6:32 AM

    PART 1

    It is the Winter of 1941. The German armies threaten Moscow. The cold is the worst for many decades. In the centre of Moscow, just a stone’s throw from the Kremlin and its surrounding streets is a prison, also the headquarters (it remains so to this day) of one of the most evil organisations in the world’s history. The prison is the Lubyanka, and the organisation is the KGB (then the NKVD). In one of its underground cells is a girl, a student. Her name is Margarite. Not the usual Russian “Margarita” but “Margarite”. She is the daughter of a Russian father and a Polish mother. She has been arrested for becoming a Catholic.

    Her story is simply told. A clever student, she had started that fateful academic year at MGU (Moscow State University) in the Faculty of Foreign Languages. One day, she was walking past the Catholic Church of St. Louis (given for their worship to the Catholic diplomats to Russia by Tsarina Catherine II in 1799. As it happens, the church lies just 200 or 300 metres from the Lubyanka). It is the only Catholic Church allowed in Russia by the Soviets, and only foreign diplomats are allowed to enter it. On an impulse truly from God, this girl, brought up all her life as an atheist, walks into the Church and tells the one priest allowed by the Communists that she wishes to become a Catholic. Greatly suspicious of an NKVD provocation, he says “no”, but she comes back and eventually he is persuaded of her genuineness and baptises her.

    That night, she tells her best friend in the University dormitory that she has been baptised and the next day she is arrested. Her best friend has betrayed her to the NKVD.

    She receives eight years in the Camps.

    It is now 2008, the Summer. I receive a call from Father Ryan asking me to assist him at the burial of old Margarite. I know a little of her story, but none of the details. I had met her at Father Ryan’s English Mass in the crypt of the Catholic Cathedral in Moscow several times (a decrepit and nearly blind old lady, always with her devoted friend Svetlana). On one occasion she looked me in the eyes and held my gaze, seeming to search my soul (I felt that I failed the test). This was a special lady, whose eyes were deep pools of memory and suffering.


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