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A testimony

15 March 2013 No Comment

I had a very touching experience recently while accompanying a group of Americans to a Russian church. We were seated with the senior pastor, Vladimir Osipov. Pastor Vladimir was happy to see an elderly gentleman approaching us, whom, we were told, was a very special brother. “My name is Anatoly.” he smiled. “I am blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ, and I am very grateful for my pastor.”
Pastor Vladimir returned the smile, treating him with great respect. When brother Anatoly learned that there were Americans with us, he asked me to translate for him because he wanted to tell them something very important. This is his story:
While fighting in World War Two, he wounded in battle and left unconscious to die, yet he survived. He was sent to a German prison and later to a concentration camp. Amazingly, he escaped, only to be caught, put in the same prison, and later placed in two other concentration camps. As a young soldier, he witnessed many atrocities and the depths of human depravity.
As the war was coming to an end, he lay dying from illness and starvation in Buchenwald concentration camp. He began thinking about God, and someone taught him how to pray. To this day, he is not sure whether the person who taught him to pray was a mere man or an angel. Then, with a radiant face, he told us how the American troops came to his rescue. He said, “I want to thank you Americans, because you treated us so well.”
When he was freed, he was in terrible physical condition. Weighing just 79 pounds, he was put into the best medical facility, stating that he felt he had been “brought from hell into heaven.” He was told that the physical toll taken was so severe that he would only have another 10-15 years to live. When American photographers took pictures of him and other prisoners of war, Anatoly asked them why they’re taking them.
“We want the world to know what was done to you, that this war will never be forgotten or repeated.” They answered, “We want the people responsible for this to be brought to justice.”
When Anatoly returned to the USSR, he was sent to one of the GULAG Soviet labor camps for 10 years, and he said the conditions there were worse than the concentration camps he experienced during the war. As he spoke to us, I was amazed by the humility, peace, joy and gratefulness he exhibited. He remembers the good things, and he thanks God for them. In spite of the doctor’s prediction many years ago, he is now 90 years old…and still working. When he learned that I speak with American churches that support Russians, he wanted to make sure that I give you his genuine thanks for blessing him and his family during the war and since.
He said; “Please tell them that I remember all the good things the Americans did for us. Tell them I pray for God to bless them in return.”

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