thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ,
and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in
every place." 1 Corinthians 2:14
When I got ready to leave the
repatriation camp at Potma for Moscow on January 2, 1955, I had
only one possession in the world except my prison clothes: a
book of Bible stories in German that another prisoner had given
me a month before, the only religious book I had had during my
entire confinement. But even this I did not take with me; an
Austrian girl at Potma had asked me for it.
In Moscow we saw the Kremlin. At
one corner of the Kremlin wall is an ancient, imposing Orthodox
church. Scaffolding surrounded it and some reconstruction work
was being done....
In countless ways, the foreigner
can see how deep the religious tradition runs in Russian
life. In everyday speech, the Russian people are constantly
calling upon God—albeit many times blasphemously—to right their
wrongs or punish their enemies. ... I was reminded of the
communist official in Vorkuta who, when he arrived at the camp
movie theater and found a seat still vacant, crossed himself and
said "Thank God!”
While we were in Moscow, Marchuk
and I were lodged in a luxurious suburban villa.... For the
first time in nearly a decade, I now slept between clean sheets
on a comfortable bed and wore a new suit of civilian clothes. A
smartly uniformed colonel and several lesser officers, smiling
and courteous, spent three days escorting us around the city.
The situation was incongruous. Here were two former slave
laborers, subjected for years to humiliation and degradation,
now being treated as honored guests of the Soviet government.
It was January 5, Christmas Eve
by the Russian Orthodox calendar, when I walked through the
Moscow streets for the last time; I could only look around with
sorrow at those other prisoners, the Russian people themselves,
who were not going to get away from Communist tyranny so soon or
so easily as I. The next day, their own neglected Christmas Day,
I would be on my way to Berlin.
Thanks to my father’s
authentication of my handwriting on the postal card, the wheels
had begun in God’s good time to turn. Congressman Bentley,
now recovered, had taken the case to President Eisenhower, and
Charles E. Bohlen, our Ambassador to Russia, had set in motion
the final “investigation” by the Soviet state.
When I passed through that last
door into West Berlin and freedom, one of my first stops was at
the American Military Hospital. After my check-up and in spite
of being so emaciated, with calluses on hands, wrists, and
shoulders, the doctors said I was in perfect condition. They
could hardly understand this—but I could. Once more, at the
end as at the beginning, God had shown me His hand.
When I went into my aunt’s Berlin
apartment with her (she had formally identified me at American
Headquarters), the radio was playing the grand old hymn, “Now
Thank We All Our God” (Nun Danket). We did not say a word,
but just stood listening with our heads bowed....
By January 19, I was home in
Detroit and on the twenty-second, at a reception given for me at
the Detroit Bible Institute, I wanted to meet all those people
who had prayed for me on Wednesday nights. It was a wonderful
time for all of us, for our prayers had indeed been answered.
The Lord, who had literally
prepared a table for me in the presence of mine enemies when I
was starving in Dresden Prison, now filled my cup to overflowing
with human, as well as divine, love and happiness.
"I will give You thanks in the great assembly;
I will praise You among many people."