Tuesday, 9 September 2003

Bratislava(Fides Service) – To give an idea of what happened in Slovakia during 40 years of persecution under Communist atheism, we offer testimony from some eye witnesses taken from a television programme “Cristo nel freddo del Est” (Christ in the cold of the east) which narrates the suffering of the Church in Eastern Europe through the voices of the victims themselves.

“The Communists were determined in their persecution of the Church- says Father Ignac Jurus-. They destroyed and banned everything, written word, proclaimed word. The only sources of new from the free world were the Voice of Free America Europe and Vatican Radio. It was only through Vatican Radio that we were able to have information about the rest of the world and the Church. The Communist regime spent enormous sums of money to try to prevent these broadcasts: anything that spoke of faith, worship, was blocked, suffocated, banned”.
Sister Helen of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul recalls: “In its second year the Communist regime banned us from wearing our religious habit. They deported us to Mocenok and put us in a camp from where we were taken every day to work in a factory. We Sisters were with other girls in need of “re-education” as it was called. They thought that as women religious we were not used to working and that we were only able to pray. But we carried out our work in the factory with responsibility. So they separated us to avoid contact with the other girls whom they feared we would influence. Our forced labour lasted seven years.”
“We belong to the generation which lived the time of religious persecution – says Anna Kolek from Nitra -. The people were sincere believers and they tried in every way to serve the Church which had gone underground. In the 1970s it had organised complete underground structures. Everything happened with the support and full awareness by the present Cardinal, at the time our underground Bishop Jan Chryzostom Korec. The Father Cardinal was for us the authority and the sign that everything we lived and did was in direct contact with the rest of the Catholic Church. Then in 1989 at last came the longed for freedom to be, freedom to believe, freedom to speak, we could be again, live again”.
“In 1950 the Communists closed all the monasteries and convents. I was a novice at the time and they sent me to a labour camp to build the Communist Youth Dam. After that I was sent to prison – says Father Matus Karel Vancek from Pezinok. I was 22. In prison there were many of my professors including Bishop Korec. We were tortured…when I was ordained clandestinely my mother was the only person I could tell. In 1968 the people demanded freedom and in reply Russia sent its tanks: many were persecuted, many died, many of them were young people. Until communism fell whenever I walked around Bratislava there was always a member of the Communist special police following me and watching to see if I spoke to people, because anyone speaking to a priest could be put in prison: that was the “democracy” in which we lived.” SL (Fides Service 9/9/2003 EM lines 36 Words: 505)