Cejl State Penitentiary
I was transferred to Cejl, the state penitentiary. Ironically, a few hundred years ago it had been a monastery. The ancient stone walls were strong and very thick. Cells had little light because the windows were small with heavy iron bars. I was placed in a cell with about forty other men.
I looked around to see if there was anyone I knew. All were strangers. Some of the faces looked intelligent and even friendly; others had expressions of bitterness, hate and brutality.
The cell had no running water and no real toilets— a steel drum in a wooden box off in a corner was used. It was emptied only once a day. In hot weather, the stench was unbearable.
In a few days I got to know something about the men in my cell. An old man, a former postal director, was accused of having taken part in an illegal political meeting. Another man was a farmer, accused of having attacked an official executor who had come to confiscate his farm. A young man—a student—was there for distributing tracts that advocated free elections. One man was a murderer. There were thieves, drunkards, idlers imprisoned for felony, and honest men who were arrested for speaking out against the Communists.
Some men had contemptible behavior, constantly using filthy words and expressions. It made life very unpleasant. There was no possible way to avoid hearing and seeing such depravity.
It was in that very same cell—where prisoners were brought in, then taken away never to meet again in this world; where secrets and tragedies of the heart were so carefully hidden before others; where it was so hard to gain the confidence of others for fear that things might come to light that shouldn’t be revealed—that I heard again about Miroslav.
I had often remembered Miroslav in my prayers, wondering how he was growing spiritually. Surely, the Lord was caring for him.
In a special way, the Lord showed me how wonderful He is in His love to those whose hearts trust in Him. Now and again prisoners were summoned to the court to stand trial. Afterwards, before being transferred to another place, they returned for a day or two to the cell. So it happened that one of the prisoners, when coming back, told us something that greatly aroused my interest.
“There was a man at the court that behaved so peculiarly,” he started to tell us. “He had been involved in a political affair and had no chance of escaping the death penalty. We were all excited about our own verdict but this man was sitting there so peacefully with a slightly bowed head and closed eyes. His lips were whispering something. I was watching him carefully. ‘Is he crying or does he pray?’ I wondered. I couldn’t tell. But when the judge called his name he got up. And then—I tell you, that was something—with one hand pointing upward, he started to speak with a voice full of dignity. Loudly and clearly he addressed the judge and the presiding committee.
“It is hard for me to remember all that he said, but it was something like this: ‘Gentlemen! Yes, I transgressed the laws of the Communist regime, but since then I found out that I also have transgressed against perfect and higher laws—the laws of God. I sought His forgiveness and He gave it to me! I know today that my body and soul are in His hands. You are going to punish me, and maybe even execute me. You can kill my body but you cannot harm my soul. One day all of us—you and me—will stand before God. Today you ask me to give an account of all I have done against the laws of this world. But, I tell you, a day is coming when God will ask you to give account of all your cruelty, injustice and unbelief!’"
“And with his hand still raised, he called in rapture, ‘Jesus is my salvation! He is my light and my life!’ In that moment he reminded me of an old time prophet.”
The prisoners stopped his narration, asking him: “What happened to him?”
“Oh, all of us—the judge and the court committee, included—were spellbound. It was all so extraordinary. At last one member of the presiding committee said, ‘We are not willing to listen to all this nonsense. Nobody gave you permission to speak at all!’ And turning to the judge he said, ‘I insist on very strict punishment for this man!’ So, after consultation they sentenced him.”
I trembled throughout my body because I suspected who the man was. But still I asked, “What was his name? Do you remember?”
“Yes, I do. His name was Miroslav.”
It was him! In my heart I prayed. “Oh, Lord, Lord. Thy name be praised! Thank you, Jesus! Thou has kept him in his faith.”
“What was his sentence?” I asked with perfect assurance that it was not the death penalty.
“He got eighteen years in prison. We could not believe our ears when it was announced after all he had said to them. We thought he would be hanged. But that never happened, he is alive.”
That day I prayed with deep gratitude to my Lord for letting me know all these things about Miroslav. How great is our Lord and how glorious are His ways!