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FATHER DIMITRY DUDKO


    Father Dimitry Dudko is an Orthodox pastor placed in the middle of the frightful Communist reality which Solzhenitsyn has described so eloquently.  His attitude is not philosophical or literary, as is Solzhenitsyn's in his writings; his concern is only immediate and down-to-earth: how do I survive right now, this minute, in the jaws of the anti-Christian society which has all the weapons it wants to fight against Christian faith?  And how do I help my fellow men to do this, and above all my spiritual children?
    For six or seven years now, Fr. Dimitry has been crying out his answer in the form of sermons, articles, and even a weekly "newspaper" (actually a parish newsletter), all addressed to his growing flock of converts (he has baptized over 5,000 adults himself) and to anyone who will listen.
    He has done this against tremendous odds, right in the jaws of the atheist beast, as it were.  His truthfulness and fiery faith have made many enemies—sadly enough, even among Orthodox Christians.  Some have found him too emotional, too apocalyptic, too messianic—and it is true that such a fiery, urgent, Orthodox preaching hasn't been heard in Russia and probably the whole Orthodox world since the days of St. John of Kronstadt; many Orthodox people have become self-satisfied with their "correct and proper" Orthodoxy and are somehow offended when Orthodoxy is preached and communicated so warmly to everyone who will listen.  Others are infected by the tragic suspiciousness of our times, largely inspired by the Communist spy system, and simply do not trust him, some even suspecting him of being a KGB agent.  Still others miss his message because they want to check each of his words for possible "heresies," and some of such ones have thought that he is an "ecumenist" because he has no hostility towards non-Orthodox Christians, even though he quite clearly distinguishes Orthodoxy from their teachings.
    Against these tremendous odds, both from outside—the atheists—and inside—his own fellow Orthodox Christians—Fr. Dimitry apparently has "broken."  Everyone now knows of his famous "confession" on Soviet television in June when, after five months in prison and pressures we can scarcely imagine, he publicly repudiated his articles and sermons and announced that "I assess my so-called struggle against godlessness as a struggle against Soviet authority."
    I think it is not too difficult to understand, in general terms, what happened to him: he was "broken," not in his Orthodox Christian faith (which he was perhaps not even asked to give up) but in his sense of mission.  Even before his arrest he wrote of his "sleepless nights" wen he read of how his own Orthodox Russians abroad were attacking him and spreading innuendoes about him: Why can he speak so openly?  How can he have such contacts abroad?  Why do they let him print a "newspaper"?
    How petty we can sometimes become when face to face with such an evident miracle as Fr. Dimitry's words in these past years!  His atheist torturers undoubtedly played to the full the doubts and suspicions and accusations of his fellow Orthodox in order, finally, to make Fr. Dimitry, cut off from contact with even his own family, doubt his own mission to speak the saving Orthodox word when everyone seemed to be against him.
    I think we in the free world who did not sufficiently value and support Fr. Dimitry are at least partly to blame for his tragedy.  As far as we know, no one has been able to get into contact with Fr. Dimitry yet, but one person who was able to speak briefly to his Matushka reports that she could only say: "What have they done to him!?"

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