Written by Celia Barlow
Episode 2 – Collection of Bibles and onward journey
At the end of episode 1 we were driving through France into Germany for 2 days and a night with a deadline of 7pm to get to the printing house in Stuttgart, so that we wouldn’t have 2 days delay because of the weekend. We also still had no news of whether our visas to get into the Ukraine had been processed. Well we arrived at the printers with 10 minutes to spare. Jubilation and thanks to God burst out and our thanks also went to the printers who were then working overtime. There were so many boxes that some had to be put in the van and kept sliding sideways onto me and Marg.
Next stop was a hotel and evening meal. We all managed to telephone family with news of our progress but the best news we had was from the London Fellowship as they had obtained our entry visas. Jubilation again especially when we found out how. A man in the Fellowship worked for the press at the House of Commons and therefore had a pass. He got a letter from a Christian MP David Alton (now Lord Alton) recommending us as friends of the Ukraine. He went into the Soviet Embassy waving his House of Commons pass and the letter and our visas were immediately processed. He then got a courier who flew to Warsaw with them.
After buying some polythene to cover the boxes of bibles we set off again across the corner of Czechoslovakia through Prague. This was before it divided into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The roads deteriorated and at one point when it was getting dark we came to a motorway which was cordoned off and a very small unlit sign directing us to the other carriageway. Our driver was very wary of doing that as we could meet something head on if the signage was not correct. He wisely waited for a car to come in the other direction so he could check. Don’t know if he could speak the language but it was sorted.
In the middle of the night we stopped at a lorry drivers’ café and ate. Off again to the Polish border and Michael’s parent’s house in southern Poland. It was about noon and his brothers met us and commented on the huge load which they thought was dangerous. Michael’s parents gave us lunch and he stayed with his parents while we all went to a nearby youth hostel. We had an evening meal at a restaurant and there we met some people from the Christian Fellowship. His mum was very brave as she was afraid of going out. Michael told us it was caused by her experiences in the 2nd World War. We would call it Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome which is a term only recently come into our language. His dad was actually Romanian and had been brought to work in the German war effort.
We contacted home at our leaders brothers butchers shop as not many had phones in those days. I couldn’t get through and was still worried how mum was getting on with her cancer treatment. I gave her phone number to those in London. Our leader would not accompany us on the next leg across Poland as he flew to Warsaw to meet our courier and get the visas. He then had to get a train to a pastor’s house in Rybnik. God miraculously arranged it that he arrived the same time as us where we were to stay. We had to drive half way across Poland and find it without speaking the language. Huge relief and rejoicing as he told the pastors family what had happened. They fed us well and gave us all a bed to sleep in and at last I heard mum speak on the phone.
Our next stop was at a border town where again we stayed with believers. Our leader had kept it from us that the visas allowed us to fly into Kiev and then to Lvov, but we were actually driving across from Poland, so they were wrong. He very bravely kept the concern to himself. Next day he put on the most garish coloured shirt and shorts because he wanted to look like a westerner not a Pole. He was having a very animated conversation with our host in Polish but again kept it to himself. Our host told him that the last lot of Christians they hosted were refused entry to Ukraine and that last night there had been rioting as the queue was so long and it was taking over a week to get in. The police were called as stones were thrown so he doubted we would get in either.
So we set off after prayer. These VIPS, as David Alton called us, looked like a rag tag group in T shirts, shorts and trainers as it was so hot. Would we have to wait days to get in and would they even let us in with the wrong visas?
Next episode to follow!