In the last letter that he wrote home, Ivan Moiseyev (known to friends and family as Vanya) urged his brother Vladimir, “Don’t tell our parents everything. Just tell them, ‘Vanya wrote me a letter and writes that Jesus Christ is going into battle. This is a Christian battle, and he doesn’t know whether he will be back.’ I desire that all of you, dear friend, young and old, remember this one verse. Revelation 2:10 — ‘Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.'” The next day, July 16, 1972, twenty-year-old Vanya died in suspicious circumstances. The Soviets claimed it was an accidental drowning. His family insisted that Vanya was tortured to death.
The son of peasant farmers, Vanya entered the army at eighteen to perform two years of required military training and service. Because he spoke openly of God, which was forbidden in the atheistic regime, Vanya was persecuted by his military supervisors.
His letters home and the tape recordings that he made on his last leave home, documented the cruelties used against him. At times he was starved. He was awakened and interrogated night after night, and often struck. For two weeks in the dead of winter, he was compelled to stand outside in his thin Summer uniform. He claimed that God miraculously warmed him.
Miracles confirmed his testimony. Once he was run over by a truck. He was told his life could only be saved by the amputation of an arm and part of a collapsed lung. Delirious with fever he prayed earnestly aloud. The next morning, he was completely healed.
On another occasion, he was challenged by his barracks to prove that God exists. The test was that God obtain leave for a certain sergeant. Leaves were hard to get. After asking God if he should accept the challenge, Vanya agreed. All night, he sat up with the sergeant explaining the things that he would need to know when he became a Christian. The next day, an authority from another town called and ordered the leave. The sergeant became a Christian and so did other men.
Vanya was an army chauffer. When every effort failed to break him of his faith, he was ordered to chauffer some KGB men. He did not return. A coffin arrived at his parents’ home, welded shut. Vanya’s mother insisted it be opened. A brother, who belonged to the Communist party resisted, but the rest of the family prevailed. Vanya was barely recognizable. Witnesses, Christian and non-Christian alike, signed a statement which declared that his chest had been burned. His face and body were lumped and bruised. Heel marks marred his body. His heart was punctured in six places.
Under Communist pressure, the non-Christians withdrew their testimony. The Soviet’s claimed that the six heart punctures were from attempts to restart the heart with adrenaline after a drowning accident and that the other marks were from an autopsy. They claimed the Baptists made up the torture story to discredit the regime. However, in light of thousands of other incidents of mistreatment of Christians in the Soviet union, and given Vanya’s letters and recordings, the Baptist story is the more believable of the two. To cap matters off, Vanya’s unit was broken up because so many men in it had become Christians.
- Dewar, Diana. All for Christ. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980./li>
- “Strengthened by Angels.” Jesus Freaks. Voice of the Martyrs. http://www.mcf-canada.ca/vision_pdf/ Vision_Summer01.pdf
- “Vanya.” http://www.handofhelp.com/newpage31.htm
- Various other internet articles, mostly based on the book Vanya by Myrna Grant.
Information extracted from Christianity.com.
Also on this day
1665 – In the midst of the London plague, Walter Petherick preached an encouraging word to a packed church.