How My Dream Was Fulfilled
AS TOLD BY ALENA Z̆ITNÍKOVÁ
When I was growing up in Czechoslovakia, a Soviet satellite country, our family longed to see the peaceful world that Communism promised. However, Communism’s dream of creating a happy, united society ended when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Let me describe how in another way my dream was fulfilled.
ON September 12, 1962, I was born into a family of devoted Communists who lived in Horní Benešov, a village about 185 miles [290 km] from Prague. My father trusted Communist ideals and lived according to them. He also brought up my two brothers and my sister and me according to these ideals. He taught us that with honest labor and decent living, we could help create a better society. He considered Communism the best form of government and actively supported it.
Father often attended meetings where Communism was extolled. He despised religion because of the hypocrisy of the churches, and we were taught and came to believe that there is no God. Father believed that in time, when all people were provided with a home and enough food, they would become better people and live in peace. It was a beautiful prospect that I heard much about as I was growing up. I believed everything that Father taught us, and I too was determined to support Communism.
As a small girl, I prepared to become a pioneer, as members of the popular Communist youth organization Young Pioneers were called. Pioneers were urged to develop good qualities and to be patriotic. When I was nine, I took my solemn pioneer oath and was given a red scarf to wear. I was also allowed to wear a formal pioneer dress uniform on special occasions. I tried to be a good pioneer. When I heard schoolmates using vulgarity, I reproved them, reminding them that pioneer girls don’t speak that way.
In time, however, I began to realize that many who claimed to be Communists did not support Communist ideals. Instead of resisting the human inclination to be greedy and envious, they stole public property. Many, although urging others to work for the good of the people, would not do so themselves. In fact, the saying became popular: “He who does not steal, steals from his own family.” I began to ask myself, ‘Why is there so much hypocrisy? Why do so few work to support Communism’s fine ideals? Why are efforts so unsuccessful?’
A Time of Reexamination
When I was in my mid-teens, I spent part of my summer vacations with Alena, a schoolmate. One evening an adult friend of Alena’s named Tanya came to see us. “I must speak to you about something very important,” she said. “I have become convinced that God exists.” We were amazed that she had reached such a conclusion. After recovering from our surprise, we inundated her with questions. “What proofs do you have?” “What does he look like?” “Where does he live?” “Why doesn’t he do anything?”
Tanya handled our questions one by one. She explained to us that it was God’s original purpose that the earth be a paradise home for mankind, and she described how this purpose would eventually be fulfilled. When she showed us from the Bible the promises of a clean earth inhabited by wholesome, healthy people who cared for one another, it occurred to me that these were similar to the promises that I believed in. But I was sure that if Father was told that these marvelous things would be achieved by means of God’s Kingdom—not by Communism—he wouldn’t be pleased.
You see, once when I was perhaps six or seven, a neighbor girl took me to a church, without my parents’ knowledge. The priest narrated a Bible story, and I liked it so much that I wanted to get more information. I even obtained some religious reading material. When I told my parents, they firmly forbade me to go to church again, and they destroyed everything I had brought home. To make matters perfectly clear, Father gave me a whipping.
After that, God was never mentioned in our home. I came to believe that only primitive, uneducated people believed in God and that religion was a human invention. At school we were taught that since there are phenomena we cannot understand, people had simply invented the idea of God. But now here was Tanya, an intelligent woman—a schoolteacher, in fact—and she believed in God! ‘There must be something to it!’ I thought.
Tanya spoke so persuasively that we were convinced that she believed what she said. So we asked, “Tanya, what has convinced you that there really is a God?”
“The Bible,” she answered. “All the questions you have asked are answered in the Bible. Would you like to understand it better?”
I knew that my parents would not be pleased if I began to study the Bible. Yet, I so much desired to learn more. So Tanya gave me the address of Ludmila, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who lived near our home in Horní Benešov. As I examined with Ludmila God’s promises of an earthly paradise, I would ask myself, ‘What guarantee do I have that these will come true?’
Ludmila said that I needed to learn more about God to be able to believe in him and his promises. From our study I became convinced that the earth and the many complex forms of life upon it are not the product of blind chance. I had to acknowledge that there must be a highly intelligent Creator. I realized how logical the Bible is when it says: “Every house is constructed by someone, but he that constructed all things is God.”—Hebrews 3:4.
I wanted my family to learn these things. Yet, I suspected that they wouldn’t be interested, so I put off telling them. Then, one day, among my personal things, my mother found a page that had fallen out of an old worn Bible that I had been given. My parents were very disturbed.
Discussion With Father
When Father’s suspicion that I had contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses was confirmed, he invited me for a long walk. “You must immediately break all relations with these people,” he urged. “If you do not, I will not be able to go on serving as our village mayor. You will spoil my career. I will have to leave the office and return to the factory where I used to work. You will bring shame on the whole family.”
“But, Father, the Bible is a reasonable book, and it has excellent advice on living,” I pleaded.
“No, Alenka,” Father explained, “I never needed either the Bible or God for my happiness. I made everything with my own hands. Nobody helped me. I am surprised that you can believe such nonsense! You must live a real life, get married, and have children, and then you will see that you can be happy without God.”
Father’s insistence made an impression on me. For a moment I started to doubt my faith, which did not yet have a strong foundation. It was true that I had known my father much longer than I had known Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I had always felt safe at home. Father meant well, I was sure. I knew that he loved me, so I promised that I would stop studying the Bible. Shortly afterward, when I was 18, I finished school and went to work in Prague, our country’s capital city.
My Life in Prague
I obtained employment at a bank, and I looked forward to learning about the real life that Father said was being achieved through Communism. Within a short time, however, I saw that people in the city were not any happier than those back home. In fact, immorality, hypocrisy, selfishness, and heavy drinking were the norm.
Eventually, a Witness from near my home in Horní Benešov, who was visiting Prague, saw to it that the Witnesses contacted me. In this way my Bible study was renewed in Prague with a woman named Eva. At the end of each study, Eva would ask, “Do you want me to come again next week?” She never forced her own opinions on me, although at times I asked what she would do if she were in my place.
“I cannot tell you what I would do,” she said. Then she directed attention to something in the Bible that helped me make a decision. A big concern was my relationship with my parents, so I asked whether I should stop associating with them. Eva opened to Exodus 20:12, where the Bible says that we must honor our parents. Then she asked, “Yet, should we ever place anyone before our parents?”
Since I wasn’t sure, she opened the Bible to the words of Jesus Christ: “He that has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37) Thus I came to appreciate that although my parents deserve honor, Jesus, as well as his heavenly Father, should receive even greater affection. Eva always tried to point out a relevant Bible principle, and then she would leave the decision to me.
A Conflict of Interests
Eventually, in September 1982, I was accepted as a student at a college in Prague, where I studied agronomy. Soon, however, I found that I couldn’t care for my college courses properly and at the same time give the attention I desired to Bible study. So I told one of my professors that I was thinking about quitting college. “I will send you to someone who will understand and help you,” she said. She arranged for the dean of the college to speak with me.
The dean welcomed me, asking: “Why does our best student want to leave school?”
“Because I do not have time for other things that also interest me,” I answered. Since Jehovah’s Witnesses were then banned in Czechoslovakia, I had no intention of telling him why I was thinking about leaving. But after talking with him for a couple of hours, I assumed that he was trustworthy. So I told him that I was studying the Bible.
“Study both the Bible and Marx,” he said. “Then make your choice.” It seemed that he was even encouraging me to study the Bible!
A Conspiracy Thwarted
The next day, however, both he and the professor traveled all the way to my home village to visit my parents. They warned them that I was in contact with a dangerous and banned sect and told them that I wanted to leave the college. “If your daughter decides to leave school,” the dean promised Father, “we will make sure that she isn’t able to get work in Prague, and then she’ll have to return to you and break contact with that sect.”
In January 1983, I did leave school. A friend who also studied the Bible helped me to rent a room from an elderly woman. Since I knew nothing of the dean’s visit to my parents or his promise to Father, I was unaware of why all my efforts to find employment were unsuccessful. My landlady was also curious about this, so unknown to me she went to the dean of the college to ask him why I had left school.
“Take care!” he warned. “She is a member of the dangerous sect of Jehovah’s Witnesses. That is why she had to leave the school. She must go back home and stop this. I will see that she does not get any employment in Prague!”
When the landlady came home that night, she called me and said: “Well, Alenka, today I went to your college.” I thought I would have to pack up that very night and leave her apartment. But she said: “I do not approve of the dean’s actions. You may believe whatever you wish; the important thing is how you behave. I will help you find work.” In prayer that night, I thanked Jehovah for his help.
Soon afterward, Father came to Prague to take me home. But this time his arguments did not persuade me. My faith in Jehovah and his promises had firmer foundations. In the end, Father left without me, and for the first time in my life, I saw him weep. Although it was a very emotional meeting, the experience drew me closer to Jehovah. I wanted to belong to and serve Him. Thus, on November 19, 1983, I symbolized my dedication to Jehovah by baptism in a tub of water in an apartment in Prague.
My Decision Was Blessed
In time, I became involved in helping to produce the banned literature of the Witnesses. The work necessitated strict security measures, since the authorities had already imprisoned some who had been caught doing it. My first task was to make copies on a typewriter of The Watchtower translated into Czech. These copies were then handed out to Witnesses for use in Bible study.
Later, I was invited to join a group that met in a Prague apartment to prepare books. Most of the furniture was moved out of one room, and then we assembled individual printed pages on a long table that was placed in the middle of the room. Later these pages were glued or sewn together to make a book. Often, I thought how lovely it would be to do this work full-time.
As a pioneer in the Communist youth organization, I had tried to teach children to be better people. As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I continue working with young people and have assisted a number of them to become baptized servants of Jehovah. Although no member of my family has yet become a Witness, I have come to have, as the Bible promised, many spiritual fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters.—Mark 10:29, 30.
In 1989 a democratic government replaced the Communist one in our country. This change has brought legal freedom to Jehovah’s Witnesses, which has resulted in our being able to meet openly for Bible study, to preach from house to house without danger of arrest, and to travel abroad to attend international conventions. Moreover, we no longer have to worry about interrogations, arrests, or intimidation!
Serving With My Husband
In 1990, I married Petr, a fellow Christian. In April 1992 we were both able to realize the goal of becoming pioneers, as Witnesses call those in the full-time preaching work. Eventually, in June 1994, we were invited to work at the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Prague. Now, instead of producing Bible literature in secrecy, we can share openly in serving the spiritual interests of people throughout the Czech Republic.
A few years ago, Petr and I were overjoyed when my parents accepted our invitation to visit the facilities where we live and work along with some 60 other members of our branch family. After inspecting our home and offices, Father said: “Yes, I feel there is real love among you.” These were the most beautiful words I could have heard from my father.
Enjoying What Communism Promised
Our hope of enjoying a better world through Communism really was nothing but a wishful dream. The history of mankind has revealed that even the most sincere efforts of humans have been unsuccessful in creating a righteous society. I believe that there are yet many people who will come to realize that man cannot enjoy a happy life without God’s help.—Jeremiah 10:23.
Often, I recall Father’s wish for me to enjoy what he called “a real life,” which he taught us Communism would make possible. Yet, I have come to realize from a study of the Bible that what it calls “the real life”—life in God’s righteous new world—is the only sure promise upon which humans can rely. (1 Timothy 6:19) I say this because, although subject to sin and human imperfection, those who have sincerely endeavored to apply Bible teachings in their lives have been able to live together at peace in a remarkable way. They have successfully resisted all attempts to break up their unity or to sever their devoted attachment to Jehovah, their God.
This was especially impressed upon me when my husband and I were privileged to be among the guests attending the dedication of the new branch facilities of Jehovah’s Witnesses near Lviv, Ukraine, on May 19, 2001. There I met other Witnesses who had been members of the Communist youth organization Young Pioneers. These had hoped, as I had, that Communism would bring true peace and unity among all mankind. Vladimir Grigoriev, who now serves with his wife at the branch office in Russia, was one who had also been a Young Pioneer.
Now it seemed ironic that here at a location that had served as a summer camp for Young Pioneers, Jehovah’s Witnesses had constructed their new branch. Because of limited space at the branch, only 839 persons from 35 countries could be accommodated for the dedication program. However, the following morning 30,881 assembled at a soccer stadium in Lviv to hear a review of the previous day’s program.* Some of these had traveled up to six hours or more from distant places to be present.
Yet, when these people learned of the provision to tour their new branch facilities, they boarded the scores of buses by which they had come to the stadium. By mid-afternoon the buses began arriving at the branch—where my husband and I were privileged to have been overnight guests—for their walking tour through the facilities. By that evening, well over 16,000 of these dear fellow believers had completed their tour, boarded their buses, and begun what for many was a long trip home!
In Ukraine, as in other Eastern European countries, millions believed that Communism was the best hope for creating a peaceful new society. Today, however, there are over 120,000 people in Ukraine alone who are engaged in telling others about God’s Kingdom. Indeed, many of us former Communists have come to believe that this government by God is the only true hope for realizing genuine brotherhood and peace among all peoples!
Another 41,143 persons met simultaneously in a stadium in Kiev—about 300 miles [500 km] away—where they also listened to a review of the dedication program. The combined attendance of 72,024 constituted the largest gathering ever of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ukraine.
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When I was ten, shortly after I joined the Communist Young Pioneers
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With my husband, Petr
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Vladimir, a former Communist Young Pioneer whom I met at the Ukraine branch dedication
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Over 30,000 listened to a review of the dedication program
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More than 16,000 visited the branch facilities