Discovering Hidden Treasures
HAVE you ever discovered a hidden treasure in an unlikely place? That happened on March 27, 2005, to Ivo Laud, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Estonia. He was helping Alma Vardja, an elderly fellow Witness, demolish an old shed. As they removed the outside wall, they noticed a board covering one side of a pillar. Upon removing the board, they found a groove about 4 inches [10 cm] wide, 50 inches [1.2 m] long, and 4 inches [10 cm] deep, covered with a matching piece of wood. (1) A cache of hidden treasures! What were the treasures? Who hid them there?
Out of the cache came several packets carefully wrapped in heavy paper. (2) The packets contained literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses, mostly Watchtower study articles, including some from 1947. (3) They were carefully handwritten in Estonian. Some of the packets contained clues as to who hid the material there. Those were records of interrogations of Alma’s husband, Villem Vardja. Also among the findings was information about the years he spent in prison. Why had he been imprisoned?
Villem Vardja served as a responsible servant among the Witnesses in the Tartu Congregation and later in the Otepää Congregation in Estonia, one of the former Soviet Socialist Republics. He apparently learned Bible truth sometime prior to World War II. A few years later, on December 24, 1948, the Communist regime had Brother Vardja arrested for his religious activity. He was interrogated and mistreated by the secret police as they tried to force him to give them the names of his fellow believers. After being denied the opportunity to defend himself in court, he was sentenced to a ten-year prison term in Russian camps.
Villem Vardja proved himself faithful to Jehovah until his death on March 6, 1990. His wife had no idea that the literature supply existed. He must have wanted to protect her in case of an interrogation. Why did he have to hide the literature? He hid it because the Soviet State Security Committee, the KGB, would often unexpectedly search the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses, looking for religious publications. Brother Vardja likely hid the literature to make sure that a supply of spiritual food was on hand for fellow believers in case everything else was taken away by the KGB. Other caches of literature were found earlier, in the summer of 1990. One was discovered in Tartu, southern Estonia. It too had been hidden by Villem Vardja.
Why do we call these documents treasures? Because these painstakingly handwritten and carefully hidden copies speak eloquently of the appreciation the Witnesses had for the spiritual food available at that time. (Matt. 24:45) Do you appreciate the spiritual provisions you are now able to receive in your locality? Among them is The Watchtower in Estonian and over 170 other languages.