10 / 10/ 2006: A Special Anniversary
Today our community was enriched by the presence of Fr. Hrabar, his brother and sister-in-law. For those who do not know Fr. Hrabar, suffice it to say that he is the last surviving Bulgarian Assumptionist of those who lived through the Communist persecution.
Recently the young Mexican volunteer living in community with us was commenting that that not long ago it was hard for him to believe all the stories he had heard about Nazism and Communism.
For him they were only tales. It was only with his arrival in Bulgaria that he has been able to verify that, unfortunately, these stories are tragically true.
Today Fr. Hrabar celebrated his 90th birthday.
He eats little, hears less, and is not much interested in the present.
You just have to give him a bit of attention and you will be captivated.
He can entertain you for hours if you have the time.
The topic of conversation is always the same : Communism. For this man, time came to a stop. He is once again a prisoner. They may have liberated his body, but they forever imprisoned his spirit. If you show him the least bit of attention, you will find yourself once again in a world alive, filled with fear, lies, and violence….
Fr. Hrabar was condemned to six years of detention.
Fixing his gaze on me, he says, «The interrogations began at 10 PM and they lasted till 6 AM. Once, the officer who was leading the interrogation said to me, ‘you have three options : to be liberated, to enter a re-education camp, to go before a jury and be judged with others. We don’t know which we will choose for you.’ ».
Then as he continued his monologue, he explained that it was the third of the options that was chosen for him. He was judged at the same same trial as our three Bulgarian martyrs. «We were given an opportunity to say a word before our sentence came down. I heard the words of Fr. Kamen, but I was especially struck by the words of Fr. Pavel. I was very moved. I really started to cry ; I couldn’t help myself. »
But the trials which this priest suffered were not limited to his relations with the Communists. The climate of lies and suspicion, created by the regime, affected the relationships between religious, especially at the college in Plovdiv. As for him, he was, for a certain time, thought to be untrustworthy, almost a spy.
How many of the sufferings that he underwent are not still like open wounds…..
« Once, during the nocturnal interrogations, they asked me what my relationship was with Fr. Methodius… We, Chrristians, were supposed to love our enemies. I tried to love the Communists to such a point that they considered me one of them……. I was condemned to six years but I was innocent….. »
Yes, it is true. You were innocent, Fr. Hrabar, and yet the violence and evil present in the human heart placed you in a prison out of which you have not been able to escape.
Happy birthday, Fr. Hrabar, even if you no longer wish to celebrate it.
You’d rather celebrate your patronal feast, which is a Christian commemoration that the Communists forbade.
Dear father, it is practically impossible for you to enter our world, but thank you for the door you open any time someone wishes to accompany you there where the Communists are still alive and exercising their power, full of fear, lies, and violence…
We won’t forget ; that much you deserve. That’s our gift and I am sure you appreciate it.