JUNE 23, 2021
When our brothers in Russia who are husbands and fathers are incarcerated for their faith, the challenges extend far beyond the prison walls. Their wives and children must cope with the anxiety of separation while dealing with adversity. Ten wives of imprisoned brothers signed a joint letter to the Russian authorities that poignantly described their feelings. It stated: “This open letter to you is a cry of despair. The people who are dear to us . . . have been thrown behind bars on the suspicion that they, along with us, our children, and friends, read the Bible’s commands and prayed to God.”
Several of our dear sisters explain the unique challenges that they have faced and how Jehovah is helping them to cope with their husbands being imprisoned.
Communication and Visitation
Many of the sisters are unable to communicate by phone with their husbands because of technical issues. Additionally, the letters they send to the prison can take an unusually long time to be delivered, if they are delivered at all.
Sister Yevgeniya Lagunova’s husband, Feliks Makhammadiyev, was incarcerated for more than two years. She would not hear from him for extended periods. She says that it was extremely difficult not knowing if he was all right physically and not knowing if he felt forgotten because he may not have received her letters.
Many of the wives must travel long distances to visit their husbands. (See the chart “Travel Distances for Wives to Visit Their Husbands.”) For example, Yevgeniya explains: “I traveled over 800 kilometers (497 mi) by car to visit my husband in prison.” On average, it took her three to four days to travel to visit her husband and then return home. Other sisters drive up to 1,000 kilometers (621 mi). Once the sisters reach the prison, they often have to wait outside in long lines.
Sister Irina Christensen’s husband, Dennis, was the first Witness to be jailed in Russia after the 2017 ban. She regularly travels 200 kilometers (124 mi) from her home in Oryol to visit Dennis in prison in Lgov. She relates: “It’s difficult to go to the prison, both physically and emotionally. I have to depart at 3:30 a.m. so that I can be at the prison by 8:00 a.m. to submit the necessary documentation. Then I have to wait in my car until 11:00 a.m. when visitation begins.” When asked how she copes, Irina says: “I pray to Jehovah a lot, and I ask him to support me and all our fellow believers—those who are close by, those in prison, and those all around the world.”
Sister Nadezhda German has been separated from her husband, Gennadiy, for over two years. She, like other wives in her situation, must deal with the loneliness that accompanies the separation from her mate. However, Nadezhda relates: “My congregation has become even more like my family. Their sincere love and care for me personally and for my husband is apparent.”
Sister Yuliya Miretskaya, whose husband, Aleksey, is in prison with Gennadiy, adds: “The brothers and sisters help with chores around the house. It is a comfort to know that I can rely on the friends and count on their help.”
Sister Tatyana Budenchuk is caring for her two children without her husband, Aleksey, imprisoned since September 2019. She says: “The kids try to focus on our blessings, on what Jehovah gives us, and that he always supports us. They know that this trial is temporary and that now is the time to display faith in and loyalty to Jehovah.”
Sister Natalya Filatova, whose husband, Sergey Filatov, was sentenced to six years in prison in March 2020, is now raising their four children by herself. Observing them, she says: “I see that they miss their dad and are worried about whether he’s all right. They talk about it in their prayers. My youngest daughter writes her dad letters and assures him that we’re doing well and that he shouldn’t worry. But it’ll be better when he’s home with the family.”
The family strives to apply the Bible’s advice to keep their life simple. Natalya says: “We’ve learned to live humbly and frugally. We have enough financially to cover our living expenses and our other needs.”
Maintaining a Spiritual Outlook
Despite these challenges, our sisters are maintaining their faith by keeping a good spiritual routine. Yuliya explains: “I try to keep up with everything. You could even say that I study for two people, because when I speak with Aleksey, I try to recall and share the main thoughts with him.” Nadezhda points out: “There’s no problem that can’t be solved with Jehovah’s help! I have a round-the-clock relationship with God. I feel like I’m a little girl in the arms of my all-powerful Father! And by helping others, I help myself.”
Natalya similarly relates: “I remember something a sister said: ‘There is no one among God’s people who isn’t in need of comfort, but there’s also no one among His people who isn’t capable of comforting others.’ I also feel a sense of satisfaction when I’m able to comfort or encourage someone else.” Natalya continues: “I try not to pity myself or become depressed despite the fact that it’s very difficult both emotionally and physically to be alone without my husband. I don’t give Satan the opportunity to discourage me!”
The worldwide brotherhood highly esteems the steadfast example of endurance set by those with imprisoned family members in Russia and other lands. We know that Jehovah values these dear ones who are truly ‘precious in his eyes.’—Isaiah 43:4a.