2017-41 Faith History

Oziornoje – a miracle in a savage land

Dec 28, 2017 Małgorzata Sołtyk

The endless Kazakhstan steppe – a barren land, to which an inexhaustible multitude of people were exiled by the Soviets. The land of martyrdom of innocent people has also become a place of an extraordinary miracle through the intercession of Our Lady.

For a huge number of people the hostile wilderness steppe of Kazakhstan during World War II was a place of struggle for survival, which, unfortunately, many of them lost. Such dramatic stories also took place in Oziornoje — the parish consisting of several earthen huts, founded in 1936 by Polish exiles. The miracle that occurred there is a testimony that there is no place on earth lacking divine protection.

“Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20)

The great expanses of Siberia and the Kazakhstan steppes — an endless wasteland, icebound for most of the year, became famous for their bad reputation. People thrown on this land by the violence of communist totalitarianism lost hope and the will to fight for life. These wearied, unfortunate Polish exiles in Oziornoje were distinguished by an unusual trait under such conditions — hope. Its source was faith in God and trust in the care of the Mother of God. So when the threat of starvation became more real than usual, the Polish exiles grabbed their rosaries and sought help in God alone. In a land transformed into a spiritual wilderness by communism, the rosary was for the Poles a special way to God. There were hardly any priests in this enormous territory. Believers often waited for a holy mass and confession for many years. Priests attempting to reach believers were imprisoned or killed — one such heroic priest who was imprisoned was Fr. Władysław Bukowski, recently proclaimed as blessed. Through prayer these downtrodden people received the power to bear the atrocious suffering inflicted upon them. Uniting with Christ’s cross gave them support in the reality of communist totalitarianism. This spiritual reality can be described by the words of John Paul II from the encyclical about God’s Mercy, Dives in Misericordia: “The cross is the most profound condescension of God to man and to what man — especially in difficult and painful moments — looks on as his unhappy destiny. The cross is like a touch of eternal love upon the most painful wounds of man’s earthly existence. […] In His resurrection Christ has revealed the God of merciful love, precisely because He accepted the cross as the way to the resurrection.”

A lake full of fish appears

People left behind in the faraway steppe, without the basic necessities of life: food, clothing, medicines and tools, had to labour in harsh conditions and temperatures ranging from -50ºC in winter to +40ºC in summer. March 1941 was particularly difficult. Poverty, hunger and severe freezing temperatures gathered a harvest full of death. Polish exiles in Oziornoje began praying on the rosary to the Mother of God to save them. Their fervent prayers lifted up to heaven from the middle of the atheistic Soviet republic were not left without an answer. On March 25, 1941, on the day of Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a spectacular miracle occurred. Icebound land began thawing early and rapidly. As a result, a rift broke out in the land and a lake formed. So many fish appeared in it that they could be caught with their bare hands. Thus exiles were rescued from starvation. People came from all over the area to get fish, they were transported by trucks even several hundred kilometres!

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