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one Ukrainian asylum seeker

And he [Jesus of Nazareth, around AD 32] took a child and put him in the midst of them [Jesus’ key followers], and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”                       Mark 9: 36-37

What is Jersey doing at present to give asylum to those in extreme danger in other countries? In all 30,545 individuals (including dependents) sought asylum in the UK in 2008. Our population share of these would be 45 people (=90,000 / 60,975,000 x 30,545). Are there any in Jersey?


On 16 July 1941, a young Ukrainian soldier, an unmarried school teacher named Bokejon Akram, was defending his country against German attack. In 2 hours at that place 12,000 of his colleagues died. His division surrendered but, with nine others, he decided to escape and hide. At a fork in the road three went one way, six the other. The Germans discovered the six and they were shot.


The three were sheltered – Bokejon by a peasant woman. And for a while Bokejon integrated into his own Ukrainian society again – but, as with Jersey, the Ukraine was now under German Occupation.


Many Ukrainian “prisoners of war” were around and the German soldiers collected thousands in many round-ups. After several escapes from these Bokejon found himself with 2,000 others in St Malo in July 1942. On 14 July 1942 at 6 a.m. he and others arrived in Jersey, wretched, dirty, hungry and weak.


Things were to get worse. In his own words Bokejon described the Jersey conditions, the hard labour and death threats. His life story is included in “Slaves of the Third Reich” by Audrey Falle, published in 1994.


He ran away from his Jersey prison camp seeking food and escape from his captors and tormentors. In short, he became an asylum seeker here. And he found asylum with many different people in St Mary and St John.


John and Phyllis Le Breton of Haut des Buttes, St Mary had four very young children. Both were very concerned - Phyllis was terribly nervous to shelter Bokejon. Bokejon became Tom to everyone (so as to reduce the risk of discovery through innocent children’s chatter). A weekly pattern of four nights there and three at another farm reduced the tension.


The whole family loved Tom and helped him to become accomplished in the English language – partly by reading the Bible with him. They had a prayer time each night. In short, they received Bokejon, a “child”, in the name of Jesus (see bold above). And Tom became convinced. Here are his own words: I believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and the Saviour of the World…..


Jesus is recorded as saying on another occasion, “God ... gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”. In the original Greek “eternal life” is aionios zoe = the life of God (zoe) lasting for aeons and aeons (aionios).


In May 1945, before repatriation to the Ukraine by British forces, Bokejon promised to keep contact with his asylum providers for the rest of his (earthly) life. That proved to be very short: three letters from Guernsey in June then nothing more. Stalin had cruel plans for Ukrainian people.


But what about the words in bold above? Are they true? Did John and Phyllis Le Breton, by receiving Bokejon in Jesus’ name, actually receive Jesus or, rather, receive his eternal Father?


Another way to put that question is to ask whether, in fact, John and Phyllis had received, for themselves, that everlasting life of Almighty God (aionios zoe) within themselves? Did they receive that?


Both are no longer here. But there are others who are in Jersey today and who knew them well.... They can testify about that......

  ‘Somehow, for all the wondrous glimpses of ‘goodness’ I see in society, there remains the unmistakable stain of selfishness, violence and greed.’ (John Dickson)
‘Be such a man, and live such a life, that if every man were such as you and every life a life like yours, this earth would be God’s paradise.’ (Phillips Brooks, Author of O Little Town of Bethlehem / How still we see thee lie.., 1835-1893)
Richard Syvret

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