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Wartime's violent storms

On that day, when evening had come into being, he stated to them, “Let us go across – to beyond.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great violent attack of wind came into being, and the waves were breaking into the boat, with the boat almost filled full. But he was in the stern, asleep on the master’s bench. And they woke him and stated to him, “Teacher, do you yourself not care that we are perishing?” Awaking, he overpowered the wind and said to the sea, “Silence! Be quiet!” And the wind ceased, and a great calm came into being. He said to them, “Why are you all so timid? Do you not yet have faith?” And they were fearful with great fear and stated to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea hear him?” Mark 4: 35-41
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 under German Occupation.

Many Ukrainian males thus became “prisoners of war” 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.

‘I believe in the sun/ Even when it's not shining/ I believe in love/ Even when I feel it not/ I believe in God/ Even when he is silent.’ (Words found on the walls of a Concentration Camp in 1945) 
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, Tom had faith in Jesus. Here are his own words: I believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and the Saviour of the World…..

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

Take a look now at the incident in bold above written by Mark, a contemporary of Jesus, in his biography of that man.

The disciples, at that stage in their lives, did not have faith in Jesus. He was trying to demonstrate to them in an unforgettable way that the storms of life would swamp them. They needed to be taught that, although they might see him as being (as it were) “asleep on the master’s bench”, that would never be the case.

During the German National Socialist occupation of Jersey in 1940-45, John and Phyllis Le Breton knew Jesus to be in ultimate charge. They were anxious, yes, but able to ignore the howling wind and buffeting waves of those war years – and tell Bokejon about Jesus. They didn’t “perish”. They still haven’t.

‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ (Jesus Christ to Nicodemus, a Jewish leader, c. AD 28) 
What about Bokejon? Tom? Post-war, the fierce wind and waves of Stalinism overcame him physically – just as Germans soldiers overcame his six companions in 1941. But he also hasn’t “perished”.

Sinner Syvret

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