“I should be dead. Buried in an unmarked grave in Romania. Obviously, I am not. God had other plans.” So declares a lady who grew up under Communism.
Her name is Virginia Prodan. I had not heard of her until she reached out to me through Facebook---to commend me for a recent column I had written about how Communism, despite its deadly track record, seems to be gaining some support among the young and naïve of the West.
I have come to learn her story, to read her book, and to interview her on the radio. She has an important message for our time, when religious freedom is at risk.
She described the Communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu thus: “I called that land a land of lies and a ‘Prisonland’ because we were not allowed to criticize or even to ask questions about the government or his regime.”
She adds, “It was a ‘Prisonland’ because everything about us was supervised. The government wanted to make sure that we didn’t have any knowledge about the outside world. We were surrounded by the Iron Curtain. I remember my parents being very, very submissive. They were ‘politically correct’ outside of home, but whispering their feelings inside of home.”
Prodan thought that by becoming a lawyer, which she considered a pursuit of elusive truth, maybe she could fill the emptiness in her soul. But that didn’t work.
One of her clients was the victim of anti-Christian persecution and difficult circumstances. However, through all he suffered, he managed to maintain his internal peace and joy. The barrister said to him in effect, “I want what you have.” So he invited her to church---not a common experience in those days.
When Prodan was in the church, the pastor got up and read the statement from Jesus (John 14:6): “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
She writes in her memoir, Saving My Assassin (Tyndale, 2016), “Did I hear right? Someone was claiming to be ‘the truth’? The woman next to me handed me a Bible opened to John 14:6. I read the verse myself and then listened carefully. As the pastor continued to describe the truth of Jesus Christ, I felt as though he were speaking directly to me, that the Bible verses he was sharing were written specifically for me. Could it really be this simple?”
Her heart was touched, despite the atheistic government doing everything it could to discourage any kind of Christian influence in Romania.
She writes, “For the first time in my life, everything made sense. I had spent years searching for the truth, but I had been looking in the wrong places---law school, the government, the justice system---when the answer was here all along. I suddenly realized that the truth was not something that came from law books, but from God himself: the Creator of the universe---my Creator; the source of all life, peace, and happiness. When the pastor asked if anyone wanted to accept Christ as Lord and Savior, I accepted his invitation. It was the culmination of a lifelong search that went back as far as I could remember.” (pp. 108-109).
After the service, they even gave her a copy of the forbidden book: “‘You do realize,’ the pastor cautioned, ‘that the Romanian government can arrest you for having a Bible in your home.’ I was vaguely aware of this fact, but I had never really given it much thought---until now.” (p. 109).
Virginia Prodan went on to defend Christians in the courts of Romania, and eventually was targeted for assassination by the Communist authorities, whose views were summed up by the Romanian police one day: “You need church? We will educate you on that! Ceausescu is god, not that lunatic [Jesus]” (p. 154).
But the Lord saved the very man sent to kill her, when Prodan shared the gospel with him while he held her at gunpoint. In her book, she even has a chapter written by that man.
He writes, “I was a man empowered to commit unthinkable atrocities upon people. But then God, in his amazing love, sent me to her office. My intention was to kill Virginia, but God’s intention was to breathe life into me through her” (pp. 290-291).
Eventually, because of pressure from the West, Virginia Prodan and family were able to emigrate from Romania, a year before Ceausescu was judged by his own people and executed on Christmas day 1989.
Today in America, she is an attorney for God (affiliated with the Alliance Defending Freedom), fighting for Christian liberties in the courts of America and in the courts of public opinion. She and her would-be assassin offer a timeless warning to those who think Communism and the war against religious freedom have something positive to offer.