Neal Pollard

Anna Reid has written a gripping book chronicling one of the least talked about devastations of World War II.  From 1941-1944, the Russian city of Leningrad, along with surrounding villages, were besieged by the German army.  Leningrad, being encircled, was cut off by land and water from adequate resupply of food.  This created a famine that cost hundreds of thousands of Leningraders their lives.

One of the survivors of this prolonged plague was Dmitri Likhachov, a Russian scholar who would live to be almost 93 years old.  He chronicled one of the most detailed accounts of the siege, both the heroic and horrible actions of people facing starvation and death.  Reid shares one of his quotes:

I think that real life is hunger, and the rest a mirage. In the time of famine people
revealed themselves, stripped themselves, freed themselves of all trumpery.
Some turned out to be marvellous (sic), incomparable heroes, others–scoundrels,
villains, murderers, cannibals. There were no half-measures. Everything was real.
The heavens were unfurled and in them God was seen… (Leningrad, 194).

It is truly hard to imagine the kind of hunger and privation these Russians endured, even reading it in detail.  But, what Likhachov says about the extremes of starvation seems to apply to people in times of any tragedy or death.  Adversity brings out the best and worst of people, or rather it has a way of “stripping away” the facades people project to reveal what is beneath the surface.

Jesus taught, “And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:20-23).  So, while controlling our actions is always a spiritual necessity, Jesus urges us to achieve an inside-out makeover!  We may or may not ever endure tragic circumstances in our lifetime, but the Bible tells us a day is coming when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ (Rom. 2:16).  Let us take greatest care of that part of ourselves which, though “stripped” and “freed…of all trumpery” will reveals us to be “marvellous, incomparable heroes” of faith!