A former Communist secret policeman reveals their terrible secrets in this book.
Sergai Khordakov after reaching freedom in Canada tells of the terrible persecution of Christians in Russia under Communism.
Sergai is second from left. He led 150 violent raids on underground Christian meetings in Russia while he was a student at a naval college.
The story of Sergai Kourdakov is so remarkable that I am putting it on our website. He tells the story of his life in the book ‘Forgive Me, Natasha’. Natasha is the name of a beautiful young Christian girl in Russia in the 1970s. Sergai was then a student at a Russian naval academy. Like students the world over, he had a part time job, only he was not flipping burgers or washing cars. His job was working as a teenage thug for the Russian police. His special work was bursting in on secret meetings of Christian believers and beating them half to death. Natasha was one of those he stripped and beat unmercifully.
I am going to summarise the contents of Sergai’s book, because you will be most unlikely to find it in a bookshop anywhere, and it is so important that we all know the truth. Everyone knows of Solzhenitzen, but who has heard of Sergai Kourdakov? Yet his book is one of the most powerful condemnations of Communism there could ever be, from an insider who saw the ugly reality of life under a system which boldly declares: ‘There is no God.’
Let me begin at the beginning. Thanks to Stalin, the ‘Man of Steel’, Sergai never knew his grandfather, a prosperous farmer. In 1928 Stalin launched his collective farm program, a reign of terror against the farmers. Officials would arrive at each farm, point a gun in the face of the owner and confiscate all his food and crops. Stalin then sold the produce abroad, leaving millions of Russian families to starve in this man made famine.
When a Communist official arrived at the farm of Sergai’s grandfather, demanding everything he had, the man was given a Russian bearhug, a hug so hard that it broke his backbone. For killing the man, Sergai’s grandfather was sent to a hard labour camp in Siberia, where he died in 1937. His grandmother was sent to a women’s prison camp, where she also died.
Sergai’s father was also sent to Siberia with the grandfather, to a state children’s home near the labour camp, and it was there he renounced his parents ‘to cleanse his record and purge himself of all poisonous family relationships.’ His father became an ardent Communist, serving in the Second World War and then put in charge of a tank training base. He supported Stalin 100%.
But then Khrushchev came to power. Anyone who had supported Stalin was suspect, and one night Sergai’s father was taken away and never seen again. Four months later Sergai’s mother died of a broken heart, and Sergai, then only four years old, was an orphan, courtesy of the Communist Party.
He was taken in by a couple who were kind to him, and he lived with them for two years. The problem was their son, who tried to drown Sergai one day in the bath. The six-year-old Sergai knew he would be killed if he stayed with the family, so he packed the few clothes he had and ran away. This was in the huge city of Novosibirsk, the crossroads of Siberia. He wandered around until he came to the central railway station, and realised he could sleep in a dark corner, and pilfer food from the many open stalls. He survived like this for 10 days before being picked up by the police and sent to a children’s home.
At the home he was told he was a grandson of Lenin (he had never heard of Lenin), and now belonged to the state. He also learned that all children grades one to three had to join the Octobrianiks, the Communist organisation for that age group.
Most of the children in the home were not orphans. Many were simply snatched from Christian parents who were declared ‘unfit’ by the state. They were never allowed to see their parents again.
In 1960, when Sergai was nine, he was moved to a different children’s home, run by ‘aunts and uncles’. Here he and the others were mostly ignored, but sometimes suffered harsh and brutal beatings for the most trivial offences. Eventually he ran away, again to the railway station, where this time he survived three weeks before the police caught him. He was sent to a different children’s home, in the village of Barysevo. Here the aunts and uncles also ignored the children, but Sergai was warned to watch out for two people – ‘Big Irene’ who ran the home and an uncle named Nichman who combined great strength with exceptional brutality. Nichman was notorious for giving the boys ‘a dose of vitamin P’. The letter P stood for the Russian word for belt buckle. Nichman would remove his belt, wind it around his fist with the buckle foremost, and proceed to viciously attack any child he chose.
The children formed a close-knit circle against the hated adults, and that circle was run by the strongest boy, the King of Barysevo, with the ablest boys as his lieutenants. The others were slaves, who did the bidding of the king and his lieutenants. After an initiation which proved he could keep his mouth shut, Sergai was accepted into the inner circle of boys.
The children were sent to the village school, a welcome break from the hated aunts and uncles. Each day started with the greeting: ‘Good morning, children. Remember there is no God.’ (How different from my schooldays, when each morning we stood to salute the flag with our hands on our hearts, saying: ‘I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands. One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.’)
School was only in the morning. In the afternoons it was compulsory for the children to return to the home and take a nap in the dormitory, which they all resented. Sergai got through the boredom of this by reading under his blanket by torchlight. For this crime, Uncle Nichman one day yanked him out of bed and gave him a dose of vitamin P, leaving Sergai in agony, badly bruised and running with blood where the edge of the belt buckle tore deeply into his flesh.
A few days later the inner circle of boys got their revenge on Nichman. When he came to the dorm on his late night rounds, they were ready for him. They had removed the light bulbs, and when he opened the door, they leapt on him, pulled a sack over his head and proceeded to give him a mega dose of vitamin P which he would never forget. After that a balance of terror existed in the home. The boys had found strength in unity.
While at Barysevo, Sergai was surprised to learn that of about 250,000 people in the area, an amazing 30,000 were Christians, nearly one in every eight people, and many of them young! He had been taught that there were very few believers, almost all old.
In 1963 a food crisis hit, and again many people starved. Like the famine under Stalin, it was totally unnecessary. Khruschev had decided that the farmers should grow corn instead of wheat, and this policy was a disaster. The boys at Barysevo had to live on one corn flatcake a day. Sergai had half of his in the morning, one quarter for lunch and one quarter for supper. Sergai’s friend Sasha got weaker and weaker and finally could not rise from his bed. The others noticed that his stomach began to swell, but they did not understand why. Big Irene, who had not lost an ounce, came and looked at the swollen little body, saying that Sasha was obviously gaining some weight and that she understood, because she had a weight problem too. A few days later Sasha died. Two other children also died. One girl said goodbye, walked into a lake and drowned. Another girl of 11 was found hanging.
At the age of 14, Sergai became King of Barysevo, after winning four fights among the lieutenants. He appointed his best friends his top lieutenants and one boy who was a skilled pickpocket as treasurer.
As king, Sergai found out the background of each boy, including one he called The Deacon, who was a believer in God. It was Sergai’s first contact with a Christian. The Deacon was not an orphan. His parents lived 17 miles away, but no visits were allowed, because as believers, they were listed as unfit parents. The Deacon was frequently picked out by Uncle Nichman for extra vitamin P sessions.
Sergai threw himself into the study of Marxism and Leninism and began to channel his energy into the Communist Youth League at school. He believed utterly in the objectives Communism, which he thought were: the unity of all people and the brotherhood of man, from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. But he was seeing the opposite in action in real life - an atmosphere of hate and fear, survival of the fittest, and might makes right.
He excelled at youth work and under his energetic leadership, his area won the prize for the No. 1 Communist youth organisation for the entire region. With such an honour achieved, he was accepted for training at the Officers’ Naval Academy in Leningrad. There he again excelled, and because of his zeal for Marxism, he was chosen to lead the Communist Youth League at the college. Then in 1968 he was assigned to the elite naval college at Petropavlosk to learn to be a radio officer. Three-fifths of class time was devoted to political studies, and Sergai, at only 18 years of age, was put in charge of teaching the other 1200 cadets about Communism, following directives from Moscow. He also excelled at sport, including judo, wrestling, and karate.
Then one day he was visited by a KGB man, who had been studying his file, and wanted Sergai to head a ‘special action squad’ to undertake secret operations in Petropavlosk. Sergai was trying to think up excuses for saying ‘no’ until he heard the pay – 25 roubles for each police action he led. His naval pay was only 7 roubles a month, so it was irresistible.
Sergai chose the toughest cadets to join his team, and they were told they were a unit organised by direct orders from Moscow to deal with special enemies of the state. They were given preliminary assignments to break them in, and they especially enjoyed breaking up brawls in seaport bars. For a group of fit young athletes skilled in martial arts, it was good sport to be unleashed on a bar full of drunken sailors and leave them all flattened. And to be paid 25 roubles each for the job was delightful.
But after a series of such ‘fun’ assignments, they were told their real work would begin, and it would be against secretive enemies of the state. Sergai was surprised to learn that these ‘secret enemies’ were none other than believers in Christ. They were said to be undermining Communism, poisoning the minds of people, and they had to be stopped on order of the Party Bureau in Moscow and Comrade Brezhnev. The order came down because despite the best efforts of the Communist propaganda machine, Christianity was unaccountably spreading throughout the population.
The unit’s first raid against believers took them to a quiet street in a poor area. Spies among the believers, who were paid even more than Sergai and his band of thugs, had informed police when and where the meeting was to be, and that there would be a new Bible there to be confiscated. All printed material was to be collected and sent to Moscow, while handwritten copies would be burned.
Sergai’s group waited until the meeting would be well underway, but when they arrived at the house in a poor part of town, they were puzzled as to what to do. At the rowdy barrooms they had gone in swinging, but here they could hear soft singing coming from the house. The 14 strapping men stood outside embarrassed and Sergai tapped at the door. The pastor who opened invited them in and said that they were just holding a meeting to worship God. Sergai arrested him and another man and took them back to the police station. But there he and the others were given a tongue lashing by the police chief for not using extreme violence in the raid. He convinced them that the believers had duped them into feeling compassion, when their job was to use their clubs and fists.
From then on, they dropped all vestiges of politeness and humanity and tore into anyone found at a Christian meeting, whether young or old, man or woman. All trained fighters, the thugs were also armed with extendable clubs made of steel covered with hard rubber.
The police chief made sure that Sergai’s men were tanked up on vodka before they went out on their raids.
In 1969 an informer told police of a secret baptismal service planned to take place at a secluded riverside spot. By the time the Christians arrived, Sergai had his men hidden in the woods.
Sergai waited until many of the believers were in the river before giving the order to attack, and the peaceful scene erupted into violence. The steel clubs were extended to smash fleeing Christians. As God’s people shouted prayers, Sergai and his men stuffed their mouths with sand and mud to silence them. The men were tied up and the young girls were stripped as they were all loaded into an open truck and driven back to the police station. The cowering girls in the back of the truck were tortured by the laughing thugs, who lit cigarettes and held them against the girls’ naked flesh. This was seen by townspeople, as it was still light. Sergai was later scolded for this – not for allowing it to happen, but for allowing it to be seen in public.
The young girls were put in a freezing cold room where drunks were held overnight. They had no protection at all that night. One girl never recovered.
The pastor was later found dead in the river with his head split open.
The proud chief of police told the thugs he was proud of them: ‘You’ve done a terrific job and taught those believers a lesson!’
All this time a database of Christians was being built up, and records kept with names, pictures and other details on each believer, so that at any time, they could be rounded up.
About this time Sergai and his friends often went hiking in restricted areas, which they could do since they had military status. They were mystified as they came across at least 30 concentration camps and prisons hidden in the mountains and valleys. All were new, but empty except for caretakers and dogs.
At one stage Sergai was told of a major anti-religious action countrywide, with every town and village over 6,000 miles covered by trained workers using every means possible to spread atheism. The police captain told Sergai: ‘Communism will never fully triumph in our land until their minds are changed or they are destroyed. Frankly, I prefer the latter.’ Sergai asked about the Russian constitution giving people freedom of religion, and was told: ‘That’s in the constitution for the record, but you and I are both men. We know reality.’
At this time the Russian government was claiming to have printed 10,000 Bibles. None of these ever got to believers inside Russia.
The proudest moment of Sergai’s college days was in April, 1970, when he received an award as the No. 1 Communist youth in Kamchatka at a major Communist rally which was being televised. His acceptance speech, after which he kissed the red flag and draped it round his body, brought a standing ovation, and an emotional endorsement from Comrade Orlov, the party leader for the entire province. Sergai was overwhelmed. Later they were all given lunch, with the party higher-ups in a private room. When Sergai finished his, he was wandering through the building, when a door opened and Comrade Orlov appeared. He invited Sergai into the private room, where he saw the top echelon of Communists leaders, all of them falling down drunk, many with their heads lying flat on the table, three with their faces in their plates of food. Two were lying under the table. One was stretched full length on the table, his hands and feet in plates of food. Sergai was disgusted. He had well and truly seen behind the veil. Orlov was so drunk that his face too fell into his food, but then he recovered and started railing about Stalin, who he hated, and Brezhnev. ‘Brezhnev….is a toad-eater, a lickspittle backslapper, licking the boots of Stalin…’ he rambled. Then he suddenly shouted: ‘Communism is the worst curse that has ever come to man! Communists are a bunch of bloodsuckers!’ Sergai was terrified that others would hear, and fled from the room and back to his college. For days he worried that Orlov would remember what he said and that his life then ‘would not be worth a kopek’.
Until that day Sergai had believed Communism was genuinely building a better world, even though he saw that the leaders had everything, while the people were dirt poor. But now he knew that the bigwigs were just using the system to get ahead for themselves – and he decided he would do the same.
The beautiful Natasha Zhdanova was a victim of one of the raids. A thug picked her up and hurled her against a wall. Sergai took note of her name and wished they had met under different circumstances. Several days later they went on another raid and to his surprise, Natasha was also there. Enraged and ‘to teach her a lesson’, he had her stripped and held down while he personally beat her with his bare hands until her flesh was coming off in bloody pieces. Later at the police station he boasted: ‘I took care of her tonight; we’ll never see Gorgeous again!’ He later learned that Natasha was a Ukrainian and a proof reader on Petropavlovsk Pravda newspaper (ironically ‘Pravda’ means ‘Truth’). He went there to ask about her, and was told she was a fine worker, but when they learned that she was a believer, their attitudes changed, and the staff turned against her.
Sergai later ordered Natasha to report to him at the police station. She tried to explain why she was a believer in Christ, but he could not understand, and he warned her roughly not to mix with ‘enemies of the state’. He thought that was the end of the matter.
But about a week later, he and the other thugs went on another raid – and there was Natasha again! This time one of the most brutal of the thugs suddenly had a change of heart. He jumped in front of Natasha, and would not allow anyone to harm her. Sergai motioned for her to get out, and she hurried away. They recognised that she had suffered horribly at their hands, but reacted with heroism, but they could not fathom it. Later they learned that she could not stand the ridicule she now had to face each day at Pravda and had returned to the poverty stricken Ukraine.
Sergai records in the book: ‘I felt, for the first time, that these people might not be the fools and enemies I thought they were. Natasha had shaken all my notions about believers.’
But the raids continued, and intensified. Some believers died of their injuries, but the numbers kept growing, and more young people were joining, even though they knew it might mean torture and death. Communist youth, on the other hand, were increasingly turning to vodka as the only way of escape from their empty lives.
One night Sergai was given the job of burning all the handwritten notebooks in which believers had copied out verses from the Bible. Curious to see, he picked one booklet and found part of the gospel of Luke, Chapter 11, the Lord’s Prayer. He tore out a few pages and shoved them in his pocket, burning everything else. For weeks he read them again and again, and the light of truth began to dawn, and Sergai became desperately confused and miserable, unable to understand where Communism had gone wrong.
He decided he had to leave Russia for good, and this coincided with a period of leave. He secretly decided to swim underwater into Hungary, and then make his way to Austria, but found there were too many Russian guards at the border. Then he tried the Turkish border, but that too was constantly patrolled.
So Sergai returned to his naval college in inner turmoil. Soon he was back leading even more vicious raids. On his last raid he raised his club against an old woman, but hesitated to hear what she was praying. It was this: ‘God, forgive this young man. Show him the true way. Open his eyes and help him. Forgive him, dear God.’ He was enraged that she should be praying for him, and he prepared to smash her head in. As he started to swing his club, a hand ‘grabbed my wrist and jerked it back’. He looked around, but no one was there! Terrified, he dropped his club and ran out, crying. For hours he ran and walked in a daze. When he finally got back to the police station he told the captain he was quitting.
He never went on another raid, despite their attempts to get him back.
Sergai graduated and became a radio officer on a ‘trawler’ which was in fact a spy ship. He knew he had to escape while he was away from Russia. During a huge storm his ship got permission to ride out the waves in Canadian territorial waters, and, knowing that he would very likely die in the freezing waters, he jumped in and, with God’s help, made it to freedom in Canada. His defection became a big story, but the Canadian authorities were all set to hand him back to the Russians! For once the media did its job, and questions were raised in Parliament and Sergai was allowed to stay.
He became a Christian and went to work for Underground Evangelism. He gave talks in Canada and the United States, gave interviews in the media, spoke to government officials about Russian police procedures and wrote the draft of his autobiography. He knew that he was a marked man, and a friend in the USA loaned him a pistol for self defence.
One day three men followed him. He turned to confront them and one said in Russian that if he did not keep his mouth shut, he would ‘have a final accident’.
He knew he must continue to speak out against Communism on behalf of all the millions who are not allowed to speak. And he often told people that if he died suddenly, it would appear to be an ‘accident’. On Jan 1, 1973, he died of a gunshot wound to the head, fired from the gun he had borrowed. It was ruled an accident at the inquest. Sergai was 21 years old when he died. His book was printed after his death.
At the end of his book he apologises to the wife of the pastor killed in the baptism raid, also to Nina, the teenage girl whose life was ruined, and also to Natasha. To her he says: ‘Natasha, largely because of you, my life is now changed and I am a fellow believer in Christ with you. I have a new life before me. God has forgiven me; I hope you can also. Thank you, Natasha, wherever you are. I will never, never forget you!’
A yellowing copy of Sergai’s book was loaned to me by a Christian mailman in England, Colin Lyne. Inside he has written: ‘And they loved not their lives unto the death.’ Rev 12v11. It was published in 1973 by Lakeland, copyright Underground Evangelism. I hope that readers of this website will copy this article and pass it around to as many as possible. Maybe you can even find copies of the book. Maybe someone could get the money together to fund a reprint. This is an important book. Every student in the world should be made to read this book. It might have saved many in America from becoming left wing, godless liberals.