The Words of the Corley Family
Jack Corley (far right) and Boris Yeltsin (left) during the August 1991 coup attempt
Twenty years ago, lack Corley, who is currently national leader in Ireland, went to the Soviet Union as a missionary. For fifteen years he worked in that long-locked region to bring understanding to the people of True Parents' teachings and salvific mission. Here he testifies about the early days of his mission and how members' faith led to the beginnings of success.
In April 1990, True Parents made their historic first visit to Moscow as the founders of the World Media Association, the Summit Council for World Peace, and the Association for the Unity of Latin America, which were having conferences conjointly with Novosti News Agency, in the Soviet capital. In a personal meeting with President Mikhail Gorbachev in his Kremlin office, True Parents offered to use their foundation to revive the hopes of the people of the Soviet Union. Upon returning to the United States, Father immediately initiated the Soviet Project, a plan to invite Soviet students to the United States, and put Dr. Seuk Joon-ho, who was then the USA CARP president, in charge.
I had just become part of USA CARP and was preparing to become the Columbia University campus minister, when suddenly I received a new mission that would change my life forever. I joined a team of CARP members in New York preparing a new set of Divine Principle lecture slides, especially designed to appeal to students, and in July and August of 1990, I was one of several lecturers in the International Leadership Seminars (ILS).
These seminars were very enthusiastically received by the Soviet students and their professors. Dr. Seuk then asked for volunteers from among USA CARP to go to the Soviet Union to give deeper Principle education to the seminar graduates and to recruit new students for future seminars. Remembering what Father had said in 1976, "Must go -- Moscow!" I felt a strong urge to go, and immediately raised my hand.
When I telephoned my wife to give her the news of my new mission, I related what Dr. Seuk had said -- that I would be in the Soviet Union "for a few months." In my heart, though, I knew that this was the start of something very big and historic and that I would be in Moscow for a very long time indeed.
At the end of August 1990, on a cold, rainy day, I arrived by airplane in Moscow. More than fifteen years later, I would leave from the same airport, this time escorted, against my will, by agents of the Russian Federal Security Bureau. In those fifteen years, I would have some of the deepest experiences of my life of faith. I would see scores of foreign missionaries arrive, work sacrificially to spread True Parents' teachings, and then return to their native lands, having touched the hearts of many new members. I would watch as these native members in Russia and the fourteen other former Soviet republics grew into the current leaders of our movement in the Northeast Region, as well as the parents of their own blessed children. And my wife and I would see our own son be born in Moscow.
I want to acknowledge the faith and courage of the underground missionaries who worked in the Soviet Bloc during the cold war, beginning in the 1970s and 1980s. They had to go there secretly, and almost nobody, in some cases not even their spouses, was aware of their mission. They truly put their lives on the line and suffered from great loneliness, because they were unable, for security reasons, to contact other underground missionaries or their home countries. They also had to worry about betrayal by the people to whom they tried to witness and had to be concerned for the safety of those who followed True Parents, if the authorities found out.
Other members of USA CARP, including Nate Windman, Myra Stanecki, Christine Froelich, Ashley Crosthwaite and I were among the first wave of foreign missionaries who were allowed to work openly in the Soviet Union. Soon after that, another large group of missionaries arrived, consisting of graduates of the Unification Theological Seminary, whom True Father assigned en masse to the former Soviet Union. Yet another huge group consisted of foreign missionaries who had been working around the world for up to eighteen years; True Father instructed them to spend the final years of their twenty-one-year missionary course in the former Soviet Union, but of course some of them continued to work with us for years after that. When the national messiah providence began, many more members arrived from around the world. Not to be overlooked are the many members whom Father sent from Japan and Korea to help restore Eurasia.
Many of these missionaries were accompanied by their wives and children. For these families, coming from nations that were relatively advanced, it was a challenge to live more simply and to deal with wholly different school systems and health-care facilities, especially if they were not fluent in the native language. However, many of these families have indelible memories of their time in the Northeast Region, especially of the friendships they made.
In the first months of our work in the Soviet Union, the other USA CARP members and I met with the professors and students who had come to America, and we began giving evening Divine Principle lectures on their university campuses. We also began having Sunday service in the apartments we rented. Many of the students who had been to the ILS became our earliest members.
In addition, Dr. Seuk gave us the job of recruiting more students to attend yet more ILS programs in the United States. The ILS programs in the summer of 1990 had been so successful that True Parents challenged us to bring a total of three thousand participants within a year. You can only imagine what an organizational challenge that was in a disintegrating Soviet Union.
Although we were foreigners, we didn't live like the foreign diplomats or businessmen, with their separate houses, separate schools and separate shops. Being missionaries, we lived in ordinary rented accommodations and bought our food in the state-owned stores. Our first apartment in Moscow, which served as our headquarters for several years, had been stripped bare of all light fixtures and door handles, when we moved in. Even the phone looked like a skeleton, without its usual plastic cover. Given the scarcity of everything in the Soviet Union, it was quite an achievement when we finally managed to replace them and furnish the place. The owner of the second apartment we rented had difficulty understanding why we insisted he remove his personal things from the closets and drawers to allow us to store our things. When asked, he responded, "But this is my house and I keep my things here." This, after we had already paid the rent. Sometimes we were confronted without warning with a demand for double the rent.
Another daily reality was what we called "food hunting." At that time the state-owned stores were almost bare, and it was often hard to find even the most basic foods. First, we had to search for places with something to sell. Then we had to stand in line in the hope that whatever was being sold would not run out by the time we got to the front of the line. With some items, like potatoes, we ended up throwing away many of them because they were rotten, due to the inefficient agricultural system.
It seemed that everything worked against us as we tried to fulfill True Parents' expectations. For example, in order to obtain a passport, Soviet students had to apply to the International Department of their university. This department was run by the KGB. Only students deemed politically reliable were allowed to have an international passport. Once permission was granted, we sometimes heard there was a problem printing the passports, due to a paper shortage -- this in a country with some of the largest forests in the world. The attitude of Soviet officialdom could be summed up in the phrase, "The answer is no; now what is your question?" However, in relation to our program, we received the wholehearted cooperation and support of the Soviet Ministry of Education and other organizations that worked with us.
Other challenges included having to pay ten dollars per page to send faxes to the U.S. from the only fax machine in a Moscow hotel or waiting in line for one or two hours at the Central Telegraph office to make international calls; at that time, it was impossible to call internationally from private phones. And during this period, the number of participants we had to send to the ILS programs had increased to four hundred a month.
One very memorable experience occurred in October 1990, when we discovered that the U.S. State Department had failed to give permission on time for the visas of the students to be issued at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. That particular group was supported by the Novosti Press Agency. On the day of departure, we met the two hundred students who had come to the Novosti office to receive their tickets and passports -- only to be informed that the visas were delayed. No matter how sincerely we tried to reassure them that we would solve the problem, it was hard for them to believe us. After some desperate calls between Washington and Moscow involving a few of our high-level U.S. contacts, the problem was resolved. Since we were chartering a Finnair plane between Moscow and Helsinki, we also had to persuade the company to send the plane back to Moscow on the new departure date. The visas were finally issued only two hours before the scheduled departure time. The students were waiting at the airport in hopes that the visas would indeed be ready. With no time to check the details, the Soviet authorities rushed them through immigration, insisting only that each student have one passport and one ticket -- no matter whose -- and they sorted it out on the plane. That was unprecedented.
There were moments when we were so frustrated with the difficulties, we felt like giving up. However, all we had to do to change our situation was to go to the airport and take the first plane out -- our Soviet brothers and sisters did not have that option. Knowing that, and knowing the impossible path that Father had pioneered, we were determined to persevere and continue sharing our True Parents' love and truth with the Soviet people. Sometimes it was sad to see how a nation of such capable and intelligent people could be reduced to squabbling over life's daily needs. We knew that given the opportunity, these people would do great things for True Parents' providence.
For the participants of the ILS programs, the opportunity to travel to the United States at that time was like an impossible dream. We could invite only those who spoke and understood English well, because in those early days we didn't have the means to translate the presentations into Russian. In the beginning we were not sure how to present our ideas, but Dr. Seuk decided to go ahead and give straight Divine Principle lectures. This was a risk, because it could have upset the KGB minders, that their brightest young students were being taught a spiritual vision, while they had made their careers trying to convince them that God and religion were "the opium of the people." They could have canceled the program with the stroke of a pen. Thankfully, that did not happen.
All of us were amazed and moved at the profound intellect and spirituality of these young people, and they, in turn, were moved by the lecture content and the overall experience. Our goal was to make sure that none of them returned home with an unfavorable impression, no matter what their views of the lectures. Many USA CARP members and others worked extremely hard to make this happen. At the end of each program the students prepared cards and gifts which were then offered in gratitude to True Parents.
With increasing numbers of students and professors graduating from the U.S. programs, we began holding large-scale workshops in the region. Our first such program was a two-week Divine Principle seminar held at Lake Balaton, Hungary, during the 1991 winter break. Dozens of students who had studied the equivalent of a seven-day workshop came from Moscow and Leningrad (as St. Petersburg was then known). For the first time, the students were asked to pay for their participation, and to our surprise, they all came up with the fee, the equivalent of a month's income, which they paid in cash. This included the cost of renting a special train to take them to Hungary. To our great consternation, on the day before we were due to pay the railway company, the government decided to void several of the major Soviet bank notes, in a clumsy attempt at economic reform. We found ourselves holding a bag full of worthless notes and the possibility of having to again face dozens of disappointed students. In an act of great generosity, many of their parents exchanged our worthless notes for ones that were valid.
On the following day, just five minutes before the deadline, one of our brothers placed a bag full of acceptable notes on the desk of the railway clerk, and our students had a great experience in Hungary. It was from this group that many of our earlier members emerged. Later we were to organize programs on a gigantic scale, including a summer 1993 workshop program in which over one thousand eight hundred participants attended various levels of workshops at over twenty locations throughout the region.
From the very beginning it was clear that the Soviet political and economic system was unsustainable. We knew this based on our study of Victory Over Communism, as well as the predictions given by Father. It became obvious to me, when I moved there, that we were seeing the dying days of an empire. People had lost their trust in their leaders, and the infrastructure was in a state of near total collapse.
Ironically, however, it was the actions of a few hard-line communists that put the final nail in the coffin. On August 18, 1991, just as we completed our goal of bringing three thousand participants to the ILS program in the U.S. and as we were concluding the fortieth day of our summer workshop programs in the Baltic States of Latvia and Lithuania, we heard news of the house arrest of President Gorbachev in his summer home on the Crimean coast. This news spread fear in the hearts of many of our workshop participants, who felt that their dreams of freedom were about to be extinguished. Shortly after that we heard from Korea that Father, after a short reflection, concluded, "This event has no spiritual support."
Within three days, the coup fizzled as tens of thousands of people found the courage to confront the Soviet forces, and Boris Yeltsin, in a historic act of defiance, climbed onto a tank in front of the Russian parliament in Moscow. In Riga, the capital of Latvia, we got a close-up look at the events when a tank took up a position at the entrance to our workshop coordinating office at the main university. It was also right in front of our office that a young man was shot dead by Soviet soldiers.
The formal end of the Soviet Union came with the resignation of President Gorbachev on December 25, 1991. This happened a few weeks after the leaders of Russia (Boris Yeltsin) and Ukraine (Leonid Kravchuk) attended a meeting hosted by Stanislav Shushkevich, the leader of Belarus, in early December 1991, at which they set up the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). This process sped up the moves toward independence of the Soviet republics and the end of the Soviet Union. Mr. Shushkevich has been a friend and supporter of our movement since he first attended a World Culture and Sports Festival in Korea in 1992, while still head of state. He and the former president of Ukraine are now active ambassadors for peace.