The Words of the Corley Family
Jack, his wife and son in front of the Worker and Collective-Farm Woman Monument, showing a male laborer raising high a hammer and a female farmer a sickle, working shoulder to shoulder for the Soviet ideal.
Twenty years ago, Jack Corley, who is currently national leader in Ireland, was among those sent to the Soviet Union as missionaries.
In my earlier article, I wrote about some of the difficulties of working in a disintegrating Soviet Union in 1990 and 1991. Here, I relate how in the turbulent early days of post-Soviet Russia, our members prepared to welcome True Mother to the region during her 1992 and 1993 global speaking tours, as well as some other events during that period.
When we heard that True Mother was preparing to start her first tour in the autumn of 1992, we understood that her plans included a visit to Moscow. However, due to political and security uncertainties, Father delayed the announcement of a date until just eight days before the event. This was the shortest lead-up time for any of the cities on this tour. We heard the announced date -- November 22, 1992 -- as we were hosting the fifteenth Mr. and Miss University beauty pageant, which in 1992 was held in Moscow. Taking advantage of the situation, and in an act of faith, we distributed flyers to an audience of over a thousand at the beauty pageant, announcing that Mother would speak at the Kremlin's Palace of Congresses.
The main hall of the Palace of Congresses seated over seven thousand people and we had just a week to fill it -- but first we had to get it. As a backup, a movie theatre with three thousand five hundred seats was also rented. Trying to rent the main hall of the Kremlin for a public speech was extremely complicated. In the uncertain times of 1992, no government officials wanted to take responsibility in case anything went wrong. Our feelings ranged from exhilaration to despair as we negotiated with the authorities, through intermediaries, to con- firm the venue.
Unfortunately, the authorities stubbornly resisted our efforts to use the Kremlin, despite a last desperate bid by Dr. Joon-ho Seuk, our Northeast Region's continental director. On the evening before True Mother's speech, I accompanied Dr. Seuk and our earliest Russian member, Irina Aksenova, to a late-night meeting with the head of the Kremlin administration to persuade him to let us use the venue. The director had been attending a ballet performance and was not very happy at being disturbed.
For around two hours, until well after midnight, Dr. Seuk pleaded with him to allow us the use of the hall, at one point saying we could not be sure of the reaction of the thousands of people who would gather the next day at the Kremlin gates, if they could not enter. Even a phone call from an assistant of President Boris Yeltsin failed to stir the official, and we resigned ourselves to having the event in the Oktyabrskaya Cinema.
As True Mother waited to board her airplane at Moscow airport early in the morning after her speech, Dr. Seuk asked me to give a brief report about the event. I began by apologizing that we were unable to have her speak in the Kremlin, and Mother with a kind smile responded, "Next time."
"Next time" came exactly a year later, when we learned that True Mother would visit Russia, Ukraine and Belarus on her 1993 global speaking tour. Obtaining a venue in the Kremlin this time was no easier than in the previous year. Only a few weeks earlier, on October 2 and 3, 1993, a political stand-off between President Yeltsin and the Russian parliament climaxed In violent clashes between the Russian army and demonstrators, in which dozens of people died. This was followed by a month-long curfew. We heard that the Kremlin authorities in no way would allow any religious or political group to use the Kremlin.
As in the previous year, we also rented a back up venue; in this case the main auditorium of Moscow State University. However due to pressure from various sources, on the Thursday before True Mother's speech the following Sunday, we heard that Moscow State University had cancelled the venue. To make matters worse, on the following day we also received word that the Kremlin authorities had cancelled their agreement. We found ourselves in the horrifying situation of having no venue for Mother to speak, two days before her arrival and with thousands of people mobilized for the event. This was truly a "heart attack" situation.
After some desperate pleading and tough negotiations, the Kremlin authorities finally relented, on the day before the speech. Although we who worked on the event had been desperate, I believe that the spiritual conditions set up by True Parents allowed this miracle to happen. There was no other way this could have been possible.
As people gathered for the event, it was so moving to hear an orchestral rendition of our Holy Songs being played over the building's sound system -- who could have dreamed of such a possibility when Father declared, "Must go -- Moscow" in 1976!
Only a few years earlier, the leaders of the Soviet Union had proudly proclaimed the victory of communism from the stage of the Kremlin's Palace of Congresses. What a wonderful feeling it was to watch True Mother stride onto the same stage on Sunday, November 21, 1993, to boldly proclaim "True Parents and the Completed Testament Age."
Another interesting story from the early days relates to the president of the Russian Autonomous Republic of Kalmykia and the beginning of our work in Mongolia. The Republic of Kalmykia is located on the western shore of the Caspian Sea, and its population is predominantly of Mongolian descent from the time of Genghis Khan. Several Russian members had mentioned that the newly elected president, thirty-three-year-old Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, was a different type of leader and that we should visit him.
Finally, without even having a fixed appointment, we flew to the Kalmykian capital of Elista in early 1993. When I asked the president's chief of staff if it was possible to have a short meeting, he said that since the president was being interviewed by a TV news team from Japan, a meeting would be impossible. I gave him a copy of a Russian -- English PR book about Father that had been prepared for True Parents' 1990 visit to Moscow and asked him to pass it on to the president.
To my great surprise, the chief of staff returned within a few minutes, saying that the president wanted to meet right away. At the meeting the president explained that ten years earlier he had been a student at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations, where the Soviet Foreign Ministry trained its diplomats. Part of the training involved indoctrination against enemies of the Soviet state. Since Father was considered one of the Soviet Union's biggest enemies, they were given his speeches to study. Mr. Ilyumzhinov, being a student of Japanese, read Father's speeches in Japanese. Instead of turning him against Father, the speeches inspired him, and at the meeting he mentioned that one of the reasons he was sitting in the presidential chair was because of the inspiration and values he gained through those speeches.
In September 1993, Dr. Seuk had a dream in which Father appeared to him and asked him to go to Mongolia. Remembering that Mr. Ilyumzhinov's older brother had been a diplomat at the Soviet embassy in Mongolia, we asked his help in developing connections there. In May of the following year, Dr. Seuk and several missionaries, together with the president's brother and a Russian Foreign Ministry official, arrived in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar and began meetings at the highest level, resulting in our movement being received warmly from the very beginning.
Later, the first elected president of Mongolia, Punsalmaagiin Ochirbat, would boast at an International Leadership Conference that he was the one who had welcomed our movement to his country, and on June 13, 2006, Mr. Ochirbat, as a former president, proudly carried a crown at the opening of the Cheon Jeong Peace Palace.
In the midst of all the excitement of working in the post-Soviet era, my wife Renee and I were also trying to create our family. Both of us had been re-blessed and were therefore older as we began our family life. In addition, during the first two years of our married life we had missions in different parts of the world -- my wife at the Washington Times and I as an itinerant worker in Asia.
Even after we both moved to Moscow and had a more stable home life, we still had no success in conceiving a child after several years. As we faced our fortieth birthdays, we decided to visit a Moscow fertility clinic to attempt in vitro fertilization. As missionaries, we lived on a stipend and did not have much to spare; however, the cost of the procedure in Russia at that time was much less than in the West.
During this time several of our friends mentioned they would like to offer us a blessed child. As moved as we were by their offers, we both felt we wanted to keep trying to conceive our own child, as long as it was still physically possible.
One night in late 1993, about a week after True Mother spoke in the Kremlin, I had a vivid dream in which I was playing happily with a young boy. When I woke up, I told Renee that we would surely have a son and I even explained what he would look like. This dream was a source of great comfort and encouragement to not give up, even after several attempts at in vitro failed.
During this time we also experienced what we can only consider an act of God: A former schoolteacher of Renee's in the U.S. had died and left some money in his will for her.
Renee had practically forgotten this person, but for some reason he had decided to include her in his will, and it was with this gift that we could continue the in vitro process.
Five times we were met with disappointing news. With each attempt Renee also needed to receive daily injections of the hormone progesterone for several weeks at a time. At that time, the only way to find this hormone was by approaching people selling it on the streets, as this was the early days of the market economy in Russia.
Several weeks after our sixth attempt, the doctor informed us that Renee was now pregnant. Finally, on February 23, 1995, our son, Nikolai, was born. We even felt the protection of God during the birth process; the doctor who performed the C-section on Renee was the older sister of one of our first blessed sisters in Moscow.
Looking back on more than fifteen years in Moscow, I feel so much gratitude for the privilege of working in a country and region that is close to True Parents hearts. It was also an interesting experience to have a front-row seat on the collapse of the final empire in history and most especially to participate in helping the younger generation of Soviet youth receive rebirth through the Divine Principle and create a new generation of blessed families.