Her grandfather travelled from Turkey to Siberia with a Bible in his luggage. Her father established secret congregations in Communist Ukraine. She copied Bibles by hand. Now Ludmila looks back on an exciting life where God’s Word has always been the focus.
On her way to church in Ukraine’s second-largest city is an elderly lady with a big Bible under her arm. She is glowing with happiness. Coming towards her is a young man with two bottles of beer in each hand. He is on his way home with his comforting bottles while she is on her way to church with her comforting book.
It’s not an unusual scenario in Ukraine. Many people try to drown their sorrows by drinking. Others, meanwhile, find strength and comfort in the Bible. You often hear of people going from the bottle to the Bible.
The lady with the Bible under her arm is Ludmila Deyneko (67). She has a fascinating story to tell.
From Turkey to Siberia
“My father and grandfather travelled from Turkey to Siberia as missionaries in 1899 when my father was only a year old, stopping in villages and towns on the way. They preached, people were baptised and churches were established all the way from Turkey to Siberia. They settled near Novosibirsk and stayed there for many years. In 1935, they travelled to Ukraine to become missionaries there. My father was married by then, and I was born in 1945.
“We moved to Donetsk county where my father started a church. We became Ukrainian citizens. The congregation had no church building to gather in, because religion and independent churches were illegal in the old Soviet Union. The Christians used to gather in the woods. They had a little shed where my father would bake bread to hand out to the poor and hungry in the area. Someone informed the police about this and he was arrested. Two police officers on horses were told to escort him to prison. He walked between them without being handcuffed or having his hands tied. When they came to a small wood he took the opportunity to run away, knowing the horses couldn’t follow him through the thick forest. God kept my father safe. The soldiers didn’t even shoot, and he escaped safely.
“My family had brought a Bible from Turkey. It went with them all the way to Siberia and later to Ukraine. We still have this Bible, although it has been re-bound.
Copied texts from the Bible
Ludmila was actively involved with the sharing the Bible message from an early age.
“From the age of 10, I copied out passages from the Bible by hand to share with people. The Bible was illegal and there was a great demand for all sorts of Bibles and passages from the Bible. I copied the old Russian Bible we had brought from Turkey. This was sometimes difficult because the pages were so worn it was almost impossible to read them. I prayed to God for wisdom to understand what it said. I spent thousands of hours copying the Bible!
“I copied three whole Bibles for pastors who didn’t own a Bible of their own. They needed Bibles when they were preaching. I did this work until I was about 20, often working through the night.
Expelled from school
“Later, we got Bibles and parts of Bibles from Western Europe. Some were posted by people who had our addresses; some were smuggled in from Romania and other countries. The police came several times to see if they could find Bibles in our house, but they never found any. God was protecting us.
“When I was 15 years old, my teacher heard that I was copying passages from the Bible. I came under pressure to give up my faith to avoid being expelled from school. I saw the opportunity to talk about my faith. I told the teachers that the students had to read Lenin’s writings, but the Bible was much more interesting!
“I was expelled from school and placed under given house arrest to break me down. But my faith just grew stronger and I continued to copy passages from the Bible.
“I married at 20 and went on to have eight children. In 1975 I got the chance to start training as a nurse.”
During her nursing training, too, Ludmila encountered resistance to her faith.
“The teacher was told to give me poor grades so they could expel me. But she had a strange experience: she became paralysed in her arms and legs. She thought it might have happened because she was making things difficult for me. She asked me to come to visit her to forgive her so that she could find peace. She recovered after that and became a Christian later.
Access to the Bible
It is now much easier for Ukrainians to read the Bible than it was in Ludmila’s youth, but this means that people sometimes take it for granted.
“I cried when we got Bibles in 1990. I still cry when I think about how it used to be and what it’s like now, but we seem to have lost something on the way. People used to walk and travel for hours to hear the Bible. I wish people would still love the Bible that much. We don’t want the Bible to be banned again, and we thank the Lord for the opportunity to share his Word, but I cry because young people don’t have the same relationship with the Bible that we had.
“It’s vital to immerse yourself in the Bible so that God can guide your life.”