Ten Years in Russia 1913-1923
pp 29 – 31
“THE SALES OF VJESTNIK SPASENIJA (Heralds of Salvation)
“Multiple events in both Russia and Finland during our first year gave us reason to believe that God was opening the way for us. He sent us the people we needed. During the Congress in Finland 1913, which was led by Mrs. General Florence Booth, an Estonian lady in her forties joined with us. She was a recent convert and presented herself in full Salvation Army uniform. Her name was Marie von Wahl. She belonged to an aristocratic family, spoke Russian, German and English and soon even learned Swedish. She later became an officer and during her years with us she contributed noteworthy services.
Our first 2 salespersons of Vjestnik Spasenija were Captain Elsa Olsoni and Lieutenant Henny Granström, the latter also from Finland.
The landlords were accountable to the authorities for their tenants, and the caretakers, “dvorniken”, were in fact a type police agent. A cloud of suspicion hung over us, our newspaper, our sales personnel and all the visitors we received, and this caused the landlords to dread any interference from the side of the police and therefore preferably avoided us. At last we were fortunate secure a nondescript apartment on the corner of Gavanskaja ulitza and Bolshoi prospect that for many years into the future served our needs.”
Gavan, harbor in Russian, was in the city district called Vasilj ostrov in Petrograd, a beach front formed by the Neva river and a tributary. This is where the SA editor and the newspaper sellers finally settled down.
And with time, Gavan became a synonym for Petrograd Salvationists referring to the ‘home’ generally known as the ‘Army’.
The apartment was on the bottom floor of a wooden structure with a dark cellar like entrance, an oblong room facing the street, a somewhat larger square room, two cubbyholes and a kitchen at the other end. The windows were level with the street and were therefore secured with bars.
Somewhat later we conducted small clandestine meetings in addition to the newspaper production and sales. Those persons we felt could be trusted were invited. Eventually this ‘corps’ grew. Of course the green sofa and the trunk next to it also served as pews. In the large room we placed rows of chairs. Later on we added wooden planks that were placed on wooden trestles and made excellent benches. In time we opened additional rooms, including the Editor’s rooms and provided standing room for some additional ten persons. It wasn’t often when even the entrance was packed.
What is it that drew so many people to come to this simple apartment? And how could they, night after night, listen to the rather simple testimonies and sermons, often presented in a somewhat poor broken Russian?
In appearance our visitors were very different; the common folksy woman seated next to the highly cultured lady. Young and old, workers, students, doctors, sometimes a general, yes, simply said people of all kinds came there. But one thing they had in common, a hunger and thirst for God. And in this simple dwelling they found something of the eternal Living Water. Here many souls met their Saviour for the first time. Not until the Resurrection Morning will we know for certain what the Holy Spirit poured out at the old Gavan.
Part One of Three
Translation and narrative: Sven Ljungholm