She was the key lady on our floor at the Russian Hotel. She took our keys and gave them back to us as we left or entered our floor in the hotel. She spoke some English.
Earlier during the week she had warned me about the KGB. She said that they ask her if she thought I was CIA. She had even pointed out one of the KGB agents to me. She said nervously, “KGB knowed, ahhh, you vorked for air-a-plane company. (technical writer for F-16 support materials years earlier). Be careful, KGB watch, follow!” Sure enough, he showed up at many of the places we went.
The day prior to leaving I handed it to her. It was almost mauve in color and somewhat larger than the ones we carry in the US of America. It was written in Russian, but its quality was good. It was one of the few we had left, but a still, small voice within, told me I was to give it to her. As I held it out, I said, “It is a gift for you. Thank you for being so kind to us.”
“A book,” she questioned as she slowly reached to take it.
“A special book, ” I replied being that there was no writing on its outside covers.
“What, ahhhhhh, title,” she questioned me in her broken English as she had yet to look inside.
My response was “Biblia.”
“Biblia!” It was then, her eyes widened and she exclaimed, “No, cannot be, Biblia!” Then as she thumbed through its pages, she begin to weep out loud and tears ran down her face. Soon several other of her Russian coworkers, who were friends came over to see what the commotion was about. And seeing the Russian Bible, “God’s Word,” their eyes widened, teared up and their excitement became evident.
She repeated herself as she continued weeping, “No, it cannot be. I have no money to give you. No, cannot be! No, cannot be, Biblia. I give you nothing. I to give nothing, ahhhhh of a value. Biblia! Cannot be.”
I shook my head, “No, this is my gift to you. It is God’s gift to you. I don’t want anything.”
She threw her arms around me and continued to weep loudly. Her tears dropped on my arm and shirt, then my tears mix with hers as they hit my own arm. All of a sudden she stopped crying, pushed herself back away from me with her face lit up with a large smile. “I have to give you. I sell, but, I give you–to you. I be back! Stay! I be back! You stay? You stay?” I agreed to stay.
In her life time she owned only one page from the New Testament. And she shared that page with her two friends at work. When not in use, it was hidden. Her coworkers would take it home, copy it by hand and memorize it. The male coworker told me that her new Bible was his first time in his life he to see a complete Bible except for the one laden with diamonds, rubies and other jewels under glass at the Winter Palace of Catherine the Great (a museum). Her lady friend said that her mother, who had hidden her Great Grandmother’s Bible was jailed for two months after the communists found it in her home when she was a child.
After about five minutes she returned. She came back and gave me a bottle of Russian Champagne. I have kept that bottle over the years (even though I don’t drink) to remind me of not only the eternal value of God’s Word, but of the freedom we have in the United States of America to own God’s Word, read God’s Word and meditate on it. Below is the bottle, flags of the USA, a Russian Bible and some other materials from Russia and the Ukraine.