Name sound familiar?
His name was mentioned in separate press conferences by both President Biden and Russian President Putin after their historic meeting a few weeks ago. Paul was arrested in Moscow on false espionage charges at Christmastime, 2018, while there for a friend’s wedding. He was held in the notorious Lefortovo Prison in Moscow until June, 2020, when he was sentenced to 16 years in a labor camp in Gulag IK-17 in the remote Russian province of Mordovia.
Paul’s name may also sound familiar because he has been on our sustaining prayer list for most of those days of captivity.
He is a real person, distanced from you by a mere two degrees of separation. I first met Paul about 48 years ago when he and his twin brother, David, were bright-eyed 3 year olds in my storytime when I was a children’s librarian at the Ann Arbor Public Library. Later, his mother and I were colleagues, and soon close friends.
In the past two weeks, Paul went missing from the prison. Neither his parents nor the American Ambassador knew where he had been taken. It turns out he was taken to a distant prison hospital for an injury from the prison work, but for the duration of that stay there was no doctor, no medicine, no routine blood pressure checks. He has now been returned to the prison from which he had been taken.
From the time Paul was arrested, there have been quiet yet urgent and unrelenting efforts by his sister Elizabeth to assure that his story is known to US government officials. There have been joint resolutions in Congress, and the Michigan Congressional delegation has been very supportive. The recent mention of his name by our President is testimony to the effectiveness of her work. His other siblings also have roles to play in handling finances and in handling the press. They are an amazing team. His parents are heroic in their enduring support and patience.
There is much we don’t know about what is happening behind the scenes to bring Paul home.
But, as a community of faith, we can do what we do so well: continue to pray for him. For his quick release to come home where he belongs. For strength for his parents and siblings to sustain their spirits and not to flag in their enduring hope that one day soon he might be released. For him to remain healthy in body and mind.
He loves to receive mail. Perhaps you might like to write to him. He is well-read so tell him about what you are reading. Talk about your hobbies. He has a dog who is living with his folks-talk about your pets. Friendly chit-chat will help pass the time and assure him he is not forgotten.
Note: International postage on the envelope is $1.20
His address: (I know, it looks upside down, but that’s how they do in Russia…)
posyolok Ozernyi, St. Lesnaya 3
And with any luck, God willing, Paul will be home soon.
Love to all,