In Lubianka's Shadow: The Memoirs of an American Priest in Stalin's Moscow, 1934-1945

Article excerpt

In Lubianka's Shadow: The Memoirs of an American Priest in Stalin's Moscow, 1934-1945. By Leopold L. S. Braun, A.A. Edited by G. M. Hamburg. (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press. Pp. Ixxxiv, 352.2006. $35.00.)

In Lubianka's Shadow is the apt title given to the memoirs of Father Leopold Braun, A.A., the American Assumptionist priest who served in MOSCOW during the Stalin era at the Roman Catholic church of Saint Louis.This was at one point the only Catholic church open in all Russia and stands next to the fearsome Lubianka, headquarters of the Soviet secret police and prison for thousands of people. The prison includes parts of the parish property, and it edges up to the church itself. The NKVD watched the priests and people of the parish quite thoroughly as a result. Father Braun went to MOSCOTV as part of the United States' recognition of the USSR in 1933, and stayed until the end of 1945. Often reviled as being politically conservative and paranoid as a result of this assignment, a reading of these memoirs shows just how persecuted this priest was by the Soviet state.

Father Braun dedicated himself to keeping Saint Louis open, serving Catholic foreigners and Soviets under the provisions of the Roosevelt-Iitvinov Agreement. His pastoral work took him outside the church, as he ministered in private homes in other cities. His work in MOSCOW prospered despite police provocations and attacks. He writes of pastoral work and of the steady stream of Soviet Catholics who came because of the efficiency of the underground Catholic network that passed on the word about Saint Louis and its American priest. Braun had the support of many foreign Catholics in MOSCOW for his pastoral work, but he did not always have support from American ambassadors. The failure of some diplomats to protect his sacramental work, the provisions of the agreement, and his life, or to understand the depth of antireligious persecution, was the source of deep frustration. …