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With The Slovak Underground Church

Jan Simulcik, a Slovak historian of the underground church movement, and himself a participant (still from 'Footprints In The Snow')

I have received permission from Slovak documentary filmmaker Slavomir Zrebny to post his his 2015 film Footprints In The Snow. It’s a 52-minute documentary about the underground resistance to Communism among the Slovak people — especially the Christians:

In the film, Zrebny interviews men and women who risked prison — and in at least one case, went to prison — for smuggling, printing, and distributing Bibles and samizdat (unauthorized journalism). It’s in Slovak, with English subtitles. Believe me, if you are a Christian who is feeling down and out about the situation in the churches, watch this incredible little movie, and acquaint yourself with what brave believers did back in the 1970s and 1980s to keep the faith alive under persecution. I watched it with my own kids two days ago so they would know what happened there, and what Dad has spent most of this year working on (my forthcoming book).

It was a pleasant surprise to me, in watching this movie, to see Jan Simulcik, a historian of the underground church (and himself a worker in a Catholic cell distributing samizdat), interviewed about the events of that era. There is even a brief passage in which the cameras enter a hidden chamber beneath a house in suburban Bratislava, where there was concealed an offset printer smuggled to Slovak Catholics by Dutch Evangelicals — such a beautiful demonstration of Christian fraternal solidarity. When I was in Slovakia earlier this year, Jan Simulcik himself took me into that very room.

Watching all this in Zrebny’s film made me newly aware of the privilege I was given to meet people who risked everything in the underground church, and to stand in what I consider to be holy ground: that publisher’s catacomb in Bratislava. Please do make time for this little movie. It will stir your soul. Have you even heard of the underground church in the Slovak region of Czechoslovakia, and its heroic resistance to communism? I had not, until I went there earlier this year. It was a blessing I will be talking about, I hope, for the rest of my life. We have to learn these stories, and tell them to our children. We have to!

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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