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Kolakovic The Prophet

Visionary Croatian priest identified dangers of Western 'soft totalitarianism' in 1940s

You regular readers know that I am dedicating my forthcoming book Live Not By Lies to the memory of Father Tomislav Kolakovic (Poglajen), the Croatian priest who escaped the Nazis, took refuge in Bratislava (in 1943), started using his mother’s name, Kolakovic, to throw the Gestapo off his trail, and prepared the Slovak Catholic Church for the coming communist persecution. He was a fierce opponent of all totalitarianisms — Nazi and Communist — and fought for Christian personalism. His core teaching was that all men and women must live in truth, and act with moral responsibility before God.

It was he who built the prayer circles and resistance cells that became the underground church under communism. The communists imprisoned all of his closest collaborators, but after they came out of prison, they began quietly evangelizing, rebuilding the network in a new generation. It was that new generation, Father Kolakovic’s spiritual grandchildren, who led the church through to freedom.

Yesterday, my book’s editor and I were working some final nips and tucks to the manuscript. She asked me how Father Kolakovic foresaw that Czechoslovakia was going to fall under communist rule. The answer is that he had studied at the Russicum, the pontifical college dedicated to studying the culture and spirituality of Russia. He understood the Soviet mentality. To verify that, I put the words “Kolakovic” and “Russicum” into Google. The first thing that popped up was this passage from a self-published memoir by Lubomir Gleiman (d. 2006), who had known the priest when he was a college student in Bratislava in the 1940s. Check this out:

My jaw dropped. Notice the words “soft totalitarianism.” I don’t know if that was a coinage of Gleiman, or of Kolakovic (and I won’t be able to find out, because Gleiman is dead). I’m thinking it came from Kolakovic; it’s not usual for people to speak of Western liberal capitalist democracies as “totalitarian.” Kolakovic’s point is that a system that trains people to think of each other only as economic pawns — a system that applies market values to all levels of life — is totalitarian, at least from a Christian point of view.

Anyway, I was really stunned to see this. I sent the “soft totalitarianism” passage to a Czech priest, who said, “Stunning! How could he have known in the 1940s?” A friend in Bratislava, Timo Krizka (see him on the left in the photo above), was equally amazed, and replied, “Maybe the circle is closing with your book? Kolakovic preparing also our generation.”

Yes, I think he is.

That man’s life story — it’s like a movie. He was God’s spy. He really was.

Fr. T. Kolakovic (Poglajen)


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