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With God in Russia: The Inspiring Classic Account of a Catholic Priest's Twenty-three Years in Soviet Prisons and Labor Camps
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With God in Russia: The Inspiring Classic Account of a Catholic Priest's Twenty-three Years in Soviet Prisons and Labor Camps

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  1,104 ratings  ·  126 reviews

Republished for a new century and featuring an afterword by Father James Martin, SJ, the classic memoir of an American-born Jesuit priest imprisoned for fifteen years in a Soviet gulag during the height of the Cold War—a poignant and spiritually uplifting story of extraordinary faith and fortitude as indelible as Unbroken. Foreword by Daniel L. Flaherty.

While ministering i

Kindle Edition, 388 pages
Published June 13th 2017 by HarperOne (first published 1964)
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Laura I have not completed the book, but thus far, I would define it as a memoir.
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Start your review of With God in Russia: The Inspiring Classic Account of a Catholic Priest's Twenty-three Years in Soviet Prisons and Labor Camps
This is Walter Ciszek's first book about his experience as a priest living in captivity in the Soviet Union. Whereas "He Leadeth Me" deals with the spiritual side of his experience, "With God in Russia" is more of a factual account of what happened, albeit one that is told in a dramatic, suspenseful style that makes it almost read like an adventure novel. A great read and very inspiring. Be sure to read "He Leadeth Me" to get the FULL story of this heroic Jesuit's life. ...more
Mar 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
True story. A hard-nosed Jesuit priest slipped behind soviet lines during WWII and got trapped there for 23 years. Through tortuous interrogations, 15 years of hard labor in Siberian labor camps, and plenty of laugh-or-else-you'd-cry hijinx, Walter Ciszek was convinced that he was made for this struggle. He was possibly the most disciplined and stubborn man of the 20th Century: blown up in coal mines, stuck in solitary for 5 years, nearly executed during a prison uprising, electrocuted while wor ...more
Teresa “Teri”
Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally finished!! The book was very good and especially towards the end, very inspirational. I just found the endless day to day extreme hardships repetitive. This sounds so very disrespectful of Fr. Ciszek, and I do not mean to be!
It’s really like like reading his daily journal from the time he starts out until his ordeal ends years and years later. I recommend reading it, but, if you are like me at all, it’s better read in “slices than chunks or whole”.
Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A man without faith could not have survived -- psychologically, if not physically -- the ordeals this man endured in communist Russia. From total isolation for years in prison, torture, constant interrogations, brutal work camps in Siberia, Walter Ciszek retained not only his sanity, but his humor, his kindness, and his ability to serve others as a priest. His faith was often his only sustenance through years of torment, and his relationship with God allowed him to endure even the worst treatmen ...more
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have now read both "He Leadeth Me" and this book. Unintentionally, I read them backwards, but I enjoyed both immensely. I always love a good Autobiography :) . My initial thoughts were "why did he write two separate books? He could of just combined both books into one." But after reading them both, I realized why he had written two books. The reliving of the actual story to share his experience with the rest of us must have been challenging in of itself.

His story is very captivating and thoug
Jan 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent book.
Rebecca Moll
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is no option but 5 stars for Father Ciszek and his story, his voice clear, his heart true in every part of his telling of his life in Russia.

My advancing years has yet to diminish my amazement at just what the human heart can hope, the body withstand, the mind overcome.
Yet, Father Ciszek reminds us with each page we turn, it is not the tragedy and cruelty we endure and survive, but the hope and salvation of our spirit and soul, in the face of such adversity.
With God in Russia, Father Cisz
Dec 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A priest willing to go wherever God leads him to serve who God asks him to serve. Unimaginable cruelty, starvation, and horror. Fr. Ciszek’s fortitude, perseverance, courage, and piety inspires me to become a better Catholic. This book tells the horrors of Communism while shining a light on how even the communists can’t stop the faith of the people. Fr. Walter Ciszek, pray for us!
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Incredible memoir of incredible man. Good overview of Soviet Union, gulags, Siberia... it's amazing what people can endure. Would have liked more spiritual account here, but that's in his other book. ...more
Muziwandile Mahlangu
A beautiful masterpiece, narrating the dedication of a man of God under the most extreme conditions-and without losing it too!
I've made a resolution after this book-to never take anything for granted. Totally.
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is autobiographical, about his imprisonment in Russia.

Just started reading a couple of days ago. It reminds me of the memoir by Ginzburg a bit (Journey into the Whirlwind) which basically also had to do with the Russian prisons, interrogations and work camps in Siberia and Ginzburg also was a political prisoner, but obviously this author has a rather different perspective as an American and a priest. (As far as I remember, it seemed that the interrogators were tougher on Ginzburg. I wonde
Mar 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to booklady by: Jackie
This is Father Ciszek's first book, the one which gives the factual account of his early life, decision to become a priest, seminary years, journey to Poland and behind the Iron Curtain where he lived and was eventually held captive for many years, presumed dead by his family and all who knew him in the US. It's a fascinating account, both humorous and inspiring in turns and yet Fr. Ciszek only wrote it because he was asked to. It wasn't the book he wanted to write. Later he went on to write He ...more
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fr. Ciszek’s account of his years in Soviet solitary confinement, Siberian prison camps, and finally serving as parish priest while under constant KGB surveillance is all the more harrowing and inspirational for the frank, humble, matter-of-fact manner in which it’s told.
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rereading for book club. Love Fr. Ciszek!
Sonali Ekka
Aug 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popsugar
A young American Jesuit priest illegally enters Russia during WW2, to spread the word of God when the Communist regime has shut down all Catholic churches and has banned all ministerial work, and then the priest gets arrested by the Russians and accused of being a German spy. And thus begins Walter J. Ciszek's 23 year long ordeal in Russia, 15 years of torturous imprisonment and hard labour in several Russian prisons, and 8 more years of living in Russian towns, constantly under vigilance by the ...more
Aaron Crofut
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ciszek doesn't quite rise to the level of Solzhenitsyn, but who does? Fr. Ciszek himself would admit as much and I am not surprised to see the introduction of He Leadeth Me say that With God in Russia was not quite the book he wanted to write. And yet, this straightforward narrative is worthy of our time and quite well put together. My attention never faltered and I was often quite moved by the dedication of the good Father to his mission and faith in God's Providence to see him through whatever ...more
Rosemary Blevins
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: nonfic-faves
Before I get into this, I just want to say that, even as someone who doesn't associate with any form of religion, this biography is very much worth reading.

When I first bought this book, I was at a point where I was questioning religion, and I had stopped into a little religion-oriented bookstore in my town. I'm a very big fan of world history, more specifically, even, Russian history, and so this book caught my eye almost as soon as I walked in the door.

Ciszek's time in Eastern Europe and Rus
Mar 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The best book I've read in some time, and likely one that I'll come back to in the future. Just an amazing story of hardship and endurance by Fr. Ciszek, but also one of a mission accomplished. Likely he didn't plan to minister to the labor camp inmates of the Soviet Gulag or desire to be a watched "free" man, hounded by the militia and the KGB any time he performed his priestly duties, but in the end he did become what he desired: a missionary to the Soviet Union. Even as he was leaving, he see ...more
Erin Bottger (Bouma)
I've read several Soviet Gulag testimonies, and the value of this one is that Fr. Ciszek, an immigrant American, volunteered to put himself in harm's way in order to serve God and his fellow man. He prepared to take Eastern rite (Orthodox-like) Catholicism behind the Iron Curtain and assumed it as a personal mission. He was captured by the Russian army near the Polish border during World War II and convicted of being a “Vatican spy.”

Jesuit Father Walter J. Ciszek then spent some 23 agonizing yea
Amy Gieser
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
History is astounding. This is the story of Fr Walter Ciszek as he is led by God to sneak into Russia and then spend the next 23 years there as a worker, then prisoner, then in labor camps in Siberia. That he lives through so many different types of suffering is amazing and truly a miracle many times over but the fact that he keeps his faith and perseveres as a priest and Catholic is very inspiring.
I am glad I finally picked this one up at our church library. Very easy to read and captivating th
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book on the recommendation of a colleague because I had a group of students who specifically requested a book about Catholicism, but not a book that was instructional or expositional on the theory of Catholic beliefs. These students were looking for a traditional novel structure: plot, character development, themes centered around their Catholic beliefs, etc. This book is definitely structured as such, but the history and the plot sort of overwhelms the theology and doesn't do enough ...more
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From the moment Fr Walter Ciszek heard the appeal from Rome to Jesuit priests to serve the Catholic Church in Russia he was convinced that this was God’s will for him. Nothing was going to stop him fulfilling it. And he did. Perhaps not in the way he might have anticipated, but there is no doubt he did it. He heroically and faithfully served the Church in Russia between 1939 and 1963 while falsely imprisoned in Moscow and Siberia and while he was “free” in Norilsk and Abakan. How he survived is ...more
I left off this memoir with the feeling that after you've read one prison camp memoir you've read them all; I have been through a few.
(I have also read a Chinese prison camp one but I don't remember its title or the author - but I've also read a couple of others of various other nationalities like the Alcatraz prisons IIRC and a particularly scary one in the MENA region I can't remember clearly anymore...)

I mean, it's humanizing to remember that we're all in this together.

So I found this book so
Regina Hiney
Jul 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: taught-this-book
Ciszek gives a much more dramatic and harrowing picture of the Russian Gulags than Solzhenitsyn does in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. While this is certainly a story of faith in the face of suffering, and inhumane conditions, ultimately, this is a story of retaining one's humanity and dignity and the power of perseverance. The story is told in the first person and changes tenses which can at times be awkward to read, but is told as if there are times Ciszek is retelling the narrative i ...more
May 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya-book-club
I finished this book in the nick of time for a Catholic book club with one of our parish priests who admires Fr. Ciszek. I enjoyed the book, and was amazed by how easily and openly he spoke of extreme hardships. I expect the fruit of reading this book will be revealed when I read his later books; understanding someone's life experience often helps understand the...I don't want to say angle, but choice of words and which lessons to try and pass on. That said, this book on its own is quite good. I ...more
Jason Townsend
Mar 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
After finishing this man's tale of surprisingly successful missionary work in Soviet Russia, I must say that he's become one of my spiritual heros.

Not only did he survive psychological and mental tortures that would have broken most men. He did so with a lack of bitterness that one would expect to characterize such treatment. After 23 years in the country and 14 years and 9 months of that spent doing hard labor in Gulags, Fr. Ciszek still blessed the land and people of Russia from his airplane
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
WE enjoyed this. (It was a "car read.") Ciszek was a Jesuit priest who chose to go to Eastern Europe to work with Eastern rite Catholics toward the end of WWII, only to be arrested as a "spy" for the Vatican. He spent 23 years in work camps and prisons before bing released. And the it was a number of more years before after that before he was able to leave Russia, primarily because of the work of his sisters. He gets discouraged many times but never does he lose is faith or his ability to befrie ...more
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely amazing book. Edge of your seat suspense coupled with inspirational faith in God in a true life story that follows a priest who devoted his life to spread the faith to the atheistic Soviet Union. His survival in the Gulag against brutal cold, little food, thuggish gangs, sadistic guards not to mention the ever dangerous work in the mines makes for compelling reading. Might be the finest book I've read this year. ...more
I really wanted to read something intense for Holy Week this year and I really scored big with this one. I’m not usually a fan of memoirs but I found myself riveted by the story of this priest and the mental capacity he had to survive what he went through. His depth of faith amazed me. What also amazed me is the faith he found among many of the people in Russia during the Communist era. Their lives give me a whole new perspective on my own.
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Walter Joseph Ciszek, S.J. was a Polish-American Jesuit priest who conducted clandestine missionary work in the Soviet Union between 1939 and 1963.

Fifteen of these years were spent in confinement and hard labor in the Gulag, plus five preceding them in Moscow's infamous Lubyanka prison. He was released and returned to the United States in 1963, after which he wrote two books, including the memoir

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56 likes · 15 comments
“no matter what my small sufferings are, I have a choice. I can either let them make me bitter, or I can meet them with the confidence that God will not abandon me.” 1 likes
“The nearness of the war had another more immediate effect. The food, which had been fairly good, was growing worse; some days there was none at all. There was little food in the town itself; there were too many prisoners now, and the prison kitchen was just not equipped to handle such a crisis. One evening, as our group was being led to the toilet, I noticed a big hambone in a corner of the corridor. When the guard wasn’t looking, I snatched it up and hid it inside my coat. In the toilet I washed it off as best I could under the faucet and put it in my pocket. The rest of the day I sat in the cell, biting off pieces of it, grinding it to powder between my teeth and swallowing it. I broke it up and offered pieces to the others, but their teeth weren’t strong enough to chew” 0 likes
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