Russian Fires versus Russian Prayers By Honora Finkelstein (This article was originally published in the “Network of Light News” column in the December 2010 edition of Pathways Magazine, published in Washington, D.C.) IC-TLC minister Honora Finkelstein recently had an opportunity to talk about the miracles associated with the 2010 summer fires in Russia with Marina Koval, Ph.D., a former Russian psychologist/sociologist who currently lives in D.C. and is a life coach in private practice. Koval said she had learned about the fires from her mother, who lives alone in a Moscow apartment after having been widowed in March. According to Koval, hundreds of wildfires had broken out in July 2010 after nearly a month of a record-breaking heat wave that withered crops, pushed farmers to the brink of bankruptcy, and even melted the Moscow asphalt. “In August I called my Mom from D.C. every day because the fires that had engulfed thousands of acres of Russian land were moving closer to her. My Mom said, ‘In all my life, I’ve never experienced such heat and fires. I can see nothing from my windows!’” Koval said that in August, approximately 7,000 fires had been registered in the area over 500,000 hectares and was also burning in 14 federal districts. Thousands of people in the regions were left homeless, and millions in Moscow suffered health damage from the debilitating smog that covered the city. Finally, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declared a state of emergency in seven regions for the fires, which ultimately cost the country about $15 billion USD in damages. “At the height of the crisis,” said Koval, “240,000 people were battling the flames: firefighters, army units, elite paratroopers, and ordinary volunteers were taking part in the fight. The volunteers were the ones who cleared the burnt forest and extinguished small fires. They also helped those affected by the fires, bought equipment and food for the firemen, and saved several villages by using just basic shovels and buckets of water.” Koval noted that in 1917 during the Bolshevik Revolution, religion was declared to be “the opium of the masses,” so for 70 years the government had forced the people of Russia and then of the USSR into an agnostic and even atheistic way of thinking. This changed when Mikhail Gorbachev opened the gates for these people to enter freely into the spiritual and religious levels of consciousness. And that change made a space for what occurred next in the drama of the Russian fires. As the blazes continued, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin finally ordered the government to allocate five billion rubles ($165 million USD) to help the fire victims. And that was the point when journalists began reporting that the government was calling for the churches to mobilize the people to start praying to stop the fires. “Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, in a visit to the Nizhny Novgorod region, asked people to pray for rain,” Koval said, “telling us that grief had come to our nation, that human lives had been lost, that hundreds had lost shelter, and that thousands, including many children, were without sustenance. So he called upon everyone to unite in a prayer to bring rain down on our earth.” After that, Koval said the Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists of Russia united in prayer both for the victims of the fires and in a request to a higher power that rain would fall and quench the fires. The Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mother of God at Moscow, Msgr. Paolo Pezzi, sent a letter to all parishes asking for prayers, and thousands of people joined processions, carrying icons of the Blessed Virgin and the Christ and asking for rain. At the same time, collections for all kinds of aid were taking place in the parishes, and people were bringing clothes and food to be sent to affected areas. “Many of my Moscow friends, including psychologists, educators, artists, writers, physicists, mathematicians, and musicians, were sending me emails crying for prayers,” Koval said. “They asked me to mobilize Americans to pray for the arrival of rain for Russia. Al Soloviev, a professor from Ryazan University, said, ‘We cannot breathe….Please ask all your friends to hold us in the Light’.” Russian weather experts said the heat wave would continue until the beginning of September. But on 10 August, change began happening. The cloud of smoke that had invaded Moscow somewhat dissipated, and the temperature dropped. Then a heavy thunderstorm moved over the city, and it began raining so hard and for so long that the polluted air began to clear. The weather experts insisted the polluted air would take over the city again in a few days. So the Russian people continued to pray, and the skies over Moscow stayed clear, giving the city relief from the smog. Muscovites told reporters they were overjoyed with the improved air, and many of them stopped wearing their masks since the air was now safe to breathe. “Again,” said Koval, “forecasters indicated a shift in the winds was likely to occur in the coming days, bringing the smog back to Moscow. But again they were wrong because heavy downpours once more soaked Moscow and nearby areas, bringing final relief to exhausted Russians.” The government added to the relief by promising to build new homes for the victims of the fire by November 2010. “Who helped?” asked Koval. “Who knows? Was it sheer luck? Almighty God?  United Forces of a Cosmic Network of Light? The energy of united intention? I don’t know. But one thing is clear: after 73 years of government-forced agnosticism and atheism, Russians have become very religious!”