A tale by Johny Noer


Chapter 18


… ’forbidden things’ were happening in the church!

In the fourth week of April when the lakes were blue as heaven and the apple blossoms had recklessly blown, I was reading in my wagon outside Varna with the windows open, and a warm wind stirring the papers on my desk. I was reading the letter to the Hebrews. I made a short note in my Bible: ‘Fact truer than fiction’!

There was a long silence, during which a bird trilled noisily outside the window. I knew what I had in mind with these words: Something, I couldn’t imagine was lurking in the future! Something, which I had experienced, was going to be repeated, but on a larger scale.

For a long moment I rubbed my temple with my fingertips trying to find out, what this had to do with ‘the letter to the Hebrews: ‘Fact truer than fiction’!

I had no idea…

Then I put on my robe and walked into the next room to see if any messages had been left for me on the phone.

There was one!

A quarter to six one of the men from the rooftop had called me. "They are on the warpath!" his voice said. "They have found the secret scrolls!"

There was a silence. "Call me right now! The voice said; he repeated twice the number from where he was calling.

I hung up the phone and called him. "Can you come over?" I asked.

"Sure. Now?"

"Yes, now!"

He arrived about twenty minutes later. He was an elderly man with a funny little one-shouldered shrug, a mannerism I’m sure. He seemed calm enough, tired, but calm. His blue intelligent eyes met mine with a sad, quiet smile. It was heart warming to me. He had faithfully attended our meetings all over the country.

"Hello", I said. "Close the door, will you?"

He shrugged and kicked slightly at the door with his foot. "Bad news", he said.

"Very bad?"

"Very bad, yes", he said, breathing heavily. His hair was rumpled, and he had no coat. "What’ll we do?"

"I don’t know. Come inside. We’ll think of something."

"Did you use the code? He shielded his eyes from the sunlight and looked at me.

"Yes, I called the number you gave me and changed it into the code."

"All right", he said relieved.

He followed me into the kitchen and I poured him a cup of coffee and invited him to sit down. "Now", I said, "tell me what happened."

He did. He told me the story of the secret scrolls and what happened to them. His blue eyes were fastened on mine. Only once or twice I interrupted with questions. Certain parts I asked him to repeat. Especially what he knew about the delivery of the scrolls…


The action of this remarkable tale took place on April 9th, when a crowd of 7000-8000 people were gathered in front of the church at Lenin Boulevard in Varna.

How is one to describe what happened behind the stage? The action can be traced back to a number of Varna-citizens suddenly trying to get hold of some huge scrolls of paper.

In the harsh reign of Todor Shivkov there was no lack of paper for governmental purposes: Lots of paper was used. Tons! To the enlightened autocratic system of the Communist Party, friends of Marx, Engels and Lenin (and even Stalin) these vast piles of paper were used for many long years. They were telling the detailed story of the heretics, who threatened the stability of the system and these obscurantists who resisted progress.

Thousands of pages of valuable paper were used to enable the authorities to divide all these unknown names into hundreds of cells and camps, where they were finally expunged from the list! The finest, official secretaries added their invaluable contribution to write new names on new pages telling the new story of newcomers to new camps – and most recently in the era of the president Todor Shivkov the establishment flourished in paperwork as never before or after the Revolution.

… but when a few Christian men and women tried to get hold of two scrolls of paper, suspicion was raised, and all paper had suddenly disappeared… evoking no complaints from the believers; they were used to this sort of thing.

Then this excess of demanding paper took on alarming proportions: The Christians finally and triumphantly got hold of the scrolls, which secretly disappeared into the church at Lenin Boulevard. For the red boss there was no point in waiting any longer. Gradually, as a constant flow of men went through the open door of the church, the rumour passed by word of mouth among the police, that forbidden things were going on in the church! Soon the building was singled out for its doom. The men inside were unaware of the horrors that awaited them. Then on the eve of the fateful day in April, I happened to shout a new version of my message from the roof – and things changed!

At this moment the red boss polished his old but still respectable box-calf boots, put on what had once been his dress uniform and prepared for the attack. He was going to enter that church with dignity. He was going to do, what had to be done; he was going to undertake the necessary arrest of a few hundred men. This revolt had to be stopped! He would have to find out, what these people secretly did with the scrolls…


While shrugging his one shoulder, my ‘roof-mate’ told me about all this. Now and then he was testing the waters to find out how much I really knew. Especially about what happened after I started to ask hundreds of men to enter the church. Did I know that the red boss was informed about the secret scrolls – and that he had ordered his agents to go in there – and they wouldn’t?

"They wouldn’t? I was startled.

"No, they wouldn’t.

"Why wouldn’t they go in?" I drank the rest of my coffee.

"They wouldn’t because of what you said!"

"Because of what I said?"

"You don’t remember?"

"Not quite." I detected a note of surprise in his voice. Outside I heard the faint laughter of a woodpecker. The elderly man smiled and shook his head: "You really don’t remember?"

While we were talking about these events none of us had imagined that the harmless looking shiny grey mobile phone concealed a mortal danger.

From the moment I keyed the coded number the ribbon on a tape recorder at the police headquarters rustled as it recorded our voices.

"They are on the warpath", it was said, and "they have found the secret scrolls." Then a moment of silence… and then my voice: "Can you come over?" And the answer: "Sure! Now?" – and my voice: "Yes, now!"

All this had gone down on to the narrow brown tape to be turned into the voice prints on a wet film – and then in writing to be presented to the red boss within a few hours.

I didn’t know about all this but I had an inborn sense of danger, and now my Bulgarian friend warned me; ‘something is about to happen!’ he said.

And it did indeed happen.


You see, then, how quick things happened, as I stood on that church roof in Varna. And now afterwards it is impossible to slow down this film to examine individual frames. It’s hard for me to remember everything I said. I see only now what I saw then, flashing by through the power and impact of the words: ‘Let my people go!’ The lifted arms, songs of worship, which exploded ascending towards the sky… cut to the situation where I ask the men to enter the church. I see them passing by – each group two hundred. Then the film flaps up in the projector, and the screen goes black. I can’t remember more.

But now with the help of my Bulgarian friend I find myself a most interested audience to this little documentary from the rooftop.

"Can’t you remember that you promised those, who went into the church that they wouldn’t come out again as they went in?" My friend shrugged his shoulder and looked at me.

"Something is going to happen to you", you said. "You’ll never be the same again! Inside that church the Lord is waiting for you!"

"Did I say that?"

"Yes, you said just that, and from that moment none of the secret police agents went in; they became afraid! They didn’t want something strange to happen to them. And if the Lord – as you said – was waiting for them – they didn’t want to meet him. That’s why they stayed outside. The police chief couldn’t get them to move. They didn’t dare to enter the church."

"And the red boss?"

"He never found out, what we did with the secret scrolls. And that’s why he started that manhunt as soon as the scrolls were smuggled out of the church. He wanted – at any price – to get hold of them, before they ended on the president’s table.