17 December 2017

Remembrance

“This war does not prove that God does not love the people, but it is the most powerful proof that people do not love God and each other. If the people of Europe loved God and each other, this terrible war would be an impossibility.” 

Paul Gerzik was a very peculiar soldier. The first week after we reached the Russian frontier in GaIacia, he took a piece of blank cardboard and put upon it in golden letters the inscription, “God is Love.” He fastened this inscription upon his musket so that everybody could read it when we were marching. In the trenches he laid the cardboard before himself so that everybody could see it. This puzzled us all and caused among us all, the officers and men, much agitation. We mocked him and put to him hundreds of questions. Thus he got the opportunity to speak, and when he began to speak everybody was silent. He became the preacher of our company. Once I said to him, “If there is any God, then He does not love the people. The best proof is this terrible war with its awful sufferings.”

“You are wrong, captain,” he answered; “this war does not prove that God does not love the people, but it is the most powerful proof that people do not love God and each other. If the people of Europe loved God and each other, this terrible war would be an impossibility.” And I felt he spoke the truth.

On another occasion I told him, “Gerzik, you are not a good soldier. You do not use your musket as you ought to use it. I am observing you, and see you are sending the bullets elsewhere, in the hedges and trees but not into the bodies of the big Russians. Do you know that I can punish you with death on the spot?”

“I know, captain,” he answered, “but I do not want to change my mind. I am here not to kill the enemies, but to save the friends. When I was called to the military service, I was resolved to refuse to go if even sentenced to death by the court martial; but I asked myself, ‘What good would my death mean to the cause of my Lord and King, Jesus Christ?’ I could not see that it would do any good, and therefore I changed my resolution and went to the front with the firm purpose to kill no one, but to help everybody, and you see this I am doing with all my heart.”

And truly he did it. He was the first at the side of every wounded, suffering and dying soldier. During the cold and wet winter days and nights, when our sufferings in the trenches were unspeakable, when men and officers were cursing the day of their birth, when frozen flesh was falling from our limbs, he was the only soldier who did not curse, who had words of cheer and comfort for us all, who encouraged us by his courage and cheered us by his joy. He was a fearless man. He walked under the hail of bullets like a child in a garden. “My life,” he used to say, “is in my Lord’s hands. When my work is done, He will call me to Himself and all the sufferings will be over.”

At one o’clock in the afternoon, 25th May, the enemies’ bullet got him. He fell to the ground. The comrades took him and brought him behind the firing line. He bade us goodbye, and died with a smile on his lips. The most of us wept. We buried him with all honors and put upon his grave a wooden cross with the inscription, “God is Love.” I took his New Testament from his pocket as a reminder of him. We all felt his absence from our ranks. For weeks and weeks his personality was a subject of our conversation. “I am a Jew,” once said a fellow officer, “but in Gerzik I saw a real Christian:” and that he was. Now I am wounded myself and in a hospital, and I am reading his New Testament.

As we remember the bravery and sacrifice of soldiers who have died to protect our freedom, take a moment to think about what God is asking of you today. Do you have your own frontline that you must approach in order to share His grace and love? Be inspired to action by those we remember on Armistice Day.

Mr V Kralicek

Head of the Bohemian Slovak Department of the Slavish Training School, Chicago.