For Lena Korikova the memories of years past are still fresh and painful. But despite the suffering she endured she feels it is important to talk about her experiences.
"It's hard to speak about what happened to me and to my friends." She said. "We suffered great persecution for our beliefs. I still remember how things were so many years ago. You couldn't trust anyone. Your friends, your neighbors, those closest to you, you never knew if they were going to report you or turn you in for something. You never knew who was listening in on your conversations or who was, perhaps, watching you on some hidden camera."
Among a number of things Korikova had to keep secret were her Christian books and tapes that she dearly cherished.
"I was always terrified that they would show up at my door one day and start looking through my books and my music." Said Korikova. "I had some things that I knew would get me in trouble. I kept them hidden, or had different covers on the fronts of them taped on, but they could have been easily removed. I just prayed every day they would not find me out."
She also told stories of what happened to others who were found out.
"I remember waking up one morning only to discover that my dear friend was gone." She said. "She had been 'sent away,' they told me, because she was a 'problem.' They had caught her with her books and music, meeting secretly with others like herself. I never saw her again, and to this day I don't know what happened to her."
Such was life for Korikova during her years at Pensacola Christian College
where she and others who held to Reformed and Calvinistic beliefs struggled each day to survive and to not be found out.
"I had a copy of Calvin's Insitutes of the Christian Religion, but I knew that I could let no one know." She said. "So I covered them with brown paper and wrote 'Charles Finney's Systematic Theology' on the outside. Thankfully no one ever looked inside. I also had tapes of sermons by James Montgomery Boice which I labeled with different titles so that people would not know. One day my roommate borrowed one of the tapes, but thankfully she thought it was a mistake. She brought back the tape and told me, 'I think someone copied over this sermon.' I thanked her and told her I'd take care of it. That was a close call."
After graduating from P.C.C. in 1996 Korikova returned to her native Russia to serve in a Christian ministry to orphans in her native town of Tula. Four years earlier she had been recruited by a group from P.C.C. who was searching for international students from Russia just after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
"I tell stories of things that happened when I was a student and the older generation here in Russia cannot believe that it is true." She said. "They say things like 'How can this be true about America?' and 'I thought America was a free country.' But I tell them only the truth about what happened. Life was very hard, and I was scared."
Today, Korikova is happy in her ministry, but she still struggles with feelings of what happened to her.
"I know those days are over, but they still haunt me even today. I still look around suspiciously when I read some of my books, wondering who is watching me, wondering if someone is going to report me to the authorities and I'll be called into Dean of Students' office."