“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” (Acts 16:25)
The prison train rumbled on across the Siberian vastness. The men in their cages were headed east to the cold fringes of the Soviet empire—a place where polar bears live and criminals are kept. There were prisons in other parts of Russia, but this gulag in the far east was the worst punishment for the worst prisoners.
On this particular prison train the din of cursing and fighting was broken by a clear, sweet voice of singing. Years later one of the prisoners on board recalled the girl who sang on a prison train:
We were on a prison transport heading east toward Khabarovsk. There was only one girl in our train and she was a Christian. I never learned her name. That girl sang throughout the journey, day after day. For some reason, the guards didn’t stop her. She just kept singing. Usually prisoners are crude when they see a woman. They mock and laugh and say all kinds of vulgar things. But nobody said anything bad to this girl. Her singing affected all of us.
“Sing some more!” “Write down the words for me!” the men called out to her. Some said to the guard, “Sergeant, tell her to keep singing. Walk her through the car so that we can see her face.”
And when she sang, a hush fell over our train car. Even the most hardened criminals, men who had served several terms, turned their heads to hide their tears.
The girl who sang was Galina, a 23-year-old Sunday School teacher sentenced to three years in prison for teaching children about Jesus. Galina was not singing Gospel songs on the train because she was fresh and naïve about what lay ahead for her. Actually, she was already two years into her sentence. She had been beaten and nearly starved to death. The little food she received was disgusting and wormy. Scurvy had caused her hair and teeth to begin to fall out, and she was constantly moved from one prison to another. Yet wherever she went, she witnessed and sang of her Saviour. Prisoners eagerly listened and copied down the hymns she sang, and many received the Lord. Galina’s songs penetrated prison walls and imprisoned hearts. Her testimony was so powerful that the KGB was determined to silence her by sending her to a prison for murderers on the far side of Siberia. Despite severe beatings and conditions so desperate that in the summer the prisoners ate grass to keep from starving, still she spoke of Christ and sang. When Galina’s mother visited her in prison, she was shocked at her daughter’s condition, but Galina said, “Mama, don’t cry. I didn’t come here to sit idly with my hands folded on my lap. I am compelled to speak to these perishing sinners about Christ. . . . If I don’t return, know that I will die joyfully for Christ’s sake. I am prepared to accept whatever I meet here.”
Galina spent a total of five years in prison. Her testimony touched the lives of prisoners—and Christians—all over the Soviet Union. One young man, Ivan, was especially impressed, and eventually after her release, married her. Ironically, he took his brave bride back to Siberia, where he was from—a land that Galina had promised herself while she was in prison that she would never set foot on again!
Years later, Galina and Ivan are still in Siberia faithfully serving the Lord. Galina continues to share the Gospel and tell children about Jesus—and of course, she is still singing!