40 Years in America

The First National Divine Principle Workshop in the Soviet Union

Tony Devine

After his historic meeting with President Gorbachev, Father began the Divine Principle education of Soviet students through the International Leadership Seminars in the United States. Regardless of the unbelievable obstacles that confronted the project, Father encouraged us to continue at an impossible pace, urging us to accomplish the goal of having taught three thousand students by July 1991.

During the school year, Soviet students visited America to visit and to attend Divine Principle workshops at a rate of almost forty students each month. As they returned to their country, the students came to the new Unification centers by the hundreds to hear more Principle lectures. Based on the tremendous response, Father asked Dr. Joon Ho Seuk to educate two thousand Soviet students in Divine Principle during their summer vacation.

The result was not only the largest workshop in Unification Church history, but also the first major Divine Principle workshops within the Soviet Union itself, involving two thousand Soviet students, professors and parents at twenty-four different workshops. One of the phenomenal aspects was that the students were the elite of their universities.

Overcoming logistic obstacles in the Soviet Union to organize food, lodging and transportation produced a long series of miracles even before the workshops began. Greater miracles occurred as the seminars started. The transformation that occurred in the hearts and minds of the students was matched only by the dramatic rebirth of the Soviet Union itself, following a dangerous military coup that failed.

In a country where a majority of the population’s daily concern is where to find dinner for a family of three, where could such an enormous amount of people be accommodated? Our professor advisors said that it was useless to begin such a search in May, as any existing camps would already be booked for the summer. Nevertheless, the staff began searching in the Crimea and the Baltic republics.

By sheer coincidence, Martha Sandino, one of the St. Petersburg staff members, met a member of the Estonian Youth Organization who had been to Guatemala on the World Student Service Corps last year with the Unification Movement. He connected us to a network of student organizations in the Baltic republics which showed us numerous countryside conference centers, hotels and camps.

This organized and effective student network had previously been a part of Komsomol, the communist youth organization. Before perestroika, these groups served to organize summer activities at dozens of "Pioneer Camps," indoctrinating youth in the theories of Marxism-Leninism. Now, the president of the former communist organization was driving us, day after day, in his car to find a camp to be the site of Divine Principle seminars.

The search resulted in the discovery of four major seminar sites, which accommodated the workshops over the months of July and August. Andre, the president of the Latvian Student Volunteers, completely abandoned his activities and became full-time staff to organize the Divine Principle workshops. As the workload increased, he brought in almost all his staff to help us. Andre said, "We’re all Unification members now! All we do is Unification work!"

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