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Unfolding History

ve8QAd   |   February 24, 2022

We are blessed with young people flooding into the pro-life movement. As the torch gradually passes to future generations, the importance of maintaining our history increases. We move forward more effectively when we know where we’ve been and how we got here.

So periodically The Latest will take a look back at some of the most prominent moments of a movement not rivaled since the days of the abolitionists.

In this case the participants had ring side seats as a monumental world event unfolded.

Dr. and Mrs. Willke at Kyiv market

The invitation Jack and Barbara Willke received was impressive. It came from the Soviet Academy of Science in Moscow and included an invitation to visit the Russian Orthodox patriarch. The government officials and patriarch were worried about the high abortion rate in Russia for different reasons. The Academy was concerned about the damage abortion was inflicting upon their women and the patriarch agonized over the moral and spiritual implications.

The Willkes were longtime globetrotters, but this trek presented unique and historic challenges and experiences. It was a journey they would never forget.

Their trip unfolded the summer of 1991 as we were getting Life Issues Institute up and running. It was planned that I would stay at their home while they were in Russia. At the time, I was commuting between Cincinnati and Sacramento until our home sold.

The morning after dropping them off at the airport, a chill ran up my spine as I picked up the paper from their driveway. A bold headline announced the coup in Moscow.

What had they gotten themselves into?

Fortunately, the Willkes had first planned a stop in Stockholm, Sweden to speak to a group of Evangelical Christians. The driver who picked them up at the airport promptly informed them they would not be able to travel on to Russia.

Gorbachev was in jail and Moscow writhed in turmoil. But after only a two-day delay, things had improved, so Jack and Barbara planned to fly on to Moscow. There were plenty of available seats on the airplane, but airport personnel did not recommend the Willkes go.

They did.

Willke’s pin collection

Those who knew Jack and Barbara Willke were not surprised. At times such as these their six children deeply worried about their fearless parents.

Upon landing in Moscow, Jack and Barbara’s taxi finally made its way through the hordes of people to their hotel at the edge of Red Square where things were pretty chaotic. This dynamic duo dropped their bags in their room and headed out to see what all the commotion was about.

It was there they witnessed history in the making. The pair watched as statue after statue representing communist oppression were torn down by the Russian masses. One of the figures was Jakob Sverdlov, Lenin’s right-hand man.

During this time of general uncertainty many Russians were selling whatever they had to get America dollars. As a result, Jack and Barbara left Red Square with among other things a military cap, a wristwatch and a very impressive collection of pins normally worn on military uniforms. But best of all, they had a compelling story to tell their children and grandchildren.

The pro-life goals for Russia were eventually accomplished during that trip, as were planned visits to Lithuania and Latvia. The breakup of the Soviet Union opened up countries to our pro-life message in ways we never imagined before. It was an exhilarating experience to travel to Eastern Europe where at times people had never heard English spoken before.

This and much more pro-life history is available in the last book Jack and Barbara wrote, Abortion and the Pro-Life movement, An Inside View, available at Amazon.

For LIFE,

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