The situation at St. Petersburg, beneath the surface, was actually swirling with dangerous currents. We have been involved in several legal battles in the city for the past few years, mostly charges from an organized anti-Unificationist group -- the usual suspects -- that has found local people to file these frivolous attacks. The usual fear-mongering and prods toward religious hysteria are designed, of course, to prevent the free expression of Unification spiritual activities -- even the giving of a public speech -- not only in St. Petersburg, but throughout Russia and beyond. Same old same old.
In reality, we have had good success in defeating these legal accusations on almost all occassions these past years. Recently, however, after we had won yet another case on the local St. Petersburg jurisdictional level, the prosecutor then appealed to the higher court in Moscow, a court where he knew he would find a more sympathetic judge. Since the new government of Vladimir Putin took office only a month ago, the Russian Orthodox Church is again demanding the extermination of all "sects", and apparently Putin, a man raised in the KGB of Soviet times, feels it serves him best to allow the Orthodox leaders to have their way. So, the whole speaking engagement in St. Petersburg was actually under a cloud of uncertainty as to whether we would be able to hold it at all because we, in fact, had lost the case in the Moscow appeals court on the same day as Mother's speech.
This is very similar to several years ago when the Ukraine government suddenly prevented Father from speaking in Kiev. They even surrounded the hotel with a few hundred military soldiers to keep all guests from coming in. They made it a virtual prison for Father, to which he said, "This is war", and met privately instead with several dozens of members in his personal hotel room all through the night. Of course, two years after that debacle created by the Ukrainian authorities, one very highly placed government official actually took the lead toward breaking open the realm of the Blessing campaign very early in 1997, by personally conducting several MILLION Blessings himself throughout the country. So, maybe this portends equally well for Russia now. In any case, Monday night was a little tense, as we didn't know if Russian soldiers would suddenly come rushing in to stop the speech or not.
As it turned out, Mother arrived radiating as usual, giving out the glow of love and life that only True Mother can. After four months of non-stop traveling to over sixty cities, and all the road-weariness that she must feel, Mother still elevated the atmosphere of the entire room as she ascended to the elegant ballroom of this immaculate five-star hotel on Nevesky Prospekt, St. Petersburg's main thoroughfare. Following her custom, Mother appeared upon the conclusion of the latest -- and wonderfully inspiring -- video of True Parents' lives.
The room was packed full with over five hundred assorted dignitaries, friends, and members, from those in their late teens to others in their seventies. Because the program was taking place under the threat of government interference, the call was put out to only those closest to our movement. So, unfortunately, the event was not as well-publicized as it otherwise would have been, and therefore did not have the largest number of people who might have come. Nevertheless, the more carefully chosen invitees did make for a more familiar atmosphere, as if reuniting with family not seen in some time.
Mother's delivery was in the best English I have ever heard, as she was able to pause and look to the audience much more frequently to emphasize the main points, and also to draw reaction from the audience, making the experience more intimate than ever.
Before the speech, there were some Americans present who questioned how the Russian audience would respond to the content of Mother's talk, specifically, the part which says that Russia should take a subordinate role to the United States in building God's Kingdom on the earth. The room never reflected even a hint of unease with the contents of the speech, as it was simultaneously translated from Mother's English to Russian, via personal headsets. My experience with Russians, dating back to 1991, tells me that although it may be a bit of a disappointment in one regard, most Russians know that they are presently not up to world leadership the way America is. Mother's words of warning to America, however -- that the United States MUST solve its present moral crisis -- also clearly demonstrates the sober reality of world leadership, whoever occupies it: it is the most difficult position to be in.
Several times during Mother's explanation of Father's difficulties during his persecutions over the years, and even of God's pain at being forgotten, disbelieved, and declared "dead", Mother had to pause as her voice started to waver and her eyes began to fill under the heartbreak she felt. Each time quickly recovering, however, Mother kept her steady pace to finish her speech in about thirty minutes. Hearts were full and deeply moved throughout the room. Even the hotel owner/ chief executive, who had stopped by to witness the event, stayed until the end. Clearly, God's words of new hope and life touched hundreds in the room, and many more in heaven.
Following Mother's rousing call to action, that we all join in working to build God's heavenly kingdom on earth, Mother gave her signature smile of victorious love that lit up the room to its greatest brilliance ever!
Then, the time of cake-cutting, congratulations, and entertainment began. Mother left the room briefly to change some of her clothes, then re-appeared to meet with Father and everyone on the internet connection. Because the phone lines over here are mostly analog -- not digital -- the modem speed could not be quick enough to produce smooth-flowing video, but the audio was perfect! And, I have to say, I think the "kids" over here did a really stellar job in the "battle of the entertainers", between St. Petersburg and Jersey City! (Next time, you had better get ready, because these kids surely are!)
After the program completed, I was looking for my 8-year old son, who was watching in another room reserved for children, when Dr. Seuk's assistant informed me that another national messiah and I were invited to join Mother for dinner! I never expected such an honor. When we arrived at Mother's room, dinner was already under way. After a full bow, Dr. Seuk introduced us to Mother. Outside of Dr. and Mrs. Seuk, Rev. Shin Jae Park, Mr. Jeff Tallakson, the local leader of St. Petersburg, and Rev. Peter Kim, who travels with Mother, we were the only ones to dine with True Mother. It was quite humbling. After speaking in Korean with Dr. and Mrs. Seuk and Rev. Park, Mother asked us how we thought of her English! We all agreed that it was better than ever, easily understandable.
Next, Mother wanted to know how we thought the Russians would feel about the speech. We also felt in agreement that Russians actually do look up to America in many ways, even though there is a natural rivalry. Mother reiterated that America had some things to be ashamed of, morally and spiritually, and that there was still a lot of work to be done.
Finally, Mother asked us all to sing! Starting with Dr. Seuk, then Dr. and Mrs. Seuk, and so forth, one by one. After those of us at the table got through, Mother wanted to hear from the members, so about forty other helping staff and local members came in to meet intimately with True Mother and sing her a song! Soon, it all came too quickly to a close, and Mother retired with a warm smile and wave. It was now about ten o'clock -- the speech program had begun at seven -- and there would be six AM Hoon Dok Hae in the morning. After that, Mother would be off to Moldova, speak there, then fly today to Canada. Tomorrow is June first, and the second is True Day of All Things, back in New York. So, Mother's schedule has been about as full as it gets. I don't know of any other person -- business, religious, or political -- who has traveled to more than sixty cities on six continents in four months. But our Mother has, giving a true mother's love and warm embrace all along the way. May God bless and keep True Mother always.