Dr. Boris Kornfeld was a Russian Jew who was a prisoner in a gulag during the 1950s in Ekibastuz, deep in Siberia. Because Kornfeld was a doctor, the Russians used him in the hospital. One of his patients was suffering from a disease known as pellagra. It is a disease that makes digestion of food difficult and is induced by malnutrition. The cure is to eat white bread. Dr. Kornfeld discovered another prisoner eating the bread of the dying man and turned in his fellow prisoner to the guards. The prisoner the doctor had turned in was sent to the punishment block for three days; Kornfeld knew that when this prisoner got out of the punishment block he would come to kill him. Dr. Kornfeld was now considered a “stoolie.”
Dr. Kornfeld knew he had only three days to live. He singled out a young patient, #26232, who had been in the gulag for eight years. Prisoner #26232 had severe skin cancer that had just been operated on, and he was suffering in great pain. He sat by the patient, urging him to tell the world about the atrocities that were taking place in Russia and the truth about communism. The patient drifted in and out of consciousness. Dr. Kornfeld told #26232 there was a God of love who would redeem the world. Prisoner #26232 heard a commotion in the hallway that night. Dr. Kornfeld had been beaten to death with plaster mallets.
Did Boris Kornfeld’s sacrifice make a difference? Prisoner #26232 survived the gulag and went on to be a Nobel-Prize-winning author whose books, The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, are credited with the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union.
Dr. Kornfeld made a difference because the life he saved is considered one of the greatest Russian authors since Tolstoy, Alexander Solzhenitsyn. When asked how it was possible that 60 million people died in the gulags, Solzhenitsyn said, “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”
Psalm 142:7 “Bring me out of prison so I can thank you. The godly will crowd around me, for you are good to me.”