The book even found support from the government during the Communist era.
Editor’s note: News editor Andrew McChesney is currently traveling in Eastern Europe with Trans-European Division communication director Victor Hulbert and reporting on Adventist work in the region. For a list of others stories, follow the links at the end of this story.
One million copies of The Great Controversy have been published in Poland over the past 70 years, and the Communist government even backed the book’s distribution during Soviet times, Polish church leaders said Tuesday.
The remarkable figure — which emerged during a regular meeting of church leaders in Poland’s capital, Warsaw — serves as a reminder that nothing can stop the spread of God’s message during these last days of Earth’s history, church leaders said.
Fifteen full editions of The Great Controversy have been published in Poland since 1946, the year after World War II ended, and many abbreviated editions have also been released, said Marek Rakowski, executive secretary of the Adventist Church in Poland.
“The fact that this has happened in a Catholic country is very, very important,” Rakowski said.
The Great Controversy by church cofounder Ellen G. White describes the Roman Catholic Church as playing a key role in last-day events. Poland’s population of 38.5 million is predominantly Catholic, and the Adventist Church has only 5,820 members here.
During Communist times, the government supported the publication of The Great Controversy, seeing it as a counterweight to the strong influence of the Catholic Church in the officially atheistic state, Rakowski said.
“In the 1970s and 1980s, the Communist government really liked this book,” he said. “They liked what they read in The Great Controversy.”
Interestingly, other countries in the Soviet bloc had a similar reaction to the book. In Yugoslavia, the authorities told church leaders at one point that a paper shortage meant that only 2,000 copies of The Great Controversy could be printed. Church leaders had asked for 5,000 copies, Dragan Pejovski, director of the Adventist-owned publishing house near Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, said in an interview last week.
But then the authorities abruptly announced that they had found enough paper to print 15,000 copies. Apparently government censors had read the book and decided that it would offset the influence of the Orthodox Church, the dominant faith in the region, Pejovski said.
The spread of The Great Controversy at a time when Bibles were banned in Soviet bloc countries is a remarkable illustration of the power of God, said Victor Hulbert, communication director of the church’s Trans-European Division, whose territory includes Poland and the countries of the former Yugoslavia.
“God uses strange tools sometimes,” Hulbert said. “Remember it was also the time of Bible smuggling. Life was not easy.”
Millions of copies of The Great Controversy have been printed since White first penned the book in 1858. From 2011 to 2013 alone, more than 142 million copies were distributed worldwide as part of an Adventist world church initiative called the Great Controversy Project.
Among the recipients have been prominent Polish figures such as Jolanta Kwaśniewska, wife of Aleksander Kwaśniewski, who served as Poland’s president from 1995 to 2005. A Polish newspaper once published a photo of her carrying rhe book, Rakowski said.
These days, the Adventist Church faces no restrictions on The Great Controversy in Poland,but the book is coming under attack on pro-Catholic websites, Rakowski said.
“They are saying that things written in the book are not true and that Ellen White was a plagiarist,” he said.
But church leaders said they were determined to keep sharing the book.
At least two of the Polish church’s leaders were baptized after reading the book: president Jaroslaw Dziegielewski and youth leader Marek Micyk. Dziegielewski showed a journalist a yellowed copy of his first Great Controversy, which he acquired in 1981. He was baptized the following year.
“This is a special book,” Dziegielewski said.
Stories from East European Trip: