The Tenacity and Perseverance of Anna Igumnova

by | Mar 30, 2023 | Caring, God's Hands, Perseverance

Anna Igumnova, born in Russia into an aristocratic family in 1917, was vacationing in Europe with her husband at the start of the October Revolution in Russia. Their daughter had been left behind with a nanny; but unfortunately for the little family, the October Revolution turned into the Russian Civil War, and the war prohibited Anna and her husband from returning to their homeland and to their daughter. Anna and her husband temporarily settled in Berlin where Anna completed a Ph.D. in chemistry. They then moved to Slovakia. While there, Anna gave birth to their son, and the family was reunited with their daughter. Unfortunately the stress was more than Anna’s husband could stand, and in the late 1920s, he died of suicide.

Anna stayed in Slovakia, working in a research institute. In 1942, a new colleague joined the institute: Alice Winter, a Jew by birth. Alice had shared in a secret prescription for the treatment of rheumatic disease, and as a result, she had been given “exception papers”. Her husband had left for England three years earlier with the idea that the family would follow; but WWII resulted in the Slovakian borders being closed. Alice was, therefore, stuck in Slovakia with her two daughters, Erika and Kathryn. The younger girl was moved to another part of the country to live with Alice’s sister in a place deemed “safer”, but Erica, 11 at the time, stayed with her mom. Unfortunately, when the deportations of Slovakian Jews resumed on September 30, 1944, Alice’s “exception papers” were no longer respected, putting her and Erica in immediate danger of deportation.

This was when Anna became involved. Heartbroken that the lives of her friends, Alice and Erika, were in danger, Anna decided to do something. She found a room in an abandoned hotel. There was a bath sunken in the floor, and Anna took Alice and Erica there. They would sit in the sunken bath during the day so that no one could see them through the broken windows, and every night, Anna would visit them, bringing them a warm meal, books and the news.

Before long, Anna had others she was also caring for; but things were becoming too dangerous, and after just three months, Anna moved Alice and the others into the mountains. Here the adults joined the partisans and peasant families accepted to care for the children in exchange for payment. Of course, Alice and the others had no money to pay for the care of their children; but every other week, Anna would come to the village to pay the peasants from money she received from wealthy friends.

Though many such stories ended in tragedy, this one had a happy ending. In April 1945, the Red Army freed the Jews in Anna’s city. Alice and Erica were reunited with Kathryn, and in 1946 they immigrated to the USA to be reunited with Alice’s husband. They never stopped loving Anna for what she did for them, and they remained in correspondence with her until her death in the late 1980s.

God bless Anna and people like her. However, this isn’t supposed to be just another story about someone putting their lives in danger to save Jews during the Holocaust. Rather, it is a story of tenacity, resilience and perseverance. You see, Anna could have left Alice and the others in the abandoned hotel. She had, after all, done everything she could to save them. But when things became too dangerous to keep them in the city, Anna couldn’t give up on them. She persevered until she found another way. And when that way became impossible due to lack of funds, Anna tenaciously sought yet another solution to pay for the upkeep of the Jewish children. She found a way where there was no way, and when that way she found no longer worked, she found another way!

How many of us would have done the same? Oh, many would have tried to help, but would we have been as tenacious and resilient? Would we have persevered?

Of course, in our day and age, there aren’t so many hurting people who need to be “hidden” away. In fact, our hardest job is to share the gospel with the unsaved. And most of us try to do just that. But when our first attempts fail, are we resilient enough to keep trying? Do we tenaciously seek out better ways? Do we persevere in our prayer and our love for the unsaved?

Who are you trying to witness to today? Feeling discouraged that your first attempts didn’t have their desired effect? Remember Anna! Be resilient! Seek tenaciously for other ways to witness. Persevere in your prayers and love for that person! Don’t give up! “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9 NIV See also 2. Thes. 3:13). And remember: Those who tenaciously and resiliently persevere will be blessed: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12 NIV)

But wait. How did Anna know to transfer her little band of Jews to the mountains? How did she know they would be safe there?

The story doesn’t answer that question. The good news, however, is that we can know how to continue to witness to our friends and loved ones. God’s Spirit will guide us in what we should say: “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” (1 Cor. 2:13 NIV). He will convict your loved one of his/her need of a Saviour: “When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment…” (John 16:8 NIV). Our job is to pray for God to soften their hearts, and then to seek God for wisdom as to how to continue. That is the combination that will eventually work to bring your friends and loved ones to the Lord!

Feeling discouraged about failed attempts to witness? Remember the resilience and tenacity and perseverance of Anna Igumnova. Pray for God’s Spirit, and persevere!

In His love,
Rob Chaffart
Director, Answers2Prayer Ministries


The Tenacity and Perseverance of Anna Igumnova