He Developed a Curriculum of Survival while in Prison—Father Placid

A wonderful true story of faith in a Communist prison. This 1-minute devotion shares Father Placid's "curriculum for survival." #BibleLoveNotes #Bible

"Communism set out to destroy me, but Communism is gone, and I am still here!” ~ Father Placid 

In the early 2000s, I met Father Placid, a ninety-five-year-old Hungarian priest. 

I was immediately captured by his cheerful countenance, animated gestures, and frequent laughter. You’d never guess that this happy, gentle man had spent ten years of his life beaten, starved, and forced into hard labor in an inhumane Siberian prison camp (a "gulag").*

His crime: outspoken love for God and man.

When Father Placid realized God wanted him to encourage his fellow prisoners, he developed a "Curriculum of Survival":

1. Don't complain—it makes things worse (Philippians 2:14-16).

2. Find reasons to rejoice, e.g., an extra piece of potato in your thin soup or a guard who doesn’t make you remove your hat in the icy wind (Philippians 4:4-9).
Father Placid inspired the prisoners to have contests to see who could think of the most positive things that had happened to them during the day.

3. Remember you're able to be strong and do hard things in the Lord (2 Corinthians 12:10Philippians 4:13).

4. Show the guards you're different because of your faith (Matthew 5:16).

These principles can help us think and act like Christians whatever our circumstances, freeing us from all types of "prisons."

Thank you, Father Placid! 

Note: I'm not Catholic, and Father Placid and I would have disagreed on doctrinal issues, but I believe Father Placid genuinely loved the Lord and did his best to serve Him faithfully. If you would like to have a more detailed explanation of why I believe Father Placid was a true believer, please read Do Protestants Think Catholics Are Saved?

In 2017, Father Placid met the Lord face-to-face. He was one hundred years old.  See Father Placid Turns 100.

The article above shares Father Placid's "curriculum for survival" slightly different from what I've shared, but I got my list from a personal interview with Father Placid. He may have highlighted various aspects of these four points when he spoke to different people, and/or the author may have written about them from his perspective. 

You might also like reading this one-minute devotion: Why Good People Suffer.

* Gulags were instituted in 1919 and they were used for hardened criminals, political prisoners, and Christians who refused to convert to atheism (source). Father Placid was in the gulag 1946-1956. ~~ "Most prisoners labored under the threat of starvation or execution if they refused. It is estimated that the combination of very long working hours, harsh climatic and other working conditions, inadequate food, and summary executions killed tens of thousands of prisoners each year. Western scholarly estimates of the total number of deaths in the Gulag in the period from 1918 to 1956 ranged from 1.2 to 1.7 million" (Britannica). 


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A wonderful true story of faith in a Communist prison. This 1-minute devotion shares Father Placid's "curriculum for survival."

Bible Love Notes


  1. Hi Gail, I want to thank you for writing these devotions. They have been so helpful to me since I have discovered them in 2015. Quick question for you - was a book ever written on Father Placid's story? I would love to read more if there is anything out there. His story is an encouragement. Best, Jess M. Houston, TX

    1. Hi Jess.
      Yes, there is a book, but I'm sorry to say it is written in Hungarian, not in English. Like you, I would love to read it but I can't.

  2. Wait is he not a catholic priest? How can he be a born again? We are not one...I thought you and I share the same faith...he's life is not according to the scriptures..

    1. I am a Bible-believing Protestant and I believe we are saved by making Christ our Lord and Savior. I believe the Bible is God's inerrant Word.

      I do not agree with many aspects of the Catholic doctrine, but I believe some Catholics have made Christ their Lord and Savior. I personally spoke with Father Placid before he passed away, and I believe he is a true believer. Not only did he suffer for his faith, all that he explained to me was in keeping with sound doctrine.

      Could I be wrong about his salvation? I could. In the same way, I could be wrong about the salvation of a Protestant. We cannot know a person's heart we can only examine their words and their behavior.

      Catholic faith has some errors in their doctrine for sure. But Catholicism teaches the basic elements of biblical Christianity: the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the necessity of Christ's death to save us from our sins, our need to repent, the inerrancy of Scripture, etc.

      This is very different from cults like the LDS church (Mormon) or the Jehovah Witness church which teach that the Bible is corrupted, Christ is not God, and/or they have extra knowledge that is not included in Scripture.

      The Catholic doctrine has errors. But does that mean that every Catholic embraces these errors? Does it mean that Catholics cannot be saved if they believe the basic doctrines of true faith but also believe some errors?

      Protestant churches don't agree in some major areas. Calvinist denominations believe God chooses beforehand who will be saved and who will go to Hell. Non-Calvinist denominations believe each man and woman makes a decision to follow or reject Christ.

      They both cannot be right. Does this mean that one of these groups will go to Hell even if they make Christ their Lord and Savior because they didn't believe the right doctrine about sovereignty and free will?

      I imagine we all have some beliefs that are not completely correct, but God will look at our hearts and determine who belongs to Him.

      I'm not familiar with all of the errors in the Catholic faith, but if any of them deny the Trinity or the deity of Christ or the Bible as God's Word, then they are wrong and if a person embraces those lies, they are not a believer.

      If you believe there are errors in Catholic doctrine, I agree with you. If you believe that only those who make Christ their Lord, Savior, and God can be saved, I agree with you. If you believe that no Catholic can be saved, I don't agree with you.

    2. Wonderful response. I, too, and protestant and have long had an issue with people thinking all Catholics are unsaved and love the way you addressed this.

  3. Wow. That is the most succinct assessment I have seen in print-ever. Thank you for the truth.

  4. I am finding, that people who truly suffered much, have the most joy, a heart of gratefulness, forgiveness and genuine love! No boundaries needed, or entitlements expected......they love God and their fellow man. This is such an inspiration to me who has not endured much, in comparison.