BRACEBRIDGE - In a modern world Europeans are still fleeing to North America for religious freedom.
Romanian escapees tell of their flight to freedom.
CELEBRATING FREEDOM. Simon and Steven Ivascu shared their music and a near-death story of religious persecution, faith, and finally freedom with a captivated audience at the Pinegrove Fellowship Baptist Church in Bracebridge Thursday evening. (Photo by Jennifer Bowman)
Simon Ivascu and Wesley Pop fled communist Romania in 1997 because of religious persecution. They escaped to Italy where they were eventually kicked out, finally ending up on a ship — to where, they didn’t know.
After leaving Italy, the most difficult part of their journey began, travelling in the hull of a ship with containers of tiles, lacking oxygen, food and water. Two days after running out of water they began hammering at the hatch of the hull, trying to get someone’s attention so they could get out.
After 14 days, they were so weak they prepared to die.
Ivascu, one of the Freedom Singers, told their story accompanied by songs that helped the two friends through the ordeal in a 90-minute performance at Pinegrove Fellowship Baptist Church in Bracebridge on Thursday night. More than 150 people joined the Freedom Singers in singing the old favourites, leaving with a standing ovation and many book and CD sales.
Ivascu said at what he thought would be his last moments, he looked at a spider-webbed hatch that had been sealed for 25 years and saw light there, the first light they had seen on the journey. They were saved by a Croatian crew member.
After three more days on the ship, they landed in Montreal.
Ivascu, Pop and Ivascu’s brother Steven, who escaped Romania before he did, now have full-time jobs in Kelowna, B.C. as tile setters.
They are also trying to work with those still in Romania, and go back to visit the rest of their family when they can. They have told their story and performed gospel throughout North America, sharing the stage with the Gaithers, the Booth Brothers, Legacy 5, Triumphant Quartet, Great Vision and others.
The Ivascus have been on Dragon’s Den for a book they wrote on their experiences. It was highly regarded by two publishers who offered royalties on every book and promised to get their book out to North America, if they would only take out all references to God. They turned it down and are now selling the books when they go on tour.
“If we take God from our lives, what do we have left?” he said.