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Placid Olofsson, the Hungarian “Monk of the Gulag,” has Passed Away at 100

Tom Szigeti 2017.01.16.

Placid Olofsson, the Benedictine monk who was imprisoned in a Soviet Gulag from 1946 to 1955, passed away yesterday evening.

Father Placid was born Károly Olofsson in December 1916, in Rákosszentmihály, which today is part of Budapest.

After completing high school at the age of 16, Károly entered the Benedictine Monastic Order, taking the name Placid. Following his entry into monastic life Father Placid continued his studies, earning a doctorate in German in 1939.

During the Second World War Father Placid served as a military chaplain; at one point, while serving at the Komarom military hospital, he was demoted for defending enlisted men against the unacceptable behavior of their officers in his sermons.

In 1945 he was named order superior at a Budapest High School, and later as named as church advisor to the Sisters of Social Service, before being called back to the archabbey of Pannonhalma.

Following the war, Father Placid was arrested in 1946 by the much-feared Hungarian secret police, the ÁVH. He was held by the ÁVH for some time, who attempted to force him into signing confessions for some crime or other. When this failed, he was transferred to Soviet interrogators; ultimately, in the spring of 1946, Father Placid was sentenced to 10 years in a Gulag on completely unsubstantiated ‘terrorism’ charges.

Father Placid would spend the next nine years under awful conditions in an internment camp 900 kilometers east of Moscow. He was allowed to return to Hungary in 1955, but was not allowed to work as either a priest nor as a teacher. For years, Father Placid was forced to perform his priestly duties in secret.

Father Placid is often quoted for the four rules of surviving the Gulag that he and his fellow prisoners devised:

“Let us not dramatize suffering, because that will only make us weaker.”

“Take notice of life’s small joys.”

“Don’t think that you are different than others, but in certain situations show that this is the case.”

“Hold onto God, because with his help we can survive any earthly hell.”

In a book published on his 100th birthday, Father Placid described his life in the following terms:

“I am aware of the fact that I am a simple man of average abilities, I have no special physical or mental skills. But life always demanded more from me than I was capable of; God always stood next to me, and more than once helped me in miraculous ways.”

Following the end of communism, Father Placid was showered with awards. In 1993 he received the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary; in 2003 he received the Parma fidei—Shield of Faith award, granted annually to religious figures who remained true to their faith during the era of Communist dictatorship; in 2005 he received the Hungarian Heritage Award, and in 2006 the Pro Ecclesia Hungariae Award. In 2010 he received the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary, while on October 23rd of this past year Father Placid was granted the Hungarian Order of Honor, one of only four people to receive such an honor.

According to his wishes, Father Placid will be buried at the Benedictine Archabbey of Pannonhalma.

Via MTI, Magyar Nemzet, and Magyar Idők

Image via MTI