"We gathered and we prayed. There were people of different confessions. We started to eat some simple food that we had at that moment, and the guards arrived and took all of us to the penal isolation cell for 15 days," he continued.
"That was the time when in Europe Christian peace marches were very popular, and the Soviet Union supported these Christian peace marches because they stood for disarmament etc. It was useful for the Soviet propaganda."
"The Soviet Union supported Christian movements in Europe, on one hand, and punished Christians for just celebrating Easter on the other hand. We had to inform the world about that."
The prisoners decided to write a letter to the pope.
When the news that Wojtyła had been elected reached the gulag, there was "total enthusiasm in the labor camp," explained Marynovych.
"We all understood that as a Polish citizen, he knew the nature of communism from within, not as some Italian bishops and cardinals from outside. They knew communism as a grassroots activity of Italian communists, but he knew communist crimes from within."
Marynovych was the man selected by the prisoners to pen the letter.
"We described the situation and asked John Paul II to make this moment known for Christians in the world – that we were punished simply for celebrating Easter. We shared the text of this letter later when we were released from this punishment cell, and the text was agreed upon by the other prisoners."
"We smuggled this letter secretly to Moscow, and then from Moscow to Rome."
"After several months, we received a secret information from our relatives that John Paul II had received this letter and prayed a Mass for the signatories of this letter, including me."
"There was a storm of positive emotion, and gratitude to John Paul II for that because this support was very important for us."
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
"It was suggested that the election of John Paul II as pope was the end of communism. And actually it happened during his papacy. The Soviet Union fell."
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Marynovych had a chance to meet the pope and thank him personally, more than 10 years after he had written the letter.
"Of course, I was deprived of many joys of life – just imagine, I was arrested when I was 28 and released at 38. And yet, I am an illustration of the very important truth: God never takes anything away from a human being without compensating him or her even more abundantly. That's why I have never considered my imprisonment as a curse," Marynovych said in this remarks at the Napa Institute conference July 14.
"Yes, the Soviet regime did want to make my life hell. However, it was God who transformed the camp experience into a blessing."
This article was originally published on CNA July 29, 2018.