What happened in a Bulgarian Jail
“I was in jail and you visited me,” an Aussie thanks local Christians
Jock Palfreeman, a young Australian is in a Bulgarian jail – and news headlines – for tragic reasons: In the early hours of 28 December 2007, 21-year-old Palfreeman was involved in an incident during which Bulgarian student Andrei Monov was fatally stabbed.
Currently, there is a dispute before the Bulgarian courts about whether Palfreeman should be granted parole after 12 years in jail.
“Thank you to your church … that you helped me to overcome this period of hatred and anger.” – Jock Palfreeman
But there’s one aspect of the story that has not been covered in the many reports of this case. Palfreeman has been supported in jail by a local church – and Eternity has a video of him thanking them for being the only ones who visited him.
Here is an “informal translation” of what the Australian prisoner said in the video. Eternity does not know if Jock Palfreeman has become a Christian – perhaps a reader can help; we only have the first part of the video translated – but it is clear he heard the gospel while in jail.
“There was no anything to do in Sofia Jail in the beginning, when I entered there. There was no any sport activity, there was not even any opportunity to study Bulgarian language or any other activity.”
“The only comfort I have got there, was to communicate with Pastor Ivodor. He saved me in many ways at that time … The greatest thing was that I communicated with someone, who didn’t judge me. In the environment of hatred and judging from the Bulgarian media’s side and all the rest of the people, Pastor Ivodor was like a spiritual light and peace.
“Like a peace in all the madness around.
“We had classes with him every Tuesday for a couple of hours. I was punished not to have minutes to call from my phone. I had a friend, Allie Deni. He had free minutes and we were talking every night with him. We were discussing the Bible and other things. Other people around me didn’t speak English, I couldn’t speak Bulgarian back then.
“There is no improvement in the Sofia Jail, except the work of Pastor Ivodor.
“The feeling was like you were in the universe and you are trying to call to Earth and call for help, but the Earth didn’t answer.
“And the Alpha class was something nice and peaceful into an environment of madness. It is like your boat is in the storm.
“… Please, do not cancel this prisoners’ class support with Pastor Ivodor. Personally me, it was hard to me to overcome my anger and hatred, because of others aggression and hatred attacks, for example – the Jail officers.
“Thank you to your church and Pastor Ivodor, that you helped me to overcome this period of hatred and anger, provoked by others. The Lord’s Prayer was for me like an anchor to keep me on my true place. I also believe in the good acts towards others – to help others every day. And it is like Jesus Christ said to St. Peter to put his knife down, because he didn’t understand the purpose of the faith.
“On the question: ‘God turns every evil into something good. Have you succeeded to see the good in this long term of 12 years stay in jail?’ It is a very good question. We are so smashed in jail, staying in one cell, we started to feel this feeling of brotherhood. There is a lot of pessimism in Bulgaria – the feeling, that there is no sense in doing something good, because this will not improve the situation. To help somebody in jail, you have to risk a lot.
“People focus too much to the bad things, not so much to the good things.”
“I think, like Jesus Christ was teaching, that it is good to help to each other.” – Jock Palfreeman
“So, I made a list of the good acts to everybody, who did a good thing. And when we gathered to share things, I was reading some of the good acts to my teammates. I was sent to Afghanistan with the British army. My father came and told me, that my squad gave the biggest number of casualties, not only dead people, but also badly hurt. So my father believed, that there was something good, that I stayed in jail instead of going with my squad to Afghanistan and eventually die or being injured.
“I think, it is also very good, that instead of going to parties like friends my age, I improved myself. I think, like Jesus Christ was teaching, that it is good to help to each other. Not to look for our fun going to parties.
“For these 12 years in jail, I learned how nice is to have the opportunity to help other people, to serve them. There are a lot of problems in the Bulgarian jail. There is a need of a lot of help and improvement. Prisoner’s family and friends can see them for 40 minutes only. The prisoner loses his sense or reality and closeness with the outside world.
“The guards and officers treat the prisoner’s family members like criminals. The prisoner’s family or friends should wait for three hours in order to enter and to meet them for just 40 minutes with a glass and a net between them.
“My grandmother came from Australia, walking with a cane to see me and she had the right to see me for only 40 minutes with a glass and a net between us!
“Some prisoners leave jail more embittered than they entered there. Most of the prisoners leave jail without money and their own home. Most of the prisoner’s wives leave them during their first six months in jail. They can’t stand the stress.”
“There were a lot of temptations to become worse, to become like them, but I succeeded to keep my values. I didn’t give up. I didn’t want to go out and someone to be upset to me, that I betrayed him or took something from him. I wanted to live my jail sentence with some dignity.
“It is so much harder to love your enemy here.” – Jock Palfreeman
“There was one story … I went to one of the jail bosses. He asked me: ‘Jock, do you want to correct yourself?’ I answered him: ‘No, I don’t.’ Everybody around the jail boss started to shout: ‘Look at him, why he doesn’t want to correct himself.’
The Jail Boss asked me: ‘Why don’t you want to correct yourself?”’I said: ‘Because if I have to correct myself by your level, this means that I would have to go down from my level and I don’t want that.’
“To be nice and good in a nice country is easy – for example: in Germany, Australia, Western Europe. It is easy to be nice there, because people are almost on the same level. But it is hard to be good in Bulgaria.
“That’s why I am more grateful to the people, who supported me here through these years; they are almost like saints, because it is so much harder to be a good person here than in the Western countries. It is so much harder to love your enemy here.
“That’s why I want to thank to Pastor Ivodor and to others who helped me. Some young ladies said that Pastor Ivodor was very worried about Jock, especially during his last days in jail.”
Ivodor added that Palfreeman’s story will be useful for many other people. He explained that the Australian repented during his stay in [detention centre] Busmantsi – but he didn’t want to repent in public, because it would appear hypocritical. According to Ivodor, Palfreeman believed he would look like some politicians who display some charity in front of others, for public appearance.
He and Ivodor agreed that repentance is an intimate act of an individual in front of God, not in front of the society.
“The repentance doesn’t have anything common with the worldly laws.” – Jock Palfreeman
As Palfreeman explained in the video about repentance: “All the people, who blamed me, that I didn’t repent, used their worlds like a propaganda for their own purposes.”
“They are not real Christians. I was shocked, when they said in the Bulgarian talk show Faith and Society that I didn’t show any repentance, at the time I went out from jail. I was taught not to close in myself because of my flaws or sins, but to repent and to go on. The repentance means to improve ourselves and to become better people.
“The repentance for these people is to be punished all my life.
“One of my friends gave me advice that during one of my interviews I should show how much I repented and how much I felt sorry for my acts, that I stayed in jail. I said: ‘The repentance is between me and God.’ The repentance doesn’t have anything common with the worldly laws.”