Pastor Mike was the pastor who welcomed me into his church family when I went to Belarus. He was an incredible man of faith, and I was asked to share his story with my congregation here, as a way to help my church understand the church in Belarus. While I was writing his story, he passed on to the next life after a massive heart attack. This is his story.
Michael Kazimirov was born in the Soviet Union near Bryansk, a small village nestled up to a dense and beautiful wood. Growing up, he busied himself with helping his family, as was the custom of children there. It was a physically demanding existence, but Michael was a strong boy. He took a keen interest in gymnastics, especially the horizontal bar, and soccer. He was a natural athlete and excelled.
At 16, he left home to go to Riga for school. It was here that he studied seamanship and joined the military, but it was his athletic prowess that won him initial recognition. Michael turned his athletic interests to boxing, and his strength and fearlessness led to many bouts…and many victories. Michael was relentless in his pursuit of excellence, and he finally reached the pinnacle of his boxing career when he was crowned Champion of the Baltic for his weight class.
Similarly, his military career was taking off; the incredible drive that made him successful at boxing also led to advances in his job. He was promoted to the highest level of the Spetsnaz, the Soviet Special Forces which are the equivalent of Soviet commandos. Their training is incredibly harsh, and the demands placed on Spetsnaz commandos are among the most rigorous in the world. In short, they are the elite fighting force of the Soviet Army, and Michael had risen through their ranks.
He was given the toughest missions and traveled throughout the region, meeting and exceeding the requirements of the most demanding assignments. Michael Kazimirov had it all: a solid career, renown, respect. But as is so often the case, something seemed…wrong. It occasionally nagged at him, creeping into the backdoor of his consciousness and gnawing at the edges of his mind and his…what was it? Michael tried to brush it aside, to shoe it out like a rodent and then plug up the hole. It was his nature to increase his efforts at work and his boxing, convinced that sweat, effort and focus would keep whatever that gnawing thing was at bay. Boxing and work, work and boxing, boxing and work: surely that was the solution! But, it always found a way back in, quiet as a church mouse.