Josef Korbel was imprisoned for ten years, often in solitary confinement. He was interrogated and tortured and half-starved for most of the time.
After his arrest, Josef’s wife, Erna, used her skills as a nurse to support herself and her children, although often under the harassment of the communist authorities. In Brno she met an elderly woman, Mrs. Krejci, a widow who lived with her son who had a key position in a bank. Not being a communist, the son lost his job and endeavored to escape from the country only to be arrested and thrown into prison. The old lady had heard about the torture meted out to prisoners and also the inhumanity of many prisoners toward their fellow inmates. “If only they would put him in a cell with a decent man!” cried the old lady.
One evening, in the dead of the night, Josef’s cell door was flung open and four guards pushed in a man. The newcomer standing unsteadily near the cell door was well dressed with a fur coat gaping open and a white shirt drenched with blood.
Josef lay the fellow down and taking a piece of wet rag pressed it gently to his battered face. In the morning Josef learned of the man’s attempt to leave the country and of his arrest, then shared something of his own experience, saying,
“My crime was my religious activity and preaching the Word of God. I was a Salvation Army officer in Brno.”
The man lifted his head. “In Brno? In The Salvation Army? I am from Brno and I know a nurse there who attended my sick mother. This nurse also used to be in The Salvation Army before the organization was liquidated. She was a lovely and tender woman and my mother loved her.”
Josef was intrigued. “Do you remember her name?” he asked. “Yes,” the man replied, “It was Mrs. Korbel.” “Then that was my wife,” said Josef!
He hadn’t known what had happened to Erna or his children after his arrest. Was she also in prison? Was she undergoing torture? He feared the worst even while he hoped for the best. Now he had news that she was still able to use her nursing skill and bring comfort to those in need.
There would have been thousands of inmates in prisons for political or other offenses. Humanly speaking, the chances of Krejci and Korbel being placed in the same cell would have been remote. But God was at work even in the midst of evil. While Erna was ministering to the mother, her husband was giving practical and spiritual assistance to the son. By the grace of God they both survived to tell their tale of answered prayer.
Wesley Harris, Truth Stranger Than Fiction