Sid Roth - I Said God You Exist and Then God Responded
This Ukrainian Jewish atheist says God came to him. He said to God, "You don't exist"! And then a supernatural hand literally touched him. Next on this edition of "It's Supernatural"!
Sid Roth: Hello. I'm Sid Roth your investigative reporter, and I'm here with a former star of the Moscow Circus, a national gymnast champion. He was born in Odessa, Ukraine; Igor Ashkinazi. Now Igor, what was it like when you were raised in Odessa as a Jew? Was there any discrimination?
Igor Ashkinazi: Naturally. I was born in Ukraine; Odessa, Ukraine. And in Ukraine there was a lot of persecution and animosity towards Jewish people, especially in Odessa where there was a greater Jewish population.
Sid Roth: Now I'm told that every other person in Odessa has Jewish blood. Is that true?
Igor Ashkinazi: I don't know,. It seemed it was a lot; it seemed like a small amount of us and a whole lot more of them.
Sid Roth: How did you become a champion gymnast?
Igor Ashkinazi: Well I simply, at one point in my life, enrolled into what is natural for the Soviet boy to do; just gymnastics. Actually it's acrobatic, or it is called in the United States acro-gymnastics.
Sid Roth: Were your parents athletes?
Igor Ashkinazi: My parents, both doctors. My father is a doctor; radiologist. My mother is a dentist. So naturally they did not like that, especially what is a Jewish boy doing in this sport.
Sid Roth: Especially when you wound up in the circus.
Igor Ashkinazi: Eventually, yes. Eventually I actually was invited to Moscow Circus, but I started out just trying - just for my physical improvement - and it just, I was just very good at it. And I was just good at this, and I began to grow in the sport, and eventually went from Odessa to Volgograd, where I finished at University of Physical Culture and Sport, where during my university years I progressed tremendously in the sport, and I became a national champion among the schools of highest athletic achievements. I was a master of sport of the entire Soviet Union.
Sid Roth: Why did you want to leave?
Igor Ashkinazi: Well after I became a national, a member of the national Soviet team Moscow Circus, and finished Soviet Army, Moscow Circus invited me, which I was very happy. I was really happy to go to be with Moscow Circus. It was a tremendous experience for me. We traveled; but not that long after I became a part of Moscow Circus, one of - acrobats work in partners. If you see, three or four people are working, throwing each other in the air and catching. One of my partners called me a "dirty Jew", and that hurts. I heard that name before from a very young age. When I was first maybe four years old, little boys called me Jewish in a nasty way, and that's how I discovered I was Jewish. I asked my parents.
Sid Roth: So you didn't - you weren't raised with the Jewish holidays or bar mitzvah; things like that?
Igor Ashkinazi: No. We had Passover at our home, kept very quietly among ourselves, and not much ever talk about God at all. So I was not - I was born into an atheistic home, even though my grandfather, excuse me, my great-grandfather was a rabbi in the Czar's Russia.
Sid Roth: So your partner, your close partner, calls you a "dirty Jew".
Igor Ashkinazi: He called me while we were worked in Bulgaria. We worked in Bulgaria; it was 1972. Everything was going very good for me; I mean, fantastic. I traveled; I did what I do best, and the applause - there was a number, one of the best numbers in the Moscow Circus that I was part of. I was making a lot of money at that time. And suddenly such a fiasco. He just - he got drunk and began to call me "dirty Jew", "You're a Jewish pig", "You're a dirty Jew", over and over again. Later on, he did apologize, but at that moment when he said it, actually I started to fight, as I often would do that. I would fight for my nationality. I had a fight with him, and as we fought, suddenly something struck me. And again, it was a supernatural experience. I think - I felt strongly that, "What am I doing in this country? I have to leave. Yes, I am a Jew".
Sid Roth: Was it easy for you to leave the country?
Igor Ashkinazi: It was - well my struggle began at that point. Up until this point everything was...
Sid Roth: Smooth.
Igor Ashkinazi: Smooth, but my struggle began at that point, so I immediately came back. When we came back to Russia, we were in Bulgaria working at that time, and I felt that that - "What am I doing in Russia? I have to leave", and I stopped fighting. And kind of a peace came upon me. I just knew that what I have to do; I have to leave the Soviet Union; I have to leave Russia. And at that time, Jewish people were leaving; just began to leave Soviet Union, so I left. I went back to Odessa - to Moscow - resigned from Moscow Circus, like did, one-two-three. Came back, resigned; came back to my city of Odessa, and asked through my relatives to give me - to send to me an invitation to come to Israel, because at that point we could not go to America; we had to go to Israel.
Sid Roth: Now the KGB was very active at that point. Did they give you any problems?
Igor Ashkinazi: We had - immediately I was not able to get any job at all.
Sid Roth: But you're a champion. You're - how come?
Igor Ashkinazi: Well they think very little of anyone that thought at that point - anyone who wanted to leave the Soviet Union. I was considered to be an enemy of state. I was looked down upon. My mother had to - also my mother had to quit her work. My father died by that time. And my - we just didn't have any means to survive really. Only from the money that was saved and some things we - my grandparents helped. And so we lived like that without any work, hoping that we would leave, but never knew whether we actually would leave. Every week we had to appear at the KGB offices and report that we are here, we have committed no crime, that we have - I don't know what else. I don't remember exactly what we had to report outside of this fact.
Sid Roth: Was it a humiliating thing for you?
Igor Ashkinazi: It was tremendously humiliating for me and my family. There were a line of Jewish people standing. We had to get in line 4:00 in the morning in order to appear before, hoping that at that time they would give us the permission to go. So Jewish people from everywhere were just standing by that door during the night, cold weather, hot weather, whatever.
Sid Roth: Igor, hold that thought. We'll be back in just a moment, and you're going to find out how he comes to America, can't speak a word of English, and the success that he finds. Be right back.
Sid Roth: Hello. I'm Sid Roth your investigative reporter with Igor Ashkinazi. Igor, Ukrainian Jew, comes to America, the land of opportunity. He felt something told him to get out of Russia and come; just to leave. And he came to America, and he doesn't speak a word of English, and you can imagine how hard it was. He ends up in New Orleans. And then he becomes so successful. So how does an immigrant that doesn't even speak the language become so successful, Igor?
Igor Ashkinazi: I guess, again, I have to give credit to God at this point. But at the moment when I arrived to United States and couldn't find a job here, and the Jewish Community Center has invited me to be a gymnastic instructor in the Jewish Community Center, in New Orleans. I come in there. I am on a very base salary; I think after taxes was about $460. I came with all my "mishpochah". I came with my mother, my grandmother and grandfather; we all came there. And I started work; I started to work like that. But in one year working there, a lot of children gathered around me and wanted me, and wanted more of my teaching of gymnastics. Just that time, Olga Korbut came into America.
Sid Roth: Sure. America's darling.
Igor Ashkinazi: There you go. And everybody suddenly liked gymnastics or that type of activity. And I was also very good. I knew it very well, the sport, and I liked children, and I began to work with them. And actually I have - I started my own business by simply writing letters, maybe 500 letters, to different people to come to my own school, which I would open in the evening, in the regular - at the gymnasium of a regular school.
Sid Roth: You actually trained some of our Olympic people.
Igor Ashkinazi: No, not Olympic, but national champions.
Sid Roth: You trained them.
Igor Ashkinazi: And the world champions.
Sid Roth: So you're doing so well. You have one of the most successful businesses there. You started with nothing. So why did you start going to cocaine and drugs?
Igor Ashkinazi: Well, there you go. See, I began - I started with nothing, and started to build my business. I would - my team became national champions of the United States. Myself, I put myself back into working out and performing, because all this time I had to quit, and I was forbidden to work in Russia. By the time I got myself situated here in the United States I was out of shape, so I put myself back and won national championship again - again, four times in a row, and my team became the number one in the United States. My school swelled up. I had three schools at that time, 500 people at one school, couple hundred people at the other school.
Sid Roth: But why the drugs?
Igor Ashkinazi: And so having that much, I began to make a lot of money, and I tried everything in life at this point. I was single. I had nothing but cash; no property, nothing. My business was doing very well. Eventually the old network shows began to perform on national television - Johnny Carson, Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, Saturday Night Live. You name it; all of them. I would perform on all of them. Rolling Stones asked me to be an opening number for them. So I realized I was very good and I have achieved everything; just about everything I wanted to achieve, but something was not satisfying. I was still looking for something, and I was wondering "Why? I'm leaving communism; now I live in capitalism. I was poor, I was famous; I was unfamous, I was rich". At least by my understanding I was rich, and by my family understanding, but I had - I was not fulfilled". I was - my heart was not fulfilled, and I was looking for something else. And I thought, "You've tried everything in your life; what have you not tried yet"? And I thought for awhile, "I always smoked, I always drank, but I've never tried drugs". And I thought, "There you go. I've never tried drugs. In fact, my friend said to me, "Igor, you know, you've never tried drugs. Why don't you try one time"? I said, "Sure, why not", and I tried. I tried a simple marijuana, which led me eventually to all kinds of drugs. Almost instantly I liked it, and went into speed and cocaine until I became addicted.
Sid Roth: So were you fulfilled as an addict?
Igor Ashkinazi: That’s - at the beginning I thought that that was the missing link, and - but very quickly, when I was caught in this, I couldn't quit. And the moment - I could always quit drinking easily, and had the power within me; I knew that. Quit drinking on a social level, which I drank, but this time I tried to quit one time, just for fun; "Let me try try to quit", and I quit, maybe for one day. And I could not sleep. I was - depression hit me like a ton of bricks, and it scared me tremendously. And at that point, I didn't know what else to do but to get more drugs, so I wouldn't get to this down point. But it led me to a fact that I couldn't work any more because my job was dangerous. We're talking about acrobats, gymnastics throwing in the air - people - and also the spotting other gymnasts, other acrobatic gymnasts.
Sid Roth: It was life-threatening.
Igor Ashkinazi: It was life-threatening, and I decided to actually leave New Orleans quietly, and to leave my business to my assistant and go to California, Los Angeles, and maybe make something of myself there, where I would be away from all that New Orleans.
Sid Roth: But drugs are insidious; they really are. And he found that he was a prisoner. We'll be back in just a moment, with the most exciting supernatural rescue you've ever seen. Don't go away.
Sid Roth: Hello. I'm Sid Roth your investigative reporter here, with Igor Ashkinazi. And oh, this is such an amazing thing. He got into heroin. We'll go right back to him. But before we do, let's go to Janie in the control room and find out who our guest is next week. Janie?
Janie DuVall: Sid, you'll be interviewing a woman who had third stage ovarian cancer. Her stomach was filled with tumors and she only had a few months to live. But then she knew that there was a certain key that she had to do in order to be healed.
Sid Roth: What's the key?
Janie DuVall: The key was that she had to forgive her son-in-law. And she had a miracle happen.
Sid Roth: That sounds so simple, Janie.
Janie DuVall: It is simple, but people, when we don't forgive people, then it's even a known fact that people get sick with all kinds of diseases. So she had to forgive.
Sid Roth: I can't wait for that show. I'm here with Igor Ashkinazi. And Igor, you have everything. You're now a drug addict. You know you are. You can't stop. You say "Maybe I'll change the scenery". You go to California, and one night you turn on television and there's an evangelist, Jimmy Swaggart; and what did he say?
Igor Ashkinazi: What happened was I was just - I was - in order for me to go - I couldn't go to sleep. I couldn't calm down, so I drank a whole bottle of vodka just to calm down. Of course, I wasn't drunk because when you're high on drugs you don't get drunk. You just get - I got sick because I already was high. And so I sat in my bed, and I was tremendously sick. And I decided "Let me get my mind off this thing. Maybe that will help", because I knew I couldn't call the hospital. I was afraid because I was on drugs. So I turned on television, and I'm sitting in bed, and suddenly I see a finger right out of this darkness appears on television, and the face of a man crying, "You are in bed, drunk and sick". That was me.
Sid Roth: Did you realize he was talking to you?
Igor Ashkinazi: I thought he was talking to me, exactly, but I couldn't understand how could he; it was so real to me at this moment. It was like scoring my heart; hit me right into my heart. Of course, I didn't - I would never watch that type of show otherwise, and I didn't even know it was a Christian show. If I would know it was a Christian show, I would probably switch immediately. But again, he exactly pinpointed where I was, and then he says, "And nobody can help you," He said. "Your friends can't help you. They are just like you. Your parents cannot help you. You're afraid to tell them about it", and it was exactly where I was. "The hospital cannot help you. Otherwise, you wouldn't have this problem". And I said, "That's right". "And you cannot help yourself because you are trying surely hard, but cannot. But I know someone who can". And I said, "Who? Who could that be"? Believe it or not, I took a pen out of my pocket and I thought, "Who? What is his name"? And I was just sitting there and waiting for the name. I don't remember what he said, but all throughout his speech, he was crying and saying something about Israel. And I was waiting; when is he going to give me the name? He didn't say it, but at the end, he said, "Look, repeat after me", and that's all I remember, and I said, "Okay, I will repeat". And I repeated after him. It was the sinner's prayer. I didn't even know there was a sinner's prayer. I just repeated after him; whatever he said I repeated. And at the end he said, "In Jesus' name", and I said, "In Jesus' name". And then suddenly tears start coming from my ears, from my eyes; I’m sorry. And I was glad nobody was around because I never cried up until this point. And I quickly forgot about this whole experience. Nothing has changed for four months. Nothing; absolutely nothing. Just like, I even forgot it happened.
Sid Roth: So you look for a little fun in Las Vegas. You're with a friend, and I guess it's at night. What happened?
Igor Ashkinazi: Right. We go to Vegas to gamble, and 4:00 in the morning, I'm extremely disappointed with my life, extremely - to what my life has become. I lie down in bed and I just, in my heart, I just so distressed. And I said, "I need help. I need help. What have I done with my life? Where do I go? Do I go back to that depression from drugs? I ran away from the emptiness, I ran away from the emptiness to drugs; now I'm in depression. What is to life? What is to life? Period"? And at that moment, it was dark; 4:00 in the morning. I remember that day; it was in July. It was 31st of July, 1st of August; night. It was so - it was very dark. And suddenly out of darkness, I hear the voice, "Igor". Well at first of course I thought I cracked up.
Sid Roth: Had you ever heard a voice like that before?
Igor Ashkinazi: I never heard - I didn't hear - I don't hear voices, and I never had heard a voice. Well anyway, He said, "You just call upon me". And I say, "What is going on? Who am I hearing? Who is it"? I began to wrestle in my mind. And He says, "I am your God". Oh my. Oh my God, I'm thinking I cracked up. That's it. That's how it feels when you, I mean, just the voice; God doesn't exist, and I actually said to him, "But you don't exist".
Sid Roth: You said that?
Igor Ashkinazi: I said verbally.
Sid Roth: To God, you don't exist?
Igor Ashkinazi: Can you imagine that? How blind sometimes we can be. And I say to Him, "You do not exist". And He said to me, "But what are you going to with me? I am". That was a shocker. And when He said that, it impacted me. And I actually realized I am talking to God. What am I going to do now? I am talking to God. It's not my mind. It's not my hallucination. I hear a voice, that I am talking to God, and it's overpowering me. It's from the outside and inside at the same time. And somehow I believed in my heart that He exists. At that moment He knew that I believed.
Sid Roth: You told me you were touched by a hand?
Igor Ashkinazi: He knew that I believed at that moment, and he said to me immediately, "I'm going to touch you right now, and you will never stop talking about Me". At that moment, the light broke through. It was dark; I only heard the voice out of darkness. The light, so brilliantly bright light I couldn't even look at it, with the golden streams. And the light began to descend upon me. Now I was afraid at this point and I wanted to run away, but my senses were overpowered and I couldn't move. Where I was there was darkness. Where light was there was light. It was not even light; it was like his presence. And I cannot tell until this day, I wanted to say a scarred hand came out and touched my shoulder. But it was either out of the light a hand came out to touch my shoulder or the light transformed.
Sid Roth: But that same light, that same Glory of God, is going to come on you right now in Jesus' name, because I believe you need Him as much as Igor needed Him. If you will, you see, right now you can feel His presence. It's coming on you so strong. This is God that's coming on you. It's not man; it's God. Why? Because He loves you. Say, "Jesus, forgive me of my sins. I want to know God for myself. There must be more. There is more".