When are You Really Free?
The price of freedom.
It was a clear, cold night as they laid there in the snow staring up at the sky waiting for the red flares to fade away. There are two barbed wire fences with holes cut out large enough to carefully crawl through. The fences are separated by a quarter of a mile of empty field where tanks and soldiers patrol the borders.
The Hungarian revolution has taken its toll, the streets rumbled as the Russian tanks rolled through, the bullets rang out like the sound of fireworks, and the smell of death filled the air.
The young couple with a small child had to make a life altering decision, staying in the country would mean being separated, the woman as maids for the Russian army, the men as soldiers, the children in orphanages. Communism would steal the little freedom they had, or the alternative being even harder, to leave their friends, their family, everything familiar, and risk their lives trying to escape and forever labeled ‘refugees‘.
The Red Cross volunteer collected all the valuables in return for the two day trip, through the forest, to reach the border. He said a little prayer and wished them well, and left them with instructions to wait for the right moment, until the soldiers passed, to crawl through the hole in the fence, to the other side. The children had been drugged with sleeping pills and poppy tea to keep them quiet, but that had now worn off, and the time had come to leave their country.
After what seemed like hours, the moment was here. They crawled, quietly, from one bail of hay to another, when suddenly a soldier with a machine gun appeared out of nowhere, their fate in his hand. The life drained out of them and fear had made a strong man’s knees weak. The soldier bends down, and began speaking in their language, he said that he was a part of the underground, and there is only two minutes before the next flair. “Run”he said,“ quietly run, toward that faint light on the other side of the fence and they did.
Tired, scared, cold and wet, they finally reached the dim light on the barn. Waiting for them were two old people with chocolate for the kids, and coffee for the adults. As they sat on a bail of hay, I heard my father say “we’re free”.
50 year later.
America, ‘the land of the free, the home of the brave‘, was everything they had ever heard or read. They had the freedom to pursue and become anything and everything they wanted. There were many times they cried because they were alone, the language barrier proved difficult, and the laws were foreign, but they were determined to make it. They worked hard, paid taxes, bought a home, put their children through school and gave back to their community. All their struggles had paid off, and in their retirement, they begin to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Now it’s 2009, and again, he cries as he watches the news and reads the paper. He had loved this country, always proud to display the flag, thanked God every day for the opportunities and the freedom, and now he sees all this vanishing away with one election. His heart breaks for his children, as he wonders how long before their freedom vanishes. She hugs him, as she always did, and whispers in his ear, “today, we’re still free”.