Thursday, September 16, 2010

Does This Way of Life Appeal To You ?

September 12, 2010 Life under CommunismBy Charlotte

I am worried because too many people, especially our youth, don't even have a
clue as to what living under a totalitarian regime is like. Here is my story,
how I learned about the evils of government domination and became the patriotic
freedom-fighter that I am today.

I am a descendant of immigrants from Yugoslavia. They immigrated to the United
States around 1900. As a young child, I took it for granted that my grandmother
and mother spoke in a different language when they got together. I took it for
granted that we ate different food at Grandma's house such as potica, blood
sausage, sallata, and homemade noodles. It was when I was five years old that
something happened to make me painfully aware that something was, indeed, very
different about my family.

At that time, my mother disappeared for a while. I didn't really
understand where she was, but when she came back, she brought a stranger with
her, a stranger to live in our home. His name was France. He was my mom's
cousin, and he lived with us for about a year. He was very nice and a lot of
fun, but he was very nervous. He was nervous all the time. When we would go out
in the car he would constantly be looking around, smoking a cigarette, with
hands shaking, glancing continuously at the cars behind us or next to us. He
would say things like, "They are after me." "They have followed me here."
"They're going to get me."

There were other things peculiar about him, also. He ate fast,
and one day he filled up a table top with stacks of food and my brother took a
picture of it. France laughed and said he was going to send this picture to
Tito. "Who is Tito?" I wondered. "And why does France want him to know that he
has all this food?"

Then he started talking about his life in Yugoslavia. He said
his family used to live on a beautiful farm, but the government took it away
from them. He said the Communists controlled everyone and everything. They
couldn't even cut a tree down on their own property for firewood. He was afraid
to walk from the house to the barn for fear of being shot. You had to be careful
of everything you said because if you said something against the government, you
put your life at risk. France's brother, August, did speak out and was pushed in
front of a train and his legs were cut off. The Communists called it an
"accident." August survived and went to the hospital, where he was poisoned --
another "accident." We had a collie dog that I loved. One day I was hugging the
dog and France told me that people couldn't have dogs in Yugoslavia because they
couldn't afford them. He said people would stand around eating with both hands
up to their mouth for fear of dropping crumbs on the floor -- they couldn't
afford to drop any food because they didn't have enough to eat. He told me that
the Communists brainwashed the citizens with propaganda and changed the history
of their country. I couldn't believe it. "How could they get by with that?" I

He told me that leaving his country, his home, was very
difficult. I later learned that he had had a girlfriend in Yugoslavia, and when
he left with my mother, she fell on the ground, sobbing, "I know I'll never see
you again."

But here is the scariest thing he told me. "It is coming here,
Char," he said. "It is coming here." Needless to say, that terrified

At Grandma's house, there was a lot of talk about Yugoslavia,
but she didn't tell me all the horrors of living under Communism like France
did. All I heard was that they missed their farm and how beautiful it was, but
that the government owned it now. There was always a cloud of extreme sadness
around this subject. Also, Grandma and Freddie would send money to Yugoslavia
because the family that remained there had no money.

France had a sister named Mimi. When she was twenty-nine, she
left Yugoslavia. Here is her story:

"My parents and grandparents were farmers. They used a horse in
the fields. They lived in the same house. The roof on their home was made of
straw. It didn't leak, and animals and insects did not live in it. A man came to
fix the roof once every ten years. Inside the house there were two bedrooms, one
pantry, and one large living and cooking area.

"My mother was a happy person. She was sick in bed for ten years
with multiple sclerosis and died at age forty-five. My father was a happy man
and died of a heart attack. My grandmother was a tough lady, serious, and died
old. My grandfather drank. He went back and forth from the U.S. to Yugoslavia.
He would go to Yugoslavia, sell part of the farm, and go back to the U.S. He
died in the U.S. and died old. My brother, Carl, worked in the mines. He
developed a disease in the lungs where if they took it out he would die and if
they left it in he would die. My brother, August, was murdered by the
Communists, and Albina, my sister, stayed in Yugoslavia.

"Life under communism was very hard. Oh, how the people
suffered! On the farm in Ljubljana, my family got up at 4 AM and worked until 10
PM, and the government took everything. When I decided that I would leave, I
took my shoes to a shoemaker and asked him to cut a hole in the bottom (here I
put my American money that relatives had sent me), then the shoemaker covered
the hole with another sole. I did not want to be caught with money because then
people would know I was going to leave, and this would be very dangerous. This
was my idea to do this. I kept the shoes dirty and muddy. When I left Yugoslavia
I put what few possessions I had in a bag and left without saying goodbye to my
father. I did that because if the Communists asked him where I was, he could
honestly tell the truth and say he didn't know.

"I wore black as a disguise. People only wore black if there was
a death in their family and since our family had had no deaths, the guards in
Ljubljana would not suspect who I was. There were guards everywhere. From
Ljubljana I walked to Maribor. There I gave a farmer some money and he told me
which way to go to get out of the country. He told me which way through the
mountains, and then I had to go through a river. The first time I tried it, it
was too dangerous, so I came back. The second time I was successful. I went
through the mountains, through the river, changed my clothes, waited until the
changing of the guards at noon, and walked through."

We told her that must have taken a lot of courage. Wasn't she
scared? Did she ever think that she could be killed?

"No, I never thought of dying because I had no life where I was,
so how could anything be any worse?"

We asked her, Wasn't it hard to leave all her

"I had no possessions, just two outfits, so no, it was not

"When I crossed the border, I went to Graz. (I chose Austria
because it was quicker to get to America from there; in Italy, one had to wait
two to three years.) In Austria, I had to stay in a camp until I could get
permission to go to America. I was in a camp three months and did a lot of work.
I wrote to the neighbors of my family and told them that I was in Austria and
was flying to America. I told the people in the camp that I had left Yugoslavia
for a better life. As it ended up, I could not go to the U.S. because their
quota of immigrants was full, so I had to go to Montreal, Canada. Before I left
Austria I kept reminding the man that I had worked for to bring me my shoes,
that the ones I had were uncomfortable. Right before I left he brought me the
muddy, dirty shoes.

"When I opened my bank account in Canada the teller asked me,
'Where did you get this money' [because it was so flat and musty]? I told him
that someone gave it to me; I did not tell him that the money had been in my

Life, if you can call it that, under Communism was miserable --
so miserable, they would do anything to get out. Have you ever wondered why
immigrants from all over the world wanted to come to the United States? Do you
know why our country was once known as the melting pot?

The answer is that our country was originally founded on the
principle of individual rights. The Founding Fathers thought that each person
had inalienable rights. These were the right to life, the right to liberty, the
right to pursue one's own happiness, and the right to property (to earn and keep
what you work for). That meant that if a family owned a farm, they had a right
to keep what they worked for on that farm. They could criticize the government
and not live in fear of being shot at or being pushed in front of a train. It
meant that they could live the way they wanted without government interference,
could freely trade with each other and make money. They could decide how they
wanted to live and could live that way as long as they respected the rights of

The amazing thing was that the government in the United States
protected its citizens instead of seeking to control them. This was the first
time in the history of the earth that a country had been founded on the
principle that man had rights and that the purpose of the government was to
protect these rights rather than to trample on them.

So how could France say Communism would come to America? Well,
as the old saying goes, history repeats itself, and he could see when he arrived
here that the United States had already put into place laws and regulations that
his own country had done. Those laws pave the way for Communism. If he were
alive today, what do you think France would have to say about the concept of
political correctness? I know what he would say. He'd say that's how they take
steps to take your freedom of speech away and control your mind. What do you
think he'd say about a government that takes over banks and car companies? He
would say that is no different from when they took over his farm. What do you
think he'd say about the government taking over your health care? I know what he
would say. He would say Americans are fools.

So here I am, an adult, watching France's prediction come true.
How can this happen here in America? The reason is that over time, the concept
of rights has been corrupted. "Rights" has now come to mean "wants." You want an
education? Or food? Or health care? Or a car? A cell phone? No problem, it will
be provided. But who will be providing it? The taxpayers -- you and me. And when
we are forced to pay for someone else's wants, we become slaves. It is no
different from my ancestors on the farm in Yugoslavia.

It was when I read Atlas Shrugged by
Ayn Rand that the pieces fell into place for me and I began to understand that
the concept of individual rights has been corrupted by the belief that we need
to live our lives for others rather than ourselves.

My ancestors were immigrants, and just like a lot of immigrants,
they came to America for a better life. But a lot of immigrants came to America
for a better life, so I learned as an adult that they really weren't that
different after all. But to a five-year-old child, the impressions of seeing a
grown man shake and sweat with fear while simply riding down the street in a car
left a lifelong impression on me.

I think about Mimi when she said, "Oh, how people suffered!" I think about France
on his deathbed, when he was dying of cancer, and I think that I, for one, will
not give up my country without a fight. We owe it to them, to what they
struggled for, and most of all, to ourselves. I credit France for my riveted
commitment to capitalism, to freedom, today. It is because of what he taught me
about freedom that I won't give it up. You see, when people talk about their
heritage, they can either make it their own or they can walk away from it. And
I, for one, will never walk away from mine.

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