Monday, November 09, 2009

 

The Berlin Wall

Seven years before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Evil Empire my wife and I met a couple of newlyweds who had just escaped from the Soviet Union; Czechoslovakia, to be exact, then ruled of course by a puppet government installed by Moscow. The couple, Jan and Daniella, were highly accomplished young people who, chafing under communist oppression, had applied for permission to celebrate their honeymoon with a two-week trip to West Germany. Upon receiving permission from the government to visit the outside world, they packed two weeks worth of clothing and left behind everything they had ever known and loved: their families, their friends, their very lives. Why?

Freedom.

All they wanted was to be free; all their parents, siblings and friends wanted for them was to be free. And after they arrived here, they were pursued and harrassed by their tormentors from the other side of the Wall. Their phone was tapped, they were "informed" by official Czech government notices that they needed to send money or return to Czechoslovakia in order to insure their parents' health; their cars were vandalized the day after they were interviewed by their city newspaper about the joys of living in freedom and the horrors of life inside the Soviet Union.

They fought through each and every threat, extortion and harrassment, many of which my wife and I were privy to, with great courage and an ever-burning commitment to their new freedom. And they prospered, each developing their own businesses, buying a beautiful home in a good neighborhood and starting their family - I can recall the pain they felt when it seemed as if they would be unable to conceive, and their glorious joy at finally becoming parents.

Until we met Jan and Daniella, we took many, perhaps all, of our freedoms for granted. We had given scant consideration to the misery that had enveloped generations of souls in the Soviet Union for decades, the lives of millions of innocent, talented, good people that had been wasted and destroyed, the years of darkness, murder and misery, military conflict and economic devastation that were and still are the price of brutal opression.

That was in the early 1980s, when it was fashionable to think of Ronald Reagan as a doddering old fool with a simplistic world view. Not to Jan and Daniella, who revered the man and never hesitated to sing his praises. And when I saw what Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa and Pope John Paul II meant to them as enemies of communism and champions of freedom, I understood who was on the side of our new friends and who was not. I still understand today, and for that I thank my old friends.

My wife and I have not seen or spoken with Jan and Daniella for years now, since before the Berlin Wall was torn down forever by the forces of freedom. We moved away and eventually lost track, as happens in life. But we will always love and respect the friends we made in the young couple whose energy and lust for freedom woke us to appreciating our own birthright.

And twenty years to the day after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the evil empire that was the Soviet Union, they are at the very forefront of our thoughts.

Thanks, you two, and may you always be blessed with the freedom you so love. Come to think of it...

UPDATE
Amazing what can happen if you just pick up the phone and reach out to old friends. What a wonderful day, and what a wonderful way to mark this very special anniversary.

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