Cold War Shivers

May 31, 2010
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My grandma and her family originated from a small farming town near the northern border of Czechoslovakia approximately 50 kilometers from the Polish-Czechoslovakian border. They owned a small drugstore and lived in a small alcove that was located directly above it. My grandma was the second youngest of five children and the family worked together to run their humble business. My grandma and her family were quite content with life in the small town. Every individual of the population of 84 could name all of the people who lived in the small community. Every Christmas, each individual would prepare special gifts for the others and the whole town would gather at the church for a Christmas mass hosted by my grandma’s uncle, who was a catholic priest.

Eventually, times for the small town darkened. It was the mid-1940’s; World War II was coming to a close and the status of the governments in Eastern Europe was highly unstable. At the time period, Czechoslovakia was under a state of communist dictatorship. The communists within the country created and built upon a series of laws and regulations that highly discriminated individuals based on religion, race, and other beliefs. Any resisters of the reign of communism were placed in concentration camps which meant certain death. Also, to enforce these laws, an abundant multitude of communist soldiers were dispatched throughout the entire country.

The communists were against the belief and practice of the traditions of the Catholic religion. In the small town that was the base of ancestry of the Bouz family, every single individual was Catholic. On one particular day, during the typical Sunday mass in which the populous attended, gun shots were suddenly heard from the outside of the church door. Almost instantly, a group of armed communist soldiers barged through the door and started to shoot. The congregation was in an utter state of panic. People ran in all directions as guns were being fired and as the mangled bodies of the towns people were falling to the ground. Despite all of the chaos, my family members managed to stay together and they found a place to hide in a small barn. Finally, as all went silent, the group of seven slowly walked out of the barn and witnessed the dreaded destruction that surrounded them. All of the buildings were burnt and were nothing but glowing piles of ash. The carcasses of the perished could be seen randomly distributed over what was once such a joyful and humble community that represented the positive side of human endeavor.

As the distressed family walked through the grotesque mounds of what were once their beloved friends and neighbors, they observed the most troubling sight that would have ever been bestowed upon them in their entire lives. The uncle of the family, the one who was a priest, was witnessed lying against a door with his head completely broken open due to the barbaric sense of control held by the communist soldiers. As soon as this sight was bestowed upon them, the family knew that they had to leave.

The family decided to leave Czechoslovakia by heading south towards Austria and then eventually towards Italy to escape the seemingly impenetrable wrath of communism. The trip was not going to be safe and even the youngest child, who was five years old knew the depressing truth of the current situation. The family had to be careful to only travel at night and stay off the main roads. If anyone found out that they were attempting to leave the country, they could be instantly shot or could be escorted to a concentration camp. Escaping was the only chance for the family to attempt to lead a normal life and for the parents to attempt to provide a descent childhood for their five young children.

During the journey, the family had to navigate through thick forests, treacherous rock formations, and steep, muddy hills in order to reach Italy. Also, the family had very little sense of direction. Due to the recent destruction of the containment of their lives, the family didn’t even have a functional compass in their possession. They had to rely on the direction in which the sun rises and sets. They also used familiar astronomical star formations to find their way to Italy. The brave individuals had to be quiet and had to be careful to keep their identities sealed when hitchhiking. If any information just happened to be leaked to the outside, the family could have been killed.

Finally, after about three months of traveling and trying to secretly cross the Italian border, the family made it to Italy. They decided to stop at a small town along the Po River and got temporary jobs to pay for a trip to New York City. The entire family was hired at a small restaurant and was given free lodging along with their pay.

After two years of working at the restaurant, the family knew it was time to travel to America. The owner of the restaurant begged them to stay, but the family knew that a government “runs” across land faster than it “swims” across water. The group of five boarded a ship bound for America and due to their perseverance, bravery, and indomitable spirit; they prevailed and finally reached “the land of the free”.

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