by Tom P
The following is a true story about a recent experience I had while shopping at the local WalMart. I hope you find it as eye-opening as I did.
One recent, busy afternoon at WalMart, I finished shopping and headed for the checkout lanes to complete my visit. The lines were quite long so I found myself wishing that I had started with a shopping cart because my arms were already getting tired from the heavy load. Most of the people ahead of me had full carts so I figured that I was in for a long, tedious wait. Suddenly a little bearded man appeared behind me, and then quickly stepped into the line next to me as he surveyed the other lanes looking for the shortest wait. His unique appearance caught my attention. He looked like a person one might imagine seeing at a foreign market. He wore a tight fitting green tweed sport coat, a little hat, and had a long pointed beard. His cheeks were darkly tanned and deeply wrinkled. His eyes looked intelligent, the best I could tell. As he darted between lines evaluating his options I said to him, “You can’t win.” He smiled and fell into line behind me. “Now perhaps I could speak to him,” I thought to myself, but before I was able to do so another younger man fell into line behind him and the two started speaking in a language I was not familiar with. Now, I can identify a half dozen or more languages, but this one was completely unfamiliar to me, so I seized the opportunity and blurted out, “Now that’s a language I am not familiar with.” The younger, more western looking man replied, “We are speaking Romanian,” rolling his “R’s” as you would imagine. Finally this conversation was off and running and we would have plenty of time because of the long line, if only my arms would hold out!
“You are both from Romania?” I asked. “Yes,” the younger man replied. Being curious about the older gentleman who had first caught my attention, I nodded in his direction and asked, “Does he speak English too?” The younger man’s reply was, “My father does speak English, but when I am around he prefers for me to do the speaking.” “So this is your father?” I asked. The son smiled and nodded in the affirmative. “Were you born here?” I asked the son. “No, I was born in Romania. I was 14 when we immigrated to the United States in 1982.” With a little quick math in my head I had the son pegged at around 43 years old, which corresponded with his appearance. That would place his father at perhaps somewhere around 70. Wanting to make this conversation count, I asked “Wasn’t Romania a communist country for most of your lives?” “Yes, Romania was put under Russian communist control in 1947,” the son replied.
“What was it like living under communism?” I asked. “There were good things and bad things about it,” he said. Surprised that there could have been anything good about it I asked, “What was good about it?!” “Well, the government controlled the currency so there was no inflation and there were no taxes.” “No taxes?” I asked. “Yes, the government owns everything to start with so they don’t have to tax you, they just give you what they want to give you. My father is a farmer. They took his land away from him and made him work on a government collective farm.”
“Do you think America will fall to communism eventually?” I asked, hoping they wouldn’t mind such a far-flung, probing question. “It’s already started here and it’s moving fast. It will be worse here,” he said. What a time for the cashier to be asking me, “Will that be all, sir,” when I was just getting started with two Romanians who had fled communism after being forced to live under it. From here on, it was going to be a matter of following these two living legends out of the WalMart store and across the parking lot so I could hear the rest of the story.
As we turned to go out the doors, I said confidently, “There is a difference here in America, you know. Americans are armed. They will not allow such a takeover.” He replied, “It doesn’t matter. The Romanian people believed very strongly that Romania would never submit to communism, but it happened quickly. The Romanian people were armed, but it didn’t matter. Communists use informants. They get neighbors to report on their neighbors who have guns, then the authorities come and seize them. They use torture to get compliance. Many Romanian men were burned alive for not turning over their guns, and some didn’t even have guns, but the authorities burned them anyway just to strike fear in the rest. You have to understand that communists use a lot of torture.”
My heart quickened as I listened to these live witnesses tell me the inside story about a communist takeover. I tried one more time, “You don’t understand, Americans are armed with a lot more guns and a lot more ammunition than other countries.” He repeated, “It doesn’t matter. They have more soldiers than you have bullets, besides in this country they have sophisticated means. Americans will not stand a chance against this government any more than we did. Your guns will be good for one thing – looters. When things get bad enough you will need your guns to keep looters away from what you have. In Katrina there were a lot of people killed by looters because they did not have guns to defend themselves. For a while you will need guns to protect yourself from other Americans. Eventually the government will confiscate all of them.”
By now we had walked to their car, a nice midsized sedan and I stood there feeling kind of glum. This was a whole lot more than I came to WalMart for. On a lighter note I said, “You weren’t here in America back then, but this was really a great country back in the 50’s and 60’s and even the 70’s and 80’s.” He said, “Oh, I know! It was a great country in 1982 when my parents sacrificed everything they had in the world to bring us here. We were even required to permanently denounce our Romanian citizenship in order to be allowed to leave Romania. I know many other international people. Five years ago they would still sacrifice everything to come here, but now it is different. Now they ask, ‘What is going on in America?’ It has changed and people are not making the sacrifice as much because what they are fleeing from is coming here now.”
He pointed to his father, the curious-looking little man who was the genesis of our whole conversation, who had dutifully stood alongside and listened to this entire conversation without saying a word, and the son said, “My father spent 5 years in a Romanian communist prison because of his faith.” “Because of his faith?” I asked. The son said, “My father was drafted into the Romanian army by the communists in 1950 and required to take an oath to kill any enemy of the government. Because of his faith he refused to take the oath so he was sent to prison from 1950 until 1955. And when I say ‘prison,’ it was not like what we have here, with four walls and 3 meals. It was outdoors, like a Nazi concentration camp. When someone would die they would just bury him in the mud.” I stood there on the pavement staring into the father’s eyes as the son told me about his father’s incarceration. It was obvious that the father understood every word that we were saying and that it brought back painful memories. He stared back at me for the longest time. It was like there was a fiber optic cable running between us with much being said without words. I stepped toward the father and extended my hand and he shook it. I didn’t know what else to say at the moment, so I thanked him for telling me his story. He smiled, nodded yes, and got into the car.
I asked the son if he had any suggestions and he said, “Yes. When it happens, don’t fight it. If you go along with them and make the best of it you can do quite well. If you resist you will be tormented, tortured, or hunted down and killed.”
I thanked the son for sharing his story as he got into the car. They drove off and left me standing in the parking lot stunned by the experience. I checked both directions before crossing traffic and walked straight back into WalMart and bought another box of bullets. It’s an American thing.
This story rings very true. If you do not understand what happened in Romania, and what communists are really like, I urge you to purchase the small book, Marx and Satan, by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand. He spent 13 years being tortured by Romanian Marxists because of his faith.
Also posted here.