As we approached the border, I said to my three year old daughter: "See those men with the uniforms? They may ask lots of questions. I don't know if we can answer all of their questions. Let's pretend that we are asleep. OK?"
First, my daughter looked up at me with a very curious expression. As she wrapped both arms around her rag doll, she placed her face in my lap and closed her eyes.
With my eyes closed, I could hear the engine of the old sedan. The car slowly crept forward and I could visualize the endless train of cars one at the time approach the barricade and stop. I could see the brown uniforms, the black shoulder straps, and the shiny black leather holsters.
Time passed slowly. The seconds seemed like hours as I was focusing on the past. I drifted back days, weeks, months, and years until I found myself in my grandfather's arms next to the fireplace as I listened to the many stories about his life as a child growing up on the farm and how much he wanted to visit the big city 15 miles away. Many stories about the police, the government, and freedom, I did not understand. But as I grew older, I begun to realize that what my grandfather wanted, I must have.
As I said goodbye to the warmth of the fireplace, the stories of freedom and independence, I promised my grandparents that our memories will live forever until they are free.
I remember I felt very excited but also very sad when I packed my bag on my 14th birthday. I knew my grandfather had taken all of the money he had saved to send me to Norway to live with friends and continue my education. Today was the day my papers would arrive giving me passport to a new, a different way of life. My grandfather opened the letter and suddenly I understood the meaning of political oppression when I read that it would not be the best interest for the government to have any of my family members visiting a foreign country. In reality, the denial of passport was a punishment for my grandfather's views of freedom spoken over the years. I remember clearly that at that moment I decided that freedom should be shared by all human beings and vowed to reach it even without a passport. Suddenly, my hope for freedom and school wasn't real anymore as my education continued in my country under the watchful eyes of the government.
One year later, my grandfather died. Loneliness and depression sought refuge in marriage. Shortly after my daughter's birth, I realized that marriage was an escape. My quest for liberty returned and became an obsession. I could not allow my daughter to travel the path of silence and oppression.
Suddenly I heard a man's voice. I almost opened my eyes. I prayed that my daughter would not move. The man asked the driver for his passport. The phony passport in my packet meant certain imprisonment for me and the person I gave all but my last $25 to help us get through the borders.
I felt the silence in the air. Did this guard believe that I was the wife of this construction worker, traveling across the border to work for the highways in Vienna? "Dear God, he has to believe this. He can't know that my daughter and I had just 20 miles earlier begged this man for a ride." What they would do if they found out that I, at this moment, could not remember his name or mine?
God is real. I heard the engine change speed. I felt the car moving forward. I opened my eyes. My daughter sat up. She kissed her doll and said: "Mammy, is my baby doll OK?" I replied: "Yes, baby. You don't have to protect her anymore. She is free."