This I Believe

Jan - Victor, New York
Entered on November 9, 2006

I Believe in the United States

I am a citizen of the United States. I grew up in communist Czechoslovakia. We were building shelters to protect ourselves from “inevitable” nuclear confrontation when “The tough republican president Reagan” was elected. The evil empire was the West, not the East. Even in my “pioneer – boy scout” group we practiced what to do when we see a nuclear mushroom. When I was sitting home in the evening, reading Verne’s 20.000 miles under the sea, my grandma’s ear was glued to a little portable radio tuned to “the voice of America”, Scrambled by the authorities, you could hear it, barely. I had to promise not tell anybody, that my grandma is listening to a small radio after 9 pm.. What was the big deal I thought? You can’t hear it anyway. I was 8 years old. But it felt just like they told us in history class. During the world war II, people secretly gathering around radio to listen to London’s broadcast. It was an underground movement. But why would my grandma do that? Every evening we were told how great we have it ?

When I was 16 during vacation in Yugoslavia, my mom announce to us, that we are defecting to the States. I was furious and refused to leave with her. Upset, disappointed we returned back home, to the communist land. My mother was working for so called foreign trade company. The so called tractors they were selling to Egypt, were using 80 mm shells to plow the soil. I was wondering why there was this tall guy constantly in front of our door, never talked to me, or my mother. While she was upset that he was following her everywhere I didn’t see it as such a big deal. Then the Velvet Revolution came. I took an active part in it. As a senior in High School, we wanted to listen to Radio Free Europe without scrambling, we wanted to travel without restrictions. Thanks to the revolution I understood, that in order to travel abroad, one needs passport only. And the Party doesn’t have anything to say about it anymore.

My mother died of cancer 14 months after the vacation in Yugoslavia. I came to the United States with one suitcase and 100 dollars in my pocket. Now I live in a house with a lawn, love my job and my family. My children will not know what it means to secretly listen to the radio, or listen to the news on the radio, to try to make sense combining the communist news and Voice of America news. How could they? They live in New York.

I became a citizen of The United States last June. I swore I will defend the constitution of the United States, The Flag and the Republic it stands for. I guess it has a deeper meaning for me. Each naturalized citizen’s story could make a book. My grandmother still listens to Radio Free Europe news on the radio. I keep telling her: “Grandma, this is as free as it gets”. Maybe her hearing aid makes the sound a little scrambled. I made sure I voted and honored the constitution. My Grandma is very proud of me for living in the United States. She has never visited, but she is very proud of the United States.