ImageThe communist regimes came into Eastern Europe in the 1940's and collected all the guns from all the citizens.  Only the army and the police were allowed to carry guns. The exception to the rule was the hunters.  It was difficult to receive a permit to own a hunting rifle, but a good number of people managed to do that.  The hunters' club became one of the most popular clubs, and they bought a piece of property in a central place of the village and built themselves a recreational hall which later became the cultural and dancing hall of the village.

I was talking recently with a man who grew up in the United States, about weapons and how they affect children.  This led me to reflect on two instances regarding weapons that had to do with the people from the hunting club.

One of my neighbors (four houses up from our home) was an avid hunter.  Many times I would see him coming from his hunting trips bringing home pheasants, wild geese, wild rabbits, etc.  This time it was the wild boar hunting season and I saw him brought home in a horse-drawn carriage.  During the night, one of his partners mistook him for a wild boar and shot him down.  It was a good shot because he fell down, but the shot was not fatal.  They brought him home and then took him to the nearby hospital where he recovered.

Not long after this accident, there was another shooting.  This was very different than the first.  This was an anger incident.  One young man took his father's hunting rifle and intentionally shot him.  This was the first in our village.  No one in our village could believe that such a thing would ever happen in our small place.

I remember that as a result of these two incidents, my parents had extensive talks with us about weapons.  I remember that our teachers in school offered extensive counseling with the students who panicked because of what took place.  That was the first time that we discussed how fragile human life is.  We also discussed how weapons can be used for good purposes and for recreation and weapons can be used in anger to destroy even the ones closest to us.

Soon after the two hunting rifle incidents we had a major theft, and it involved the school director's office.  The office had iron bars at the windows and solid doors.  The thief climbed in the office through the window, broke the safe and took the money, ate the fruit that was in a bowl on the director's desk and used the empty bowl as his toilet.  The thief was so proud of his accomplishments that he bragged to a couple of his friends, who reported him to the police.  After an interrogation and a devastating beating (after all he embarrassed the police whose office was next door to the school), the whole village was invited to see him climb through the window again.  He was sentenced to 5 years in jail and served his term up to the last day.

I experienced funeral homes (or funeral parlors) in the USA for the first time.  In our village, people died at home and the wake was at home and the body would stay in the house until the burial service.  Relatives would come and they would have lots of food and drinks until the burial service.  Sometimes people would prepare a pig or a sheep for all the guests.  We also would have women who would wail.  They would cry and make verses about the deceased.  I remember coming home and making fun of some of the verses that I would hear at burial services.  One time one of my neighbors (about 6 houses down from our home) was cutting down a tree.  He was an elderly gentleman and as the tree fell, it landed on him and crushed him to death.  My mother and I went to his funeral and I could not stop crying.  My mother said that since I was crying more than his widow I should become a wailing lady.  That comment stopped me.  Surprisingly, his widow married again in less time that the traditional one year period of grieving.

Life was hard, there were plenty of needs, but we as children felt safe.  We worked hard with our parents at home and in the fields. Sometimes a flood or a draught would mean that we would end up eating whatever we had as a regular staple of every day - beans, potatoes and corn bread. There was safety in the village and I could go anywhere at any time of day or night, for whoever I was meeting was concerned for my well-being, and if they did not like what I did, my parents would hear of it before I got home.