At the end of World War I, many Eastern Europeans such as Hungarians, Romanians, and Bulgarians were invited by their governments to return home from the USA and help rebuild their own countries. They went with the money that they earned from working here for 6-10 years to build their futures in their native countries. Many times they took their children that were born here in the USA and for about 30 years they enjoyed prosperity and were the rich people in their countries. The communists came in the mid-forties and confiscated their lands, their factories, their shops, declared them the enemies of the people, and often sent them and their children to jail.
The Stefans have migrated together with their flocks of sheep from Northern Romania and have settled in the Eastern part of Yugoslavia at the beginning of the 19th century. Even though through their generations they have diversified in their professions, there was always someone in the family who was a shepherd, taking care of the family sheep.
When the communists came in 1945-1950, they leveled the peasantry. They took from the peasants their lands, their oxen, their horses, their pigs, and created state cooperatives. Some of the peasants refused to work on the state cooperatives and cultivated the small parcels of land they were allowed to have. The surprise was that some of the peasants that had small parcels of land were producing more on their few acres than the state produced. Somehow, the state found ways to take from their abundance as though there was something wrong in having plenty on their fields.
My Father had no siblings and my Mother had two (a brother and a sister). Both of them remembered the communist confiscation and the heavy taxes they had to pay. Our families were close to one another, all living in the same village, all experiencing the same deprivations, wants, and restrictions. As soon as there was a small relaxation on the borders the three families exited. My aunt's family and ours came to the United States and my uncle went to Sweden. Between the three families there were 9 children, my three sisters and 5 cousins. Out of these 9 cousins five are in the United States, one is in Austria, and three are still in the Republic of Serbia. My cousin's daughter decided to live in Sweden and my cousin's daughter from Austria is an international lawyer in New York.
My Father had some simple goals for his children: that we should work hard so that we will not have to ask anyone for help and that each one of his children should finish college. He and my mother worked custodial jobs in the hospital and other menial jobs in order to make sure that the four of us completed the highest education that we could achieve. Receiving help from the state was unthinkable and my Father paid the transportation cost from the refugee camp in Italy to USA before the due date to show his appreciation for his new country that has helped him come here.
In no way do I want to connect the plan that President-elect Obama has for us to what the communists have done to us in Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, I must confess that I was thinking of what my Father would have thought when he heard Mr. Obama speak about the distribution of wealth and also of the many people who thought it was a great idea.