Day of rest. Went to church. We had a great Christmas program. While I sat and listened to the music some thoughts and memories came into my mind that I feel are worth sharing. Last night during dinner we were learning Russian. While explaining the Russian word жук which means beetle, I remembered a funny poem that my mom likes to recite while playing chess in the middle of a violent attack about a capitalist beetle and a worker beetle perishing in the class struggle. This time I decided to look up some information about that poem, and with the help of Google quickly found its full text along with the biography of the author. As soon as I read that the author was born in 1898 and died in 1937 in Leningrad I had a suspicion about the cause of his death, and without reading further to confirm it decided it was time to teach Benjamin a history lesson. I told Benjamin what I knew and asked him to guess the most likely cause of his death. With a few hints he got the answer I was looking for - Stalin's purges. Sure enough, further reading confirmed that my suspicion was correct - arrested on November 19, 1937, executed by firing squad on November 24, 1937 for counter-revolutionary activity and being a part of Trotsky plot, pretty much the exact same "crime" for which both of my grandfathers were sent to labor camps in 1938.
It is quite amazing how the ruling system once established is capable of keeping the people under oppression. My mother and my aunt happily recited "We thank comrade Stalin for our happy childhood" while their fathers were in prison for no other cause than being perceived as capable enough to present a threat to Stalin's rule and their mothers were scrambling to feed the family while living under constant fear of being arrested themselves for their relationship to the "enemy of the people".
So as I sat and listen to Christmas music the life of my grandfathers was on my mind. First of all, I felt extremely thankful for having been born in 1973, having the ability to learn English, and having a talent for programming computers. Then I wondered what I would do if all of a sudden I found myself in the Soviet Union in 1937. At first I felt completely hopeless. Then a few minutes later I remembered meeting a Russian professor of computer science who taught at Weber State back in 1993. He told a story of his daring miraculous escape from the Soviet Union around that time. He found a place to hide under a train and was able to avoid the Soviet border guard checks as the train crossed the border. He eventually made it to the United States where he later joined the LDS church. A remarkable man in many ways, not the least being old enough to be able to tell this story in 1993, and have a mind capable of adapting enough to teach computer science in English.
Being under that train must have been a very intense moment. If you are discovered, you can count on being executed. But on the other hand, if you have a mind that can learn computer science and stay with its rapid development well enough to still teach it professionally 50 years later in a foreign language, under the Stalin's system you are just as doomed as the man found hiding under a train crossing the border. So he took his chances, and he was blessed for his faith.
Thinking about that made me feel thankful again. I had my set of struggles getting to the United States most of which ironically came from the US government, which was acting like it forgot why it was even allowed to exist in the first place, but I did not have to ride under a train. Now that I see that the Lord has blessed me so much, what I am going to do with it. I hope something good.
As these thoughts went through my mind, I reflected on the mercies of the Lord Jesus Christ and His great power to guide and to lift. I thought about the extent of His love for us. Sure there is a reason to rejoice. For a good portion of my life I lived in fear that some tyrant, some murderer, or some tormentor will somehow make my life difficult or perhaps terminate it. When I acquired faith in Christ, I realized that I did not need to worry about that at all. Evil men can kill the body, but they have no power over the spirit, and it is the condition of the spirit that will matter in the end. And there is only one person who has the final say in where my spirit is going to end up, and it is myself. The only thing that can ruin me in the long run is my sins. God will not judge me for the things I do not choose. What a liberating realization that was.