Fortysomething years ago today, these two people became the bravest I know. Previously, they were merely my parents.

But at the ripe old age of 30something, they gave these three no good boys a chance at a good and free life.

How? After years of intense but completely secret planning, these two people packed up as much as they could safely carry, and crossed a border with three little kids. Why the secrecy? Because this took place in early-1980s Hungary, when the Iron Curtain was still locking its citizens inside the prison of communist totalitarianism. Had any neighbour, any family member, any friend even had a clue that we were about to leave, very likely secret police would have taken my parents away one night. This is not an exaggeration.

Instead, they planned silently. They considered where it may be possible to go, so far as to investigate various African nations with which the communist bloc had relations, and could have an excuse to send a young engineer and family for a while. That was just too dangerous, with machete-wielding natives. That left a direct crossing to neighbouring Austria. We had (have!) some family there, and a brief tourist visit was sometimes permissible to the authorities. Emigration was of course illegal. Only enemies of the state would do something so heretical.

As far as the kids knew, we were visiting some village in our own country. If we had known anything, any mention to friends could have resulted in secret police attention. They could not carry much, because that would raise attention from the border soldiers at exit. Identity documentation? University diplomas? Basically instant arrest if found. But my parents judged it was crucial to have anyway, so they smuggled it out somehow among the suitcases.

After arriving in Austria, they reported to a local police station (in some very broken language) that they were asking for political asylum. After the police saw they were serious, they were eventually assured that they would not just be sent back. It was only at this point that we kids were told what was going on, after it was a done deal.

Well, it wasn't really a done deal. It took almost a year in various security & holding locations inside Austria (learning German), along with many other escapees from communism, until they convinced another country to accept us. Off the Vancouver, BC, Canada we went, learning English and assimilating as rapidly as possible. I think we were a public burden for a matter of weeks or months until jobs were found, lives restarted.

And here we are now. Fortysomething years later, people living in comfort, contributing, having model marriages and stable families, grandkids, and granddogs. The level of achievement would have been literally impossible back in the communist nation, even after those folks eventually got rid of that millstone and became a democracy.

But my parents could not know all that at the time. Thirtysomething barely-adults, with three small boys, faced down the might of a totalitarian state. Emigrated into nations across oceans, learning two languages, assimilating twice, struggling a lot with money and little with culture. Eventually flourishing, but barely, and much more so for the next generation. None of it was a sure thing or even very likely, but they gave us a chance.

Thank you, always.