It wasn't my idea to leave Minnesota and go to Russia to live in a workers' Socialist paradise, but once Father had made up his mind, nothing could change it. Socialism was the new order. Capitalism and democracy had failed. When recruiters came from Russia talking to Finnish-Americans about establishing an independent Finnish republic in Karelia, Russia, Father saw an opportunity he refused to pass up. And when Mother heard about the free college education and the symphony orchestra that immigrants could join, she was convinced as well. My older brother Peter had been nicknamed "the Genius" when he started playing the clarinet in fourth grade, and was really smart in math and science as well. A chance for him to have a free college education and play professionally sounded too good to be true.
I wasn't in favor of it from the beginning. It would mean giving up everything I loved. I wasn't a Socialist. I believed in democracy, baseball, and the American way of life, even if people are out of work and there's a Depression going on. But Father's plans were like a steamroller. In only a few months, we'd sold all our furniture, and everything that couldn't be packed into two trunks and four backpacks, and were on our way to Russia.
But when we got there, it was nothing like what we'd been promised. We didn't have our own house, but slept in a bunkhouse with three other families, on bunk beds with straw mattresses and bedbugs. There was no indoor plumbing or running water like we'd had in the States. But Father wouldn't give up. He was determined to make the best of everything, certain he hadn't made a terrible mistake.
But he had, and even though it didn't take long for the rest of us to realize it, he refused to admit it. And then it was too late. The Communist party was taking over Russia, and anyone who spoke out against it began to disappear. And Father had been very, very vocal.