As part of my sentence for “sedition” against the Oslo Accords government, I did community service in a state nursing home. One of the old gentlemen there told me his own story about a different gulag:
“When I went to first grade in the Stalin-era public school in Russia, I made sure never to ask permission from my teacher to let me use the bathroom. It was very important to me to be sure that when I would need to ask permission to go to the bathroom, she would believe me and let me leave the classroom. I knew that I would need to use this escape route when the state nurse would come to check the personal hygiene of the students. If she would find the tzitzit (ritual fringes) that I had under my shirt, she would report me to the authorities and my father would be sent to his death in Siberia.”
My friend in the nursing home told this story very matter-of-factly. But it gave me the goose bumps. I was in awe of the father who would risk his life for his faith and the little boy whose fear of Heaven made him truly free at the ripe old age of six.