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Our Communication Crisis Behind the Iron Curtain

Imagine life without iphone, Instagram, text, Twitter, WhatsApp, or Skype. Only decades hence would these luxuries exist.

Imagine life without iphone, Instagram, text, Twitter, WhatsApp, or Skype. Only decades hence would these luxuries exist.

In previous posts, My Agonizing Question That Refused To Be Answered and The Day That Stays With Me Forever, I described the grip of Martial Law that strangled life out of the population of Poland. The abrupt military takeover, December 13,1981, led to ongoing agony in everyday life. Roadblocks, document checks, curfews, and vehicle searches became painful restrictions. For more than 18 long months (December 13, 1981-July 22, 1983) the repressive military regime sought to crush the political initiative by keeping a lid on the ever-boiling caldron. 

Communication with the outside world remained severed. Phone calls - even letters - were prohibited. Certainly, there was no iphone, Instagram, text, Twitter, WhatsApp, or SkypeOnly decades hence would these luxuries exist.

As undercover missionaries, we faced a unique challenge: how could we let our families know we were safe? (And, actually, we were safe. As long as we remained under the radar, we lived life as normally as a double life could be lived.)

We needed a solution. Driven to resolve this communication dilemma, we prayed, and the Lord gave Larry an idea. After listening intently to his plan, I agreed he should proceed. So, one cold, cloudy March day, he bundled up David, our almost two-year-old son, and put him in the car. Their destination: the office of the Minister of Communication.

Larry and David drove to the center of Warsaw, and parked outside the ominous gray fortress-like government building. “Come son; let’s go in and talk to the man inside.” 

‘The man inside’ happened to be the Polish Army Colonel, who now held the position of Minister of Communication. During Martial Law, military leaders confiscated civilian functions, and executed extreme restrictions. These were not normal times, and this was not a normal appointment.

Unannounced, Larry entered the outer office where a military receptionist sat guarding entrance to the closed wooden door beyond. In Polish, my husband asked to speak personally with the Minister Colonel. Without hesitation, the receptionist ushered Larry, with David in tow, into the austere office behind the closed door where the oversized Colonel occupied an oversized seat behind an oversized desk.

Strategically, Larry placed David to sit ON the right hand corner of the Colonel’s desk. Introductions were brief; the conversation went like this:

“Sir, I have come with a request. My family and I live here in your country; I am a student in Foreign Trade at your Economics University. My little son here has grandparents that live in America. Sir, do you have grandchildren?

Reply: Yes. Yes I do.

Sir, do you like to hear from your grandchildren from time to time and know that they are safe?

Reply: Yes. Yes I do.

Sir, I am here today to ask your permission to send a telegram once a week to my son’s grandparents in America to let them know that he and his sisters are safe living here in your country. Your current law forbids us to contact them; we cannot speak with them by phone; we cannot mail letters to them. They have no way to know that their grandchildren are safe. 

Then, the bottom line: Will you grant me this permission?

Silence. Deep Breaths. More Silence. Larry wiggles his toes inside his heavy winter boots. David swings his little short legs off the edge of the desk. The Colonel strums his stubby fingers on the arms of his wooden chair.

OK. (Pause.) Ok. I grant you this permission. You may send one telegram once a week from here within my office. My assistant will check the communication each time before it is transmitted. But you must ONLY speak about the children. You are not allowed to go beyond such communication, or you will forfeit this privilege.

Done. Leave fast before he changes his mind. Thank you, Samuel Morse. And Thank You, God.

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord…” (Proverbs 21:1) Yes, and so is the heart of the Communist Colonel.