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Jennie's Journey

A history lesson on Labor Day

It was Labor Day this past Monday, and a stranger was at my door. Wondering if the fool could fathom the idea of the holiday, I answered reluctantly.

The stranger greeted me with a strong Eastern European accent, cluing me into the fact that he didn't have any idea of what it means not to work on Labor Day.

His name was Olev and he is from Estonia. This young man shared that he was only in Grandview for a day after working several weeks in other cities on the east side of the Cascades.

You see, he had a few extra days granted him before he completes his "summer job."

The rest of the year, Olev is a high school teacher. As a teacher, he wants to provide youngsters educational opportunities and one way in which he said he could do this is by selling educational software.

But, this is not what fascinated me the most. What fascinated me was looking at the young man before me, knowing it wasn't that long ago that he would not have had much opportunity to visit Washington state or any location in the U.S.

Estonia is in the Baltics and was only 20 years ago occupied by the Soviet Union. This means the people of that country were ruled by communists.

Fortunately for Olev, he now lives in a country that is a democracy.

Although I did not purchase any software from him, Olev and I had a nice chat.

He is grateful for the opportunities he has. He knows the sacrifices of his fellow countrymen.

Olev said his grandparents in 1961 received a knock on their door much like his knock on my door. The difference is that knock was not friendly. The people awaiting their answer were soldiers come to tell them to pack whatever they could carry and evacuate the home they lovingly built with their own hands.

The government, although not at war, was taking possession of their home "in case the Germans decided to invade Estonia," according to Olev.

He said his family was sent to Siberia with nothing more than what they could gather that one night.

I queried further, interested in the history of this young man's heritage because I learned much in history class...mostly the fear of the Soviet Union during my childhood.

I asked if his country was able to preserve their native language. He affirmed it was difficult, but many did preserve the culture and language in secret.

"We must know Russian, too," Olev told me.

Although Olev's visit may have been a bit lengthy, it did not seem long enough.

It did, however, make me grateful that I live in the United States, a place where I don't have to worry about soldiers knocking on my door...just interesting salemen.

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