From the Publisher

Seen Through a Newcomer’s Eyes, Our Freedoms are a Wonder

By Brian Rowland, Publisher

Last year, I shared a story about an interaction with a young lady I met on a press trip to Berlin. She grew up on the east side of the city, which was liberated in 1989 when the Wall came down. I was taken by her memories of what communist life was like, her current feelings of hope, and the many opportunities she has in free Berlin.

Last September, I had another chance to travel with writers to Bucharest, Romania, and Budapest, Hungary.

During a group dinner I sat with our Hungarian host, Maria Rachidi, who shared a similarly inspiring life-experience story that reminded me much about what many of our ancestors endured as they followed their dreams for a new and better life in America.

Maria was born in 1973 under the iron-fisted rule of the Communist Party in a very small town outside Budapest. Her dad was a mechanic and her mom was an architect.

Hungary also was liberated in 1989, and the influences of the Western world began to arrive.

When she was 16, Maria’s father brought home a book about the United States. She read it cover to cover many times and began to prepare for the life she imagined from the many hours of reading.

After five years of college study and encouragement from her parents and coworkers, Maria, visa in hand and knowing only four words of English, arrived in New York for a six-month immersion in our language. On her third day she met her future husband, fell in love and eventually married. Her parents made their first trip out of Hungary to New York for the wedding. The Hungarian National Tourist Board brought her on staff, and today Maria is living the dream she had in the wee hours of the night so many years ago. Her goal today is to trade in her green card for full U.S. citizenship and continue to live the life that we all enjoy and, hopefully, deeply value.

Maria’s enthusiasm and appreciation for all that America can offer was remarkable.

Her work ethic is enviable as she brings the history and culture of Hungary alive for the many potential visitors to her homeland.

Maria’s story is not unlike the stories of many people living in Eastern Europe, a section of the world that is continuing to find its own way.

Take a look at our travel story, “A Tale of Two Cities,” and discover for yourself how Budapest, located in Maria’s homeland, as well as nearby Bucharest, Romania, have changed. These cities, with their storied pasts and bright futures, are treasures waiting to be discovered by Western travelers.

Never take what we have for granted. Instill the values of freedom and opportunity into your children so we can maintain our position as the leader of the free world. I, for one, would stand at the entry gate to American citizenship to welcome an individual such as Maria to our society as a fullfledged American. We need as many passionate citizens like her as possible to weather these challenging times. And at the same time, they serve as reminders of what we in the United States are so fortunate to have.