On a train headed to Austria, he sat quietly and inconspicuously. This was the train that was supposed to take him to freedom.
A uniformed officer was walking down the aisle looking for someone or something. He knew what that meant. It was over. He was going to get caught and dragged off to a dungeon-like jail or worse.
This wasn’t the first time he tried to escape Communist Romania. Last time, he and a friend attempted to swim across the Danube river. Halfway across, bullets started raining down on them and they had to turn back.
You see, as a member of the Romanian Olympic team, he knew they were keeping a close eye. While he avoided capture that time, his friend wasn’t so lucky. That guy ended up in a dark hole somewhere and was physically and mentally never the same.
So here he was – all in. No matter what happened, this would be his last attempt. His lifelong dream was to go to the United States and he decided it was worth dying for. If they caught him, there would be no do-overs.
The officer continued walking down the aisle towards him. He didn’t know what to do. Out of a confluence of fear and resignation, he did the only thing he could do at that point.
He smiled at the officer. The officer smiled back and kept walking.
He started to cry. He was on his way to his forever home.