October 6, 2009 | Commentary on Family and Marriage, Democracy and Human Rights

Remembering Gulags' Victims

Culture challenge of the week: communism's forgotten victims

Three years ago, I witnessed the dancing eyes and exuberant smiles of fellow humans who were tasting freedom for the very first time. I was on a Florida barrier island when some three dozen very lucky Cubans escaped their captors, beat the odds in dangerous seas, and finally stepped into freedom on America's shore.

It seemed that they came from another time - almost like characters from an old black-and-white movie about war and oppression. As I processed what I was witnessing, I began to realize that they were flesh-and-blood representatives of millions like them who have suffered in the clutches of communist regimes.

From the Soviet gulags, to China's Tiananmen Square, to North Korea, to Cuba and other places in between, 100 million men, women and children around the world have been killed by communist thugs. Just 90 miles from our own border, a third generation of Cuban people remains captive to the same brutal regime that terrorized their grandparents.

Americans are oblivious to the tragic reality that people in our own backyard and around the world still suffer and die under brutal communist oppression. The news media are all but silent about the bloody history, while propagandists like Michael Moore get rich from extolling a radical socialist agenda and portraying the oppressive communist systems as benevolent.

Our children's textbooks are strangely void of even a mention of the 14 million political prisoners who either barely clung to life or died in inhumane Soviet gulags. Meanwhile, every year, thousands of Cubans are still imprisoned and severely punished in dank jails. Thousands of others leave their loved ones in the dark of night, slip into homemade rafts and brave the deadly Florida Straits in search of freedom.

Most Americans don't realize that we are just one month away from the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union. I will always remember how stunning it was to see the Berlin Wall come tumbling down. But I am just as stunned when teenagers and young adults have no idea just how significant that day was - or just how wrong it is that 20 years later, communism still has a stranglehold on many of our fellow humans.

How to save your family from ignoring communist oppression

Ignorance may be bliss, but it can also be deadly. If we do not pass on the truth about communism's bloody history, and if our culture continues to ignore the lingering infection and festering of communist ideology and brutality on mankind, we are in grave danger of falling victim to either it or one of its numerous insidiously evil ideological cousins.

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation is dedicated to preserving the stories of real people who suffered, and continue to suffer, under communism's fist. Lee Edwards, chairman of the foundation (and a powerful voice for the oppressed, a noted historian, and a perfect gentleman if ever there was one), seeks to save future generations from oppression by honoring those who have stood in the face of it.

Mr. Edwards' latest effort to share the horrible truth about communism includes a display of deeply disturbing paintings of human misery by a 14-year gulag survivor, artist Nikolai Getman. The forlorn faces and eyes in these paintings are haunting and vacant - a stark contrast to the joyful eyes of those I met on the beach that day.

The Gulag Collection is on free public display through Nov. 9 at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. For more information on how to view the collection, go to www.Heritage.org. You and your children can learn about those who stood up to communism, how to pay tribute to them, and how to help those who continue to suffer, by visiting www.VictimsOfCommunism.org and the Global Museum on Communism at www.GlobalMuseumOnCommunism.org.

Rebecca Hagelin is a family advocate and the author of the best-seller "30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family." For more family tips, visit HowToSaveYourFamily.com.

About the Author

Rebecca Hagelin Senior Communications Fellow

First appeared in the Washington Times