Be thankful this wasn’t you

The story below is from a website called the Federalist earlier this month.  I’ve always been fascinated by history.  We are entering a time where history may repeat the horrors of the last century.  This story shows how cruel people can be to each other, it also shows people can triumph over evil.

I was honored yesterday to sit down with  Dr. Rybicki  who lives in Bloomington.  I will be writing about our discussion, but first you need to know his background.  Please read the entire piece.

This Thanksgiving as you gather with family, get your history.  One regret of Dr. Rybicki has is he didn’t ask his sister questions about the times she disappeared from the family, now it’s too late.  His daughter wants him to record his thoughts in a book she gave him years ago.  He hasn’t, I hope my encouragement means he will now.  Don’t let your family history disappear because no one took the time to write it or do a video.

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving,

Diane Benjamin



What Communists Did To My Family In The Soviet Gulags

A good way to grasp the breadth of communism’s evils is to understand the depth of the suffering in the lives of its individual victims.
On February 9, 1940, seven-year-old Witold Rybicki and his family awoke in the middle of the night to banging on the door of their home in Lida, Poland (modern Belarus). Outside was an officer of the Soviet secret police, then called the NKVD, who gave his father orders: “Do not run away. Your house is surrounded by soldiers. You have an hour to pack your personal belongings. Do not worry about bringing much. Everything you need will be at your destination.”
The Rybickis were never informed of charges against them, evidence of wrongdoing, a sentence, or their destination. Witold, his parents, and four of his siblings were taken from their home to a train station, where they were loaded into a cattle car about 15 meters long by five meters wide along with about 40 other people. The car was completely bare otherwise, with just a hole in the middle of the floor for a toilet.
For nearly a month, the train traversed Eastern Europe and Russia toward Siberia, not allowing anyone outside of the cramped, filthy cars except for a short period on Saturdays. Every morning, soldiers delivered four gallons of water and one of soup for the entire car of 40 people.
The prisoners finally disembarked in a city called Tomsk. From there, they walked two days through the Siberian taiga (forest) in the dead of winter to a set of barracks with small, barren rooms built specifically for Poles. This was part of the Soviet gulag system, a chain of forced-labor camps and settlements where tens of millions of prisoners were punished and “reeducated” by the state through grueling physical labor in harsh conditions.
This account of life under Soviet rule is not an extreme outlier, but indicative of how the communist regime treated its own people. This week marks 100 years since the revolution that gave rise to communism in Russia and, subsequently, Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Avowedly Marxist regimes killed anywhere from 65 to 100 million people, a total so high that it is impossible for the human mind to conceptualize.
So goes the apocryphal Joseph Stalin quote, “One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” A good way to grasp the breadth of communism’s evils is to understand the depth of the suffering in the lives of its individual victims. That’s why the stories of the Rybickis and others are apropos.

The Rybickis Are Just a Few Out of Millions


The Rybickis’ plight is eerily similar to the famed accounts catalogued by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in “The Gulag Archipelago.” From the psychologically poignant nighttime arrest without explanation, to the inhumane transport by cattle car, to hard labor under-clothed in the bitter cold, to the starvation, to the omnipresent stench of death, to the totalizing oppression even outside of the gulags, the parallels between Witold’s story and other victims’ are striking.


The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939 and partitioned the country in two. The USSR deported to Siberia about one and a half million of the 13 to 14 million Poles in the eastern half of the country. Hundreds of thousands of them died or were executed in the process. Over decades, millions of kulaks, Cossacks, Ukrainians, Kazakhs, Soviet veterans, and Orthodox Christians, among others, suffered similar fates. The USSR killed 20 to 30 million of its own people in total.


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6 thoughts on “Be thankful this wasn’t you

  1. Thanks Diane!

    Wishing you and your family a special Thanksgiving.

    I enjoy your posts and articles and appreciate your hard work!

    Jim Eckert


  2. My in-laws suffered a similar fate. They lived in Riga, Latvia. Around 1918 the Bolsheviks knocked on the door of the home and took the family to Siberia. My mother–in-law was born in the camps. When she was around two years old they were shipped back to their home on a box car.

    In 1941 the Soviets came to their town and knocked on the door of the Mayor of the town my wife’s grandfather. My mother-in-law was a nanny for a different family even though she was at the house she was not taken. The Soviets took her father, mother and brother. She was not taken because her name was not listed as living in that house. Her father died in Siberia. Her mother and brother did return to Latvia after the war.

    My father-in-law and mother-in-law escaped Latvia to Germany where my father-in-law was conscripted into the Germany army. The family was separated. My sister-in-law was born in Germany. Through the American Red Cross the family was reunited and a family in North Carolina sponsored them to immigrate to the USA. They served the family in NC for one year then moved to Milwaukee where many Latvians lived.

    They loved this country and were thankful for every blessing of living in this country.

    God Bless the USA!


      1. I was just going to say that stories like these are why the progressives want so little history taught to kids – and they want to taint and twist it any way they can. Family stories are excellent ways to learn history. I remember many years ago when they started phasing history out of schools replacing it with things like “current events” type “discussion group” type classes and the rationale used was “Kids aren’t interested as much in stuff that happened so long ago – they are more likely to engage with subjects that are familiar to them, that reflect the world they live in NOW” – Sadly having so many disengaged parents, along with “progressive” school board members and administrations made it easy for them to just push this agenda right on through. Also, just as was done in China, kids are told (more subtly now but still told) that the stories of their elders are not really true, that they are fairy tales and fantasy and not to be believed, that they are tainted with nationalism or old fashioned values. I hope everyone here does their part to help keep future generations, the kids of today, informed and give them a base in reality.


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