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Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Witnesses Against Wokeness

Live Not By Lies readers who lived, or whose families lived, under Communism know it's telling the truth
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This past weekend in northern Virginia, I gave a talk at a church about my book Live Not By Lies. Afterward, a woman from the audience approached me and said that she had recently been doing some political canvassing in her neighborhood, and met a couple who had both, prior to meeting each other, emigrated from Communist countries (the man from Eastern Europe, the woman from Latin America). Both of them told my interlocutor how worried and afraid they were about what’s going on in the US at the moment. It’s triggering their alarm bells.
We have now sold 100,000 copies of Live Not By Lies in just under five months — this, with virtually no mainstream media support. From what I can discern, it’s heavily on word of mouth. This e-mail came in over the weekend:
I have never written to an author of a book I read but I feel like I have to do it after reading ‘Live Not By Lies’. It is one of the most important and timely books I have read in a very long time! I experienced a physical reaction to it because of my family history in Former Yugoslavia but also because of what I am observing around me where I live today.
My maternal grandparents were both political prisoners in Tito’s Yugoslavia. They were accused of being Stalinists just after WWII and sent to Goli Otok, the most brutal camp for dissidents in the country. My grandmother’s crime was singing a Russian song at college. A fellow student reported her to the secret police. She spent two and a half years in the camp and after she was released almost no one would greet her on the streets of her town. As an orphan she had no family support and her friend whose family took her in was later expelled from college because of that. The student who reported her to the police ended up being sent to the same camp a few years later.
My grandfather joined the Partisans at the beginning of WWII after Nazis executed a few thousand school students in his town of Kragujevac. He was 16 at the time and 19 when the war ended. After the war he worked in the army. When he was asked to persecute his friends from the war because they were seen as enemies of Tito, he declined. Due to that he was sentenced to five years in Goli Otok. The Communists convinced his wife with whom he had a son to leave him as he will never come out alive, which is what she did.
After their release, the secret police introduced my grandparents to each other and suggested that they should get married so that they wouldn’t ‘corrupt’ other citizens. They were together only for a year, which is when my mother was born. My grandfather had serious trauma from torture and he spent some time in a mental asylum but more importantly the secret police harassed him for another ten or so years. During that time he continuously changed his place of residence and mostly worked as an artists, painting portraits of tourists on the Adriatic coast. He spent the last few years of his life working as an artist, obsessively making wooden crosses, which I think is great symbolism for his experience.
My paternal great grandparents and some of their children were Serbian Monarchists from Dalmatia, loyal to the old king and Western Allies. They were in-prisoned after the war because of that and no one from the family could get a job for years, which is why many of my grandfathers siblings migrated to the West.
I am sure that you’ve heard many stories like these and those in your book are even more interesting. I just want to say that I couldn’t agree more with your suggestion that we are moving towards soft totalitarianism. I have worked in the social services and education sectors for the past seven years and in arts before that. I left the arts because it was impossible to navigate the anti-Christian sentiments and now I am experiencing the same in these sectors. The obsession with transgenderism and critical race theory is getting out of control. These people are behaving like religious fantastics and I constantly have to watch what I say. They are practically forcing children to go down these paths and to see themselves as victims. I feel like it is a matter of time before I get into serious trouble because I’ve been refusing to participate in these initiatives and I have started looking for work in other fields, yet again.
Last week, I went to my brother-in-law (who is an Orthodox Priest) to tell him about your book and before I could do that he pulled out a copy of The Benedict Option! He is planning to order many copies for his parish.
I don’t know if you’ll get a chance to read this email. I can only imagine how busy you are and don’t expect you to respond. I just felt the need to write to you as a fellow Orthodox Christian and to thank you for the important work you are doing. May God help you and your family on this journey!
Thank you, sir. It is humbling to hear from people whose families suffered under Communism, thanking me for telling their family’s story too (in that the accounts in the book are close to what their particular families suffered).
On the way home from Virginia last night, I thought about my words at the church, and how very strange it is that the names of Alexander Ogorodnikov, Silvester Krcmery, and others reverberated off the walls inside a church in rural Virginia. But they did yesterday. I told the story of Jan Simulcik (above), and his labors as a college student in the underground Slovak church. I tell of the deeds of these great men and women, and suffering to every audience I address, and of the triumph over evil that God gave them through their fidelity. And I pass on the warnings of all these people, who see more clearly than we do.
Please, reader, if you have anybody in your life who lived under Communism, take them aside and ask them what they think about the current direction of American society, particularly about free speech. Don’t argue with them — just listen.
And if you are a reader who lived under Communism, please start telling Americans and others who never have about what it was like.

UPDATE: This video just dropped:

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