Let me introduce you. This is my father, Daniel Hritzko, born November 25, 1918 in Chisholm, Minnesota. His father, Dmitri, arrived in America through Ellis Island and worked for two years before returning to Europe to gather his wife and two children. They settled on a large family farm where eight more children would be born. What identified this family was their strong work ethic and core values. My father really did walk ten miles in the snow to attend school in nearby Hibbing. Then, upon returning home each day, family chores necessitated survival. What did they value? The underprivileged. Why? Because this family knew what it was like to survive hard times. Every day was just like the one before it. Nothing was handed to them. My father always cheered for the "underdog" and, consequently, was a registered Democrat his entire life. You didn't need talk or debate this issue. He understood, firsthand, what it was like to be in this country as an "outsider." To him, this meant you worked hard for everything that came your way.No handouts, no entitlement, no recognition. You did what you had to do. But that did not deter him or his siblings. They, unlike their parents, were college educated. And what was his next step after high school? The Uniform. His high school academic career provided an athletic opportunity where he played football for the University of Minnesota. World War II interrupted the continuity of his education, so he donned the second uniform. The Uniform of a Soldier. He enlisted on May 19, 1942. Except for brief discharges to complete his education, he remained committed for a lifetime. Three wars, eight combat campaigns, a Silver Star for crossing the Rhine River under heavy "enemy resistance" and countless other accolades (The Bronze Star [twice] and a dozen others) would span hiscareer. His title by the end of his stellar career was Colonel. Fullbird, that is. He never spoke of any accomplishments or awards. His ability to lead came from his core trait of humility. Allegiance to this country and what it represented went hand in hand. The land of the free, the home of the brave. Being underprivileged and wearing a uniform - athletic or military - were not exclusive categories; rather, they represented the same core values his family believed in. My father died on July 23, 2001. I was able to give him recognition in death that he never desired in life - a full honors burial at Arlington with a 21 gun salute. His two living brothers had seats of honor at the graveside. I accepted the flag because my mother could not attend. Previously underprivileged, now being recognized in death. Previously uniformed, now being honored by those in uniform. I fully believe his heart would break over the current mindset as well as the actions by those involved in the game he loved. His football uniform and military uniform were not exclusive. It was because of the latter that he was given an opportunity as the former. The Unacceptable. Disrespect to this country or flag would have been, in my father's opinion, completely unacceptable. It was THIS country that afforded his family a chance, an opportunity, and a beginning. And they knew it, embraced it, and embarked on it. And because of his beginning, he gave me mine. He took a risk, he worked relentlessly, and he adopted. Me. Because of your under privilege, you gave me privilege. Because of your uniform, you gave me freedom. Because of your unacceptable mindset of irreverence, you instilled respect. I will honor your legacy as I leave mine. You are the example that mutually exclusive categories do not exist. Colonel Daniel Hritzko November 25, 1918 - July 23, 2001
I still remember this day. I was 4 years old. My mother, grandmother, and I boarded a train in the middle of the night to Washington, DC where we met my father for the Big Day.
My Big Day was a Big Deal. The shrouded details of mystery in leaving one country to enter this one are still just that, shrouded. There are many questions that still linger.
Since I was obviously a minor at the time of my naturalization, my mother filled out the questionnaire on my behalf.
Here are the questions:
- Have you married, or been widowed, separated, or divorced?
- Have you been absent from the United States?
- Have you committed any crime or offense, or been arrested, fined, or charged with the violation of any law whatsoever?
- Have you joined any organization?
- Have you become a member of the Communist Party?
- Have you claimed exemption from military service?
- Has there been any change in your willingness to bear arms on behalf of the United States; to perform non-combatant service in the armed forces of the United States; to perform work of national importance under civilian direction, if the law requires it?
- The law provides that a petitioner for naturalization shall not be regarded as a person of good moral character who, at any time after his or her petition for naturalization has been filed, has committed adultery; has been a prostitute; has procured any person for the purposes of prostitution; has been a narcotic drug addict; or has dealt in narcotic drugs illegally in any way. Have you committed such an act or been such a person?
The questions for the process of naturalization have, no doubt, changed. And the questions that still remain unanswered are still a mystery to me. I waffle between HAVING to know and TRUSTING in what I don’t. Nothing changes the result: God’s sovereign hand in literally plucking me from one part of the world and placing me in another.
Some questions answered, some not. Regardless, I have been given freedom in the Land of the Free.
I don’t know if you had a choice almost 53 years ago.
This letter is neither a political statement nor a call to judgment. I refuse to go “there.” Simply, this is a letter of gratitude and thankfulness.
The day was October 11, 1962. The place was a foreign country. I’m sure if you’re still alive, there’s not a day that goes by that you don’t think about it.
While the world viewed Johnny Carson and the Cuban Missile Crisis, I can only imagine where your focus must have been. Was there anyone looking at you and the emotional pain you may have been in? Were you alone?
I don’t know what motivated you to give me up for adoption. Was it because you were single? Was it because I was biracial? Was it because your lover wanted nothing to do with you once it was discovered you were pregnant?
I’m thankful for many things because of what you decided to do.
I was given a family who loved me. Probably too much. My maternal grandmother, my mom, and my dad, all of whom I miss terribly.
I’m thankful for piano lessons, dance lessons, and life lessons by my grandmother. I’m thankful for friends with whom I have shared nail polish, current fashions, and laughter.
And tears. Oh yes, especially the tears.
And as the years have passed, the friends and life events have revolved around caregiving, death, raising a family, and how to “do” marriage. I’ve learned many things to this point by trial and error.
I’m thankful for the gift of marriage and my husband who loves me unconditionally. I’m thankful that I’m a mom to two sons who share physical traits with me. When I look in their eyes, I see myself, in more ways than one. And for those traits that are my polar opposites, it painfully and gloriously grows me into a better woman, mother, wife, and friend. I would not be who I am if it weren’t for the three of them.
Just so you know, I would never say I have all the answers. I don’t. But my life’s experiences have taught me to be teachable. And I’m a work in progress, for sure. I learn the most when my “epic fails” are ever before me. It keeps me humble and dependent on God as He continues to transform me into a person who can bring Him glory and credit for everything He has done in my life. Including – especially including – your decision to release me.
I’m thankful for the red, white, and blue. The flag. This country. Hot dogs covered with mustard, and the national anthem loaded with emotion.
I’m thankful for sunrises, deep conversations, music, chocolate, and warm weather. I love to sink my teeth into a filet mignon and a meaty book. I’m thankful for the passions in my life that motivate me to encourage others.
The world has changed in 52 years. You can find me in an instant.
I’ll be good either way. The choice is yours.
“Freedom Is Not Free” is the memorialized inscription on the Korean Wall in Washington, D.C. Resolve, determination, and endurance are the impetus – intertwined with ongoing sacrifice and hopeful expectation – that eventually results in liberty.
On October 10, 1967 – exactly 5 years to the day that my father received his unofficial orders for assignment in Tehran, Iran – I stood before the Honorable Edward M. Curren, Chief Judge of the United States District Court in Washington, D.C. to become a citizen of this great land. He acknowledged the “sacrifices made by our forefathers who opened up this great land for…[us] to …bear the fruits they intended…far removed from the maddening hates of the Old World…[to be] what America deserves to be, a haven of Godliness, peace, and prosperity.” On this historical date I not only traded my status of “alien” for inalienable rights, but also an old world of tyranny for a new world of democracy. My oath of allegiance required me to “abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince….which I had heretofore been a subject or citizen.”
God’s hand has placed each of us as either “born a citizen” – like Apostle Paul (Acts 22:28) – or a citizen by divine intervention and sovereignty in order that the seed of labor of our forefathers and our families might be harvested in the fruit of our liberty.
As Samuel Adams’ letter to The Boston Gazette on October 5, 1772 states that “religion and public liberty of a people are intimately connected…[with] interests [that] are interwoven [and] cannot subsist separately…”. May we confidently acknowledge that our pasts – whatever that may consist of – cannot subsist separately from our individualistic testimonial faith and personal freedom in Christ.
On this and every day, we must acknowledge that our freedom is not free. Daily relinquishment of self and the “old world” to whom we have all previously been subject are intentional acts of sacrifice that necessitate our preserved liberty in Christ.
As citizens of God’s people and members of His household (Eph. 2:19), we are to minister and encourage the oppressed who are captive not by princes of a foreign land, but to the prince of darkness who steals true liberty. Let us sacrificially plant the seeds of a lasting heritage – to our children and to others – that will reap a harvest for the future.
Freedom is not free, but let us each resolve with determination, endurance, and hopeful expectation to rend the veils that blind our spiritual understanding. For where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (II Corinthians 3:14-17). And we are free indeed.