Dead Giveaway By Charles Ramsey Is A Thrill Ride Of A Life Story

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When I had heard that the 3 Cleveland women were being rescued as I watched on TV, it was an awful but also inspiring day. It was heart-wrenching thinking that those women, those girls, were locked in a house with a monster 60 miles north of where I live. It truly was a story of courage and triumph. Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus survived that awful prison, and did not ever let Ariel Castro win. A man, with a past that wasn’t squeaky clean, stood up, mustered up courage, and became the women’s saviors. His name is Charles Ramsey.

We all know Charles Ramsey. I live in the Cleveland, Ohio area, and I remember seeing the very “Dead Giveaway” moment on Channel 3 (WKYC) even before the thousands of remixes and memes. Even people who don’t live in Northeast Ohio area know this hilarious character, quick with a joke and a hero. As TMZ said, “Charles Ramsey is the best kind of hero…the kind that saves lives, and makes you laugh your a** off.”

Now, Charles Ramsey has released his first book, entitled Dead Giveaway. Ramsey’s autobiography talks about his experiences throughout his life. He talks about how he has worked as everything from an onion-peeler to a dishwasher. Ramsey discusses his experiences with drug-dealing, earning a 0.00 GPA in the first semester of college to rebel against his father, and prison stints.

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Ramsey In An Interview With Anderson Cooper Right After The Rescue

But, for all the darkness Charles Ramsey has experienced throughout his life, he doesn’t neglect to talk about the good (and some frankly funny) events that came after his rescue of the girls. He writes about how he was made into an instant celebrity, and how that led to his phone being blasted with thousands of text messages and calls, so much that it drove him to throw his phone in the Hudson River. He also reveals his friendship with Snoop Dogg that has developed after the heroic act, and how he has received accolades from Anderson Cooper, John Walsh, Valerie Bertinelli, President Obama, and more public figures.

The best part of Dead Giveaway, at least for me, was Ramsey’s brutal honesty. He does not sugar-coat the events of his life, and it reads perfectly. It is important stories, like Charles Ramsey’s, deserve, and need, to be told, lest we forget what so many of our fellow Americans experience day-to-day in the inner city.

Charles Ramsey’s story is just beginning. We all thought that 3 survivors emerged on May 6th, 2013. I believe that 4 people were actually rescued that day, and now they all have a chance to live their full life stories. I commend Charles Ramsey for his bravery, sense of humor, and frankness expressed in Dead Giveaway. I look forward to seeing what he accomplishes next.

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Charles Ramsey~ Author Bio:

Charles Ramsey became an unlikely international celebrity on May 6, 2013 when he helped rescue three kidnapped women in Cleveland, Ohio. National media and fans called him a “hero.” He says no, he just did what anybody should have done. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Talon Series #3: Knight Assassin Continues The Series With A Unification Of French And Assassin Skills

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This is my second post in the “James Boschert’s Talon Series”. To read my other posts so far, more information on the other books, and upcoming posts in the series, please visit my “James Boschert’s Talon Series” page at the top.

James Boschert’s first novel, Assassins Of Alamut, takes place in the 12th Century. Set in the time of the Crusades, it is the story of Talon, a young Frank who is captured by the Ismaili Muslims, themselves hunted by the Sunni and Shi’a. He is raised as a Ismaili, and trains to become a Hashshashin (Assassin), the protectors of the Ismaili.

In the second book in the series, Knight Assassin, Talon, with the help of his uncle Phillip, makes the trek back to his birthplace (and true home): France. When Talon returns, his homecoming is celebrated, but a dark threat looms over the reunion of the de Gilles family. Greed and treachery plague the French countryside, as claims to inheritance are fought for to the death.

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A Knight’s Suit of Armor

Talon will rely on the help of some Welsh archers he meets at sea, along with his uncle’s sergeant Max. Most importantly, however, Talon must do what he never wanted to do again: become an assassin. He must meld the tactical skills of a French knight with the blade-in-the-crowd ability of the assassins if he is to save his family.

Knight Assassin is another magnificent continuation of Talon’s story. The feudal era of France is represented with great study, but also not dry history. The people of the novel are multi-dimensional, and are much more than what you are used to finding in similar novels. But for all this, the focus truly is on Talon. This allows the book to show the growth of the young man who has already been through enough bloodshed, enough loss, for one life. Talon himself is shown in a way that makes it seem like he was an actual living person, and I especially commend James Boschert on not having Talon take a turn for the darkness that consumed so many of the other characters in Knight Assassin.

Just as Talon has to take the best from both knight and assassin skills and hone them, Boschert does the same, taking the greatest parts from historical fiction, action, and military novels and melds them into the landmark “Talon Series” installments.

Next in the blog series will be my review of James Boschert’s Assassination in al-Qahirah.

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James Boschert~ Author Bio:

James Boschert grew up in the then colony of Malaya between the ages of four and eleven. The Chinese communists were active in the jungles at the time threatening the entire country with a cruel insurgency. His school was burned down and the family survived the ambush of a food convoy, saved by a patrol of Gurkha soldiers. He joined the British army as a boy soldier and later served in remote places like Borneo, Oman and other countries of the Middle East, eventually spending several years in Iran. While there he explored the castles of the infamous sect known as the Ismaili or Hashashini. It sometimes took a few days hard walking or driving to find these remote deserted fortresses high in the mountains of the Alborz in northern Iran. They eventually became the subject matter for his first book “The Assassins of Alamut” Escaping from the turmoil of Iran during the revolution he went to college and now lives in the USA.

He has developed a fascination for medieval history in general but in particular the history of the Middle East, Andalusia, Egypt and all the way to India. His books are historical novels about the medieval history of the same region but seen from both perspectives, that of the Crusaders and the Muslim world. “I believe that in order to put some depth to the Crusades one needs to look at what was going on all around them at the same time. I find the world at that time incredibly rich in every aspect.”

“The four legs of civilization as we have recorded it, Andalusia, Europe, Byzantium and the old empires of Persia and the Islamic world of Syria and Egypt make a rich backdrop for any novel.”

“The politics and under currents of the Middle East continue to hold my attention as they are always in flux and are never still.”

Personal Letter And Autograph From President Bill Clinton: Is This Real Life?!

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President Bill Clinton Doing What He Does Best: Bringing People Together. Oslo Accords, 1993. L-R: Yitzhak Rabin, Clinton, Yasser Arafat

Recently I had sent letters to both Secretary Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton. I wrote about my ambitions, and the cause I am to make my life’s work: poverty. A couple months ago, in early February, I had received a letter and autograph from Secretary Clinton (which I wrote about here.)

This month, though, I was lucky enough to get a response from the Office of Bill Clinton at the Clinton Foundation:

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It is a personal letter from him, along with a signed bookplate. I was honored to receive both of these, as I hold him as a hero of mine. It also meant a lot to me what he said in the letter, which included:

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“I was especially inspired by your passion for promoting racial and economic equality.”

“I can tell that you’re already…thinking thoughtfully about how to empower others to live their best life stories.”

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And in an allusion to the title of his autobiography, he said:

“Good luck onto your life.”

Bill Clinton was one of the greatest Presidents we have had, and has emerged as a true statesman. I am truly grateful for the time and energy he put in writing me back, and it is something that I will hold with me for a very long time. Both Secretary Clinton and President Clinton are figures that I admire greatly, and they “may” (wink) both be making firsts in 2016

Wake by Anna Hope Is A Post-World War 1 Masterpiece of Intersecting Lives

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< US Cover

Wake:
1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep
2) Ritual for the dead
3) Consequence or aftermath.

The idea for a commemoration for World War I in England came into being in 1920, from the mind of a British army chaplain. The chaplain, in a letter to the Dean of Westminster, talked about how he had seen, 4 years prior, a wooden cross in Armentières (a northern French city) marked only with, in pencil, “An Unknown British Soldier.” The case was made for a memorial for an unknown soldier, for a great reason. Because the deceased serviceman’s name was not known, it showed war at its worst: his social, economic, and royal ranks were stripped. Without any of these, he belonged to all the people.

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UK Cover; Copy I Received, Due To Requesting Even Before UK Release >

Wake, Anna Hope’s debut novel, takes place in the 5 days between the exhuming of the British Unknown Soldier and his burial. The book follows 3 London women: Hettie, from west London, who supports her war-wounded brother and herself by dancing with former soldiers, some who have lost limbs, for sixpence a waltz; Evelyn, after giving up her nobility due to her lover’s disappearance during the war, who works in the Pensions Office; and Ada, who is plagued by the loss of her son Michael, who disappeared in the war.

These women’s stories all intersect in ways they do not know, but are uncovered by the reader, piece by piece, over the 5 days the book takes place in. We learn the fate of Michael, and how his death has impacted Ada, Evelyn, and Hettie, all in some way. These 3 women feel so much heartache, so much pain, over these 5 days, almost too much to bear, but just enough to be perfect.

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Tomb Of The British Unknown Soldier. Credit Here.

Anna Hope has written a true masterpiece with Wake. It does not merely show 3 women and their lives; it does show this, but also shows how each life affects the others. These women do not directly know each other, but through their family members they feel each others’ pain, their loss. The book is written without sentimentality, and with a prose that does not exaggerate, just shows like real life, pain. The writing is on par with Ian McEwan, who also told a story of the loss that comes from war (Atonement). The novel has direct messages for today’s world, for those both suffering from mental and physical wounds from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but also from men and women suffering from wounds linked to rape, torture, and other unthinkable horrors.

The greatest thing that I took away from Wake was the underlying message. When the ceremony takes place for the Unknown Soldier, all 3 women realize it is time to get up, brush off, and, well, “dance again.” Hope strives to show this for our time too, to not forget what happened during wars, but not let it ruin us. She hopes to say that no matter what, a brighter future is always ahead. She achieves this, along with a book that will not leave a person’s memory for a very long time. If ever.

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Anna Hope~ Author Bio:

Anna Hope is an English writer and actress from Manchester. She is perhaps best known for her Doctor Who role of Novice Hame. She was educated at Wadham College, Oxford, The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, and Birkbeck College, London.

Anna’s powerful first novel, Wake, sold to Transworld Publishers in a seven-way auction. Set over the course of five days in 1920, Wake weaves the stories of three women around the journey of the Unknown Soldier, from its excavation in Northern France to Armistice Day at Westminster Abbey. US rights were pre-empted by Susan Kamil at Random House.

Thanks To Doubleday UK For A Review Copy. I have provided an honest review in return.

An Interview With Author Stephanie Thornton On Egypt, Hatshepsut, And Today’s Powerful Women

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I am excited to share with you an interview I was able to do with historical fiction writer Stephanie Thornton. She is the author of The Secret History, and the recently released Daughter of The Gods.

Hello Stephanie, and welcome to Seize The Moment. It is my honor to have you here, and I can’t wait to start the interview! How are you?

I’m thrilled to be here, Nassem! Thanks so much for having me!

Ever since your debut, The Secret History, on one of my favorite historical figures, Theodora, published, I have been hooked on anything authored by you. Your newest book, Daughter of The Gods, was actually written before your debut novel. How much editing went into Daughter of The Gods before it was published? Did you find anything out after Daughter hit the store shelves in further research that you wish you could go back and add in?

Daughter of the Gods is completely unrecognizable from its earliest forms! (I know this because my first readers read it again last month and told me it’s a totally different book.) I feel like I’ve been researching ancient Egypt all my life (to say it’s an obsession is an understatement of colossal proportions) so fortunately, the only things I discovered that I wish I could have added were minor details, like the Egyptians twined together flax coated in sheep fat to make candles and descriptions of nifty alabaster perfume jars I saw at a traveling Egyptian exhibit last fall.

This interview, I promise, will focus on the protagonist of your newest novel, Hatshepsut, but I would like to ask a little about Theodora, the main character of your debut. What first brought her to your attention? I know I admire her for her rise from poverty to leadership, but why do you hold her in your respect?

I first discovered Theodora’s story while teaching world history. Most textbooks mention a Byzantine actress-turned-empress who saved her husband’s throne during the Nika riots, but the story is usually restricted to a single sentence or a caption under her famous mosaic portrait from Ravenna. I did some extra digging and learned about Theodora’s rough beginnings as the daughter of a bear trainer and also that those same Nika riots resulted in the deaths of 30,000 rebels. I realized I had an amazing story on my hands and as I did more research, I was truly gob-smacked both by all that Theodora accomplished in addition to the love she inspired in Justinian. Plus, she survived an outbreak of bubonic plague, which is just darn cool.

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Empress Theodora of Constantinople. Credit Here.

Egypt has had multiple female rulers, including the famous Nefertiti, and the uber-popular Cleopatra VII. Yet, Daughter of The Gods introduces a lesser-known pharaoh, Hatshepsut. When did you first learn of her, and all of her glory? What character traits do you most admire about this powerful woman?

I think Hatshepsut is lesser-known only because Egyptologists didn’t know about her for so many years. Her name was erased from the king lists and all images portraying her as pharaoh were hacked into oblivion, with the exception of a few that were difficult to reach (on the pinnacles of obelisks and whatnot). It wasn’t until fairly recently that they realized this was a case of ancient revisionist history and then they truly started to discover all she’d accomplished. The rebuilding of Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri also helped fill in the gaps, telling the tale of her supposedly divine birth and her expedition to Punt.

I first came across Hatshepsut during a junior high research assignment and the only information available in the encyclopedia (no internet then!) was that she had seized the throne from her stepson and all her monuments had been destroyed after her death. That stuck with me, because it was already apparent to me that this woman possessed the courage and daring to rule in a man’s world, and later research has proven that she did it better than most male pharaohs did!

Hatshepsut accomplished a lot in her life, as I learned from reading Daughter of The Gods. How do her achievements stack up compared to other successful pharaohs, like Ramses the Great, Nefertiti, and Cleopatra VII?

I’d say that of all those three, Hatshepsut and Ramses would be the closest tie, although Ramses might pull slightly to the lead when it came to his building projects, but only because he lived an extra forty-ish years longer than Hatshepsut! Both worked to strengthen Egypt’s territories and each was a master at propaganda, Ramses with the records of his extremely one-sided peace treaty at Kadesh and Hatshepsut with the story of her divine birth at Deir el-Bahri.

As for Nefertiti, the verdict is still out on her accomplishments considering that Egyptologists remain divided on whether she ruled after the death of her husband, Akhenaten. And don’t get me started on Cleopatra… She lost Egypt to the Romans!

Historians still argue amongst each other about if Hatshepsut and Senenmut were truly in love. What made you decide to go with a romantic relationship between the two in Daughter of The Gods? Is it frustrating to not have a solid answer on the question of their love for each other, or do you think it is how Hatshepsut would have wanted it?

I’m a hopeless romantic so there wasn’t much of a choice regarding the love story between Hatshepsut and Senenmut, plus I’m a big Senenmut fan! I suspect that Hatshepsut would have preferred the ambiguity regarding their relationship, simply for the fact that if there was any proof then it would have been easy for historians to pass off her accomplishments as a result of the “man behind the throne.” Each of them achieved amazing feats in their own right: Hatshepsut had her trade expeditions and building projects while Senenmut became one of the most titled man in Egyptian history in addition to building not one, but two impressive tombs for himself.

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Pharaoh Hatshepsut. Credit Here.

I know that, like myself, you are a big fan of the strong female leaders of today’s world, like Hillary Clinton. Of the female leaders in today’s world, who do you think would be most like Hatshepsut?

That’s a great question, Nassem! I’m not sure if there are any modern leaders whose story fully parallels that of Hatshepsut’s (I’ve always seen similarities between her and Elizabeth I), but I think Hatshepsut likely possessed some of the statesmanship displayed by Madeline Albright and Queen Noor of Jordan. However, neither of those women ever seized power from their stepsons to rule on their own!

You run a full life…teaching a high school history class, being an author, raising a daughter, and more. How do you balance it all, especially to be able to fit in your research + writing? Do you set a time to write, or do you just do it “as the wind blows?” What kinds of things do you like to dabble in during your free time?

What?! Where is this mysterious “free time” you speak of? LOL! On a more serious note, I write every night after my daughter is in bed and I’ve been writing like a madwoman since school got out. When I’m not teaching or writing you can probably find me doing yoga, running, traveling or… surprise… reading!

Now that you have published 2 books to your name, what is the experience like? Was it different the second time around? What is your favorite, and least favorite, aspect of it? To aspiring writers, what advice do you offer for getting a book published?

The experience has been very similar with the book signings and blog tours, but I was a little better prepared this time around because I knew what to expect and how to better manage my time. My favorite aspect is when readers contact me to let me know how much they learned about Hatshepsut (or Theodora). My least favorite aspect is probably just that I wish there was an extra hour in every day to get everything done! And for aspiring writers, I will always love Winston Churchill’s advice: “Never, never, never give up!”

I know it is a cliche question, but seriously, what authors influence your writing most? And a similar, but possibly different in answer, question: what authors do you like to read most?

I think every book can leave a lasting impression on a writer, be it good or bad, but I was inspired after reading Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers to widen the scope of my upcoming novel, The Tiger Queens, to focus on four women in Genghis Khan’s life instead of just one. And when it comes to authors, I greedily gobble up anything written by Kate Quinn, Michelle Moran, Kate Furnivall, or Stephanie Dray!

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The Tiger Queens, To Come Fall 2014.

Your third book, The Tiger Queens, is going to hit the shelves November 4th. Could you tell us a bit about this exciting upcoming addition to your powerful women series, this time in Genghis Khan-era Mongolia? What makes it different from your previous titles?

The Tiger Queens is more of a sweeping family epic in that it covers the lives of four very different women, spans almost 80 years, and moves from Mongolia to China to Persia to Vienna and finally back to Mongolia. (Those Mongols were busy!) I’ve chosen to focus on Genghis’ first wife Borte, his wild-child daughter Alaqai, a Persian slave named Fatima, and Sorkhokhtani, Genghis’ daughter-by-marriage and Princess of the Hearth. It’s a pretty wild ride!

Finally, what social impact do you hope your books are able to accomplish? Do you ever consider the possibility that your books are in the hands of a future female leader, learning how to be independent from the historical characters you are writing about? Is this the true legacy of any author, if their prose affects the very soul of a reader?

My whole goal in both teaching history and writing about little-known historical women is to inspire readers to learn more about them. People often bemoan the lack of strong women in history, but they’re there if you know to look for them. And while I’m not sure if any future female presidents or prime ministers will read my books, I do love the idea of girls today learning from the stories of women like Hatshepsut, Theodora, or Sorkhokhtani. I know I certainly find their lives inspiring!

Thank you so much for being here today Stephanie! I appreciate your insightful answers, and it truly was an honor to interview you.

Thank you so much for having me, Nassem! It’s been an absolute treat!

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Stephanie Thornton-

Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve.

She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.

The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora is available from NAL/Penguin and Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt hit the shelves May 6, 2014.

The Tiger Queens: A Novel of Genghis Khan will publish in Fall 2014.

For more information, please visit Stephanie Thornton’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

My Personal Connection To A Host City Of The 2014 FIFA World Cup

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Poster for 2014 FIFA World Cup- Recife. Credit Here.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil kicks off today (June 12th), with the first match between Brazil and Croatia starting off the festivities. Running June 12th to July 13th, it will a month-long celebration of the world uniting in the celebration of fùtbol (soccer).

As much as the world can come together for this event, I have my own personal connection to this specific World Cup. One of the host cities, Recife, is where my (many greats)-grandfather Resolved Waldron came to in 1633. He signed up in the Dutch West India Company in his home city of Amsterdam, and due to his knowledge of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and English, became the Dutch governor’s translator. Dutch Brazil is little known; the Dutch conquered the east coast of Brazil in 1630. Its capital was Recife, where Resolved Waldron, and his wife, Rebecca, immigrated to in 1633.

I am at work on a historical fiction novel including 2 of my ancestors, Resolved Waldron and Christian Fast, that is meant to show how the dream of democracy took generations to achieve in America. Part of the book talks about Resolved’s time in Recife, and I would like to share with you a bit of that part of my work-in-progress. (NOTE- This is the first draft, not the finished product)

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Recife in 1630s.

~ 1633
As the Orange pulled into Recife’s harbor, I was talking to Captain Boeke. I said, “How long will you be here?”
The captain said, “Oh, about a month. Enough time to load up the sugar from the plantations and get it back to Europe.”
“If you ever need a place to stay here, you are more than welcome in my home.”
“That is very kind of you, Mr. Waldron. Thank you.”
As our conversation ended, I grabbed our bags and met Rebecca, who was already on the pier. I said, with a huge smile, “This city is more beautiful than I could have imagined! The colors, smells. Magnificent!”
Rebecca said, “I couldn’t agree more!”
As we walked on the pier, away from the Orange, we saw merchants selling sugar, spices, and rum. Rebecca would stop every so often to smell the spices, and at one point began to talk to a sugar merchant.
Rebecca said, “How much do you charge for a pound?”
I translated this to him, and he said, “Mi amigos, cinco reales.”
“Oh!” Rebecca said. “Resolved, 5 reales?”
“That is much cheaper than Amsterdam.” It was.
Turning back to the merchant, she said, “We will take 2 pounds.” She held up 2 fingers.
“Oh, si, si!” He handed me the sack. “Muchas Gracias!”
I said, “De Nada,” and we both resumed walking.
As I was talking to Rebecca about how happy I was to be off the ship, a man ran over to us and said, “Mr. Waldron?”
I responded, “Yes?”
“I am your guide. Governor Maurits asked me to lead you around our great city.”
“Okay, that is very kind of you, um…”
“Ricardo. I have lived my entire life here, and know this city better than anyone.”
We began to walk, heading to the city center. Ricardo said, “We have about 10,000 people here.” He pointed to his left. “That is the zoo. You know, it was the first to be built in the New World.” Motioning right, “Those are the botanical gardens of our city. If you want quiet time or a place to think, come here.” As we walked through a small part of the gardens, we saw orchids, hibiscus, and chrysanthemum flowers, and the wonderful fragrance could only be rivaled by Amsterdam’s spice district.
As we reached the city center, we saw the main buildings. There was a small floral area in the center and structures all around. One of the greatest things about this city is the colors. All of the buildings had walls painted with magnificent aqua blues, yellows, orange, and reds. The colors matched perfectly with the climate, too.
While being lost in the colors, I was interrupted by Ricardo. Pointing to the stand-alone home right off the center of the city square, he said, “And we have arrived at your new house!”
My mouth dropped as we saw our new house. The home was built with a center and 2 wings that stuck out toward the dirt and sand streets. It was painted a reddish-orange and had a red tiled roof.
Rebecca said, “Thank you, Ricardo, for the wonderful tour. Your city has a lot to offer.
I then said, “Tell the Governor that I will see him first thing tomorrow.”
Ricardo said goodbye to us, and went on his way.
“Oh Rebecca!” I said. “This city is so wonderful, and look at our house!”
“Yes, dear. Do not let your excitement cloud your judgment, though.”
What did she mean by that? I told myself that she was just tired, but in the back of my mind that comment replayed itself over and over.
We walked inside our new home, and I sat down our luggage in the doorway. I paid the money I had saved working at the printer’s shop years ago to pre-furnish the home, so Rebecca and I decided to just lay down in our new bed and sleep. }

~ END

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Team USA. Credit Here.

A few of the matches in Recife include the United States team. Team USA will be playing the Germans on June 26th. There are a multitude of other matches to be played there, but that is the highest-profile game to be played at this point in the standings.

Recife is a beautiful coastal city, and Brazil’s 5th largest city, with almost 4 million inhabitants. It was considered the first cosmopolitan city in the Americas, and had the first zoo in the Western Hemisphere.

I look forward to all the matches in Recife, and all the other cities in Brazil. Go Team USA! ¡Ole Ola!

Marek Tyszkiewicz: Values Established By Heritage

Marek Tyszkiewicz

Marek Tyszkiewicz

As the rain trickles down and taps my windowsill over and over, never seeming to end, I have a story for you. A tale that can come only out of the melting pot that is America; one that is so real it seems impossible. I first learned of this story through my extensive discussions with Ohio 2nd US Congressional Candidate Marek Tyszkiewicz.
As I heard about Marek’s parents, I felt happy and sad, joyful and devastated. All the disconnections, pain, loss, but also new hope, happiness and family fill this story that belongs in a collection of stories of immigrants who overcame immense struggles to reach the shining beacon of liberty, the United States.

Marek’s father, Stanislaw, was born in 1912, in the rural parts of Poland. A love for nature and an understanding of its importance led him to obtain a college degree in Forestry & Wildlife and earn a prestigious position maintaining a wildlife preserve, Marek told me. He also related that “military service in Poland at that time was also mandatory and Stanislaw was a Lieutenant in an anti-aircraft battalion.”

As all might remember, because it was the event that was one of the most pivotal in human history, on September 1st, 1939, the Nazi army invaded Poland, setting off a chain of events that led to 75 million deaths, the invention of nuclear weapons, and America’s emergence as a superpower. As Marek said during our discussion, “Hitler’s intention was to eliminate all Poles, both Jewish and Christian. Poles were referred to by Nazis as subhuman. Hitler’s command was to kill ‘without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of Polish descent or language'”

Marek said, “Poland, assuming the Soviet Union would remain neutral, deployed troops to the western front to confront the Nazi assault. On September 17, 1939, the Red Army invaded Poland from the east.” Stanislaw answered the call to duty, and his battalion was tasked the job of defending the Polish President’s train out of the country.

When the President, Władysław Raczkiewicz, reached France, Stanislaw duties were over and the battalion dismantled. Evading the Germans invading while in the east, and the Soviets invading while in the west, Stanislaw had to walk home, careful not to attract too much attention to himself.

As he was still in his officer’s uniform, a Polish farmer with a huge heart ran out courageously into the road and warned Stanislaw that the Soviets were rounding up Polish officers and executing them on the spot. The farmer gave him a change of clothes that he put on and then he continued to walk home.

As the darkness enveloped over the land, the silence broken only by Stanislaw’s footsteps and the drone of war planes every so often overhead, Stanislaw walked. However, he ended up being caught by the Soviets. He denied that he was a Polish officer, so instead of being executed on the spot, Stanislaw was sentenced to hard labor at a Siberian gulag while 22,000 of his fellow Poles were executed in the forests of Katyn.

The grueling train ride to the labor camp took weeks for Stanislaw. Marek told me, “When the train arrived at the gulag, one of the Poles challenged a guard by saying ‘you can’t treat people this way.’ The guard drew his pistol and executed the man with a bullet to the head. The guard then turned to the rest of the Poles and said ‘any other complaints?’”

The labor camp Stanislaw was delegated to worked the over 10,000 Poles and many others to produce gold, nickel, tin and lumber, pushing them to the point that only 583 survived.

After Hitler’s daring invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Stalin let the Polish prisoners of war go with the intent that they would fight the Nazis. Stanislaw made the trek to the Middle East to rejoin the Polish Army, which was now serving as part of the British Army.

At the end of the war, Poland was annexed to the Soviet Union and because of this Stanislaw became a refugee in England. This man had the courage to be able to not return to Poland because it was no longer free. He had to leave behind his homeland, his heritage, but a brighter future was only possible if he lived the American Dream. He became a refugee to England, where, as the Brits celebrated the turning of a New Year in 1947, he met a fellow Pole named Halina.

Halina and Stanislaw's Wedding Photo

Halina and Stanislaw’s Wedding Photo

Halina’s story is just as intriguing as her significant other and just as important. Halina, Marek Tyszkiewicz’s mother, was born in 1927, the daughter of a World War I veteran, and a mother who died when Halina was an infant. Her father remarried, and the family lived on a piece of land given to her father in return for his service to Poland. It almost seemed to be perfect, living in the Poland countryside, until the month of September in 1939, when Poland became a battleground between the Germans and the Soviets.

In 1939, when Halina was 12-years-old, her family received a late-night knock on the door, accompanied with an order that the family leave the house. Her family, which besides herself included her father, her stepmother, and two brothers, rode a boxcar train to a labor camp in Siberia, now prisoners of the Soviet Union. As the fall turned to winter, the temperature dropping, freezing physical objects, the feeling in Europe also turned to winter, where not just physical things were frozen, but souls too.

When the family reached the labor camp, a difficult choice had to be made. There were two options for children ages 9-14. They could be like all the adult laborers and conduct physical labor, earning them a food ration. The other option was for them to get an education, but that came with no food ration. Though an obviously hard choice, Halina’s father decided to send her to school.

This is evidence that Halina’s father probably believed that freedom would triumph over oppression in the end and that education for his daughter would be necessary when the war came to a halt. Making difficult choices instead of cowering away, and the belief in the necessity of education, both still shines through generations later in his grand-son, Marek.

Even though Halina could not supply her family with her food ration, she definitely still pulled her weight to support them. While in the camp, she carried water from the river (Marek told me that if she spilled any, it froze instantly), cooking the meals the best she could from the meager rations, and washing the dishes and clothes by hand. Due to disease spreading like wildfire in the labor camp, she made sure to wash everything the family used very well. She worked even through being frost bitten, her hands and feet slowly ending their ability to be used, her eyesight failing.

Halina's Citizenship Photo

Halina’s Citizenship Photo

When Stalin was pressured by Churchill into releasing Polish prisoners to fight the Nazis in 1941, Halina’s family was free. The suffering, the toiling under the oppression of the Soviets, was over, but Halina’s personal suffering was not nearly over. She was almost to the point of death, so weak, suffering the effects of untreated disease and frostbite. Her family was desperately finding somewhere that they could get her healed.

 

Marek told me, “Her father had heard of an agency in Iran that was accepting orphaned children. He knew Halina was near death and would not survive long without help. He declared her an orphan and sent her on the back of a Red Cross truck to the Persian city of Isfahan. Near death when she arrived, the Iranians saved her life and the lives of countless other Polish children. In Poland even today, Isfahan is known as the City of Polish Children.”

Sometimes we forget that as much as we are different than some places, we still share a lot in common.

When Halina was 14, when she was recovering in the Iranian orphanage, she overheard that a group of nuns were opening a school for young refugee girls in Palestine. Halina was overjoyed and immediately agreed to join the endeavor. Marek said that “living in Palestine was Halina’s happiest childhood memory.”

This peaceful time was soon to end, however. In 1947, after the horrors of the Holocaust, the newly-formed United Nations announced plans for separate Palestinian and Jewish states. Violence broke out, fracturing along ethnic and political lines that still exist today, and Halina, along with other refugees, was shipped off to Britain.

In Britain, in a former British Army base turned Polish refugee camp, Halina and Stanislaw met among the cheers and new optimism of New Years 1947. As the world began to move to the future, where the threat of fascism was replaced by communism, so did the newly-married Polish couple. America was the beacon of freedom that they looked to after suffering so much, sad that Poland was no longer free, but optimistic that life in America would offer much more.

Marek said that the transition to American life was easier for them than others because they lived in England first and learned English before coming to America. “People often said my mother spoke the ‘Queen’s English.’ My father had a much heavier accent and it definitely wasn’t the Queen’s English,” Marek said.

Marek and His Parents

Marek and His Parents

The couple pursued the American Dream to its fullest, but understood that it would only come with hard work. Stanislaw became an employee of the Department of Transportation, helping to put into reality, among other things, Eisenhower’s interstate program. Halina worked second-shift in a factory, and when they had saved enough money, they purchased an 80-acre farm. Marek recalls planting over 500 trees a year on the farm, slowly but surely turning it from a farm into a nature preserve, just as Stanislaw had wanted to do in Poland.

As Marek grew up in America though, his first language was Polish. He actually learned English thanks mostly to watching PBS, probably learning it from the compassion of Fred Rogers or the inventive program that still teaches children today, Sesame Street.

Marek said that the greatest thing that he remembers about his father is the fact that he always wanted more for his children than he had. Marek told me that his father was frugal, with the kids wearing hand-me-downs and that they never took vacations, but that the money Stanislaw saved was used to put all four of his children through college. The greatest thing he remembers of his mother was her compassion. Marek said, “Family was everything and she made it clear that family came first and trumped everything else. She was the matriarch of the family.”

Through his parents suffering at the hands of oppressors, but finding hope and freedom in America, has made Marek Tyszkiewicz the man he is today. Though both Stanislaw and Halina are gone, their legacy lives on through their son, Marek.

Marek, now a modern American business man, is a staunch believer and protector of the American Dream due to his parent’s journey. Raised to value the freedom he has in America, he is a man that dreams to protect the American people in Congress.

In a time that cynicism seems to rule our society and politics, Tyszkiewicz honors his parents as a shining beacon for hope, in striving to get things done for the best of the American people so that all can continue in the American Dream.

Read my first article on Marek Tyszkiewicz.

Visit Marek Tyszkiewicz’s Website.