Journey for Freedom


The first plan had been to have a guide take them through the mountains, but that did not work. A decision had to be made what to do next. Peter had heard that the two mile section of land along the Yugoslav-Austrian border next to Hungary was not heavily guarded. That would be the place, where they would try to cross the border.

Many Western European cars with German and Austrian license plates were on the road leading to Austria. The family realized that people from Austria and Germany might be traveling to the Adriatic Sea for weekends. Western Europeans could travel anywhere they wanted, their government did not stop them. However, the Eastern European governments would not allow their citizens to travel across the western borders. At one point, the road wound back and forth, while climbing the Pohorje mountain range, which was part of the Central Eastern Alps. Peter could see from the map this was one of the major roads leading from the Adriatic Sea to Austria and continuing on to Germany. The family had to travel a section of this road for some time, before they would exit and continue east.

Peter was driving his small Russian made car as fast as possible. The car was only three-years old and not bad by Eastern European standards. He was constantly shifting gears and revving up the engine. There were no places to pass so he would hold up traffic behind him if he did not drive fast enough. The engine was screaming in the high RPM's, and the tires were squealing on the blacktop. The children sitting in the backseat were struggling to keep from flying around. To his amazement, cars were still passing them. There was no place to pass--no straight stretches in the road--he could not understand it as the gas pedal was all the way to the floor. Could these cars be so much more powerful? How could they be designed so much better to travel at this speed without the tires screeching? 'Of course,' he thought, 'those cars are a product of Capitalism and competition!' His car was a product of Communism with no such competition! More proof of government lies and propaganda. Luckily they were almost to their exit since everybody in the car was getting dizzy and nauseated.

They took the exit traveling east and finally had time to discuss their plans. Peter felt they should try to escape tonight--the longer they stuck around, the higher the risk of attracting unwanted attention. There was always a chance that the police would pull them over and start asking questions. They were far away from the road leading from Hungary to the Adriatic Sea and that alone could raise suspicions. They would try to cross the border on foot and decided that 2:00 in the morning would give them the best chance. The guards would be tired and not paying too much attention. The information he had gathered stated there would be a paved road leading to the right, before the Yugoslavian guard house. He planned on taking that road, but not too far as he didn't want to get lost and accidently wander into the Yugoslav-Hungarian border--that would be a disaster! They would have to leave the car and walk to their left, making a half circle avoiding the Yugoslavian and Austrian guardhouses, then return to the same road only in a different country. If they accomplished this, they would be free.

It was shortly after noon on Monday, June 20, 1983, and they still had a long way to travel. They were driving parallel to the Yugoslav-Austrian border, which was approximately 60 miles north. They stopped at another gas station to fill the tank. When Peter was paying with the gasoline stamps, he offered the rest to the clerk as he had done before. This time everything went as planned, without any incident. They now had all the money they could possibly get.

By mid afternoon, they came to the intersection and turned north before the town of Murska Sobota. According to their map, this was the road that would lead them to the Austrian border. It was after 4:00 in the afternoon and they were getting closer. The Yugoslavian government was under pressure from other Communist countries to make their borders more secure and harder to penetrate. One of the new precautions was to have police cars patrolling the roads leading to the Austrian border crossings. When the police saw a car with Eastern European license plates, they would turn it around and send them away. If the same car was caught repeatedly, the police would arrest the passengers, hand them over to their government, and the authorities would be informed that they were trying to defect.

According to the map, they were approximately 30 miles away from the border. It was time to search for a place to hide until nightfall. Peter followed some tracks he had noticed leading across the grass into a small wooded area, which turned out to be the perfect hiding place. There were thick trees and bushes all around them, with a small grassy opening in the middle. They had to wait nine hours until 1:00 in the morning, when they planned to leave their hiding place. The danger of being discovered and reported to the authorities still existed, but luckily that had not happened so far. It had rained lightly all day until now, but a heavy cloud cover indicated the rain was not over. Peter and his family sat down and ate a picnic dinner. They played with the kids to keep them quiet, so no one would hear them.

He was expecting the children to start crying when they were awakened at 2:00 A.M. That just could not happen tonight, but what do you tell a two and four-year old child? How do you explain what they were planning to do? How do you tell them not to cry when you wake them up in the middle of the night from a sound sleep, and drag them from their warm bed into the coldness of the night? And what words do you use to keep them from becoming even more frightened? Maybe they will not cry! What if talking to them would make it worse?

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