You never know when or where or how you’re going connections with someone!

When I flew back from California (attending the Hymn Society Conference and visiting with my brother and his partner), I was on the side of the plane with two seats. My seatmate was an elderly lady who–at least at the first part of the flight–didn’t seem interested in visiting. She was pleasant enough, but she spent much of the time dozing.

That didn’t hurt my feelings. I had some reading I wanted to do, and I was really rather tired from all the activities of the last couple of weeks.

However, about halfway through the flight, we passed through some incredibly white clouds–clouds that looked like you could bounce on them. My seatmate was studying them, and so was I. She turned and made some innocuous comment about them…and one thing led to another.

She had an accent, a German one I thought. So I asked her what part of Germany she was from. Her response was that she was actually from Hungary…and now lived the next small village over from where my brother lives. What a small world! My brother had lived in Budapest for several years when he was beginning his teaching career!

When I asked her what brought her to the United States, she debated about how much of her story to tell me, and then decided to give me many of the details, historical details I was not at all familiar with.

At the Yalta Conference in 1945, when Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt basically carved the world into spheres of influence, Stalin was given permission to import “guest workers” from conquered areas under his control. Maria (my seatmate) was the age they were looking for–women between the ages of 17 and 35. She was sent to Russia to work in a mine.

When her time was up, she returned to her home, but not for long. The authorities wanted her to go to the surrounding areas, encouraging others to sign up for the guest worker program–telling them what a great experience it had beeen. But she refused. She said she had worked but would not tell lies to other young women. There had been 70 taken from her home town–and 12 came back alive.

She had an aunt who had emigrated to the United States and so she was working to find a way to join her. At that time the United States did not have political asylum–the only way she could come was (if I understood her correctly) if she was in the medical field or a religious person. She went to her Lutheran pastor who filled out the paperwork and then told her, “Maria, I have lied, but I think God will forgive me. I said you were a deaconess–but you do not have to do that.”

She told me more about her life after she was here–the trials she and her first husband went through in trying to buy land in Colorado…only to discover that the man they had bought the land from sold the water rights separately. In trying to take him to court, he had strong political connections that caused them to lose their suit…

Her life here has not always been easy–but she still carried a positive spirit, even though she’s had to give up her home and now lives in a nursing home.

Connections…you make them at times and in places that are totally unexpected! But what a blessing they can be!!