She was in prison – a dungeon almost unfathomably bad by your standards – 3 times. Each time was for speaking up, protesting war & practicing a religion that was at best frowned upon by an extremely oppressive government that was deeply enmeshed with the established church. He was a shoemaker, the son of a shoemaker, who was the son of a rural peasant who spelled his last name differently the few times he ever wrote it down.
Together they lived in a disease-ridden slum next door to huge pits of unmarked graves. This, they knew, was the ultimate future they could look forward to. But it was better than where they had lived before – a small town in the countryside they left to escape the severe religious and social persecution they were facing. A place where an errant blasphemy could lead to the misery of having your “tongue bored throug with a hot iron” or even death.
At some point, huddled together at the kitchen table, they decided they’d had enough. There was no room for them in this terrible country. This was no place to raise a family. The best their children could hope for would be more of exactly the same. Most of their children would die before adulthood and if they were extremely lucky those that lived would be shoemakers or wives. When they died? Perhaps they’d get a headstone. Perhaps not.
You can’t escape fate by staying put.
So they left. They got on a ship with what little they had and departed for a new beginning. They were refugees, fleeing oppression and religious persecution, casting their lot into an unknown that simply had to better than what they had known so far.
Together they went to America. A few generations after arriving, a grandson grew up to not be a shoemaker, nor a rural peasant: he became the president of a national bank. A few generations after that another family son created this blog.