7545 - A New Beginning

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Audio transcript

Today marks a new beginning for many people. Let me share a true story and as you listen consider what God can accomplish in a life.

These words are from a story by Paul Deutschman as found in the book Great Stories Remembered, published by Focus on the Family.

Traveling a New York subway I was struck by the features of the passenger on my left. He was probably in his late 30’s, and when he glanced up, his eyes seemed to have a hurt expression in them. He was reading a Hungarian-language newspaper, and something prompted me to say in Hungarian, “I hope you don’t mind if I glance at your paper.”

The man seemed surprised to be addressed in his native language. But he answered politely, “You may read it now. I’ll have time later on.”

During the half-hour ride to town, we had quite a conversation. He said his name was Bela Paskin. A law student when World War II started, he had been put into a German labor battalion, and later he was captured by the Russians and put to work burying the German dead. After the war, he returned to his home in a large city in eastern Hungary.

When he went to the family apartment he found strangers living there. Then he went to the apartment that he and his wife once had. It also was occupied by strangers.

As he was leaving, full of sadness, a boy ran after him calling “Uncle Paskin.” The child was the son of a former neighbor of his. He went to the boy’s home and was told that his wife and whole family was taken by the Nazis to Auschwitz.

Auschwitz was one of the worst Nazi concentration camps. Paskin gave up all hope. Too heartsick to remain any longer in Hungary he managed to immigrate to the United States just three months before I met him.

All the time he had been talking, I kept thinking that somehow his story seemed familiar. A young woman whom I had met recently at the home of friends had also been from Hungary; she had been sent to Auschiwitz; from there she had been transferred to work in a German munitions factory. Her relatives had been killed in the gas chambers. Later she was liberated by the Americans.

Her story had moved me, and I had written down her address and phone number, intending to invite her to meet my family. I fumbled anxiously in my address book. I asked in what I hoped was a casual voice, “Was your wife’s name Marya?”

He turned pale. “Yes!” he answered. “How did you know?”

He looked as if he were about to faint.

I said, “Let’s get off the train.” I took him by the arm at the next station and led him to a phone booth. He stood there like a man in a trance while I dialed her phone number.

It seemed hours before Marya Paskin answered. When I heard her voice I told her who I was and asked her to describe her husband. She seemed surprised at the question, but gave me a description. Then I asked her where she had lived in Hungary and she told me the address.

I turned to Paskin and said, “Did you and your wife live on such-and-such a street?”

“Yes!” Bela exclaimed. He was white as a sheet.

Try to be calm, I urged him. “Something miraculous is about to happen to you. Here, take this telephone and talk to your wife!”

He nodded his head in mute bewilderment, his eyes bright with tears. He took the receiver, listened a moment to his wife’s voice, then suddenly cried, “This is Bela! This is Bela!” and he began to mumble hysterically. I took the receiver from his shaking hands.

“Stay where you are,” I told Marya, who also sounded hysterical. “I am sending your husband to you. We will be there in a few minutes.”

Bela was crying like a baby and saying over and over, “It is my wife. I go to my wife!”

This was a moment in which no stranger should intrude. Putting Paskin into a taxicab, I directed the driver to take him to Marya’s address, paid the fare, and said good-bye.

Bela Paskin’s reunion with his wife was a poignant moment. They say “Even now it is difficult to believe that it’s happened.”

And Friends, let us trust God with our new beginnings.