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English Detective # 86 winning freedom July 4, 2017
June 17, 2017

For July 4, I found a few stories of people who risked their lives and their futures to win freedom for their families or their nation.

(There are so many more—from many parts of the world-- but I didn’t want to overwhelm you, and provide stories you can’t find background on. So this issue only features a few compelling stories: one from the 1860s in the U.S. and a couple from the Hungarian uprising of 1956. See the P.S. if you would like more stories or more background info.

During the American Civil War a slave named Robert Small planned a daring-- and very dangerous—way to escape slavery with his family and a few men he worked with. The story is well-told, and not too hard. (Check the vocabulary below if you need help with some of the terms used more than once.) I don’t want to ruin the suspense by telling more, but it’s well worth reading.

A century later, on the other side of the world, university students who were tired of living under oppression held a peaceful protest that led to a revolution. The people of Hungary succeeded in overthrowing their government, as the soldiers who had been shooting them joined them instead. However, within days the Soviet Union sent in their tanks again and destroyed the movement and new government.

Here’s an eloquent summary of what happened, and here is a link to the stories of many who participated, including some who were later able to escape Hungary. (Those stories are compelling too. I read many, and it's hard to choose which to recommend. If you can only read one, make it Béla Lipták’s—see the L’s in the left navigation bar.)

If you have time for one or two more, try the green heading below on the left of the same page, especially “Through the Eyes of a Child.” I especially appreciated Helen A. Szablya’s story (in the S’s in the navigation; her mother’s—Helen M. Szablya, under “Adult Eyewitnesses,” describes their escape in scary detail). Many others are worth reading, both for their daring escapes and for the conclusions they have reached as adults looking back.

Practice the Vocabulary of Escape and Resistance

Verbs Connected with Robert Small’s Escape:

To approach is to come nearer.

To arrest is to make someone a prisoner because they have broken a law.

To assume is to think something is true because it seems likely or logical or it fits what you expect, without checking to make sure it is the way you think.

To detect is to find or recognize that something is present. “We had to get everyone out of the house quickly when they detected high levels of carbon monoxide from a faulty stove.”

To enslave is to make someone a slave (which in the U.S. meant to take away all their human rights, for their whole life—as compared to a prisoner or servant whose rights are limited for a certain period).

To risk is to take a chance on losing something precious, possibly life itself, for the possibility of gain or to avoid even greater loss.

(Approach, arrest, and risk can also be used as nouns. The noun for assume is assumption, for detect is detection, and for enslave is slave, as you can guess. Detect also has two useful adjective forms: detected and undetected, which means not noticed.)

Nouns connected w/ ships:

A crew is the team of people who work together on a boat or ship.

Deckhands are the crew that works on the deck (like the floor of the ship, in the open air). Deckhands would usually be the least-skilled laborers on the boat.

Harbors and ports are closely related. A harbor (or harbour, the British spelling) is an enclosed bay or area of a coast that can shelter ships from storms. A port is located within a harbor and allows a ship to load and unload the products it carries (“cargo.”)

A steamer (or steamship) is a ship powered by steam.

A wharf is a place (usually a wooden platform extending out into the water, often with buildings on it) where boats can moor (tie up) and people and cargo can be taken on or off the boats. Pier, dock, jetty, landing, and quay are synonyms.

(For an explanation of blockade, fleet, fort, fortifications, guard, gun, and signal (if you aren’t sure of the meaning of any of those words), see War Vocabulary. (On a Windows computer, if you type Control- F you can get a “Find” search box that will take you to the explanation without scrolling. Most are in “Military Operations.”)

The vocabulary of protest (Hungary, 1956):

Communism is a political and economic system based on the thinking of Karl Marx, and partially put into practice in Russia and then the Soviet Union for most of the 20th century. Communists are people who believe in it.

To crush here means destroy completely.

To demonstrate can mean to show or give examples, but here it means to show unhappiness with the current government and demand change—to protest. Demonstrations are large gatherings of people in opposition to the status quo (the way things are now.)

Oppression is keeping people under tight control-- ‘pressed down.’

Reform is efforts to change and improve a country.

(For revolt or revolution see War Vocabulary , Types of Conflict. At the bottom of the equipment section it also includes a picture and explanation of a tank. I wrote this page to explain some of the words in these reading selections—and then kept adding words that seemed important to understand.)

P.S. For more freedom stories and their background, see this one of an Afghan refugee seeking freedom in Australia. (Here’s an article comparing the attitude of the Western world toward today’s refugees to its attitude toward refugees from Communism in the 2950s and 60s.

Two articles directly related to American Independence Day: a description of the Sons of Liberty in Revolutionary Boston and New York, and of black slaves fighting for (and winning) their freedom on both sides of the American Revolution.

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