Freedom for a Former Communist

It’s been a long weekend – Independence Day fell on a Thursday, so we decided to make it a four day weekend and have some family fun.

Since I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately, it was great to stay home and do “local stuff” with the family. We took the kids to see Despicable Me 2, which is a great movie if you’re a Steve Carell fan like I am. And since the temperature has been warm here, in southern California, we spent a lot of time in the pool and backyard.

We’re about to head out to Downtown Disney and, while the family is getting ready for a little play time and dinner in Mickey’s backyard, I wanted to take a moment to write you and just say thank you.

Thank you for trusting me with your business, and letting me help you take it to the next level. Thank you for choosing a career that truly makes a difference in the lives and well-being of folks that you train. Thank you for waking up early, and training late into the day so that your clients can get their workouts in.

And thank you for representing our industry, for setting the bar higher than it’s ever been set, and for raising the credibility of fitness professionals worldwide.

Our industry has never been viewed as legitimate, and has never been as high in demand as it has been over the last couple of years. It’s all thanks to you and great trainers like yourself who are raising the bar and setting a professional example industry wide.

None of this would be possible without having the freedoms that we have as a nation.

Whether you live in the United States, or any other free country that affords you the freedom to choose your career, make a living of it, and to make as much money as you want doing what you love – this message is for you.

We are truly lucky and blessed to live in the times that we do and to have the freedoms and opportunities that we have.

Back in 1978, my father decided that living under the oppression of communist Soviet Union was not for him. By June of 1980, he had put together enough money and gotten together all of the paper work for us (a family of five) to defect to Italy.

Just having the idea to defect from a communist country back then was enough to get my father sent to Siberia for a decade. But to him the risk was well worth it.

He valued the idea of freedom and democracy more than he valued his so called “freedom” in a communist country where opportunities were unavailable, freedom was a pipe dream, and social oppression was a common way of life.

In fact, I remember one evening when two KGB officers burst into our house and made us stand with our backs against the hallway wall while they ransacked the house looking for evidence that my father was doing extra work on the side to make more money.

The truth is, he was, but we got lucky and they never found the evidence they were looking for. It was years of saving that extra money on the side that helped him “grease the wheels” so that we could make it to Italy.

After weeks in Italy, my folks were finally able to fill out all of the necessary paperwork in order to get granted access to come to the U.S. legally as political defectors.

Political defectors?

Yep, my father was a member of the communist party thereby making our entry into the States extra challenging, and our exit out of communist Russia a major risk – talk about hazardous to your health… to my father’s health more specifically.

“Mother Russia” (<= Enter heavy Russian accent) did not take kindly to defectors – specially defectors who were members of the communist party…

…which my father was, but not by choice. Though they did give him the choice back in 1962 when they asked him if he’d like to be a member or take a long train ride to Siberia.

He made the best choice he could.

The stories that my father tells till this day blow me away. His stories of the “old country” are a combination of a classic thriller books and the greatest spy movies that you can think up. For my pops, it was worth every risk he ever took to get us here into the United States.

I was six years old when we got to the States – the baby of the family. My father was 45, spoke zero English, and had no money to his name. In fact, all five of us lived in a one bedroom, crap hole of an apartment and we thought it was the most amazing place on the planet!

The opportunities were endless, and the freedom to work hard and make something of yourself was exactly what my father wanted for his kids. Within the first ten years of us being here, my father bought himself a little tailor shop, and then a modest house, then he put a little money away in the bank for a rainy day.

Today, he’s retired and he and my mom live in that same house… their American Dream. He achieved more in ten years of freedom in the United States, than he had achieved in his first 45 years of living under communist rule.

I’m still in awe of my father and what he did to give us freedom. I guess you can say that I have a different appreciation for the freedoms and opportunities that we have today.

I mean where else can you kid come from a communist country, not speak a lick of English, have all types of learning disabilities, and grow up to own the fastest growing fitness franchise on the planet, own a publishing company, and employ a staff of 31 amazing people all before the age of 38?

I’m a lucky guy, I can tell you that. And the harder I work, the luckier I seem to get.

And I hope that though this story a little bit of that appreciation that I have for this amazing country of ours has transferred to you as well, because you and I really have every opportunity we need at our fingertips and the freedom to live the life of our dreams.

Thank you for letting me share this story with you. Happy 4th!

Bedros Keuilian