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Wills Hay: Spreading the Ideas of Liberty in Communist Transnistria

Wills Hay, a former Students For Liberty intern, has been spreading the ideas of liberty in communist Transnistria at the risk of his personal freedom.

Wills Hay, an Account Executive at Precision Talent Solutions, a recruitment agency for global contracting, and a former intern with Students For Liberty, has been actively spreading the ideas of liberty in the most socialist parts of the world at the risk of his personal freedom.

Prior to his current position at Precision Talent Solutions, Wills served as a Fulbright Scholar at the Rybnitsa branch of the Transnistrian State University in Transnistria, a breakaway region within the Republic of Moldova, aligning with Russia. In a state with the only flag on Earth to retain the hammer and sickle, the ultimate symbol of communism, he courageously educated his students on American history, culture, and the ideas of liberty.

In each of his classes, Wills tried to give his students an understanding of what life is like outside Transnistria, still locked in the days of the Soviet Union. He raised such vital questions as the freedom of movement, limitations and barriers put on individuals by their governments, and personal and professional growth. At the university that, up to this moment, uses old Soviet textbooks, Wills’ seminars were undoubtedly a breath of fresh air.

Having spotted the problem with the accessibility of foreign literature, Wills devised a brave plan. He asked his father, who reviews books for the Wall Street Journal, to select and send a few boxes of the best Western literature to the U.S. embassy in Moldova. Loaded with a hundred pounds of pro-liberty books, Wills headed to the Transnistrian border patrolled by Russian soldiers and Transnistrian guards. Several things immediately caught their attention when the soldiers checked the car and opened the boxes.

While names like Ludwig von Mises did not tell them much, the titles like The Rise and Fall of Communism instantly raised red flags. Wills spent more than three hours in an interrogation room answering multiple questions about the books, himself, and his family. Luckily for him, Wills had a Russian-speaking friend traveling with him who helped him get out of this situation with just a fine. However, this could have gone way worse had he taken this journey alone.

The next challenge for Wills was to distribute the books safely. He knew he would not get approval from the university administration to put anti-communist literature on their library’s shelves. Therefore, he waited for the right moment when certain people were not there to silently bring part of the books to the library and find the right place for them there. The other part he handed directly to students in his class.

Wills believes in the power of small deeds. “I think I was able to make a positive impact on a few people,” he said, “I certainly didn’t change the state itself, but I left a couple of people with the impression that America is neither the Boogeyman nor an end goal. I tried to open people’s eyes to other perspectives and new cultures and make them interested in self-development and personal growth.” 

“I think the most impact I had was on my host mom,” said Wills. “I lived with a Russian family, truly amazing people, Russian Orthodox, very religious. They only saw the world through Russia’s viewpoint, Russia’s lens. I am sincerely glad I was able to explain the importance of relying on more than just one source of information and gradually change her mind,” he concluded. 

Unfortunately, the outbreak of the war in Ukraine made it virtually impossible for Wills to continue his educational mission in Transnistria at this point in time. Concerned about the build-up on the border with Ukraine and training exercises that were taking place in Transnistria with the local Russian troops, the first person he called for advice was a fellow SFLer from Europe. “I am very thankful to SFL for connecting me with such a great number of amazing people worldwide,” said Wills. “I recognize now that the SFL network isn’t just about the academics, the boardroom types, the people that work in the U.S. government or other governments. It’s about people who care about liberty regardless of their professional background and are always there for you.”

Wills himself is a great addition to our global network. Every day at Precision Talent Solutions, he uses his rich experience to point people looking for jobs in the right direction. “If a person wants to get into marketing and is passionate about telling other people’s stories, then I’m going to connect them with this publisher, or I’m going to put them in touch with this communications director on Capitol Hill,” said Wills. 

In the future, Wills wants to keep doing meaningful work and help people around him advance in their lives. He also hopes to become part of the reconstruction efforts in Ukraine once stabilization has occurred.

Written by Anastasiia Rusanova



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