The Stranger

the stranger -cover

I was five or six years old and the whole street was our playground for my friends and I. My parents had me in the kindergarten during their work shift and the building was next to their factory. When they worked first shift and got out at 2:20 PM, I was at home by 3:15 PM, happy and ready to play outside.

I remember getting out on the street that day. I stopped on the sidewalk in front of our apartment complex’s big green gate looking for my friends. When this man showed up from nowhere. He wore a light brown raincoat and a hat and was holding a briefcase, the kind my dad had for work.

The stranger asked me, “Would you be so kind and show me where this person lives?”He didn’t say who that person was, but that didn’t bother me. I was happy to help. “Yes,” I said and walked down the street with him. After a few steps, he held my hand and I didn’t oppose.
While walking with him I asked who was the person he was looking for, but he didn’t say. As we were getting closer to the end of the street by river Bega, I knew my mom would give me a spanking for going so far from our home.

“I have to go back home,” I said. “My mom will punish me.” He clenched his hand on mine to not let go. “Let’s do something and I will let you go.” Not even at that point I was afraid. We turned the corner on the street by the river where the bread factory was. He got on the stairs in the quiet building, pulling my arm.
I followed him a few steps and then I pulled my hand out of his fist and ran away yelling, “My mom will beat me up.”

I kept running as fast I could, got back home, and never told my parents what happened. But that was my first and last time when I went with a stranger.

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PHOTO – My street with the bread factory on right #realstory #childpredators

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A Mother’s Day Story

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IT WAS the end of the summer in 1939 when my grandma from my mother’s side told grandpa, “I’m pregnant again.” He could tell his wife was pretty upset. They already had 5 children, and the oldest one married the fall before.
“What am I going to do? I’m old and my daughter is pregnant. I can’t have a child younger than my grandson,” she decided and run to the end of the garden to hide behind the trees and cry.
Her husband looked tough, but had a soft and carrying heart. He filled a mug with fresh water from the well and went to find his wife.
She was sitting on the grass, tears streaming on her cheeks. “What would people say?”
He crouched next to her and held her in his arms. “People would say that you have a husband and you two are having a baby.”
She saw him smirking under his mustache and pushed him away. “Stop laughing! I’m going to throw myself in the well.” She stood up and run to the courtyard. He reached her and grabbed her in his arms again. “You don’t do such thing! We will love this baby.”
It took a few weeks for grandma to come at peace with herself, time when she wasn’t left alone for one minute. There were either her husband with her, or her oldest daughter, to watch her.
“I will take the baby from you and raise him or her with mine,” the pregnant daughter told her mother for a few times. But little by little, her mother could feel a sentiment of love for the little one growing inside her.
That was how my mother came into picture during the 2nd WW and both her parents loved her to pieces.

PHOTO – Mom at 17 years old

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FOUR

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When my husband then came home from work told me that there were rumors about some hooligans and agitators who were under the Securitate’s radar, and that they were trying to destabilize our society. Some said they were Russians, but others said they were from the Western Europe or even the US. Nobody knew exactly what was happening.

The communist leaders in every factory had given strict orders to the workers that after their shift to go directly at home and stay out of the streets after the dark.

We followed our Saturday routine, with my precious chicken soup simmering on the stove, our weekly celebration. I also made crepes and the children were happy. I had left the warm water faucet on to catch the moment when the city would give us warm water and fill the bathtub.
“Will Santa ‘Mos Craciun’ come to us, mama?”
“Oh, yes,” I reassured my children.

The tradition was to get the Christmas tree only a few days before Christmas and hide it from the children. Then on Christmas Eve, while the little ones were sleeping, the parents would decorate it with Christmas treats ‘saloane’, apples and walnuts in their shell.
It was sad that I didn’t have the money to get the treats or gifts yet until the 23rd of that month when my husband would get his salary.

After giving the kids a bath and putting them to sleep, I took out their church outfits for the next morning. It was important to have them dressed “properly” in their Sunday-only clothes in order to fit in our Baptist Church. You could never be over-dressed, and as sad as it was, I knew I had to keep up with the majority and keep the appearances.

My best friend and I had planned to go to church together next morning and we were meeting at the tramcar’s station a block away from us.

We waited for a long time at the station until a passerby told us that there was no public transportation available. We didn’t know why, but I could see my husband and my friend’s husband whispering something in each other’s ear. We decided that we should not miss our church service and we started to walk, holding our children’s hands.

When we reached Maria Square we saw that the bookstore there had the window broken, and a pile of books were partially burned in the middle of the sidewalk. The destroyed books were Ceausescu’s political allocutions that nobody bought.
It was silence. There were no personal cars on the street but a military truck rolling down in a low speed.

We didn’t dare to say anything to each other, but pulled the children’s hands to walk faster and kept up to the church.

THREE

THREE
My best friend who lived two blocks away called me right after my daughter went to school. She asked how I was feeling, but I could sense there was more she wanted to talk to me. Our conversations on the phone were listened by the secret police Securitate, I knew that. Not only ours, but of the entire country.

People spied on people, and Securitate spied on everybody.

“Did you hear anything about what was going on at The Maria Square?” She whispered while I was taking my son’s jacket off.
“No. What?”
We let the children play in the boys room and we went in the kitchen.

“Somebody said there were people who gathered in front of the Reformat Church to back up their pastor, pastor Tokes.”
I didn’t know who pastor Tokes was. The Reformat Church had their services in Hungarian and I didn’t speak the language.
“The Securitate was going to evict him from the parochial house because he spoke against the system from the pulpit. His congregation didn’t let them take him, but made a human chain in front of the main door, in the street. More of that, people from our church and our pastor and people from the Pentecostal Church joined them and stayed there through the night.”
I couldn’t understand. “How could that help?”

My friend continued in a low voice. “They sang hymns and prayed together and the communists just sat there. Then somebody shouted, ‘Freedom! We want freedom!’ And everybody called for freedom in one voice.”

I was paralyzed. “Did they arrest them?”
“I don’t know. We’ll find out more when our husbands will come home from work.”

It was still morning and my little son and I left her house to go and stand in the line for food. I was stacking up on butter, eggs and flour of good quality for Christmas. Our rations were small, but every day I would get something and, being with my son, we could get double portions.

It was ice cold out there and the line was outside, as usual. We took our spot and I gave my son a sugar candy to keep him happy while waiting in the cold winter wind.
He was used to that.

Two

Alimentara-comunista

TWO
The next day was Saturday and my husband went to work at 6AM. Saturdays were working days for everybody. After having our second child, I was a stay at home mom.

There was a pile of laundry in the bathroom and I went to check if we had warm water. We didn’t, but it could come any time. We had a chicken from my mother-in-law in the freezer and that eased my heart. I could make good food for two days.
I didn’t know that something strange was going on in the city. We lived in a block-of-flats of 20 apartments and most of our neighbors were informers for the government. I knew they spied on us because we were living our faith openly, went to church and took our children with us.

At 7AM I woke up my oldest daughter to get her ready for school. She was first grade and walked to school with a couple of other children in our neighborhood. The breakfast was pretty slim. There was no milk in the house, eggs, butter or yogurt. I caramelized a spoon of sugar and made tea. We had a piece of bologna in the fridge and made sandwiches with margarin and thin stripes of it, to ensure we’ll have leftovers for later.

I tried to find some Romanian country music on the radio, but something was weird. Every channel had only the dictator’s speech about how great our communist party was and how Romanians could enjoy a good life under the party’s leadership. I was disgusted and turned it off.

A few days before, the communist party had their big gathering in Bucharest and all we had on TV were Ceausescu and his wife’s allocutions and the praises of their subordinates. I remembered sweeping the living room with the TV on, and with every motion going back and forth with the broom, I said the same prayer out loud, “God, remove them, remove them, remove them.”
By the time when I finished sweeping, the front of my sweater was wet from tears.

One

ONE – It was a cold December in1989 and I didn’t know where to look for hope anymore. The whole nation was sending prayers before God, asking for the big change for so many years. We were desperate. My birth country was kept in starvation. We had no electricity during the night, and only 2 hours of warm water per day. No matter the weather, every day I had to stand in long lines for any valuable food item. For so many times I had to choose between getting milk, eggs or meat.
I had a 6 years old and a 4 years old and was 7 month far in my third pregnancy.
It was a miserable life under Ceausescu’s dictatorship.

December 15, 1989.
A small group of believers in my city gathered together in front of their Reformat pastor’s building in solidarity with him. The authorities had placed him under eviction from the rectory because of his ideas about communism.

It was a Friday night when usually we went to our Baptist church’s service, but I was too tired to get everybody ready and leave the house. My husband then, he stayed at home as well. We had no idea what was going on in the neighborhood of our church.

As the Baptist and Pentecostal churches finished their services at 9PM, many of the believers were walking home or to the public transportation stations passing by the Reformat Church where people were standing and praying in front of the building.
Militia was there.

The pedestrians stopped to see what was going on. We never had crowds in the street, unless for weddings or funerals. And that was during the daytime. When they found out what was going on, they joined the Reformat parishioners. The Militia demanded that everybody go home, but most of the people stayed. The pastor of our church stayed as well.
At that point, there was no turning back. People knew they just put their freedom in line. And even their lives.

In our ice-cold apartment, the kids were sleeping, and the house was quiet. I went back in the kitchen and sat at the table by myself. I needed that silent time to gather my thoughts and pray more. What was going to be with a new baby in the family? How would I keep him/her healthy? Because the cold was so unbearable that my two children had to wear jackets and boots the whole day.

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Where Are You Coming From Adina Coman ?

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BORN UNDER THE COMMUNISM, I didn’t know my country had a king exiled somewhere in the world. As a little child, I heard only one of my uncles in the village saying something about Michael I the King of Romania.

As a young student in the elementary school, I started to pay more attention to the secret conversations my family members would whisper between them while on vacation in the village.
I will remember those evenings under the grape vines in the courtyard when my parents and my uncle and aunt would sip from their cups with fresh mineral water and talk in a low voice. I was fascinated about their stories with our king.

When I was 16 years old I started to write a novel about a teen girl who had questions about the real history of her nation. Our History textbooks were incomplete and full of intentional errors. The communists didn’t want us to know the truth.
With no internet or other sources, the fruit of my research I did about the monarchy was little and incomplete.

One day when I went to my writing club and read a passage about King Michael and his father King Ferdinand, my mentor – an elderly poet – was startled. He kindly asked me to stay away from that subject and redo my work, in order to be safe from the communist secret police “Securitate.”

The book’s title was, “Where are you coming from Adina Coman?”

I didn’t stop writing it, and my closest friends in high school became my audience. I wrote on it every day. My colleagues would come earlier to school only to know what happened next in my story.
Unfortunately, I lost the manuscript somehow. It vanished.