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.

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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.

Guy in a Park

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AFTER THE SWAT TEAM class, the officers took us to the shooting range again. They put together unique shoot/no shoot scenarios for each of us to practice. I was given a pistol with 7 rounds, the bullets that hit but don’t hurt badly. The officer took me behind a wall and said, “You are a police officer and first to respond a 911 call where there is a guy in a park acting weird. Keep in mind you shoot if he puts you or others in danger.”
I was ready. No shaking. Focused.
As I walk to go behind another wall, I hear a guy yelling and cursing. I turn the corner and I see a man wearing a camouflage heavy long coat, army helmet and a mask shouting bad words and walking up and down. He carries a big shovel, with the metal up, like a weapon.
“Police!” I yell to cover the noise. “Drop that!”
The guy doesn’t even look at me, but approaches a man who was minding his own business. “Drop down!” I yell again as loud as I could.
The guy doesn’t care and lifts up the shovel above his head ready to strike the man. Then everything went on in a split of a second.
I shoot up in the air to get the guy’s attention, and yell “Stop!” The guy doesn’t listen. I hold my breath and shoot him in his arm. Nothing happens. Shovel still above his head. I yell, “Drop it!” He steps ahead to get the man. Then I go again for four times, until the man drops down. Arm, shoulder, leg. I had a very limited reach, only a couple of steps on a side, and I couldn’t get behind him.
I tell you, there are only a few seconds that make the difference between life and death. Idealistic, you want to shoot in the legs and preserve that life, but when the other party holds a weapon, a leg wound would not stop him/her from shooting you.
The officer patted my back. “Good job! You didn’t let him get you or that man. I have only one question. Why did you shoot up in the air? That bullet coming down may hurt someone.”
“I wanted that guy to know I was not kidding.” The officer looks proud of me.
I should have stopped there. But no, I had to continue, “This is what John Wayne does in his movies.”
The man looked at me to see if I was kidding. When he understood I wasn’t, he patted my back again. “Right.”

Ride

2adf21221b88b589b4360a66c4795157--trucksIt was early in the 60’s and I remember my first ride in a car: it was a military truck, dark green, covered with a grey canopy. I was four or five years old and Uncle Paul was taking me from my house in the town for a short vacation in their village. The driver was one of his friends who happened to have some business in the countryside area.

The smell of cheap cigarettes the two men were smoking inside the car didn’t bother me. I was eating a candy bar. That was when I thought I could be a truck driver and drive a truck like that.

A woman on the side of the road waved at us to stop, and Uncle Paul held me on his knees to make room for the new traveller.

She handed the bundle in her arms to my Uncle and pulled to the handrail to get in the car. When the bundle moved, my Uncle’s arms trembled: there was a baby crying under the cover.

The new comer was taking the baby at her house after her adult daughter was caught listening a forbidden radio station and was put in prison.

I didn’t know what was that about, but I knew my dad and my mom locked the door and pulled the shades every night when they listened the radio. I knew I was supposed to keep that as a family secret. And when my parents were sitting down on the floor with their ear close to the machine, I played on the carpet with my cubes, but listening.

“Ta-ta-taaa! This is The Voice of America.”

***

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