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Coming of Age in Communist Romania - The Making of a Conservative

I was born in 1937 and am an only child. The reason for that is mostly because my mother contracted TB a few years after, not to mention that WWII broke out. Nobody in their right mind wanted to bring more children into that world, especially if they were Jewish.

Of course, nobody fully believed that the Nazis would last and, although my family could have immigrated to Palestine, they gave up that idea. Mother's father was well-to-do and had houses built for his two children, my mother and Uncle Zoltan. He argued that there was no reason to give up their comfortable lives for something transient, and that the Romanian government was nothing like the Germans. Although the Antonescu government, whose policies eliminated Jews from all facets of Romanian society, tolerated some Jews, and my grandparents fell in that category. 

My family lived in the province of Transylvania, close to the Hungarian border, and there were no mass deportations from that area that I know of. Mass deportations to Transnistria only began with Germany's declining fortunes at the end of 1942.

Antonescu, the Prime Minister, decided to postpone the deportation of the Jewish population, but in the end, 280,000 to 420,000 perished, mostly from the North-Eastern part of the country.

In 1942, Jewish properties were expropriated, and my parents and I were 

evicted from our fairly luxurious villa. For a short while, we moved in with my mother's aunt, sharing their spacious apartment. Later, we managed to rent an apartment in a building owned by a German family, where all the tenants, probably 10-12 families, were Jewish. As it happened, the villa we were kicked out of was totally destroyed by a direct bomb hit. Were we lucky, or what? 

By then, the war was getting close to us, and my city often experienced air raids by the Allies. The main reason for that was the ammunition and rail road car factory near where we lived, and which was supplying the German troops stationed in our province. In fact, Grandfather, who was in the transport business, almost lost his life while making some deliveries to that factory. I also remember many nights spent in the air-raid shelter of the apartment building. Events like that tended to bring the families living there closer and my parents, and I, too, made lifelong friends. 

Our apartment building was built in a U-shape, with a solid wooden gate completely closing it off from the street. I remember, or perhaps my parents told me, that German soldiers banged on the gate and demanded that the landlord hand over any Jews living in the building. Being a most decent human being, and remember, a German, he told the soldiers that all his tenants were Gentile and he would not ever rent to Jews. This man saved us, only to be shot by the “liberating” Russians merely for being German.

It was 1943 when I started first grade at a Jewish school, and I stayed there till I finished fourth grade and the school was closed down because no ethnic schools were tolerated any more in the entire country. That was the year when my father, and other Jewish men from my city, were sent to a work camp. Fortunately, that lasted only five months, and he returned unharmed.

Sometime in the spring of 1944, my family heard that a contingent of Hungarian and German military were coming to my town to start deporting Jews. My grandfather packed up the family on one of his horse-drawn vans and we traveled Eastward, away from the invading “barbarians.” Some miles outside my city, we ran into Soviet troops whom we greeted warmly as liberators. The family ended up spending over a week in a nearby village, away from the fighting, although I remember seeing aerial dog fights between Soviet and German fighter planes. For me, that was exciting, needless to say.

Another memory was when we took a train, after the war, to visit relatives. Among the travelers there were lots of Russian soldiers, and every time the train went through a tunnel, a couple of soldiers from our compartment disappeared. When they returned, they would have lugage stolen from other passengers, and once they gave me a chocolate bar that they must have stolen from someone.

In 1947, my parents got our house back and my grandfather had it rebuilt to its original specifications. In the fall of that year, we moved back and were promptly assigned a Russian military officer who got quartered in our house. The man  was actually pretty decent; he was seldom there but used an atrocious smelling perfume type that I have, unfortunately, in my nostrils to this day. We were told that Russian soldiers used the perfume to mask the fact that they did not wash often enough.

Another story that circulated at the time about the Russians, who were such heavy drinkers, was that some of the soldiers went to the local 

museum and drank the alcohol in which some strange specimens were preserved in. Yuck!

At first, we were happy to be liberated by the Russians, mostly because no one ever suspected what terror would ensue in time. A lot of the Russian soldiers were from the farthest Eastern part of the Soviet Union, where they had never been exposed to the modernity of the world. They were primitive and wild. It was a standard habit of theirs to stop someone on the street at night and demand their watch. The phrase was “davai chas,” and nobody dared not comply. A fairly common scene was for such a soldier to brag about the number of wrist watches confiscated. He would pull up the sleeves of his tunic and display the watches up and down his arm. 

Home invasion robberies were also fairly prevalent, perpetrated by these hard drinking and wild soldiers. One day, while mother was in the kitchen of our house, soldiers broke into the bedroom area and took mother's fur coat and some jewelry. Such items could be easily sold and would buy lots of vodka. The lawlessness became a problem, and I actually witnessed a high ranking officer taking a shot at a drunken and unruly soldier.

In the late fall of that year, the Romanian King was forced to abdicate and left the country in a hurry. The communists had taken over the government the prior year but for a time while in majority, the government was made up of a coalition of other parties as well. As the result of the military occupation, the communists gradually increased their ranks in the government, with Soviet support, and all democratic opposition forces were brutally liquidated. After 1948, Romania entered the bloc of Soviet satellite countries. 

Soviet-style nationalization and collectivization followed the communist takeover. Industrial enterprises, mines, banks and transportation facilities all became subject to a centrally planned economy. In 1951, the five year plans were introduced to develop industry and phase out Romanian’s agrarian society. Living standards plunged considerably because the country exported much of its food and oil production. The currency inflation rose to unbelievable levels. I remember mother sending me to the grocery store with many million lei (Romanian currency) to buy one kilo of grapes.

The populace was controlled by the secret police (Securitate), and the government dominated all aspects of life. The system was based on fear, and nobody dared to speak ill of the government, even with their best friends. You never knew who would go to the authorities, even with some very innocuous sounding remark, and tell them about one's “anti-regime” attitude. The incentives were, perhaps, an advancement at work or being sent on a paid vacation to one of the many spas of the country. Those were the times when the secret police would knock on one's door in the middle of the night and a person would just disappear. No trial, no trace—just gone. If such a person was lucky, he would return several years later, a wreck of his former self.

To illustrate the actions of the secret police, something happened to my father many years after the communist takeover. My dad was working in a textile plant as a middle manager, and one of his colleagues somehow received from abroad a copy of the Leon Uris book, The Exodus. Despite the fact that Dad had not even read the book and all they had done was talk about it, he was summoned to the secret police headquarters and interrogated for some hours before he was released, fortunately unharmed. The man who had the book was not as lucky, though, and was sent to jail for two years as a subversive element of this “workers' paradise.” No due process. 

I wonder if we are not seeing slight similarities to a dictatorship forming in our country, too. No secret trials, so far, but NSA spying and IRS audits and harassments of Tea Party groups are rampant. How about the destruction campaign against the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie? The Obama government has been systematically shredding the Constitution, and that is what the communists did in all the countries behind the Iron Curtain. I remember having to study the Romanian constitution in grade six and, yes, it protected civil rights, but the authorities of the communist occupation could not have cared less; they had the power. According to the Golden Rule, he who has the power rules, right?

Sometime in 1947, my parents sold their original house and we moved into my uncle's house in the center of town, right next to my middle school. This meant that I could  go home during recess and have mother make my lunch.

Interestingly, when my family and I went back to Romania in 2006 and visited Arad, my home town, our house was no longer there, but we found my uncle's house in its original state. The people living there were kind enough to invite us in, when we told them that we had lived there, and showed us around.

Anyway, at the middle school, there were four parallel classes for each grade (A, B, C, & D). All Jewish kids were put in grade D, together with the German kids or the ones with the lowest test scores. In grade five, we still had a foreign (Western) language course, namely, French, but after that grade the only other language that was obligatory was Russian. Of course, we all hated it and studied just to be able to pass the exams, but no one really wanted to learn it. To my amazement, when my wife and I went to Russia on a trip in 2011, I was still able to read the Cyrillic writing and quite a few words came back to me. Because of that, some of our fellow travelers, who otherwise would not dare go alone sightseeing, were confident enough to tag along with Irene and me.

In 1949, my dad and a large number of people from our town joined the Communist Party. Some of them actually believed in the dogma and the slogans, yet others joined just to improve their standing in society and obtain advancement in their jobs. Dad’s membership did not last long because the same year the Communist Party started to purge from their ranks those that were not blue-collar, working-class types. Individuals like my dad were considered from the “exploiting class.” Do we recognize here, again, some parallels to the Obama administration? Remember class warfare, i.e. the rich getting richer, or the war against women, and so on? Anybody not towing the government's line will be besmirched and discredited. Conservatives are not merely mistaken, according to the liberal media, but want to put people out of work, let people get sick and die rather than give them health care, and all the other nasty stuff of which conservatives get accused.

To further illustrate how life is dominated in a socialist/communist society, I should mention the complete control of cultural institutions. No books could be published in post-WWII Romania unless their content somehow praised the system, which is embodied in a genre called Socialist Realism. This manifested itself in all art forms such as theater plays, movies, and paintings. I can only remember movies about the “glorious Red Army” fighting the Nazis, or heroic factory workers more than fulfilling their allocated quotas. Another example of excessive government control was that because each typewriter had a unique print (akin to a fingerprint) it had to be register with the police. That way, if any subversive propaganda were to be written and distributed, the perpetrator could be identified. Hence, all underground writing had to be done by hand, which then limited the size of distribution.

In the United States, the Left realized long ago that they can attain long term political power by dominating the cultural institutions. Therefore, they embarked on taking over the news media, entertainment, and the education curriculum. Young and impressionable, minds in grade schools are being indoctrinated by their teachers. University professors, especially in the Humanities Departments, are teaching far leftist ideas to their unsuspecting and naive students. Diverse   ideas are no longer tolerated. After graduating, they, in turn, become the leaders of the next generation and the brainwashing continues ad infinitum.

When I was working, in my later years, I had to show up at my job every day 15 minutes before the work day started. The reason was that some Party hack read the Communist daily to all assembled, where praise was lavished on the country's leaders and, from time to time, we heard how badly the workers were treated in capitalist countries. Do we not hear the same rubbish from our mainstream media today?

The communists started to denigrate religion and its practitioners, and a large number of clergy were arrested and sent to labor camps. Again, the charge against them was anti-government propaganda, which they presumably preached from the pulpit. Very few people dared to profess their religiosity, despite the deep-seated religious faith of the population as a whole. Do we not, in these United States, belittle those that believe in God or those that continue to frequent churches, synagogues or mosques, for that matter? Young people, especially those that go to universities, are disdainful of any religion.

I used to listen to a jazz program that was broadcast by the Voice of America from a station in Tangier, Morocco. Precisely at 11:00 P.M., when the music program ended, the station aired news and within seconds the Voice of America was jammed by the authorities. Never could we hear what was said on the air.

After I finished my middle school years, in 1950, my high school studies took me to a neighboring city, where I attended a technical school in the field of construction. At first, I commuted by train, which was a one and a half hour ride and, in the second year, I lived in the school's dorm. We all ate in a communal dining room and each and every one of use had to do kitchen duty once a month. I peeled a heck of a lot of potatoes and washed dishes, too. 

One time I lost my weekly food allowance in a poker game, and the only food I could have was soup and bread. Typically, we had to purchase meal tickets with our allowance and in order get a main course the ticket had to be presented. However, a big pot of soup was put on the table together with black bread, and I could fill myself up with that and leave before the tickets were collected.

For a long time, I was the only child in our immediate family and my grandparents and uncles doted on me. When I was in high school and went home for the weekend, it was my habit to do the rounds and visit everybody in my family. This habit eventually became quite lucrative for me because everybody gave me pocket money to make sure I had money while away at school. 

The school taught me a lot because of good teachers and my long standing interest in construction. During the summer vacations, all students from this school had to work as interns on various construction sites to gain practical experience. Mostly, we spent the time hiding somewhere to smoke and participate in spitting contests: who could hit the other guy's shoes from a certain distance. Some construction experience! But seriously, I learned enough to get good jobs after graduating, and later in Israel and again in Canada too. u

The Communist government of Romania embarked on a serious industrialization program shortly after the take-over, which was a far departure from the country's past as an agricultural producer. Romania used to be a major corn and wheat supplier in Europe, and this first five-year plan caused a lot of hardship for everybody.

It became customary for the Communist Party to send people to work in cities where their expertise was needed, despite one's roots and family ties. In 1948, my father, who was a textile engineer, got sent to the most Eastern part of the country to a city name Iasi, where a new textile plant had been built. I remember visiting him there once by train, a ride that took more than 11 hours. I do not remember how long he stayed there, but luckily he eventually got transferred back to our home town.

Romania had oil fields which both the Germans and the Allies bombed during WWI, and later had been taken over by the Soviet Union under the ruse of “War Reparations”. Since the country needed oil the Romanian government  wanted to make a deal with the U.S. to swap Jews for oil drilling platforms, but was vetoed by President Truman. The subsequent idea to obtain foreign currency, to be able to purchase the needed equipment, was to sell the Jews , for cash mind you. However, Khrushchev advised the Romanian leadership to instead trade with the West for livestock, such as sheep, pigs, cows and chicken. This deal made the country a net exporter of meat, which in turn was bringing the much needed cash to the state.

Starting in 1950, the remnant of Jewish population started to apply for exit visas, mostly to go to live in Israel, and some were actually lucky and were allowed to leave.  

At first, everybody was allowed to take most of their belongings, although taking furniture was not permitted, nor was taking jewelry. People purchased large wooden containers and packed everything into them. Some people got sneaky and had nails made of gold that were melted down from their jewelry and hammered those nails into the bottom of their crates. This did not last long, and I am convinced that somebody betrayed the trick to the authorities for some kind of a favor. Mass arrests ensued, and under torture lots of Jews gave up their valuables and those that were allowed to leave could only take with them approximately 70 pounds per person. That consisted mostly of clothes, such as six shirts, six pairs of underwear, a dozen socks, two pairs of shoes, one suit and one top coat. The rest of one's belongings, acquired during a life time, got sold for peanuts and spent on new stuff to take along, or donated. Speaking of donation, before my parents were able to obtain their exit visa, the house we owned had to be donated to the Romanian State.

My father petitioned for our exit sometime in 1950, and when the local authorities got wind of that he got demoted from his job as the chief engineer of the factory. His new job was as a textile machine maintenance mechanic, a job that he fulfilled with dignity. We actually did not manage to leave Romania till 1962 and that was only because the Romanian State made a deal with Israel, which paid the sum of $2,000 to $5,000 for each Jew they let go. 

In my senior year in high school, in the Transylvanian city of Timisoara, I became quite friendly with some of my teachers and because I played a mean game of table tennis, sometimes they would excuse me from a class just to play a few sets. I did quite well with these games as they would bet me, and I won most of the time and got paid in delicious pastry from a nearby shop. At this time, with the help of a classmate from my hometown, I was inducted into the Communist Youth Organization. I wanted to be part of that to gain privileges that were not available to non-members, especially the privilege of getting a better job after graduation. My friend's name was Octavian Marcus, and he was the head of the school's chapter of the organization. In a communist system, everything was based on favoritism, whom one knew high up in the Party, or what one could get by snitching on one's friends.

Upon graduating with a diploma as a Construction Technologist in 1954, I started work in my home town's City Hall. The job entailed estimating the construction costs of city projects, and one of the jobs was building sun bathing structures at our local riverside beach. I loved it because my duties were to go there and measure the various stages of completion in order to be able to estimate what payments had to be made to the trades. I always carried my swimsuit with me and spent a lot more time there than my work would necessitate. Later, I was transferred to another department as a construction safety inspector for the city. In that capacity, I had a lot of freedom and could pretend to be a lot busier than I actually was. That summer  again, I spent a lot of time at the beach. All I had to do was write reports of my construction site inspections, which I did in about an hour a day. This was a typical way of how work was conducted in the country, due to inane quotas and aimlessness of life in general. There was no possibility of working toward a goal in life unless one was a Party member, and most of us pretended to work and falsified production data. Everything produced was shoddy, and I remember an entire year when there were no matches available at all, as someone had forgotten to plan for their production. This was important in our life because all heating and cooking was done using wood burning stoves and matches were needed to start a fire. So, we just let the fires burn without letting them ever go out. Another year, I remember that only black shoes could be found in stores. Central planning did not make allowances for manufacturing brown shoes, so there was no choice. Tough luck, right?

So, what do we do in the United States in the 21st century? We let the Feds control our energy supply, school curriculum and many other things, just like the central planners of the Communist era.

To show how important were one's Party contacts, when I was called to the army recruiting center (military service was compulsory) to be inducted, I managed to get a deferment. This was thanks to a good friend, who was a high ranking officer and the manager of a sports organization where I was the number one table tennis player. 

The best sport teams, in every field, were those affiliated with one or another military branch in all the communist countries. They recruited every good player and, while playing on those teams, there was no danger of having to do military service. Those teams, needless to say, were always the country's champions. 

On October 23, 1956, I was at a friend's house playing poker and listening to music from Radio Budapest. All of a sudden the broadcast went silent and the next thing we heard was an announcement that the station was taken over by Hungarian anti-communist rebels; however they aired no news and kept playing, endlessly, Beethoven's Egmont Overture. That night, I was not able to go home because a curfew was in place throughout the city. A Soviet military base situated on the city's outskirts sent their tanks across the Hungarian border to put down the rebellion. All night long the rumble of tanks was to be heard in the streets of Arad, and hence the curfew. Had I been smarter that night, I could have boarded a train that went non-stop to Vienna, right through Hungary, which had its borders open for several days that October.

In 1956, I started a new job with a company which was involved in renovations and tenant improvement work. At first, I worked as a trainee alongside a more senior person and later I got my own crew of four workers, all of them of German origin, called Schwaben. These people came to Transylvania in the 18th century when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At that time the area was populated rather sparsely, because of the prior wars between Austria and Turkey, and there was land in abundance. The Schwaben became great farmers and construction workers because they were very industrious and had great work ethic.

My guys were a great bunch, except for their heavy drinking habits. Every morning, I would give them their daily instructions, but their first stop was always to have breakfast. The problem was, though, that the breakfast was not coffee and donuts, nor bacon and eggs. They would go to a pub near their job site an drink vodka with a little raspberry syrup. When I would locate them at a pub they always insisted on buying me a drink, too. Eventually, I learned to drink without getting inebriated just like them.

Romania, just like the Soviet Union and all the other Iron Curtain countries, was constantly embarking on so-called “five-year plans.” These were general production plans, concocted by the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and dealt with the electrification of villages, or collectivizing the farms and various industrialization programs. There were all kinds of quotas allocated, and if such quotas were surpassed (on paper, mind you) the company received bonuses to distribute among its workers. The company where I was working had a very astute man in charge of the “plan”,  and he managed to consistently to fudge the production statistics. He could always show more productivity than actually achieved, which meant bonuses every month. Not to be different, in the US the government constantly lies and falsifies statistics. For instance, the actual unemployment currently is said to be under 7%, but they totally ignore the number of workers whose benefits expired and are no longer counted. As it is often said, there are “lies, damn lies and statistics.” 

The general moral breakdown led to a lot of drinking, promiscuity and stealing. There was a story circulating about a sawmill worker who got permission from his boss to take home a wheelbarrow full of sawdust. He did this day after day, week after week until an inventory inspection found a lot of missing wheelbarrows. The man never returned the wheelbarrows he took home; in fact he sold them after dumping the useless sawdust. 

Tourism was non-existent before 1960, even travel inside the country was only allowed when one had a legitimate reason. Since all means of production were state-owned, the only trips one made were to regional headquarters of a company. Even then, one had to register one's internal passport, with the local police, and that way there was total control of any population movement. The first time we were allowed to travel abroad, which meant to other Soviet satellite countries only, started in 1960. I went with a close friend to visit my relatives in Budapest. We heard, from other people that had made the trip, that in Hungary there was a scarcity of real coffee (the Hungarians are huge coffee drinkers) and also they lacked black pepper (which they used extensively in their sausages). My friend and I hid in the train compartment two pounds of coffee beans and one pound of black pepper and smuggled them into Hungary without being caught at the border. Pretty daring, in hind sight, because if we had been caught nothing would have kept us out of prison. Anyway, we sold the loot in Budapest to friends of our relatives and for the return trip we bought cigarettes, lighters and chewing gum. Each country had certain items in shortage depending on the centrally done planning, or lack of planning, for that matter. At home we sold the items smuggled into Romania and I had enough money to purchase a bicycle of my own. Until then, I had to use my mother's bike, which was embarrassing.

I always wanted to get an engineering degree and tried twice to take the university entrance exams, failing both times. There were two reasons for this: my examination marks were not sufficiently high, and my social background was flawed. I was not the son of a factory worker or peasant, and for a middle class person the quota was only 10%. I am not sure if my Jewishness got factored in or not, but wanting to leave the country was not in my favor, either. In fact, I had friends in third year Engineering and another in Medical School, who were not allowed to continue their studies at their respective universities because their parents also applied to emigrate.

In Romania, we had class warfare and it simply was peasant and factory workers against the more educated people. On the other hand, the class warfare in the States is against those that earn more than $307,000 per year, or what is called the top 1%. It doesn't matter that such people work way more than an eight- hour day or that they take risks starting a company and investing their own money. They are considered the exploiting class.

In the summer of 1959, I quit my job  and became a professional water polo player for the National Railway Company team. My team, just like most sports teams, were pros and we were salaried employees of the company, but instead of actual work we trained and played in a water polo league. I was a mediocre player and did not last past the end of our season.

Now came a new phase in my career, and for 18 months I worked for a state owned collective farm. A collective farm was an entity where the peasant (farmer) was a mere employee and worked only an eight-hour shift. This in itself is anathema, as farmers have to work their fields from sunup to sundown, when such work is called for. The collective farm employees couldn't care less if the crops remained out in the field to rot. The outfit also raised cattle and had a dairy too, and the work ethic there was identical. When a work day was over the cows did not get milked until the next day when everybody was back at work. No wonder the herd kept dwindling.

It was a company with a president and HR guy (he was the Party commissar) and employees. I was in charge of construction crews that maintained the barns and animal shelters belonging to the collective. 

Because the farm was about 20 miles from the city, I had to take a train to work, a ride  that lasted 40-45 minutes. Several other employees traveled with me, and we had a daily card game during the train ride. I remember one of the guys having an epilepsy attack while playing cards. He fell down and went into a nasty convulsion, which scared the devil out of me. I had not encountered, or seen, an epileptic fit before. I can still see it in my mind.

During the fall of 1959, a brainy executive from regional headquarters came up with a cheap solution for building winter shelters for the cattle herd. I was instructed to build a wooden framework and roof structure and for the walls to use bales of hay that the company had in abundance. Well, the cows were herded into these shelters and very soon they ate through the hay walls and a goodly number perished, having contracted TB in the freezing weather.

Another time, the entire workforce of the farm, and that included me, too, were quarantined because a foot and mouth disease erupted among the cows. I remember those horrible times, because I had to sleep on top of my desk in a very poorly heated office with one small blanket to keep me warm. I no longer remember how long it took before we were allowed to leave the place, but it had to be close to a week. More than half the herd died, or had to be destroyed, due to the lax hygiene that caused their illness in the first place.

In the end, these collective farms throughout Romania managed to ruin the agriculture of the country and decimated the animal population to boot.. In the US today, generally, we have no hygiene problems and the farmers take care of their crops. However, due to government interference and silly environmental regulations, one of the most fertile regions in the world, the San Joaquin Valley in California, is suffering an acute drought. Most of the valley's water has been re-allocated toward protecting the Delta Smelt, a three-inch fish declared to be endangered. That is the American version of central planning with a government beholden to thoughtless environmentalists.

In the fall of 1960, once again I moved to a different job. This time, I got hired by a company that manufactured yeast and was also an alcohol distillery. I was the second in command of a construction crew that handled the building maintenance, and there was plenty to maintain because the buildings were in a bad state of disrepair. Also, there was an outside contractor that was doing the expansion of the facilities and they came under our department's jurisdiction too. That meant I had to verify the progress of their work and report to my boss, who was making the progress payment decisions. My company faced a major productivity problem. Because it was an alcohol distillery, the workforce was inebriated by lunchtime, although they had no easy access to the booze. However, because all the equipment was rather antiquated and in need of repair, most pipes leaked in  places, and all one had to do was collect the drippings from those leaky pipes. Pretty soon, one filled several bottles, or even  a bucket, of 90% alcohol. 

Once, when my crew had to do stucco work outside the walls of the plant, one enterprising worker decided to smuggle the alcohol he collected past the guard gate. He walked with two full buckets, filled to the brim, and when asked what he was taking outside, his response was that the stucco mix needed hot water due to the cold weather. I am sure the guys had a heck of a drinking binge that day.

I remember that for the anniversary of the Soviet Communist revolution of 1917, which was always commemorated on November the 7th, my maintenance crew was supposed to adorn the facade of the factory with the pictures of the four main characters of communism: Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, in that order. Well, we made a mistake and scrambled the order, and that brought me a serious reprimand from the local Party Secretary. I actually thought that they would fire me, but luckily that didn't happen. 

Just like at many other companies where I worked, there was a lot of time wasted with other activities instead of real work. That was a typical syndrome in the whole country and, for that matter, in the entire Soviet bloc. That is one of the main reasons for shoddy products and often a serious lack of certain items. I was doing my part, too, and spent a lot of time with young girls that were working at the same company. We would hide out in some abandoned area of the plant and do what young and healthy people do. As I mentioned before, life was aimless and we filled it with momentary pleasures whenever we could.

It was April 1962 when I was called to the office of the Human Resource manager, which was always considered an unpleasant visit. I was sure that it had to be about something I did or did not do. To my surprise, I was told that my parents and I had received our exit visas to go to Israel.

I rushed home immediately and shortly my family started the process of liquidating our belongings, except for what we were allowed to take along. There were lots of formalities to be dealt with before we could actually leave. Someone told us that if the National Museum of Romania gave us approval, some of my parents' art collection could be taken along. My mother chose two pieces that she was very attached to, and I took them to Bucharest to get the approval. The Museum ended up putting their stamp of approval on those paintings and I returned triumphantly home, only to have them confiscated at the border when we left. Who was going to argue with some border official, when all we wanted was to get out and start a new life.

In order to get our passports and visas, my parents had to donate our house to the Romanian State, plus we had to pay a certain sum of money for a fund to beautify our city. The authorities sure knew how to fleece us of just about everything, knowing how desperately we wanted to leave that “Workers’ Paradise.” 

I mentioned earlier about the trick of crates with the nails made of gold; well, when my grandfather left the country a couple of years before us, he swallowed a two-carat diamond before leaving which he luckily retrieved later. My father had the bright idea to roast an entire chicken for our trip, and he placed my mother's diamond ring inside it. When the day came for our travel, we took our allowed belongings to the railway station, including the food we prepared for the trip. One of my father's friends came along with us to make sure we left safely, and we all waited for the train to arrive. We were supposed to check in with the authorities at the station who would then escort us to our train. At the station there were three other Jewish families who were leaving for Israel too. When the right train finally arrived, the other families were allowed to board, but our turn never came. Of course, we panicked because we had no idea what the problem could be. There were many cases where families got their visas, sold everything, packed their belongings, and were ready to go, only to be told that their exits were temporarily revoked. One family actually spent two more years in Romania before finally being allowed to leave. One can only imagine what horrible times they had to go through having liquidated their lives and their belongings, and having signed their homes over to the State.

My dad decided that perhaps it was not such a good idea to try to smuggle that diamond ring that was inside the roasted chicken. He gave the ring to his friend and we decided to eat the chicken, while still waiting for our turn to get on the train. Eventually, after some frightening time sitting in the station, we were allowed to board the next train, the Orient Express to Budapest and Vienna, and we finally made it to freedom.

Needless to say, my parents and I were happy to be rid of that nightmare called Communism and had high hopes for rebuilding our lives, which we certainly did. 

There are a lot of similarities between communism, socialism and liberalism, and they all failed in many countries, yet the United States is currently actively heading in that direction. It is hard to understand that mindset, because it kills economic growth, stifles free speech, leads to tyranny by the government and turns people against each other. Socialists believe that the end justifies the means, which is an Orwellian concept. Karl Marx's tenet was “From each according to his ability and to each according to his need.” Unfortunately, the Obama administration, together with the country's media and cultural institutions, fully bought into this concept and the job creators are vilified, while income re-distribution is the policy of the day. On top of everything, environmentalism has become the new religion and it very much contributes to the destruction of the noble experiment called the United States of America.


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published this page in Home 2017-05-02 19:52:02 -0600