Prayer of the fugitives ALEXANDRA VASILE – ROMANIA
15th July 1984
The place I come from can be defined by its breathtaking landscapes and by the mountains, earth and rivers which hold in their depths endless treasures.
The place I come from can be defined by a blooming industry and by a society which praises its leader with songs of glory and flowers.
But in the country I come from, people live in lies and fear and strict order. I am from Romania and I plan to escape this nightmare system… »
The door creaked open and, as quiet footsteps approached, my thoughts froze.
‘ Dan, what are you doing? I told you it’s dangerous to keep that diary!’
‘It’s alright, I’ll be careful.’
‘ I got the papers. We’ll be leaving soon’, my friend, Simion, said in a silent voice.
‘Are you sure about this? Where are the others? Is everything as planned?’, my words came out in a rush and my mind was boiling. Everything had to be right or else…
‘It’s all according to the plan. We’re taking the train to Severin tomorrow at 6:00. Don’t be late and until then…pray. It might help you relax.’
He patted me on the shoulder and left just as he came: silently. No unnecessary details or encouraging words. We both knew too well what was going to happen…or so we thought.
In the morning I left my house as it was, only taking some clothes and my precious diary. The sheer light veiled the dusty bookshelves, the photo frames and all my memories, good and bad, which tried to hold me back, following me like a nostalgic dream.
During the journey, I anxiously revised our objective countless times in my head: we were going to pass the border as health care assistants. The papers were proof for a health check. After that, a friend would give us shelter at a construction site where he worked. The next step would be studying the patrolling of the military along the river and in the end, taking the risk and crossing to the Serbian shore.
The plan took its course and owing to my friends’ initiative, we arrived safely at the construction site where we joined Mihai and Radu. The latter contributed with a tire, an item we would need to use to float on the water as none of us could swim.
The following days passed like weeks in the dim-lighted shed we had to share.
From sunrise to sunset we lived each other’s memories through the stories we would tell in order for the time to pass… I wrote some of them in my diary, I listened to some others with joy or with grief. At the time, nothing scared me more than the nightfall as we had to venture near the river.
‘Come on, Dan. It’s our turn tonight.’ Simion’s words took me by surprise.
We crept in the deadly silence, protected by the shadows, and watched the patrol, the military cars and the boats of the border guards. There were no words, no whispers, only short signals and dreadful tension. Simion took the lead and I followed his steps quietly, trusting him completely. In moments like that I prayed, I prayed for him, whose courage and calm I admired, knowing that without him I wouldn’t have had a chance to survive.
When we got back to the shed, my heart felt as relieved as clouds after rain. I laid my head on the folded jacket which seemed like the coziest pillow and as my eyes closed, the world stopped before me and I floated along with my dreams, the only place where I kept my sanity. I knew the most dangerous part was approaching and the thought of it made shivery lightning run down my spine, but there was no going back…
After four days we were prepared to escape. The moon was hiding behind the inky veil of the night clouds and numb obscurity filled our vision. Guided by the crisp breeze and the quiet echo of the splashing water, we crawled for about 200 meters. I could feel the humid air against my cold sweat-covered skin but still I was heading through the dusty earth, until, at last, I embraced the icy water. I dug my nails into the tire, clutching tight and rowed with my other hand. We all did the same. I put into it all my power, physical and psychical, and for a while my mind freed from the tension, until…
In the distance, the water started to flicker with a white light.
‘No, no, no! It can’t be!’ my thoughts screamed in panic.
Moving chaotically, the security light was inspecting the river with its deadly stare.
In my head there was a morbid chaos. If they discovered us, we would end up sliced in pieces by the boat propellers. The sands of time were running low for us.
With my eyes tightly shut, I did the only thing left to do. My lips whispered prayers in trembling breaths, my eyes were full of tears and I didn’t make a sound even though in my mind I called God screaming my heart out.
I didn’t know when to stop, I just prayed that I wouldn’t feel the cold gaze of the light on my back and I continued rowing. My senses were fading and I thought I was hearing my friends praying along with me in my head. Just somehow, in the blink of an eye, everything fell to silence. I opened my eyes terrified and the light was still roaming our surroundings, but in the distance there was something…the moon traced its shape with a shy ray of light.
‘It’s a miracle!’, I realized, relieved as I had seen a ship.
In the last moments, we hid behind the ship which seemed deserted. The passengers were asleep and we took the opportunity to change our wet clothes. I spent the night gazing at the sky in silent lucidity. We had finally passed the biggest risk.
After we had reached the shore, we managed to take the fast train from Trieste. My tiredness was cured by the soft seats and my tension by pouring my thoughts out into the diary. However, my hopes were once again shattered at the sight of the train controllers approaching. Their cold unceasing stares pierced through me. They knew. But then again, we were blessed as the two Serbians passed by us.
I hoped the struggle ended, and it did as from then on our lives flowed on the right course.
11th May 2015
The place I come from is defined by its breathtaking landscapes and by the mountains, earth and rivers which hold in their depths endless treasures.
The dread of the time I left my homeland still lingers, but it’s all veiled by the memory of my house with dusty bookshelves and old photo frames.
I have returned to Romania to live my last years in its revived beauty.
And now the place I come from is also defined by cities which are in continuing development and by a society which thrives through the people’s achievements and smiles.