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5/27/13

This Also Passed

Narrative based on an interview of Wolrd War Two veteran Teodor Bodea
For the first part please click here:
http://ellaveres.blogspot.com/2013/04/this-also-passed.html

So we left him and we go upstream, we go, and we go, and we go. We kept on looking through the forest, but we couldn’t see anything through the darkness. “Well, dear Lord,” I tell my cousins, “How far do we keep on going?! We might get lost! I’ll go down to the stream, and see if we can’t cross it somehow, maybe it gets shallower.” And what do I do? I hold onto some young trees that grew there. I lower myself into the stream. But the stream was deep. I walk across some two meters, same deep water. I walk into the middle of the stream. I tell them, “Come on! Come on! Get into the water too.” And we all three go deeper into the water. I say, “Help me somehow!” I was whispering, so the border guards wouldn’t hear us, for they’d shoot us on the spot! I reach the edge of the stream, but the bank was high and abrupt, and I couldn’t climb it up alone. My cousins hold me up and they prop me and so I climb out of the water, I get on the bank, on the grass, I lie down on my belly. Then I say, “Now, you next.” I give Aron my hand, to help him get out of the water too. Now, only Mircea, the small one, was left. “Stretch yourself towards him, to help him out too.”
So we crossed the stream...
Then we went downstream running. Run, run, run, so we see the gas lamp that the shepherd had showed us. When we see it, we go down, down until we reach the mill fence, as he had told us, You’ll arrive in Romania.
We walk, we reach the road, as he had explained to us. We go to the right, and then? There’s the checkpoint, there’s our border guards.
Pour me some water. Thank you.
We arrive. He had told us the truth. [Drinks water.] Why are you looking at me like that, dear lady?
E.V: I’m not sure if we should stop. You’re looking rather tired.

Mr. B.: I’m alright.
A soldier, a border guard comes. When he saw us, “Hey, you! Halt! Stop! Don’t move!” Man, we got frightened. We don’t move from the spot. “Where have you come from?” “We crossed the border.” “Through where?” “See, through he-here.” “Alright. You tell my commander that I found you.”
He takes us to the border checkpoint. There was a large hall. There was a stove made out of an oil barrel, a large one, 200 liters, and benches on the sides, and about five, six beds in there. When we enter the hall, we see an officer, and a sergeant. “Good evening.” “Good evening.”
We were joyful.
Covered in mud, all over our clothing. My Sunday best clothing that I had brought from home, all covered in mud. We get inside. “Take a seat. Undress.” We undress, trousers, and all, all, all, please forgive me, only the shirt stayed on. Then, well, the border guards took them and cleaned them, put them on chairs to dry. They gave us something to eat. Cans, whatever we wanted. And we made our statement as to how we crossed into Romania, how it was, all, all, all.
Alright, and this all came to pass.
When day comes, the lieutenant says, “Look here. You’re now going to Turda.” There, in Turda, was a refugee office. All refugees were going there. From there we were transported where we wanted to go, around the country. “I’ll send a guard to take you to the road.” We go with the border guard through the forest. There were such tall fir trees. And he takes us to a dirt road. That road led to a national road, paved, on which cars drove. The guy tells us, “Look, from here on stay on this road. Don’t stray either to the left or to the right, just keep following it. From this one you’ll reach a road where cars will pick you up.”
We say good-bye.
It got dark. In the huge forest, you couldn’t see the sun, only the line of the road. To the right, to the left, just darkness. “What should we do, man?” We start running. We keep on running. Run. Run. Run. And we get out of there... Such deep darkness.
We arrive at the designated road. But after how long? One hour, even two of traveling and walking. Go to the left, and that road will take you to Turda, the guard had said. We were so happy that we got out of the forest. Running, running, we’re still running. We were still surrounded by the forest, and then finally we reached the road on which cars were traveling.
Then suddenly! we heard a noise! “What are we hearing?” We stop, stop and we listen. We heard a truck, a car, growling like a bear. We stay still. We look behind us. Hoopla! We see the glow of a distant car light, the car light as it gets closer grows, fans out, the light surrounds the car, you know how car lights shine as they drive by on the roads.
“What should we do?” “Let’s stand here! We hold hands!” I was in the middle, this one here, and the other one on the other side. And I say, “We don’t move from the middle of the road,” I say, “we don’t move! We stay here in the middle of the road. He won’t dare run us over!” I said.
But the car was still far away, still had some distance to travel. We stand there, holding hands and the car comes. When the driver notices us, he starts to honk. Honk! Honk! Honk! kept on honking, blowing the horn... We don’t budge. He comes to about three, four-meter distance from us.
He breaks, puts his head out of the window, “Why are you stopping traffic? Get off the road!” “Sir!” [Sugary.] “Don’t be upset at us. Look, we are refugees. We ran from Hungary and we don’t know where to go. Please be so kind and take us in your car,” I told him. “We’ll pay you.” But we didn’t have a penny. “Be so kind as to take us to Turda, don’t leave us here!” The car was filled with lumberjacks. “Alright,” the driver says, “Get in!” and we climb in the car.
The driver says to the lumberjacks, “Look here, these boys just ran away from Hungary. Make some space for them.” The carriage was absolutely full. Well, the driver didn’t ask us about money. But I told him, “Mister driver, please don’t be upset, but we don’t really have money to give you, because the man who took us across the border took it all. We didn’t even have enough to give him as much as he asked.” “That’s alright, no trouble,” says the driver. We thought we could tell him, for now we figured he wouldn’t throw us out of the car, just because we didn’t have money. [E.V. laughs.]

Then we hear a voice, from the middle of the car. “You there! Give me your cap!” My cap?! “Give me your cap.” Look at this, this guy is taking my cap away! “What’s the trouble, man?” He comes close to me, “Give me your cap!” So I give it. You’d give him even the clothing on your back, so he wouldn’t throw you out, so he wouldn’t harm you, you know. He tells the other men, “Brothers, everyone, put in this cap as much as you can! Help these children out!”
Everybody put as much as they had, poor men, and he gave me back my cap filled with money. “Here’s your cap. I don’t know how much is in there,” he said. A man with a kind heart. And he says, “Put it in your pockets. You’ll need money on your journey.”
Alright, then we go on, we arrive in Turda, we get off. The driver says, “You wait here!” to us. So we wait. I thought, This guy wants the money the lumberjacks gave us! you know, for one always thinks of the worst.
*
The workers scattered to their homes. We stayed behind with the driver. We were waiting. He was watching. And he saw a policeman and he called over to him. Now we weren’t afraid of the policeman, because we were refugees, you know, and we knew he wouldn’t harm us. . So the driver calls the policeman. “Look,” he says, “these boys, I brought them here, because they crossed the border at Someşu Rece River. Take them to the refugee office and introduce them there.” He also was a kindhearted man.
And the policeman helped us.
Arriving there it was like nowhere else: heat, food, everything was taken care of, brother! Well, we had to tell them our story, of course. They took down our statement, as to why we ran away, why we didn’t stay in our village under the Hungarian occupation, you know, and they filled in all kinds of forms. Well, we told them everything we knew, the way it was. You couldn’t lie.
So we ate well, everything squared away. We weren’t dirty anymore, for we cleaned ourselves at the border checkpoint. They gave us beds and we slept. In the morning, we were many people there, about 20, and they asked each of us, “Where do you want to go?” “Where do you want to go?” We said we wanted to go to Bucharest. Some said they’d go to Braşov, others that they’d go to such and such towns. Turda was just the office where all refugees came to, but from there they went on their way.
Alright, all this came to pass.
They gave us some pocket money. So we go to town shop for a few things. We weren’t hungry, since they fed us. And walking on the street in Turda, we suddenly see, dear brother, an officer, a lieutenant, “Hey, children! Hey, wait a minute!” He stops us. “Where are you from?” “Well, we’re refugees from Cluj County.” He says, “Are you from Sânmihaiu Almaşului?” I say, “Yes, from there,” to the lieutenant.
Do you know who he was? He was the son of Puţu, the lawyer, who lived in Măgheruţa, where the Crişens live now, that’s where he lived. And he had only one child, this lawyer, who went to officer school. He didn’t know us in person, for we were children. “Do you know me?” he says. I tell him, “I know you somehow, but I don’t know from where.” “I’m the son of Puţu, the son of Ionaş, son of Puţu.” “Oooo,” I say, “you used to live on that little lane.” “That’s so,” he says. “But tell me, have you seen my father lately?” “Yes, even now in the autumn, he came to pick potatoes on his land. Your father dug out his potatoes.” “Well,” he says, “tell him when you go home that you met me.” “Alright!” “But come with me,” he says. He takes us to a restaurant, he orders soup for each of us and a juice. He orders the main course. We ate, what? Meat, what else, meat and potatoes. He ate too. Then he tells us, “Look, even if you don’t go back, but you send them a letter, tell him that we met.” “Sure. Sure. Sure.” “Tell him that I’m well.” “Alright, Mister Lieutenant.”

We made our farewells and all this came to pass.
Then comes the day when we go to the refugee office, and we get on the train.
Destination: Bucharest.


Well, here you have it: If you’d like to throw a bit of money my way to keep my endeavors going, and also enable me to spread the money to my various causes, preservation of oral history being one of them, I’d be grateful.

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