The water was very warm. I swam from 11 to 5 in the morning. That is about six hours. I was very calm, holding on to my backpack. I had no problem. The problem appeared when I saw an aviation searchlight, somewhere in the horizon. I didn?t know what it was. When I put my ear in the water I didn?t hear too much, but I heard something. It was getting closer, unbelievably fast. It was a motorboat, the ?Everglade? type, with a propeller on the outside and with a searchlight that was sweeping the entire surface of the water. I said to myself: ?Man, these guys can clearly see me?? I took the knife out and I cut the plastic bag. My backpack went under with everything I had, except for the IDs and the money I had in my shorts. In fact, these were the only items that mattered.
I was buck naked, I mean: shorts, shirt, watch and IDs. I went underwater. I could see the searchlight, but I had no problem. Those guys passed me by, in great speed, and gone they were. I kept on swimming, but without the backpack. And, little by little, I got on the other side. When I got to the bank I saw another motorboat coming. This time it was a normal one, you must remember the type, with a long spindle. It was a wooden boat with a long spindle and with a shitty military engine. It barely moved. There was one drunken officer and four soldiers ? they themselves drunk like pigs. They also had a searchlight but not as fancy as the one of the Everglade boat. I saw three other Romanians coming out of the water and trying to hide in the bushes. The jackasses in the boat shot at them. Of course they were not allowed to do that because they were in the Yugoslav territorial waters. I never found out if the other three Romanians got shot or not and I have no idea who they were. One thing is for sure ? we didn?t do time together. Of course, one minute later the entire the bank was packed with border patrol guards. I was so well hidden that one of their dogs sniffed me immediately. They caught me and off to jail I went!
The first night in a jail cell?Man, the fleas ate me alive! I cannot even begin to tell you about that! All I wanted to do was sleep and I couldn?t because of the damn fleas. In the morning I was spotted like a Dalmatian. Only that my spots were red. There was a wooden bed with a blanket on it, it was warm, I was carefree, but the fleas nearly killed me. I practically didn?t sleep at all.
In the morning I got up and there was this policeman who spoke Romanian with a funny accent but perfectly understandable. He bought me a pair of pants (I still have them, of course), a disposable razor and all sort of shit I, of course, kept over the years. And then I went to trial?the trial was held there in the village, Negotin was its name, in a small room at the Village Hall. I was explained that the jury convicted me to one-month prison for illegal trespassing of the border. And this is how I got in jail? I knew ? because I would have never left otherwise ? that, at the time, there was this UN convention which forbade them to surrender the Romanians who crossed the water. Otherwise I wouldn?t have done it, because I already knew some pretty sad stories about people who got beaten up black and blue for doing what I did. As Rudi used to say: ?If you make it, it?s worth it. If you don?t, it?s not!?
About the Negotin jail? We were six in a room: two Hungarians and four Romanians. I don?t know what has become of them. Of course we promised to each other that we would keep in touch. But nobody saw anybody afterwards.