Fleeing the Country
Mihai Popa

And so, my month in jail started?very calmly, very quietly, with a lot of bromide in the tea, since I didn?t have a hard on in a whole month! But, whatever, c?etait aussi mal que ca! The only bad part was that I had just been operated of hernia and we had to unload entire wagons of cement sacs pretty often. I cannot say I could not do it, but 50 kilograms of cement on the back of someone operated of hernia six month before, are a little too much. But this was, if you want, the only bad part.

Meanwhile, Adrian?s mother in law, the German woman who worked at the German consulate, pulled some strings for me. After the month in prison when we were not sure whether they were going, to send us back or not. This was the only thing that really bugged me. For the rest, how can I say, I was high on prison. I was eating well, in the sense that everybody would get half a loaf of white bread, exactly like that one that cost 2.20 lei, only tastier. We also had soup, three times every day. It had a lot of ham in it and it was very nourishing. Once in a while, the policemen would give us a piece of sausage each. We were, in a way, the aristocrats of the prison. Crossing the border was a noble crime and we were treated as such.

Who were the other guests of the Negotin jail? Negotin was a wretched village, but what crowned it all was the fact that it had a prison. It was just across the river from Turnu Severin, only a little upstream. There was this guy who had shot his neighbor?s pig, because the pig had entered his cornfield.

The life standard was beyond comparison with Romania, even there in Negotin. I mean, there was the village cooperative general store where you could find whiskey, American cigarettes? Incomparable to 1982 Romania. I mean, it was a real capitalist country. I was amazed. I had a rather ?feutree? transition from Romanian communism to absolute capitalism going through Yugoslav communism, which was a wonderful type of communism. I would have loved Romania to be like that! As I was saying, at the village cooperative general store you could find anything: liquor, cigarettes, sprays ? anything we didn?t have back home. It was full of Yugoslav brandy. I forgot its name, but we really liked it (n.b. viniak ala konjak). Food was plenty. Meat was an item. Going back to the clients of the jail. One of them had shot the pig that entered his crops. Another got drunk and had driven his car straight into the village pub. He drove around the tables, killed nobody, but smashed the entire bar. Others: endless fights at weddings and stuff. In the evening we had the right to watch TV. There I saw the movie ?The Dacians? with Serbian subtitles and, I guess, something of the BD series, with the late Caragiu.

After that month of prison, they put us all on a bus. Dismissed! We were 14 Romanians. They took us all to Belgrade. In Belgrade they took us to a more stinky jail than the one in Negotin where we had been six in a room and it was pretty cool! I mean, they had good beds. Here, we were leaving in the morning and returning dead tired, in the afternoon. We could run away any time because the guards were in the pub all day long. They were drinking, while we were working. But they knew that it was pointless for us to run away. They would make sure to give us some beer and a melon each. If they saw a carriage with melons passing by, they would take a few from the peasants. And the peasants did not mind. They were giving them away smiling. We thought they would be pissed off, but they were smiling. We were in a state of euphoria because we had fled. The only thing I was worried about was the rumors that there were still cases of repatriated Romanians, in spite of the Geneva Convention. And it was true. Hadn?t it been for that shit, which was really bugging me, it would all have been like a summer camp.

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