Beno & Iulia
Beno and Iulia Azriel

Beno: I am sixty-four and I am a European with double citizenship. I was born in Romania, in Moldova, but I have been living many years in Israel. When I left for Israel in 1961, the authorities took away my Romanian citizenship. For a while I was only an Israeli citizen. After 1989, both my wife and I got back the Romanian citizenship. Therefore, I have double citizenship now. How do I vote? I vote in Israel and I also vote, as a Romanian citizen, at the headquarters of the Romanian Embassy in Tel Aviv. I am a person who thinks and feels ?in two languages?.

I was born in 1938 in Podu Iloaiei and my family and I settled in Iasi in 1941. We lived there until the departure, in 1961. My mother?s family was strongly influenced by Zionism and it was obsessed by the idea of getting to Israel. This was a known fact in our home ever since I can remember. My mother?s brother had gone to Israel in 1932. He was in the British Army and he fought in Africa during the war. In 1946 he managed to get the necessary papers in order to bring his entire family to Israel. We?re taking not only my parents and their children, but also all their relatives. We were to leave in 1947. Back then my father was into very promising businesses. He was passionate about the whole thing and it absorbed his entire energy. He was involved in the opening of two big factories in Iaşi: a weaving factory and a modern oil factory. He decided that we were to stay behind for a while and not live together with the rest of the clan. We postponed it for a few years. That was what my father was thinking. Because of the new Communist regime these few years extended to many, until 1961. Until then all our emigration requests had been denied.

I lived my childhood and my teenage years in Iaşi. I had many friends there. Some of them are still very good friends of mine. In 1955 I graduated high school and I was admitted to the Math College. I studied there for three years. Why only three? Because my father had been arrested on grounds of espionage for an enemy state. The accusation was based on a minor event. A relative of ours who lived in Israel was the secretary of the Israeli Legation in Bucharest. My father wanted to see him and invited him over to our house. However, the guy knew the attitude of the Communist authorities towards the contacts between Romanian citizens and foreign diplomats. He refused to come over and told my father I am not coming to your house. Let?s get together where everybody can see us. This way everything will be clear. ¬†They got together and shortly after that my father was arrested. The accusations varied from espionage to money laundering. They prompted my father to turn in all the gold he had. Only that he had none. Anyway, the thing is that at a certain point he just vanished in the thin air and we didn?t know anything about him for one year and a half. After one year and a half we found out that he had been tried and convicted to thirty-one years in prison. What were the charges? Espionage in favor of a capitalist state. After that we were only getting rumors about his location. We were never certain about his whereabouts. In 1960 he was pardoned. My father was arrested in ?57 and I was expelled from Math College in ?59. In fact the big college purge started in ?58. That was the year when many people left for Israel. The ones who had families who had filed an emigration request were expelled. After they kicked me out I was drafted and sent to the forced labor battalion. It was called J.B.L.S. ? The Joint Board of Labor Services. This was an institution where only the children of property owners, priests and elements hostile to the Communist regime were sent. Soldiers didn?t have guns here. They wore grey uniforms and they were doing forced labor. The J.B.S.L. was dissolved in 1960. The same year, following an amnesty, my father returned. Upon his return he was summoned to the chief of the secret police Iaşi branch (Securitate). He was announced that he was going to Israel.

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