Can people change?
I remember that day so clearly. The rain, the walk from school. I walked in the house and sensed a very somber disposition in my dad. He asked me to sit down. At this point I really didn’t know what to think; so much was going through my mind. Tears—my dad’s eyes were tearing up. Why? Then it came.
A gift; a silver necklace that to me was the most exquisite thing I have ever seen. Why the gift? It wasn’t my birthday nor was any special event taking place. Then I realized the significance of the gift.
“I have a plan.” he said. “Me, your uncle and cousin are going on a trip to Hungary. We are not stopping there, and I am probably not coming back here alive.”
My mind was racing. What was going on? Where was he going? Why would he not be coming back here alive? I had always dreamed of escaping the country or being part of a major revolt against the communist regime, but I was only a child and that was not a possibility yet. Now, here it is. He is escaping. Can this really be happening.?
This to me was a mixed blessing. There was the excitement about a brighter future and also the possibility of freedom from his abuse. We could all be free but what would all this mean? Fear engulfed me again…fear of the unknown. Fear seemed to be such a part of my life. The constant trauma I lived with had started to make me into a very resilient child. I had begun to believe I could handle whatever the future brought.
“We have a plan to get out of here. We are taking a train trip to south of the border in Hungary. We will swim the Danube and try to get to Bulgaria, and go to a refugee camp. That is the plan so far.”
The tears were now rolling down both of our cheeks. I knew what this meant. My dad never does anything halfway; he gives it his all when he sets his mind to something.
In a way, part of me wanted him to die; wanted him to be gone. That way, we would never experience his anger and rage again. I knew that that time of the year is not kind to a person: cold water, snowy ground. The freezing temperature would be hard to endure. Whatever that brought, I felt like this is the answer to my prayers. My dad would be gone. But if that happened, what would all this mean to us?
His voice brought my mind back to the table…
“I need you to know all of this, because I want to say goodbye. You need to know that there may be a chance you will never see me again. Furthermore, there will be questions, and when the Securitate come to ask, you mustn’t let on you know any of this. You have to know that it could cause a lot of problems to be an accomplice to all of this.
“Here is the plan. I will be traveling to Hungary on a visitor’s visa and heading down to the Southern border. At that point we will swim the Danube into Bulgaria. From there Faith will take over and we will see what happens. The hope is that I will be able to get political refugee status Once I am out of the country, I will bring you out with your mom and sister and we will be able to lead a better life.”
Did he mean this? Was this really going to happen? Would he really stop the abuse and will he become a loving person? Could he stop being abusive? There was a glimpse of hope for a better future, a better life. I so wanted to believe that it can happen. We always want to believe that people can change, they can but have to want to.