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  • Annamaria Nemeth

To trust or not to trust...

Our case became very well known and we were starting to receive local support. For me, this was a blessing, although I hadn’t yet learned how to handle this new-found freedom. It wasn’t as though I did anything I shouldn’t have. It was just peaceful at home. I didn’t have knots in my stomach and I was no longer afraid of the unknown. Soon that “fight or flight” feeling started to slip away . I always had had a deeper awareness of my circumstances. I started distinguishing between triggers of fear and that small still voice inside me. The effects of trauma were not really understood by me back then. I just learned to listen to my body and I was able to begin understanding these emotions little by little.

As our family’s story became more public, there was an element of needing safety from our government. One day there was a knock on the door. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a government official. A strange man stood there.. He said he had news and a plan to reunite our family. He claimed my father had sent him and wanted to know where my mom was, because we really needed to talk. I told him my mom was at work, but we could go see her and talk to her there. So we went to the textile factory, called Somesul where she was working. She had been working there since she was thirteen. As we headed over I felt these really nervous butterflies in my stomach, a feeling which had become familiar.

We called my mom to the gate and discussed a possible escape plan.. According to this man, he drove a truck over the border all of the time. The guards didn’t check him out too much anymore because they were used to his coming and going. He told us that my dad had contacted him and talked to him about smuggling us out of the country. He claimed he had a double wall in the truck where we could hide and be free once we crossed the border. We had to pay him with some of the things my dad had sent from the packages, as well as some cash and a ring my sister had given me as a parting present. At the time the importance of getting over the border blurred my judgment. We handed everything over after picking my mom up from work. A plan was made.

We got in a car and went to Timisoara, a few towns over form Cluj. We stopped at a café to wait. He had said he needed to go get his truck. So we waited, nervous and excited at the same time. The idea of crossing the border and having freedom sounded so wonderful. Minutes turned to hours, and we were still waiting.

At that point we realized the whole plan was starting to fall apart. We didn’t know what had happened. An adventure had never scared me but the idea of crossing the border illegally did. In a way I was relieved that this had not gone as planned. Luckily, we still had enough money left to get on the train and go back to Cluj. We had many questions. Had he gotten caught? Was he just someone who had fooled us? If that was true how did he get all of the information he had—names, ages, addresses? Nothing made sense.

Life started returning to normal a little after awhile. But still, fear of the unknown about this person who knew the details of our lives was there. Nobody knew of our plans: not my sister, not any friends. Our bodies could have been disposed of and nobody would have known until it was too late. After that, we learned to be more cautious, less trusting. There is so much that could have happened and my mind was racing in all directions. The blessing was that we were safe. Material things are all replaceable but people are not.

Then came a call from the police and Securitate. Now we were really scared of the future. They wanted to speak to my mom. They had caught a man who had been going around and promising families to reunite them by smuggling them out of the country. He had gotten all of his information from Radio Free Europe. How scary! They wanted to prosecute, needed witnesses. They told my mom if she testified, no one would know, her record would remain intact, and the possibility of us emigrating would still be there. She agreed and testified. Afterward somehow it was like the whole thing never happened. I feel that there were so many blessings in all of this.

You have to understand the two miracles that took place at that time. The first one was that we were alive and unharmed in any way, other than the loss of some material things that could be replaced. The second: We were not prosecuted for trying to illegally leave the country and there was to be no record filed of this action. That was unheard of! People vanished all the time! The saving grace was my dad’s speaking out and involving Amnesty International, as well as speaking out publicly on Radio Free Europe. The irony …my mind was recapping everything. I was going over and over this in my head…

This whole story about my uncle and cousin being allowed to come back to get information, and then to communicate any potential knowledge of my father’s plans to authorities was unbelievable in the context of the life we were living. And then there was our attempt to escape. After all of these things, no legal action was being taken.. That was totally unheard of. Usually there was severe punishment and even loss of life. You have to understand the miracle of it all….

So here we were again, going along with life like these things never happened. These traumatic stressors became part of the norm. They were there ever since I can remember. My earliest recollection of fear and emotional stress were from about the age of three. For me these emotions were manifested in becoming a fighter, rebelling, and never following the expected path. I felt empowered when I acted out and had control over something, anything… Then there is the element of trusting people, I learned that trust is not freely given and from here on I will really try to not just tune in to that small still voice, but listen.

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