Excerpt 1 (Pine Trees Break, They Do Not Bend; Volume I, page 80)

When the evening fell, I was in Crihalma forest. I prayed in front of a cross which had an inscription in Cyrillic – people thanked God for His help. A priest named Bucur was also mentioned. That reminded me of a colleague of mine, Mircea Bucur, possibly a grandson of this priest. He had been arrested in May and I wondered how his brother, Bucur Ion, fared. Some years later I would hear the news broadcasted by the “Voice of America” – a pilot and a doctor named Ion Bucur had fled to West in a military aircraft.

I entered an old forest with lofty oaks as thick as Horea[1]’s durmast oak in Ţebea. I had never guessed the presence of such a beauty nearby. If this forest is still alive today, it should be declared a natural monument. It is located between Dăişoara and Ticuşul Vechi villages. I took a path covered with dried leaves through the short oak brushwood. White clouds covered the sky and a full moon shone behind them. It started to snow with round snow flakes. The small, berry like balls of snow falling on the dried leaves sounded like a whisper. There was such peace and stillness all around, and such beauty that my eyes filled with tears. And memories came to my mind: we had a literature circle in “Radu Negru” high-school in Făgăraş and we once had an argument that divided us in two camps over a Homer’s verse – it spoke about the sound of falling snow. Professor Gheorghe Şerban and some of my colleagues were against Homer (they did not believe that such a sound could be heard) while the others, led by Zaharia Laurean, took Homer’s side. And here I was, on Christmas Eve Evening, witnessing Homer’s truth, but the two rivals were no longer alive: the professor died in the war and Laurean soon after his return from war. If he had lived, he would have shared our fate, the fate of the teachers and students who got to live in the communist era.

I have no idea how long it had been since I was walking. The snow had covered the earth and, all of a sudden, in front of me, in the middle of the path, a shadow was sited on its hind legs, staring at me. I felt a cold shiver down my spine and I woke up to reality. First, I thought it was a police dog, but then I calmed down, thinking it could only be a wolf. I was carrying with me an offshoot. I knew I should control my fear, so I walked with the offshoot in my hand, looking him straight in the eyes and cursing. I was only a few steps away when he reluctantly withdrew in the thicket. All the wolf stories I had heard since childhood came to my mind. I continued to walk and dragged the offshoot on the ground, knowing that this should prevent the wolf from attacking from behind. I could hear him moving through the thicket on my right and I could even see him in the clearings. At a certain moment I realized that a second wolf accompanied me on my left. I knew that in such cases one should not turn around, so I kept on walking. The path led to a meadow where a third wolf was waiting. The two wolves who had accompanied me joined him and ran together some hundred meters, then stopped. They had probably reached a ditch that crossed the path. They had stopped and were impatiently scratching the snow with their claws. I knew they would attack if they were on higher ground than their victim. In the middle of the meadow a hillock marked the border between villages, and a branchy oak grew out of it. I headed to the hillock, started running when I was just a few meters away, then I jumped on the first branches of the tree. The wolves came closer and stopped at 40 meters distance. They sited on their hind legs, looking at me. From time to time I could hear them clatter. I have no idea for how long I had been up there, in the tree. I felt cold, and the wolves were still there. Later on, by ten o’clock, a howling resounded far away, into the woods. My wolves howled back and raced away, ignoring me completely. I cautiously got off the tree and continued to walk. I arrived in Ticuşul Vechi, the village of my former schoolmate, Gheorghe Pascu, a student with the Technical University (Politehnica) of Timişoara. He had interrupted studies due to a lung disease he had caught one year ago, and had returned home.

I waited for a group of carollers to leave, then I entered the courtyard and when I reached the door I asked the traditional “Shall we carol?”. I sang a carol that was on my mind all my way through the woods:

“She walks, she walks,

Holy Mother keeps on walking,

Her time to give birth has come

But no one lets her in,

There, at the edge of the village,

A shelter she found,

And, there, on the hay,

A great king is born.”

We hugged each other – five years had passed since our last meeting. We were sitted in front of the fireplace, in the dark, cautious not to be seen from outside. We were telling the painful stories of our sad youth, our fears and our hopes for the future. It was from him that I found out that Lenuța Faina and lieutenant Dimitriu from Braşov had fled and had been followed in all the neighbouring villages. I dozed off in the heat from the stove; I felt safe and my one day march through the woods, the real wolves and the men-wolves seemed all part of a bad dream, as if they never were there. Next day I met father Pascu and doctor Iosif Crăciun, former schoolmates from “Radu Negru”. It was snowing the day when I decided to return to Jibert. I embraced my colleague, Ghiță Pascu, and left. I would never see him again. When his disease cured, he returned to Timişoara to finish his studies. He was arrested and died in circumstances unknown to me, another great soul added to the number of graves of our generation. I returned to Jibert in the evening of the New Year’s Eve 1949, and I crossed the woods again, but this time I was carrying an axe. That night I was once again hosted by Wagner Mihai, at number 66.  Poor old people, they were so lonely. Two sons in Germany, two daughters in the USSR and here they were, old and sick, using walking sticks to move from near the brick stove to the bed. They told me what had happened in Jibert during my absence. The very same day I managed to escape from Curcă’s supervision, a Securitate vehicle stopped at number 52, at my house, and searched it.  My clothing, my money and all they could find in the suitcases were shared by the gipsies; Securitate agents contented themselves with my manuscripts: my thesis project, entitled “Agrarian State, Industrial State” and a study I had entitled “Dritte Teil”, a description of the exploitation and injustice that the Transylvanian Saxons had to endure those years.

How times change! At the moment when I write these lines, it is February 1990, and I just attended a general assembly of the Agricultural Production Cooperative where my co-villagers could not find enough words to praise Mr. Iliescu for giving them the possibility to work the land for 30% of the crop yield. Back in 1948, it seemed to me that the Saxons were victims of a great injustice when they were forced to give 33% of the yield to the state, and keep 66% for themselves. I thought it was unjustified robbery. Unwillingly, I recalled the poet’s lyrics:  “Some got so used to slavery that they find it difficult to abandon it”.

I spent around 10 days in Jibert, in hiding, then one evening I headed home, to Gura, at the foot of Făgăraş Mountains. This time, my companions were a Mauser gun, a Besard military compass and a pair of Zeiss binoculars.

[1] Horea (Vasile Ursu Nicola) was one of the leaders of the peasants’ riots in 1784 – 1785 in Transylvania. He is an icon of the fight for freedom.

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