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  • Annamaria Nemeth

The choice is clear...


I have to admit that, as the possibility of all of us being reunited became somewhat more real and once the adrenaline rush cleared, the reality of where it might lead hit me.


As we go through life, we have moments where we must have reality checks. My current reality was clear: As long as my dad was not in the picture, the rest of us were safe. We were not dealing with abuse. That was certain. On the one hand, I wanted that reunification. But, on the other hand, to be honest, I also feared it. My life, our lives together, had been filled with fear and abuse ever since I could remember.


As I think about our life in Romania I'm not sure what good memories there were to sift through. We did have some great times, certainly; it was not all bad. My sister was such a huge part of my life even though she was five years older and that was special to me. My mom had the ability to make our home warm in the worse of times. So there were those good things to cling to. Then there were the times when my father was able to be loving, kind, and show that he has the ability to be a good person. However, the moments we overshadowed by the terrible person he was other times.


But what would my future be like if I stayed back? The higher powers of the government had already decided what my future would be if we stayed in Romania. It was decided that future was going to be as a machinist in a factory. That did not sit well with me. I had watched my mom work so hard all her life in a factory from age thirteen. My mom would work her regular shifts and then, if needed, double shifts. That would mean working sixteen hours straight. We never missed a home-cooked meal and we always had everything we needed. I really don’t know how she did it all. After watching her and what her life was like, I had already told myself when I was very young that working in a factory would not be something I would do.


(I only speak about my mom’s work because I never really knew what my father’s job was. Also, at times he would even gamble money away and my mom would have to work that much harder to make ends meet. If I really had to say who was the main bread-winner in our home, it would have to be my mom.)


So, when I began to think of our current living situation when my dad would come back, and really assessing my options, leaving was the best choice for me, for all of us. What did I have to lose ? We were followed everywhere, our phone was tapped, our mail was opened, all our packages were sifted through and items were taken at will. We had no privacy and all our rights were stripped. Staying was definitely not an option for me.


I was getting ready to go into high school, and truth be told, due to the circumstances and the ethnic discrimination I experienced, I hated school. I used to daydream as a child of a different world to live in. I guess I was kind of a strange child, always daydreaming, always finding adventures. I never accepted the status quo; always fought the norms. (In some ways I guess that is still the same for me. But that fighting spirit is what has gotten me through all the challenges I’ve faced so far in my life.)


As time was getting closer for us to leave for the US we were saying our good byes. The hardest part was leaving my sister behind. Sadly that was not our choice or decision. Just like everything else, our government had decided our fate and hers for the moment. I had lived in the same place all my life: same room, same bed, same life. My sister and I had always shared a room and I missed her in my life every day. But due to our father’s abuse she had left home at sixteen and had never come back. (Ironically so did I later on in the United States. I ended up running away from home and dropping out school at sixteen. That will be in future writings.)


I so loved my neighborhood and the familiarity of it was safe for me. So many memories were flooding my heart. I could feel the ache and hurt as I thought of leaving, but staying was not better. The legalities of our departure were being finalized. We were given a list of what we could take out of country, which included mostly our clothes and toiletries. We could not take anything else with us, not photographs, not books, not any meaningful items. To top it all off we were stripped of our citizenship and were not allowed to take any legal documentation, for a birth certificate I was a allowed to take a copy of it, but not the original document.


I looked around my room. We had lived a very simple life. We did not have much, but what we had was so dear to me. The comforts of a home, especially after my father was gone, made our home warm and safe. We had two paintings on the wall of angels guarding over little children. They were so comforting to me. I wanted to take them and I packed them in my suitcase. Also, we had a handwritten journal by somebody who worked in a concentration camp. This nurse or person worked with Dr. Mengele. I recognized that name because of my interest in the WWII. I also recognized the word Auschwitz in it. The journal had pictures and notes written in German. It was not a language I knew, but I loved history and I knew that that the human value in that transcended any risks. I had to take that with me. It really belonged in a place of safety but I couldn’t think of one in Romania. Plus it meant a lot to me to have that with us. It was valuable to me and I knew it would be to many others, given the historical value it contained.


So I took a chance and packed that as well. A few other older books that were meaningful to me went in the suitcase too. I didn't have a lot of clothes. One thing I liked were shoes. Yes, even then at 15, I loved shoes. So that being said, shoes went in the suitcase. Even as a child I knew quality and I loved the high quality leather. The pictures we tried to sent our in the mail and prayed that they made it to my father in the US.


I sat quietly in the house and I started thinking of our departure. What would my future hold? What would it be like? Tears started running down my face and my body started shaking....I felt so scared. It was time to face the unknown....


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