677. AN UNHAPPY MEMORY

She was born în 1944 în Lenauheim. She is a Swabian. She is 75. She has a sister born în 1942. And one born in the Bărăgan.

The girls grew up with their mother and grandparents. Their father was away at war, and then was held prisoner by the Russians.

He came back in 1950. I was 6 then and had never seen him.

Mother dressed us up to go to the train station and wait for him, but we never got there. A girl who was also waiting for her father came along.

The two men that had been set free had no patience to wait for the train to take them from Jimbolia to Lenauheim so they walked home.

Father took me into his arms and we went home. For a long time he was a stranger to me. But we slowly got close.

Peace is not long. In 1951, on Pentecost, the family is sent into the Bărăgan. The grandparents are left behind in Lenauheim.

They took us to the Bărăgan, in cattle boxes. We took nothing, we were poor. There were three families in a train car. We were guarded by a border guard. So as not to run away. Run away where?!

We arrived at night and they took us into a field. In the morning the place looked like a market. Heaps of clothing. Each had a wooden stake with a house number on it.

677 – I won’t forget it for as long as I live.

The conditions were difficult. People had no roofs over their heads.

The parents put some planks over bales to make a roof. It started raining and the wood started to rot. But the children had some shelter at least.

There comes an order stating that families with children that were sent into the Bărăgan with at least one family member left behind in the Banat can send their children back home.

The girls spent a school year back in Lenauheim when another order comes:

They said: ”Children with parents in the Bărăgan must return to them!” They took us away from school to the Militia post and we slept there until we left.

When they return, the parents are waiting for them in a new house built out of mud bricks. They find out they have a baby sister who was born there.

Water is an issue. Wells are dug but the water, although clear and cold, is salty. It cannot even be used for washing. The animals cannot drink it. Water is drawn from the Danube, kilometers away. There are also those who drive through the village in wagons selling water.

The Danube water was good, but when there were storms it turned into ”coffee with milk”. In the summer there was a lot of dust and it was hot, it was like walking on embers. Winter was tougher, there were big snow storms. There were all nationalities there. Germans, Turks and Romanians. And they built a real village there. With a school, a town hall, a Militia post, a dispensary. There were also rich people there. I believe my family was taken instead of another because we had no land, we had nothing. The kulaks came in freight cars with furniture, feed, animals.

The family returns from the Bărăgan in 1956.

Life takes its course. Her father joins the collective, the family works for the collective farm.

The Swabian woman marries a Romanian.

After the Revolution, a lot of people leave the village, settling in Germany.

Her sisters and parents do the same. She stays in Lenauheim with her husband.

She still talks about the Bărăgan:

People don’t really believe me. It passed, but it is an unhappy memory.


This story was initially published in the MOVING FIREPLACES. 2019 book.

Photo credit: Diana Bilec

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