W. is from Lenauheim. He worked for a while for the hospital in Jimbolia in times of extreme strictness. Banal chaos. And helived through relatively normal times.
Something really hurt me then:
I was walking from the train station to the hospital, in Jimbolia, and each morning they were bringing people in who had tried to cross the border. Beaten up, bloody. They didn’t take them to the hospital but to the guard post. They walked them all over town so people could see. And they told us: ”try and do anything like that and you’ll end up just like them” as they passed by.
There were these soldiers brought from Moldova that were trained that way. They beat up the ones trying to cross the border, or they just shot them.
I was working in the hospital administration and I saw a lot of things. They were bringing in people who were shot and the coroners would declare they died from heart disease, they lay them dead in a coffin and sent them back to the families. You weren’t allowed to talk about it.
Many of those who were beaten, were damaged for life. Hit in the kidneys.
There were those who were operated for gunshot wounds, and the Militia man was at the door…
On the 26th of December 1989, ambulances from Austria and Germany show up at Jimbolia hospital.
They came with aid. The people from Austria also built the water supply system in Lenauheim.
Firstly, they wanted to understand how the communist system functioned in Romania. They stayed until after New Year’s at my house in Lenauheim. They asked me what was needed and we came to the conclusion that Lenauheim needed a dispensary. Also running water and electricity. My father helped me with the water system for the village. The money for the project was given by the Austrians. Since then I am an honorary citizen of Lenauheim. The Austrians came back to check on the system and improve it.
On the 15th of January 1990 he found out that the Lenauheim town hall was handing out passport forms.
The second day we filed the forms with the Police in Timișoara. After another day we found out that the passports were already being emitted, although initially they had told us we would have to wait two months. A few days later I take my wife and we went to Timișoara to get the passports. There someone opened a window, yelled out my name on a loudspeaker and threw the passport out the window.
A week later we decided to visit Serbia, as we had never been there. We went to Kikinda with the kids, bought blue jeans for them. It was something special. We came back and in April my father in law told me that they had visited Germany in November ’89 and that we should visit as well.
You needed a visa for Austria and Germany. You got there and wanted to stay? You needed official summons. The summons was supposed to be from relatives who lived there, but not all of them were willing to write one. Because they had to take on the responsibility of feeding you if you couldn’t manage to find work there.
We went to Bucharest with the night train to get to the German Embassy. We got the visa and quickly took the train back. We almost missed it. We went to Belgrade and got the visa for Austria, because it was needed.
We left for Germany in a Dacia 1300. We just wanted to see what it was like there. You had to go to the Nürnberg camp and say ”Hello, I am here, I would like to stay”.
They would check your papers, and we had a chat with their local Securitate. They told me to renounce my Romanian citizenship. I told them I won’t do such a thing because Germany is not a communist, but a capitalist country. I didn’t give in so they gave me my papers back and I stayed there. I stayed for the children, not for myself, because I could manage. I returned in August to Lenauheim, to my parents, to visit. They didn’t want to leave.
Since then he visits three times a year.
The first impressions of Germany were nice.
Everyone spoke German.
It was an interesting thing with the TV. In 1990 there was the Football World Cup. I wasn’t a big football fan… but watchingeverything on a color TV! And movies?! That was something else.
He is unemployed for the first 5 months of his stay in Germany. In this time he watches a lot of TV.
So many documentaries that were fascinating! Up to ’89 you barely had 2 hours of TV a day, and that if you had the electricity going, which it seldom was. For us it wasn’t a problem because we spoke German. I quickly adapted.
I went to visit the employment office. They wanted to send me to a seminar, do some more schooling in administration. I told them I need money and I want to work. I could have been on wellfare, but I didn’t know it and didn’t want it, wasn’t used to it. In the end I found this chemical production company. I was an administrator there and got a place to live. I earned very well there, but I worked a lot. Saturdays and even on Sunday. The flat was large. I was lucky.
Although he settled in Germany, he keeps in touch with the Lenauheim community. Together with the Romanians from Lenauheim, he finds an association.
My father was a good organizer and he started it. I was an auditor for the Association of German Swabians for 4 years and in 2001 I was nominated for president. I didn’t really want it, I had no time, but in the end I accepted.
There was this local woman who handled the gathering of data. We bought a computer. It cost 3000 Marks. But it was worth the investment.We put the data into the computer. That’s how I learned to use it. My son also helped.
There are 120 villages in the Banat that are members of the association, 162 of its members are from Lenauheim. The members receive the local newspaper 2 times a year and they pay a yearly fee.
Their number stays about the same, because when the grandfather dies, the nephew takes his place. In the Banat we have 12,400 members, but we used to have 18,000 in ’90-’91. The number is dropping. The objective of the association is maintaining a link with the Catholic parish, tending the cemetery and keeping in touch with the communities of Swabians.
The relationship of children born in Germany to the native village of they parents differs.
If they tell them good things about Romania, then the children visit with joy. If not, the children have the impression the sun doesn’t even want to shine here.
He believes the association will still be there 15 years from now.
Maybe not like it is today. It depends on who will be mayor, and it depends on the people. I want to be in touch with everyone. For instance, I organized together with the mayor a celebration in Lenauheim for the 200th anniversary of its existence. It was very beautiful. We also organize the ”Sons of the village” each year on the 8th of September.
About the giving back of the collectivised land, he says that some Germans didn’t want it back. Some weren’t interested anymore.
My father was in that commission. The ones registered got their lands back. Some found out too late because in 2007 the procedures were closed. In spite of being informed.
The Germans were modest. This used to be the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Hungarian forced them to speak Hungarian. They had no choice. Then, after 1918, they had to learn Romanian. But it wasn’t as tough with the Romanians. There were German schools.
That’s how it went.
This story was initially published in the MOVING FIREPLACES. 2019 book.
Photo credit: Diana Bilec