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A True Sportsman Had Better Chances To Flee Communist Romania
Back in the times of communist Romania, Ovidiu Vlad was a handball player in the second league, for the town of Moldova Noua, placed on the left bank of River Danube.
Sunset on the River Danube; towards the West, over the Danube, were Romanians fled their country
The day before, the two youngsters had been "fishing." This actually was their opportunity to hide some clothes under a rock. The day of their escape they went again "fishing," dressed only in their bathing suits and with fishing rods and utensils in their hands, said Vlad.
From their hiding place Vlad and his mate could not have the full view of the river, but assumed a good time to start swimming would be one hour after the border-guard patrol boat had passed by them. So, they started swimming, with the clothes in plastic bags taped to their skins.
But shortly after they started swimming the light of the patrol boat was visible lower on the river; "When you are in water you lose your sense of orientation, so we split. I thought Liviu returned to the Romanian bank, while I pressed ahead, to the Serbian one," said Vlad. "I did not look for him; it was important that I swam ahead, to not get caught under the propeller of the patrol boat," explained Vlad.
While he tells his story he if fully transported back in time: "So I swam for over 20 minutes, breast-stroke only, and I made it on the other bank. I had lost in the mean time the bag with clothes, but who cared for that now?" continued Vlad. In all, he swam up-stream for some two kilometers, from Susca, on the Romanian bank, to Pojejena, on the Serbian bank of the Danube.
"I almost got drowned when reaching the opposite bank, as I was misled by the concrete structure the Serbs built on their bank. I thought I was about to put my feet on firm ground, when I started to slide under the water and took a few good gulps of water before coming afloat again," recalls Vlad.
He walked till reaching some isolated houses, and the people there gave him clothes and cigarettes. He continued walking towards the closest town while questions about the fate of his mate kept coming on his mind. While contemplating his plan to board a bus towards Belgrade, he could nothing but note to self that he knew no foreign language, unlike Liviu, who knew English, French, and Italian. At the bus station Vlad met his mate: Liviu had made it too over the border, but with all his clothes and money, unlike Vlad.
They both boarded the bus, and Vlad claimed to be deaf, hence prompting the charity of people around him who gave him sandwiches and cigarettes.
"At the bus-stop in Belgrade we ran out of luck: two policemen asked for passengersâ papers. When they turned towards me I turned my back to them and ran. We both did, but in different directions. I ran like three kilometers, and when I stopped I saw I was lost: I did not know how to make it back to the railway station, which I knew was close to the central bus-stop. Anyway, I asked street vendors using all sorts of hand-signs and noises mimicking a departing train. So, I finally made it to the railway station," said Vlad.
He bought a Serbian paper and looked up the trainsâ schedule, but was unable to understand which word was for departures, and which for arrivals.
While wandering outside the station he noticed the advertisement for porn movies and said to himself that if he is to be caught and returned to Romania by Serb authorities, at least this should be the lasting gain of his trip: having seen a porn movie for the first time in his life.
Unbelievably, Vlad met Liviu again, this time standing in line at the same porn movies cinema. They watched the movie and then boarded the train to Sezana, in Slovenia, not far from the Italian border and the city of Trieste. Vlad shared the train compartment with two women he communicated with in sign-language - as he continued to behave as if he was deaf - and they gave him pleskavica - the Serbian hamburger, and Coke from a can - that was a first for him too.
At the railway station in Sezana they each bought a beautiful flowers bouquet, took a taxi for some 500 meters and than walked towards the border crossing.
"We entered a near-by wooded area, but got lost, we thought; we walked and walked and no fence was in sight. Finally, we arrived at a fence and climbed over it, but on the other side was a camping area. We climbed back and walked again, and found another fence, and beyond it was another camping area. We asked the people there if we were in Italy. They said yes, and then Liviu started kissing me, overjoyed," recalls Vlad.
They headed towards the road and there they met the Italian carabinieri, which first asked for their papers, but then understood the Romanians were asking for political asylum and housed them in a boarding house.
Vlad did not stop in Italy. From 1987 to 1997 he wandered around several European states, though his initial aim was to flee for the United States.
Since 1997 he is back to Romania. The reminder of his American dream is the little Texan-like bar he opened in the same town of Moldova Noua; it is towering over the exact point were 18 years ago Vlad fled communist Romania.
Translation: ANCA PADURARU