A day I dreaded – crossing into Romania. My last venture into Romania was not a pleasant one, and even though, technically I wasn’t “in” Romania, since I never left the airport, memories of it filled me with dread. Decades ago, while Nicolae Ceaușescu was in power, I stopped in Romania. The stop was supposed to be brief, and although it was no longer than intended, it felt like it went on forever.
We were traveling to Israel, and as a family, the cost of the plane tickets really added up. Our Israeli friends suggested that we fly Tarom, Air Romania. We did. The savings were substantial, and I suppose if you consider that the memories of that flight have lasted almost 30 years so far, I guess we got our money’s worth. There was about an 18 hour layover, so I figured that we would find a way to get from Bucharest Airport to Suceava in Bukovina where my grandfather was born. As the flight was landing, the pilot (or perhaps a flight attendant) announced that because there was a fuel strike, if anyone intended to try to go into town and had a connecting flight, they shouldn’t plan on going into town, since they might not find a vehicle to bring them back. Obviously that changed our plans, but it was ok.
At least I thought it was ok. To get into the airport we had to go through passport control. That’s normal. What followed was not. The officials looked at our passports and informed us that we did not have seats on the connecting flight to Israel, regardless of what the tickets we were holding said. They were going to hold our passports and send us on the next US bound flight three days later. We couldn’t call the US Embassy because we had no lei and we couldn’t change any money because we had no passports. Finally a flight was leaving for Greece and I went over to one of the passengers with a piece of paper with our names, address and phone number and asked the passenger to call the American Embassy and let them know we were being held against our will.
No sooner had I done that, than a very large female guard approached me, grabbed me by the arm and dragged me to a small office, where she threw down our passports and said “is this what you wanted?” Of course it was and when the plane came in, we got on. For whatever reason we couldn’t change our flights and came back a month later through Romania. When we went through passport control, the official remarked that the last time we went through we had problems and this time we would not!
Now perhaps, my feelings of doom and gloom are clearer. This time, we were going to meet with a Romanian official, and we had an appointment. We were told that we needed to arrive between 10 and 11 AM. So, we started out from Moldova in plenty of time. There should be no traffic at the border crossing, and that was the only place we might encounter a problem. The border crossing from Moldova (non-EU) to Romania (EU) was not very crowded. Unfortunately, there were some huge vans with lots of people in them. They all had to empty the suitcases and cartons that were in their trunks and open the sealed boxes. We got waved on by a guard and found ourselves 2nd in line.
This was good. We could still make our appointment. Oh no, the car in front started emptying out boxes – lots of them. We sat and waited – after all, what else can you do? After an hour, Marek decided to do something. He got out of the van with our passports and approached a guard. We have no idea what transpired, but Marek said he just explained that we had an meeting with the Director of the Archives in Iasi and we were already late. Go figure – they let us through!
We knew at that point that we were going to miss that hour of opportunity, but we were going to give it a shot anyway.
Thankfully most of the road was well paved, and we drove with no further incident.
We arrived in Iasi, worried that we would never get to see the Director. It was difficult to get an appointment with him. However, we walked in the building and the next thing we knew, we were sitting in his office!
To be continued….