Viorel Mihail Anghel
"When I got out of prison ... in only four months, I had forgotten to walk over long distances. I remember tripping two or three times before reaching the prison gate, and I wasn't used to the city traffic anymore. My father, who had waited for me at the gate, was already on the other side when crossing the street, while I was still looking to my left and right. I didn't have the courage to cross the street. My conduct in society had somehow changed. The first thing I did, wearing the same summer clothes I had on when they caught me, t-shirt, jeans and sneakers in the middle of the winter, was not to go change in the winter clothes my father had brought me. No, I asked him to go and grab something to eat like regular people because I had left prison feeling very hungry. I remember having eaten with great delight; I ate so much that I even had indigestion afterwards, since my stomach was no longer used to me eating regular food portions."
We thought of crossing it together, but we didn't get to cross it, since our plan was rather redundant, with no chance of ever making it over the border. We had thought about it... We had to make the plan relying only on a map (laughing), because we had never been there or known those places, neither I, nor her... And so we checked the map, and saw that, on the road leading from Oravița to Moldova Nouă, there was a junction at Răcășdia, where the road goes towards Yugoslavia, towards Belgrade, and then, to the south of Răcășdia, a village called Grădinari, where the road gets very close to the border. We thought we wouldn't get into any trouble if we just took a ride from Oravița to Moldova Nouă, so we could see exactly how things were there, where exactly the road got close to the border as we could see on the map. We thought there would be about 500 meters, no more than one kilometer. We wanted to see if there were any trees or maybe a cornfield where we could hide, and then cross the border at night. We then planned to go back from Moldova Nouă on foot and cross the border into Yugoslavia at night. We expected to get caught just after crossing into Yugoslavia, to probably end up in a camp for Eastern Europeans, and then to immigrate.
But things didn't go as planned; one or two kilometers up the road from Oravița to Moldova Nouă there was a checkpoint with a border guard and a barrier. The checkpoint was guarded only between 1.00 PM and 5.00 AM. We passed by in the afternoon because we thought it would get dark before coming back from Moldova Nouă, so when the border guard was on duty, stopping all cars with Romanian plates. He didn't stop any car with foreign plates, it wasn't a border crossing point as such... but all cars with Romanian plates were stopped, and the papers were checked. And those who were locals passed without any problems, while those who came from somewhere else were questioned. We weren't even asked anything because she, as a German national with a GDR passport, was immediately suspected. I, who accompanied her, became a suspect as well. We were escorted directly from the car and taken to the garrison of the border guards... in Oravița. There we were interrogated again and again. "What are you planning on doing? Why here?”
We were then taken, tied together two by two with handcuffs, and loaded into a bus with militia officers. We were taken to the prison in Timișoara, at Popa Șapcă. They took all possible medical tests there, the Wassermann test... blood test for syphilis. Business as usual for those who are in a community... chest radiographs. In the prison in Popa Șapcă there was a doctor, a gynecologist or a surgeon, I don't know exactly in what field he has specialized in; anyway, there was an incarcerated doctor under the command... of a low-ranking fella, one of those militia sub-officers. And this guy was collecting blood. He wasn't very skilled, but I told him I was a lab assistant, that I was pretty good at collecting blood, and helped him. The militia guy, who was the head of the infirmary, noticed how fast I was working and wanted to have me working in the prison infirmary. So he looked me up... they had some kind of cards, just like business cards with our records on them, each with the name, personal data and the offence or attempt to commit an offence. He looked for my card, wanting to separate me from the others and keep me in the infirmary, but when he saw TTF written on it, that is border-crossing attempt (in Romanian), he put the card back and told me: „My boy”, he said, „couldn't you just steal something or hit somebody in the head, I could have kept you here in the infirmary, I would have needed a guy like you!” (Laughing) "But because of this border-crossing attempt, I can't do anything for you, this is a serious crime!"
And then I really did see in prison that it was one of the most serious crimes; we were separated from other detainees, even from criminals and rapists, thieves. We were taken to Section 3, which was a restricted section. What was going on? The others had regular windows with bars. We also had blinds and wire meshes on the inside, blinds similar to outside window shutters. It was dark during the day and we had light during the night because they would light up a light bulb.
Caracal, judeţul Olt, 02.08.1999
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...I realized that Romania was like a big prison for me...
He was was born on August 6, 1953 in Caracal, Olt County.
Although having been educated in the spirit of the communist era, he started realizing as a teenager that Romanians were overwhelmed with propaganda, which was meant to conceal the predicaments of those times (material deprivation, the even tenor of life without freedom), as well as the historical truth about the establishment of Communism.
He worked in Turnu Severin, in Drăgănești, and, starting with 1978, as a medical assistant in the laboratory of the city hospital in Caracal, where he was forced to participate in the cultural activities organized within the institution (“artistic brigades”), writing texts about the hospital’s activity. During such an artistic event, he also read two poems written by him, with reference to the bleak reality of the era, which made a negative impression on the people at the management level in the hospital, who also held positions in the Communist Party.
While working as a medical assistant, he also attended a tourist guide course, in the hope that he will have the chance to travel - an endeavor which he eventually abandoned once he realized how difficult it was to get out of the country. As an example of the stratagems employed by the Securitate in the case of people trying to go abroad, he talks about a visit he made to Hungary with a group of people from the hospital, when he was called in advance to the headquarters of the Securitate, where he was asked to cut his long hair, an attempt to actually recruit him as an informer (in order to pay particular attention to those who would try to smuggle goods to Hungary). Despite his refusal to cooperate, he was allowed to go on the trip to Hungary, but was then no longer given permission to make any further visits abroad (he tried to go to Poland).
Given this situation, he planned to flee the country in 1981, together with a young woman from GDR, who was visiting Romania and with whom he had previously exchanged letters. Together, they made a draft plan and decided to explore the area after having found a possible way to cross the border on the map, namely at a place between Oravița and Moldova Nouă, to the South of Răcășdia, near Grădinari, where the road came very close to the border. Once they got there, they were immediately spotted by a border guard, who turned them in to the militia. He was arrested and taken to the militia headquarters in Oravița, while his friend, Ines, was sent back to the GDR.
One week later, after having been subjected to several interrogations, Viorel Anghel was moved from the militia headquarters in Oravița to the Popa Șapcă prison in Timișoara. Following a trial, which was held in Timișoara two months after his arrest, he was found guilty of attempting to cross the border illegally. Due to the restrictive nature of the punishment received, he couldn’t work in the prison infirmary, although the detained doctor had expressed his desire to keep him in the infirmary because he had needed a medical assistant.
He served four months in the Popa Șapcă prison in Timișoara, under harsh conditions. Due to hunger, extremely precarious hygiene conditions and filth (scabies, lice), he lost a considerably amount of weight, getting from 165 to 108 pounds.
After being released from jail he lost his job, thus risking to be sent back to prison due the violation of a decree, which stipulated that all citizens fit for work were obliged to work (Decree No. 153 on parasitism). In addition, he had to report for declarations to the Securitate headquarters in Caracal over a long period of time (being accompanied by militia officers), thus feeling permanently watched by the Securitate.
After one year he managed to return to his former job, as a medical assistant.
He currently lives in Caracal.