I was born in Transylvania, not the home of Dracula, but a land of mountains and rivers and beautiful birdsong.
Transylvania, a province of Romania, is in Eastern Europe. To quote Marci Shore’s The Taste of Ashes – also The New York Review of Books, May 2013: ‘Eastern Europe is a special place. It is Europe but only more so, it is a place where people live and die, only more so. In this land between the West and Russia, the past is palpable, and heavy… the Second World War and communism were inseparable historical traumas, one bleeding into the other, as Nazi power gave way to Soviet domination.’
But life in communist Romania was far more complex than the West construes it. People lacked freedoms and they lacked things, but still loved and made friends. My friendships lasted for decades.
We were secular Jews. We lived among Romanians and Hungarians, the two main demographic groups in Transylvania. In our family home we spoke at least two languages.
Like most Jews in Romania we dreamed of emigrating to Israel. Not because we believed that it was promised to the Jews, but because we would cease to be an ethnic minority. And we would be free. So after years of waiting for passports, years when we were fair game for the Romanian authorities, we arrived in Israel. Life behind the Iron Curtain and with no TV meant that we knew little about our new country.
Israel had been our dream for years. But its practical translation: the language, the mannerisms, the political reality was quite different. I never quite settled there and seven years later I emigrated again, this time to Sydney, Australia, where I now live.
Communism, capitalism, two emigrations, four languages, science, literature, marriage and motherhood have given me insights and an understanding of the world few people have. But more and more will have in the future in our changing world.