.I knocked at the office door of the camp manager and told him I would like to return to my homeland. The bespectacled, middle-aged man chuckled and said, “Everybody wants to come here, but you want to leave! Why?” I told him I did not feel well and that I missed my home. He was not very inquisitive, and I did not want to complain and tell him that his camp turned my stomach. He wrote down my name and number
and my name,and told me to come back the next day. tomorrow.Before I left, he said, “I wished there were more people like you. We are overcrowded. We need every bed we can get.”
The next day, I held my passport in my hand and a one-way train ticket to my hometown. A large stamp in my passport said “Abschiebung, deportation,” and
statedcited a certain law and anarticle ofwhich I knew nothing about. I could only hope that the Yugoslav customs and police officers could not read German and would not ask me how I got the stamp. I did not like to lie, but if I had to, I would tell them I had tried to steal something in a shop and was caught by the German police. The communists could forgive even the worse criminals but would never forgive those who did not like their political system.
Thursday was All Saints’ Day, and I went to the city centre to take
thea last stroll. It was cold, dark and foggy. The shops were closed, but the streets were filled with people carrying flowers, candles and lanterns. They were streaming towards cemeteries and mourningto honour their dead--those who had died of natural causes, those who had perished at the fronts, in the concentration camps, and under heavy bombardment. People wore dark clothes and walked in a solemn silence, broken occasionally by the clatter of trams. I did not know whom I could honour. mourn.My grandfather died before I was even born. I knew him only from the pictures in our photo album, heposing with his comrades in their spotless uniforms at the beginning of the First World War, hecutting the grass with a scythe in a field-- his tannedstrong, tanned body glistening under the sun, heposing for my father’s camera, sitting in front of his house dressed in his best three-piece suit and smoking his cigarette fromat the end of a long cigarette holder. According to my father, he was never afraid of anything andor anyone and was so strong that he used to drive nails with his palm instead of a hammer. No. My brave grandfather was not a man who wanted to be mourned.honoured that way. Maybe I could mournhonour my mother who walked away from me and ignored my cries and tears.
I walked through the city and used all my senses to memorise buildings, facades, billboards, faces, sounds and smells. I would probably never visit this place again, and I wanted to have at least the memories to which I could go back in the future. I returned to the camp and found my roommates in a depressed mood. Everyone was lying silently in their
respectiveown bunks but for Zoltan, who paced the room holding a painted portrait of his wife Ilona, whom the Hungarian authorities did not allow to travel abroad. A candle burning on the table cast his large shadow on the wall and the ceiling. Zoltan was skinny and hollow-cheeked. His black hair was long and greasy. I saw him only wearing black clothes, and now in the candlelight, he looked more like a character from a horror film than a human being.
“Ilona! Ilona!” he shouted. “Please come to me!” As he stopped his lament to light his cigarette, I used the opportunity to announce my leaving.
“You’re joking,” Miroslav said.
“No. I’m not joking. Here is my passport.” I took it out and held it in front of me, which seemed to have had a magical effect on my roommates. They all climbed off their beds and came up to me. Even Zoltan had forgotten his wife for a second and put her picture on the table beside the candle.
“So this is the famous Yugoslav passport.” Stoyan said. He held it in his hand, turning the pages as if it were a sacred book. “Is it true that you can travel with it all over the West without visas?”
“It’s true,” I answered. “You can go to Holland, France, Italy, Spain... Nobody
is going towill stop you.”
“Man,” he said brandishing the passport to make his point clear. “For this passport you can get the most beautiful girl in Bulgaria.”
Suddenly, Zoltan grabbed the passport from his hand and stared at it like he was hypnotized. His dark eyes sparkled in the candlelight. “Ilona! Ilona!” he moaned, his eyes shifting from the passport to her picture. “If I could get such a passport, I’d pay a fortune for it. I swear, I’d work
themy whole life to pay off thea debt toif I could have my Ilona with me. What am I going to do in Germany without her?” He gave me back my documentpassport and stared vacantly at the dirty floor.
“Our stupid leaders should give us the freedom to travel,” Miroslav said. “If that was the case, we wouldn’t flee our countries and
appliedapply for asylum.”
“If we had the freedom to travel, who do you think
willwould remain in our countries; in the communist paradise?” Adam said. “Probably only the dictators, their families and their henchmen.”
TO BE CONTINUED
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