Like many Romanians, after the Revolution, Cristi went to work in Germany. He crossed the border, he occupied an abandoned house, and passed by Rostock in the very night when some hundreds of fascists were attacking a home that was sheltering thousands of migrants and asylum seekers from Eastern Europe (including Romania).
I went to Germany in 1992-1993. A sister of mine had went there with her husband and we were talking on the phone every night and she was going on and on about how we should come too, because life was good there. And so we did, but we went through a lot: it is one thing to make a plan….
On the road
There was no way to cross the border legally. We crossed it illegally that night, towards Germany, going through Poland. The important thing was to get there. In Germany, they didn’t receive you legally, but when they found you there, they listened to your reasons and didn’t send you back.
We went across Moldova, not Hungary, by train. It was easier this way. From Lviv (in Ukraine) we crossed over to Poland, we stayed in Warsaw for two days and afterwards we wanted to cross the border towards Słubice, where there was a bridge. Normally, everyone crossed it and there was no problem… but when we got there, this was no longer possible. They were checking everyone’s documents. On the other side there was the town of Frankfurt-Oder.
We went back to Warsaw and we took the train and got to another border, in Görlitz. On the other side in Germany, there was Dresden.
Here, in Görlitz there was a large plain, with many canals, and my wife was wearing shoes, because when we left, in Bucharest the weather was fresh, just like these last few days.
And it was on one of the canals that she lost a shoe, you know, being a lady shoe, it slipped from her foot. But I gave her a sock and my coat’s hood, so she could go on walking; she was just fine, she managed to walk one way or another, without stopping. We passed by those people, no one saw us, but, I don’t know how to explain it, we were walking, leaving one particular place, then approaching some lights and thinking it was the road.
Listen, those lights were there, you walked right towards them, and in a while you realized you had returned to the same place you had just left! Three times we went through this. It was just like the Bermuda Triangle! It was dark and unfamiliar…
We were a group of eleven people: we had all met in Warsaw, we had common acquaintances and we all wanted to cross over. (…) We were tired, our clothes were wet… At some point the mist dissolved and we saw some villas. We went there, we looked and nobody was living there. We went in, there was no furniture, but we were so cold, there snow outside… We stayed inside for two or three hours. We took a ladder from the basement – they had some tin stoves – we made a fire out of it, but it wasn’t good, as the smoke was visible. A police car went by, and lit the lights on the house, but they didn’t get out of the car; they would have caught us. (…)
One of us hitchhiked together with his wife, they left us there and went to Dresden, where they called my brother in law and this is how he managed to find us. Luckily, my brother in law had a car and he came and took us from there, we wouldn’t have managed otherwise, because it was cold, we were tired and our clothes were wet. (…)
This is how we got to Germany, where we stayed for one year and nine months.
When we got there, we received a residence permit. It was harder to get work, for a longer period, but first of all they would get you a residence permit. (…)
After that, you were supposed to file an asylum request, and they would place you somewhere, and provide meals. It was a special place, like a home, we stayed there for two weeks. It was like a boarding house, we had a private room and a shared kitchen. Everyone stayed there for a limited period of time, until they managed to send you somewhere else. These new places were probably homes that no one was using and the owners probably received money from the state, because each such home had a manager, an owner.
The temporary shelters were probably owned by the state. The place where we lived afterwards was somebody’s property. The owner used to come over. His name was Udo and he had an office downstairs… What he kept there, I wouldn’t know, but when he left he used to check the door several times. One would think he kept a safe full of money in that room, this is how he acted. He would go to his car, walk around some more, and then come back. The house was outside the city.
It was a small villa, with two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom. They took care of everything. I suppose it’s the same now with refugees. We would get payed 180 marks a month each. There was furniture in the houses, everything was brand new – bed sheets, tableware, pans… Everything was supposed to meet the standards, and you expected the best, and from my point of view it would have been weird for them no to offer the best. In Romania they offer 20 lei per day, maybe 30. I saw a shelter in Berceni. Of course people don’t want to live there.
Working in Germany
I lived in Husum, near the Danish border, for almost one year. I was getting the 180 marks per month, but it wasn’t enough because it wasn’t enough. We were supposed to send some of the money home, and to save some more, and it wasn’t enough, we had to work. We had to work without legal forms. My wife had a contract, she found a job. There was this hotel that needed a maid and she went to the employment office and they approved for her to work there. There is this overpopulated island, one can have a lot of fun there, it is called Westerland Sylt, it is an island in the North Sea. You can get there by train, and at the flood tide, the railway is covered in water, you can’t see it…
I worked there too for a while, at a fishery, they had fish from all over the world, from every ocean, even piranha, it took half a day to kill them. You had to kill them before touching them. We used a substance, I don’t know what it was, but you couldn’t breath, when you got near it, it cut your breath, it was that intense. We put the fish in that substance and afterwards we had to take them out and hit them hard with a stick, the way we do with grapes when we make wine, and I think they got dizzy and died.
I was rather alone at the North Sea. During my time there, I saved some money and then I left. (…)
Yes, a lot of bad things happened, too. I know people that worked without legal forms in restaurants, in bars, in small factories. They earned about 2000 marks per month and they started to trust the manager and they told him: here, you keep our money until we leave. But one morning somebody came and told you to leave, to go back to Romania. And you went only with the clothes you had on. Nobody told you to get ready, because you were to leave in a day or two. You had to leave right away. Many people lost their money this way. The managers kept the money, twenty thousand, thirty thousand, big sums.
When we got back, with the money we saved we bought our apartment in the Militari district. After that we never left again. There were other things and we didn’t go abroad anymore. Although things back home weren’t quite all right. My girl grew up and we didn’t go to work abroad. Now I may go again. My brother has married an Italian woman, maybe I’ll go to Italy next spring, to work in a kiwi orchard, 60 Euro. There might be an available job there. My brother arranged it, he told me when he came to visit a few days ago.