Author’s Introduction

After a good deal of thought and of weighing the pros and cons, I have decided to publish this text, which has taken shape in different places over a long period of time.
Will anyone want to read it? – No idea.
Will it be of interest to anyone? – No idea.
Does it have any historical significance? – A huge significance, definitely.
It is a snapshot evocative of a time of deportations, lootings, forced labour, food shortages, arbitrary repression, freezing temperatures and medieval darkness. A time of meteoric rise for some, a time of terminal decline, imprisonment and mass graves for others.
It is difficult these days to believe that, once upon a time, there was a time when the things described on these pages really happened.
In composing this collage of my experiences I thought in German, Romanian, Serbian and French. In the end, when I put pen to paper, I chose German for the first version of this story, which has since then appeared in several translations.
Polyglots tend to think in pictures. At least this is true of me. It is these pictures that we then paint with words.

I have tried to use a language that retains this pictorial quality. Certain phrases, certain expressions in the text you are about to read may well differ from common usage. I have toyed with language, painting with colours that help me to recognise myself as the person I was at the time. These are my colours. These are my pictures. But I am keen to share them.
When I first sat down to write this memoir, I had readers in non-Communist Western Europe in mind, which was one of the reasons I originally wrote in German.
Since then I have discovered that many people in Eastern Europe, even in Romania, where this story is largely set, the young generations, have no idea of what life – or what went under that name for us – was like then.
Let me add another word of warning while we are about it. Characters whose entrances have not been carefully prepared for seem to appear out of the blue, sometimes the sequence of events seems to be askew and there is no shortage of what looks like loose ends that have not been painstakingly tied up. Take this, dear reader, as an attempt to convey to you the unpredictability of life under a totalitarian regime. Why should the writer be allowed to indulge in omniscience when as an individual in real life he knows so preciously little?