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In those years, slips of paper like wings sometimes mysteriously fluttered down into our courtyards, reading: RESIST. The wish and illusion of being protected and free! Groups of anti-communist partisans were hiding in those mountains; Romanian shepherds and Saxon mountaineers left food, clothes, and messages, in their special, hidden places. The old Transylvanian Minnesang: Et sasse kli waeld Vijeltchen / Ich bin ein klein wild Vögelein, und niemand kann mich zwingen [I am a little wild bird, and nobody will force me] was still being hummed, even after the whole country had become a prison.

And there was that vision once of a ploughman with plough and horse in the field gilded with the sunset, immutable in its magic; when coming nearer, my parents chatted with the ploughman, who was our friend Herr Martin Marzell. Not long before, they had brought him back on a stretcher, from Siberia. ”Thank God he has recovered… Serious diabetes, without treatment for years… So many never came back...” Thus the grown-ups kept whispering, muted. But there was an apparent plan to really destroy the salt of the earth. So the same Martin and his family were soon to be deported again, somewhere in Romania this time, and some unhappy Macedonians were brought to live in Martin’s home; the Macedonians had also been deported from their original homes at Easter time. It was only old-old Marzell who was left at home. Pathetic, he would open his gates every evening, “for the cattle to come from grazing,” he said; but the communist authorities had taken his cattle away years before. “This hope of his may be some good omen,” the Romanian physician said, who had himself just been liberated from forced labor at the DanubeCanal. As the jingle of the time had it: “Vinovat-nevinovat / stuful trebuie adunat” (Guilty or not / Cutting reeds is your lot).

Life had never been easy in this crossroads area. The Transylvanian Saxons early learned that hardships will be overcome only by the observance of laws, hard work, order and solidarity. The new ideology made that tradition almost useless and even counter-productive. The Saxons (punished collectively after the war, as ethnic Germans) were the first, soon followed by all the other citizens, to be dispossessed of their land and cattle, smaller or bigger factories, money, radios, typewriters. Keeping one’s gold, or even a rusty old pistol often brought people years of prison and possibly death. Equality at the lowest denominator really meant mere survival. Herr Krafft, one of those farmers who had been rich through the hard work of generations, was left with just one cow; but he still shared his milk with some who were even poorer. Frau Elsen had been left to raise all the family’s children, while the younger Elsens were deported to Siberia, never to be seen again. Efficient work, discipline and a sense of duty were not values that pleased the new totalitarian authorities. People had to be arbitrarily pressured and intimidated into forgetting about their rights and their value, and thus to become wertlos, wehrlos – without value and defenseless. Early in the 1950s, as in the older times, there was still a drummer who called people to the end of the street, to be given orders; but there were as well the secret, silent orders coming with ghost-like individuals in dark leather coats. After their visits, more people would disappear from their homes in the night, taken to prisons and camps. Sometimes years passed before their families had any news from them.