How many informants were in the country? 2% of the population? 5%? 10%? Nobody knows, and maybe the numbers were exaggerated on purpose, to keep the population quiet and frightened; a neighbour, a co-worker, maybe a friend could leak to the fearful secret police information about what people say or do.
If the number will never be known, they existed for sure. And I will tell today the story of one of them; I will call him Nelu, a very popular name in Romania, and Nelu was not his real name.
When a child, and my family wanted to teach me to be quiet, the threat was like this: “be quiet, or the police will come.”
I never knew about any informant in my childhood, but that was about to change when I had to step into the real world. Military service was mandatory in Romania, and I did it, when I was 20. And here the story starts.
The military was the place where I met for the first time my future University colleagues.
Every platoon was supposed to have an informant among us (I think). But, apparently, in my platoon were none, they missed us. And we were smart boys, we saw from the lieutenant reactions that he did not know what we discussed among us… but that was about to change. One day, for (fake) disciplinary reasons a switch was done, one of our fellow soldier was moved in another platoon, and Nelu joined us. And the silly lieutenant, from that day on, playing the smart guy, had allusions and apropos that hint our talking in the dorm. Everyone knew, Nelu was an informant.
After military service, we started the University studies, and the hell broke loose for Nelu. Everybody avoided him, boys and girls, not even answered to his “hello”.
Sometimes, groups of friends gathered in a room, in student’s dorm, to talk about different subjects, girls, professors, studies, mostly innocent talking. One day, Nelu showed up; and everybody stopped talking.
Nelu started crying, real big tears, and sobbing, he told us his story:
I was in grade 1, 7years old, playing football (soccer) in the school backyard. With one strong and wrongly directed shot, I broke a window, that was at the ground level, school basement.
A teacher showed right away. “Who did it?” And all the kids finger pointed me.
Next day, my teacher told me that during the break, I have to go to principal’s office and talk about the incident the previous day. A man that I did not know was present, not the principal.
The man did not tell his name or who he was, and started: “Well, Nelu, your parents teach you to break windows and destroy what the whole country builds for all us.”
I was so scared…“That is not true, I did not want to break the windows, just happened”
“Everybody says so, when they do it, your parents told you what to say.”
“No, no, I did not want to break the window.”
“I believe you only if you will work with me and come and tell me when other kids will do things like that. And tell no one about it.”
And we established a way to meet occasionally.
Nelu stopped, looking around, but still, no one was talking.
Nelu had one more thing to say. I do not do it anymore, please believe me.
One of my friends said “I believe your story, Nelu” and that was all. After few more seconds of silence, Nelu left the room.
I believed his story too, my eyes were wet, but I could say nothing, afraid my voice will betray my emotions. That guy was a victim in a very unhuman society, but still, a danger. From that day on, I answered his salute, and occasionally exchanged neutral words about courses, very brief.
Nelu abandoned University that year, and I learned that he started again the following year. We knew his new colleagues, but from what I understood, none of my friends told his new colleagues who Nelu was.