Burying The Typewriter: Childhood Under The Eye Of The Secret Police
- Pan Macmillan
- Publication Date:
- 07 June 2012
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Think Anne Frank with a twist. Should a parent’s political activities endanger the lives of his family? Carmen Bugan was born in Romania in the early 1970s. Although the country was ruled by Nicolae Ceausescu, she remembers her early years as a time spent with her parents, sister, and grandparents. She particularly liked being with her grandparents because they weren’t as strict as her parents and had more time for her. She was an avid reader, a love that was nurtured by one of her teachers and her mother. It also provided an escape from the harsh reality of her life during her teen-age years. Her father had been imprisoned for political activism before he and her mother were married. While Carmen and her younger sister Loredana were young, he bought a typewriter. At that time, all typewriters had to be registered with the state so any publications could be traced back to person or persons who created them. Later on, he bought a second one which he did not register. He composed and Carmen’s mother typed anti-government manifestoes which he distributed in many locations in Romania. The girls are warned to never discuss his activities because it might lead to his arrest and possible execution. When Carmen was 11 years old, her father was arrested for political dissent. During the time he was incarcerated before his trial and then when he was given a 10-year sentence, his family suffered because of his actions. Around the time of his arrest, his wife gave birth to their son. There were complications and she had to spend several months in the hospital with the baby leaving Carman to carry on much of the work of caring for herself and her sister. Her grandparents helped as much as they could, but because of their ages and physical conditions, their contributions were limited. Once her father was taken away, the Securitate goes through their house, taking items, forcing them to move some items into a main room, sealing off all but two rooms. Whatever family is living there at any time must remain in those rooms only. They are not permitted to close any curtains so that the Securitate can constantly monitor their actions. There are microphones set up in the rooms so that every word and sound can be heard by the authorities. They quickly learn to write notes to communicate, then burn them to remove the evidence. Their relatives and neighbors are regularly questioned about the household’s activities: Where do they go? Who comes to see them? What are their political opinions? Eventually, most people avoid them. Her mother is required to go to the headquarters weekly for an interrogation. His father disowns him. They are not allowed to see him more than once a year and cannot get information about him. In school the teachers tell the other children that her father is a criminal, encouraging them to bully her. Eventually, the three children are not permitted to go to school. After her mother divorces her father, they are readmitted. Despite all the hardships, the family tries to maintain as normal a life as possible. In her book, Carmen raises questions she’s had for years: Did her father ever feel guilty for leaving her alone in a house with no food and no idea when he would return? Did he miss not saying goodbye to Loredana or abandoning his wife and sick son? Most important: Did he think what might happen to us because of him? Did he really think that we, his flesh and blood, were expendable in comparison with fighting for human rights for the whole country? Eventually, her father becomes Amnesty International’s political prisoner of the month. (She learns about this years later.) When her father is released from prison, he and her mother are placed under house arrest. Because of harassment and fear for his life, they eventually are able to leave Romania and settle in Michigan. At the beginning of this review, I compared this memoir to Anne Frank. A major difference is that Carmen Bugan’s father had a choice. If he had stopped his political activity, his family and friends would not have suffered. But his actions may have played a part in getting rid of Nicolae Ceausescu, his wife, and their oppressive, corrupt government. Which would have been the best course of action? I received this book as an Early Reader from Goodreads.
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