Sam Buliga had two years left at the University of Timisoara when a man arrived and told the school officials that he should not be allowed to graduate. If he graduated, someone was to be fired. “It was really bad for me,” Sam remembers. “But I worked really hard and graduated.” He had been told that because he was a Christian, he was very dangerous. “You have been meeting with Americans, giving them Romanian secrets and telling them what is happening in our country. We want a good reputation,” the Secret Police would say. Sam’s reply was, “Persecution is a crime.”
Sam knows that it was because of the grace of God that he graduated from the University. He says that God protected and delivered him out of so many situations, “Having to go through these adversities made me stronger in the Lord and more dependent on Him.” Completing these studies was certainly one of the adversities. The school faculty had been turned against him by the Securitate and all things seemed to work against him. But his hard work was rewarded by graduating and then finding a very good job in Timisoara.
He had been told by the Secret Police, “Your mistake is that you keep meeting with Americans and bringing Bibles and Christian literature into Romania. If you stop, it will be okay for you.” Sam worked at his job for a year and enjoyed it very much. Then, after his arrest because of the Bucharest Embassy event, Sam was taken to his boss at the company that he worked for.
The Secret Police flooded his boss with many lies about how Sam was subversive and dangerous. Within two hours he was fired. His boss said, “We are done with you at this company.” The Police then took him outside and said, “You have three months to get a job. After that, you will be officially ‘politicized.’” This means that he would be classified as someone that didn’t want to work, a “blood sucker” of society, as his wife Valetta put it. There was a law concerning this classification and a conviction would result in three to five years in prison.
Sam says, “In the beginning I was very naïve and thought, ‘no problem. I can find a job.’” He began applying at many companies and at every one it was initially very good. Each one said that they had a position for him. Then, also with every one, at the final interview he would be rejected. “Sorry, you don’t fit our profile,” would be the reason given.
Then, with two weeks left before the Secret Police’s deadline, he applied at a business where a Christian lady was in charge. At first, she said, “Sam I will hire you. I know you are no problem.” But later she was forced to change her mind and she was the only one that told Sam the truth. She said, “Sam, nobody will hire you. If I hire you, tomorrow I will be fired.”
It was evident now that the Securitate was serious and had set him up. This led Sam to begin planning his escape. He knew that if he stayed in his beloved Romania, he would go to prison for a minimum three years, and maybe never return. He was classified as a leach on society and dangerous to the country. Sam says, “I never did anything that caused anyone pain. My crime was that I had brought Bibles into the country, tried to witness my faith and that I met with missionaries.”
He tells us, “Meanwhile, outside of my personal world, things had gotten extremely bad.” The Communist regime was unbearable. He remembers, “Everywhere you went, everywhere you turned you met hungry, mad people. The stores were completely empty.” The meat markets, the dairy or the bakery were all separate from each other, and all of them were the same – empty shelves.
“To be able to get butter, sugar, milk or bread, you had to stay in line for hours, beginning at 3:00- 4:00 in the morning. If you arrived at 8:00 am, you would be met by a long, unending line and your chance to get anything would be minimal.” Sam said that elderly people, pregnant women and women with children had priority and often mothers with children would arrive when the store opened and cut in front of the line. “This infuriated a lot of people, thus creating even more tension and anger, which ended up in ugly fights.”
Sam never tasted bananas until he crossed the border. He only saw oranges at Christmas time and to get them, they would have to stand in line for just a few oranges. “There was also another way of obtaining things – connections!” He says, “You could pay double or triple the price to get items. It was extremely frustrating and so unfair.”
Most homes used wood for heating or for cooking. Some had gas tanks that had to be replaced each month. “If you had two of them you were blessed because it kept you going longer. Otherwise you would have to save to purchase gas. To exchange the gas tank, you would need to stand in line all night long.” Most people did not have a car. Gasoline was expensive and very scarce. Everyone walked or used bicycles, the bus, trains or trolleys.
Sam disgustingly remembers, “While all these things were happening Ceausescu and his wife, Elena were living their blissful years of prosperity, having plenty of food and all the goodies and delicacies that you can imagine, while, on the other hand, ordinary people were suffering, succumbing to this system.”
It is said that absolute power corrupts absolutely and Sam says, “Ceausescu had dreams of living forever and staying in power. He went so far as to order his officials to collect blood from healthy kids in orphanages all over the country to replace his own blood with healthy, young blood. His wife flew to Paris weekly to have her hair done and shop for clothes. She portrayed herself as being this intelligent person, when, in fact, she barely passed elementary school.”
He says the Ceausescu Communist regime was murderous and extremely corrupt and immoral. Anyone who protested or questioned their behavior was soon found dead. Elena was known to have handsome, muscular inmates selected and brought to her for her pleasure, only to be executed afterwards.
“Ceausescu, on the other hand, knew about this charade and he also knew about the deterioration of the country. However, he chose to be in denial, demanding applauses from his people, forcing them to paint a beautiful picture of prosperity and contentment.”
Sam remembers, “He would make his announced visits to the agricultural sites, expecting to find healthy crops, plentiful food and abundance of herds of domestic animals. When the officials would hear about his coming, they would take the best-looking animals from people’s properties and place them into the government fields. They would take fruits such as apples and pears from people’s properties and tie them up with thread onto the government’s trees, all to give the appearance of affluence and bountifulness, when in fact, there was misery and poverty. He would admire them and commend the people for doing an outstanding job. People were disgusted and absolutely nauseated with the system.”
A normal family with children found it almost impossible to survive in those harsh days of Romanian Communism. Sam says, “But for myself, being single with no high expectations, I managed it pretty good. Yet my friends all around me talked about implementing a plan to escape to a better life – to freedom. Thus, I found myself pulled into this fever of freedom.”
Sam Buliga lived the first twenty-nine years of his life under a despicable Communist dictator’s dominance and witnessed things that we in the West only read and hear about. He couldn’t stay because he was a marked man. His young friends were talking freedom and now it was time to formulate and carry out a plan of escape.
My next post will tell of their daring attempt at escape and how they bravely made it to freedom.