Train to Trieste
The story of Mona in Ceaucescu’s Romania is so clearly based on the author’s real experiences that it could have been called a memoir. This refugee story focuses on the effect of the times on a young girl from an educated family. The family’s habits in better times included summers in the Carpathian Mountains, and here Mona meets her great love, Mihai, a relationship which endures through the tumultuous times that follow. While Mona studies diligently, her parents become more involved in resistance and increasingly attract the attention of the secret police. In this atmosphere of fear and suspicion, “accidents” to friends occur, and Mona’s family plans for her to take the “Train to Trieste,” which is code for fleeing the Romanian totalitarian state of the ΄80s. How painful this decision was becomes quite apparent, as her love for Romania and the people is exhibited through vignettes and descriptions of land, friends, relatives, and events.
When the narrative switches to her flight through Bulgaria and Italy and to a rather horrible sponsor family in the Chicago area, culture clash is another avenue of vivid description—and could be the personal history of many of our more recent immigrants. The novel does bring the reader back full circle to her beloved Carpathians later in life but leaves a realistic question regarding her chances of balancing her new life in America with her Romanian past and, especially, her lover Mihai. Rich in detail, the style takes a little getting used to, as it piles facts and feelings in short, rather pointed chapters, but eventually the rhythm starts to pull the reader along.