Author: Traian Nicola 
ISBN-10: 143278871X
ISBN-13: 978-1432788711

In many a political discussion, I've heard those opposed to any increased role of  government branding programs they dislike as "Communistic" or Socialist. I suspect if such advocates were familiar with stories such as those of Traian Nicola, they'd be less glib in tossing such terms around.

Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was no shortage of material exposing the chilling realities of life behind the Iron Curtain. Now, twenty-some years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, perhaps we've forgotten just how harsh and de-humanizing actual Communism was, especially  in Eastern Europe. Perhaps Traian Nicola's Good-bye, Dracula is well timed as a reminder of an era quickly becoming dimly remembered history.
Traian Nicola was born in 1949 and grew up in the  Romania controlled by Nicolae Ceauşescu, the leader of the Romanian Communist Party who was a dictator virtually deified by his regime. As a young boy in Transylvania, Nicola grew up in an environment permeated with paranoia. Like everyone in his circles, he quickly learned a careless comment or offensive action could lead to serious consequences, not only for an individual but for an entire family.

With a vivid, succinct,  and engaging style, Nicola demonstrates how his community tried to function while the citizens not only worried about potential informants in their circles, but the pressures put on them to become informants themselves. Romanians had to worry about overt religious practices, owning property the state preferred they didn't, or being in any way defiant to a superior's wishes. For example, Nicola learned first-hand the state could forbid a marriage they didn't like. They allowed travel outside the borders only if they had family members as hostages to ensure a traveler's return. Corruption was rife, so Romanians had to find small ways to quietly engage in the simplest of pleasures.  

In 1971, Nicola became a member of the Romanian Foreign Intelligence Service not due to any patriotic or political desires, but simply because such service would allow him to see the world. Enjoying his time as a press attaché in Japan, he felt betrayed when he was forced to become an economic attaché in Pakistan. So, in 1979, he did what seemed almost a foregone conclusion—he defected with his wife and children in 1979.  

Good-bye, Dracula essentially ends with that defection, although Nicola adds a denouement where he both summarizes his subsequent life in the U.S. and comments on the lack of reform in the post-Cold War Romania. In publicity for the book, it's clear Nicola is worried the former Communist countries are now filled with nostalgia for the old days. Present circumstances haven't quite lived up to the promise of freedom opened up back in 1989.

In the West, readers get a glimpse of what those old days were like in the lives of ordinary people in day-to-day circumstances. Few scenes are especially dramatic, but a perpetual dark cloud hanging in the sky doesn't have to be filled with executions, interrogations, or sentences to the gulag to be menacing, forbidding, and inhumane. But, as Traian Nicola reminds us, decency, good humor, love, and human connections can still survive as people await their turn to throw off the shackles of a totalitarian police state. It's well worth remembering what happened not so long ago and consider our own lives without all those relentless fears.
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