Our Borders: Ageless Youth and Deathless Life (An Epilogue)

Once upon a time, there lived a king and a queen, both young and beautiful, but heartbroken because they couldn’t have children. They had tried everything, they went to doctors and philosophers, astrologers and soothsayers—all for nothing. They had lost hope when, one day, they heard of an old medicine man from a village not far from the castle, so they went to see him.

“Whatever you’re looking for,” the medicine man told the king and the queen, “it will only bring you sorrow.” Continue reading

Our Borders: The Fork in the Road (1980)

“Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts!”

“To this day,” Radu Codrescu said in 2006, “I have a feeling of guilt every time I cross a border. Even when I go from the US to Canada—and I have Canadian citizenship—or come back here [to Redmond, Washington], I feel guilty of something. As if I were doing something wrong, something illegal. I have this feeling every time. It never changed, it never diminished. I have the same feeling of guilt as that first time when I left Romania behind. I was happy to leave [in 1990], but I felt like I was doing something illegal.”

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Our Borders: The Last Voyage (1993)

“Let’s go look for them right now,” Radu said.

“No,” the officer said, “you stay here. We’ll look for them. We know how to look for people like you.”

OOCL Challenge, the transatlantic ship Radu Codrescu, 30, was on board of in January 1993, was heading into a storm, and Radu’s friends, Paul and Claudiu, might have also been on board, hiding inside a container and unaware that a storm could kill them. Continue reading

Our Borders: A Lucky Break (1993)

Even though they now knew how to get on a ship to Canada, Radu Codrescu, 30, and his two Romanian buddies, Paul and Claudiu, still had one huge risk to consider: that the captain of a transatlantic would throw them overboard if he discovered them. Hubert, the port security officer who had showed them how to elude the guards and board a ship, told them that he knew of captains who threw the stowaways into the frozen ocean waters rather than pay the high fines that the Canadian authorities imposed on those who brought people into their country illegally. Continue reading

Our Borders: A Bright Christmas (1992)

Early Christmas morning in 1992, the port of Antwerp (Anvers), Belgium was bright with blinking lights of all colors, with flashlights and spotlights and searchlights. At 5 a.m., police, firefighters, paramedics, TV crews, and curious people were all waiting on the main dock for the door of one particular cargo shipping container to open. And when it did, three men walked out into the blinding light: Radu Codrescu and his two companions, Paul and Doru. Their clothes were stained with oil, they all had week-old beards, and they looked weak and pale. One of the three men, Doru, was in pain with acute tonsillitis from living for a week inside a freezing freight container, but when he saw the commotion, he forgot all about his pain and tried to flee the scene. Continue reading

Our Borders: Gone (1990–1992)

“After all the pain I went through to cross that border, I couldn’t believe that it was finally possible,” Radu Codrescu said in 2006. “For a long time I had this feeling of unreal. My biggest dream had finally come true, but it felt like a dream, not like real life. I had traveled before, with my rowing team, and I had seen other countries, so it wasn’t the surprise of a new country that I couldn’t digest. It was the mere fact that I could be there.”

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Our Borders: What’s in a Name?

Yesterday, the protagonist of my series Our Borders asked me to change his name on this website, for privacy reasons. It seemed like an easy thing to do, just Replace All in each of the ten blog posts I have written so far (including the comments), and I’d be done. An hour’s worth of work on my website—tops. (It took a bit longer than that.) Continue reading

Our Borders: A Job Well Done (1986 CE)

It was a beautiful afternoon at the end of the summer in Transylvania, but Radu Codrescu, 24, and his friend, Iulian, didn’t have eyes for the tawny hues along the train tracks. They sat in an empty freight car chugging on its way from Arad to Oradea, and waited for the right spot to jump off, where the train tracks and the Romanian-Hungarian border were only two hundred meters apart. Continue reading

Our Borders: A Time for Love (1986)

Some nights, my father got up before two, sneaked out of our apartment and headed west, across the green nursery, along the water pipeline crossing Lake Cătuşa, and got there around three, when he was least expected. Some nights, my mother woke up when he slipped back into bed, but she didn’t ask him questions. She went back to sleep, until five or so, when she had to wake up, make coffee, and iron a clean shirt for her husband. Continue reading