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Book Review: Goodbye, Dracula!: The Story of a Transylvanian Defector by Traian Nicola

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It is human nature to think that the past was better than the present. For that some reason, in some Communist countries there is a certain nostalgia now for the old days. Some people think they were better off under that system. Traian Nicola is here to set the record straight.

Goodbye, Dracula was written to illustrate one principle: “Communism strikes at the very heart of the human soul.” Dracula does not actually appear in the book except for in the title, but is not only a way to catch the reader’s attention. He is the perfect metaphor for the way the system sucks at the life of its people.

Nicola tells his tale in a very matter-of-fact, down-to-earth way. Growing up in Transylvania as a child in the 1950s, this was the only life he knew: living in one room of a large house that his parents once owned, discreetly attending church services, knowing it was dangerous, knowing that no once could travel unless they left at least one family member behind as a hostage to insure they would not “run away.”

Still, as a child Nicola did not feel particularly oppressed. He had fun with his friends and went to school, Afterward, he attended college. There, he became more aware that things were bad;y wrong with the system, but a great desire to see the rest of the world led him to join the Romanian Foreign Intelligence Service anyway,under Nicolae Ceausescu, the leader of the Romanian Communist Party.

Beginning in college but really flowering once he began work in Intelligence, Nicola gradually becomes more and more aware of the way the Communist regime controls and abuses its people as the Romanian society became more closed and the openness toward the West of the 50’s and 60’s faded.

Through his work, Nicola was able to travel to Japan, a country he fell in love with, during its economic boom, but because he was too enthusiastic in praising the country on his return, he was not allowed to return for years. Instead, he was sent to China just in time to be present on the day that Mao died, and forced to visit Iran at the beginning of Khomeini’s terrifying reign and Pakistan under Zia Ul Haq.

Viewing the inhumanity and lack of professional conduct of these regimes and of the government he worked for gradually caused Nicola and his young family to choose to defect to the U.S. when he is 30, At that time, more than 30 years ago, the Romanian government placed him under a death sentence, which is still technically in effect today.

This is not a spy story; it is a story of repression and disillusionment under Communist rule and of the lives of real men, women and children who lived that life. It is a fascinating and important book and you will not want to put it down until you finish it. I recommend it highly to anyone interested in learning more about a part of history we in the U.S. know little about outside of major events.

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About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, and Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.