I was little when I heard my parents talking about their experiences as political refugees. First in French camps, after the Spanish Civil War, then as asylees in the Soviet Union between late 1939 and early 1948. In elementary school, I was friends with Alex, the youngest son of Federico Melchior, the editor-in-chief of “Mundo Obrero.” Then, in highschol, with Charalambis, son of the editor of “Neos Kosmos.” Nansen passports. Like Menelaos Ludemis, like Dimos Rendis. LikeYannis Veakis, Elena Patrascanu’s secnd husband. I warmly recommend Apostolos Patelakis’s book about the Greek political refugees in Romania. Later, I read Koestler’s “Scum of the Earth” and Hannah Arendt’s essay “We, Refugees.” To be a political refugee means Heimatslosigkeit. Uprootedness. No civic rights. Unprotectedness. Defenselessness. Hopelessnes. Helplessness. Carola Neher was a political refugee in the USSR. So were Maria Osten, Eva Zeisel, Alex Weissberg, Margarete Buber Neumann. So were Elena Filipovici, Marcel Pauker (Luximin), David Fabian, and Alexandru Dobrogeanu-Gherea. No light at the end of the existential tunnel. A bureaucrat’s whim determines the refugee’s destiny. Transit. Like in Anna Seghers’s novel and Christian Petzold’s film. Like in Walter Benjamin’ failed attempt to escape France. Like in Danilo Kis’s “A Tomb for Boris Davidovich.”
Photo: Moscow, 1940, after the Spanish Civil War my parents were political refugees in the Soviet Union. She was 25, he was 27. The then general secretary of the Communist Party of Romania (Section of the Communist International), Boris Stefanov, urged them not to ask questions about prominent Romanian refugees. Silence was a rule of survival. In Moscow, my mother was on friendly terms with two German refugees: Helene (Lena) Berg and Hanna (Haschka) Wolf. They were close friends with Hilde Benjamin, WB’s sister-in-law and the GDR’s first Minister of Justice. Georg Benjamin died in a Nazi concentration camp. Hilde was a fanatic instrument of “class justice.” Lena served as SED representative on the editorial board of the Prague- based monthly “World Marxist Review.” Haschka was Rector of the SED’s Superior Party School. Both were CC members.