The Romanian Connection Preface

Dear Reader,

When I was eight years old, I considered anybody older than 16 (years old) to be old. When I was 16, I considered anybody older than 24 to be ancient. As far as I was concerned, a 24 year-old man had only Sunday football games, beer, a wife, children, and taxes to look forward to in life. Some decades later, I learned that there are a lot of other things in life to enjoy, and the older I got the more things I liked, including birdwatching, kayaking, hiking, growing palm trees, reading books, and drinking beer with friends while viewing Sunday football games. This special, hard-copy edition of The Romanian Connection, with its Georgia 13 font, is for old people (those older than 16), people who use reading glasses, and all people who like reading hard-copy, spy romance novels.

The text of this hard copy edition is exactly the same as the text in the novel’s smaller paperback edition with the exception of the addition of this preface, which explains how my background influenced this novel, encourages you to read this novel for fun, and provides you a glossary of the novel’s acronyms and unfamiliar terms.

Forty years ago, after a tour in Vietnam, I got out of the US Army and returned to Berlin, Germany, where I previously had been a soldier in the Berlin Brigade. During the next two years, I lived as a civilian in Berlin, learning to speak German, taking courses at the University of Maryland’s liberal arts extension college there, and working for the Kaffee Reichelt Supermarket at Potsdamer Strasse 52. After the first year, my employer gave me a 60% pay raise and let me work “Gleitzeit” whereby I worked when I wished, but Herr Mainzel, my boss, knew that I would dedicate my time to my studies and that I would also work as much as I could for the benefit of the Supermarket. I usually worked five hours in the morning and stopped by the supermarket in the afternoon on my way to class to see whether the best selling items of my Getrankeabteilung (Beverage Section) and my absent co-workers’ sections needed to be replenished. If needed, I “clocked in,” filled up empty spaces once occupied by bottles of orange juice or Berlinder Kindl beer, and then filled Frau Boknea’s crate of canned liver paste, Frau Pfirsich’s toastbrot shelf, and Fraulein Monika’s crate of bestselling chocolates. Within an hour, I “clocked out” and went to class. It was a good life with Gleitzeit, three weeks of government-mandated paid vacation per year, and mandatory health insurance, which I gladly paid for but never used. One day Herr Krause, the Kellerchef (Cellar or Storage Area Boss) – Man, the Germans loved titles – told me that Herr Kinas, our 70 year-old cardboard box presser, had seen so much feces in his life from the monarchists, anarchists, fascists, communists, socialists, and Christian democrats that all he saw was feces when a politician opened his mouth. The healthy, old man had become so disillusioned about political processes that he refused to talk about politics.

I remembered all of my diverse communistic, socialistic, and capitalist-oriented friends when I wrote The Romanian Connection. I also knew that their diverse, openly expressed views were made possible by the US Army General Commanders of Berlin’s American Sector who had come to Germany to promote democracy rather than the tyranny of the Soviet hammer. The Barbarians from the East had invaded Berlin and threatened to kill its citizens when the citizens supposedly had stolen the socks of the Russian soldiers who had flushed their socks down the toilets while cleaning them. The Barbarians from West, with chewing gum and Coca Cola, had supported the Berliners in their promotion of democracy and state-regulated capitalism. When some of my friends in Berlin went to street demonstrations to protest against the American occupation of southwestern Berlin, some of their parents reminded them that they would have never lived to make those protests without the milk provided to them by the Americans during the Berlin Airlift.

While living in Berlin, I went to East Berlin several times. On one occasion, people followed me as I strolled along the Unter den Linden Boulevard, visiting a pastry cafe, a music shop, a camera store, and a restaurant. Finally a couple of men approached me and offered to buy American dollars from me. After I declined their offer and the men went away, a young lady approached me and warned me in fluent American English not to buy East German money from anybody “on the streets.” Who was watching whom? During my visits to the “East,” uniformed East German Border Protection officials always gave me cordial entry and exit interviews about my planned and accomplished travel activities and my purpose for staying in Berlin. One day I came home to my apartment, and my girlfriend told me that German-speaking, American Jehovah’s Witnesses had visited her that day and had wanted to know everything about me. Whether these witnesses were God’s agents or government agents I do not know, but I do know that there are legitimate reasons for paranoia.

Sometimes people suspiciously ask me about what I really was doing in Berlin. I want to emphasize that I was never a spy. If I were ever a spy it was when I visited supermarkets in Berlin and recorded for my employer their prices for certain items. Nobody would have ever thought that an American in a German supermarket would be recording prices for a competing German firm. And yes, even my German clothing, my long hair, and my silence could not prevent the Germans from recognizing that I was an American. We, American men, apparently reveal our national identity in the way we walk, sit, and gaze at beautiful women. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with appreciating the outer beauty of human beings, but one should also appreciate their inner beauty, when it exists, for such beauty grows with age while superficial outer beauty fades. The primary hero in The Romanian Connection is Ludvia Kerensky, a beautiful, highly competent, results-oriented woman. I do not use the term “heroine” because that sexist word implies that a female hero is different, possibly less of a hero than a male hero. The other protagonist in the novel, American intelligence analyst Jack Hollingsworth is defined more by his weaknesses than his strengths.

The novel’s plot plays out in the new Democratic Republic of Romania. For over 20 years, the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his communist lackeys sapped the vitality of the Romanian people by crushing their aspirations with the corrupt, Stalinistic methods of the Soviet Empire. In December 1989, after a government massacre of at least one hundred democracy-seeking protesters, the Romanian Army permitted the people to revolt and overthrow their despicable dictator. Within a couple of days a military tribunal found Ceausescu and his wife guilty of mass murder and immediately had them executed by a firing squad before the couple had the chance to testify about the activities of their friends, some of whom were involved in the revolt against them. The good news is that Romania was finally on the road toward becoming a democracy. When I took a vacation in Romania in 1997, I was astounded to observe the common sight of the military, Romanian Gendarmerie throughout the land. It seemed as if every bridge and public building were guarded by Romanian soldiers with Russian AK-47 assault rifles. The good observation was that the soldiers lacked the tense facial expressions that I had observed on East German soldiers. The Romanian soldiers were relaxed, like our own American, citizen soldiers. I discovered that the majority of Romanians are warm and friendly, and I also noted that Romania, with its beautiful beaches, lush forests, white-capped mountains, medieval-like villages, and German fortresses, would be a great country to describe in a novel.

In conclusion, I want you to enjoy reading this novel. If there is an underlying meaning in this novel, it would be that it is difficult to fight against the political systems in which we are entrenched and that we should not prejudge people because of their political baggage. From my perspective, personal trust and faith are more important than political ideologies. I hate communism, but I realize that there are deplorable social conditions in this world that lead to communism, fascism, and other deplorable forms of government. But please, don’t get serious and start searching for meaningful messages in The Romanian Connection. I wrote this novel for fun, and I want you to read it for fun.

Richard Roche
Your Romanian Connection

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