Klim's Great Escape from Communist Romania

Part-12: The Last Hurdles

After my sudden eviction, I went back to the place that I just left telling my former landlord exactly what happened. He offered me a glass of wine and laughed so hard that I began laughing too without knowing why we are laughing. After he let me in on the blunder that unknowingly I had just committed with the landlady, I felt extremely bad but at the same time I could not help but laugh at the whole incident. From that moment on, I never extrapolated Romanian words into Italian without checking them first in the dictionary. I learned my lesson in a really hard way. Eventually, with the help of the landlord, I made an attempt to apologize to the landlady, but she did not want to have anything to do with me. I left it at that.

After recovering from all this, I decided that instead of paying for rent in Rome, I would go away and take a small "vacation" by visiting some other parts of Italy. My eyes were focused on Bologna, Florence, Pisa, Venice, and perhaps Milan. Since at that time hitchhiking was relatively common, I ventured into the unknown. I had a wonderful time, saw all those places and felt in love with Italy and its people.

Returning home (back to my old landlord), I got a postcard from the American Embassy in Rome that I needed to contact them for arranging to take a Chest X-Ray and a Blood Test as part of the compulsory medical records that were required.

Blood Tacking

Taking the Blood Test was a major problem for me as I always fainted. I was horrified by the prospect of having blood taken out of me. From my father (a cardiologist), I had a notarized statement stating that whenever blood needed to be taken from me, I needed to be in a place equipped with emergency facilities because my heart could stop beating altogether. I went to the American Embassy and asked if I could be granted a waiver from taking the blood test on the grounds of the horrible adverse reaction that I could develop. I was told that they never had such a request before and that they would submit my request to the State Department in Washington, DC for the final disposition. I was told the answer may take as long as two (2) months.

Having this available "window", I decided to make a short trip south of Rome to Naples (Napoli) and its surroundings. I stayed in a Youth Hotel there and somehow in a few days I contracted Hepatitis-B. I was extremely ill like never before in my life. I stayed one month at the University Hospital in Rome.

A few weeks later, the American Embassy informed me of the answer received from the State Department: no exceptions were allowed, no waiver to the blood test was permitted. However, I was told that the blood test need not be taken at the American Embassy but could be taken at any hospital in Rome equipped with the necessary emergency facilities. So because I was familiar with the University Hospital, I went there for my blood test.

On the first floor of the hospital there was a Lab room where only blood was taken. At that time my Italian was fluent, and I went to explain to the woman that took the blood of my situation with the adverse reaction that I could develop. Upon learning of this the woman refused to have anything to do with me:

"Are you crazy! I have two small children at home ... I do not need this! Go to someone else to take your blood!"

From that room of the hospital, I was referred to go to another room, and then still another, and still yet to another and another until, after some three hours, I reached the third floor of the cardiac intensive care unit. The chief cardiologist after learning how I ended up there, with a broad smile, said:

"This business of fainting is all in your head as there is nothing wrong with you. I have my method to take care of all this. You will feel no pain and you will not faint. I want you just to relax as I assure you that nothing bad is going to happen to you."

Not long after receiving those assurances, a beautiful young lady entered into the room and begin having a conversation with me. Minutes later, a nurse came to take my blood. Everything took only seconds, my blood was taken into a vial and the nurse left the premises. In the meantime, I was still being engaged in the conversation with the young lady. Eventually the young lady also left. The doctor then raised from his chair and, with a smile, stated:

Blood Vial

"You see, there is nothing to it. Everything is in your head. This is your blood
(showing me the vial with my blood in it)."

After I left the doctor's Office, in or prior to reaching the elevator, I collapsed on the floor. After that I do not remember what happened except that when I woke up I was hooked to a machine of some sort and breathing through an oxygen mask with an oxygen tank lying next to me. Before releasing me from the hospital, I stayed several more hours under observation. I was happy when finally this was all over and I could leave the hospital. All my hurdles appeared to be behind me.

And indeed, in early October 1969, I got the long awaited notification from HIAS that my immigration to the United States was approved. Also I was informed at that time that the Jewish Organization of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was my official sponsor to the US. The date of my arrival in the United States would be October 28, 1969. I was tremendously excited and happy by the news. A new chapter in my life was about to begin.