Elena Part 1

On the train trip there, it began to rain.  

 Anya and I were on our way to a town in the west of Romania where we had booked accommodation in a local house for a week and where we planned to do some walking.

 But the weather didn’t look promising.

 On the horizon, enshrouded in mist, were the silhouettes of mountains.

 In the past, on the plains between those mountains, the armies of Austria, Hungary, and Russia had invaded Romania and for centuries it had remained the property of others. In the bad weather, such thoughts loomed large.

As our train approached the station, we passed abandoned factories surrounded by weeds and dilapidated apartment blocks, chipped and cracked. At the station, we were met by dour faced people, resigned to living nowhere.

 For 45 years Romania had been a part of the Russian communist empire, like the other nations of Eastern Europe and this town, once thriving and a major source of employment, had been left behind by the relentless march of history, like a discarded wrapper thrown to the wayside. 

Long ago, in this end-of-the-world town, people had found hope in a  maelstrom of suffering and chaos.  And so it was with a woman named Elena (pronounced ‘A-lay-na’). It was 6 years ago that we heard about her and whilst I had filed the memory away in one of my diaries, it was only with recent events in The Ukraine that I was reminded of her………

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Elena Part 2

Elena: like so many Europeans of her generation who had endured the Nazi occupation, she had experienced horrors which after the war, she had put behind her, determined never to inflict her sufferings upon her children. But during the last days of her life, she had told her great granddaughter Andrea, her and her alone, about what she and her husband had endured.

 It was story from another time, another world, and Andrea, very much at odds with her country, suddenly realized how fortunate she was. The terrible events which Elena’s generation had experienced seemed to put everything into another perspective.

 In 2016 Andrea thought, along with everyone else, that the past was a scene from another era. That Elena’s story, kept secret for so long, was destined to die with her passing.  

 But what if the past could be reincarnated like a mythical figure out of an ancient Greek tragedy?

Could come back from the nether world and haunt the living?

 Elena’s story begins in Bucharest in the 1930’s, almost a century ago. It begins with an innocuous scene: two teenage women and a young man in love.

 But soon enough, Love will be in very short supply and vastly overwhelmed by the beast called Hate…..

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Kaleidoscope Part 1


Travel: there are times when a single day can seem like an eternity. When you´re amazed that so much can be crammed into such a short period of time: so many experiences….

You reach a point where you just want the day to end but when it finally does, peace of mind seems as elusive as ever as a kaleidoscope of images appears before your mind´s eye like a movie with a beginning but no end…..

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Kaleidoscope Part 2



When night fell, along with the rain and the cold, we had a long day behind us.

We had ventured into a wilderness and got so lost that it was a miracle that we had managed, by great good luck more than anything else, to have found our way back to civilisation. And whilst that word ‘civilisation’ might be open to debate, on that night it was so disarmingly simple: survival.

It loomed up before us, like a mirage: a small railway station in the midst of the mountains of central Romania.

Light in a valley of darkness.

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Singing in the Rain



I followed the trail up through a pine forest towards a peak, when it began to snow.

The snow became so heavy that I was forced to descend. 

Battling wind and cold rain, I came to the outskirts of a village. 

On an unsealed road, wet and muddy, I saw water flooding down channels between the houses; the sound filled the air and voices seemed to come from nowhere.




Rounding a bend, I passed a small shop.

Opposite was a blunt looking concrete hall, communist- era heritage. The door was open and the air  filled with the sound of men singing. I peered through a window and saw 20, 30 men sitting either side of a long wooden table, tankards of beer in front of them.

They seemed to know the words and tune to the song by heart – they sang in near perfect harmony.




A little later, I was brought to a halt by another kind of singing: a loud clacking and honking.

Spanning the road was a large flock of geese. They were white geese, with orange beaks. They looked elegant in the grey and the rain.

They seemed strangely excited.

There was no one around. No one seemed to be leading them or herding them (herders are a common sight in Romania). But they must have been domesticated geese. Wild geese would never choose a village backstreet to land in.

Had these geese escaped from their compound?

Irresistibly lured outside by the rain and the sound of the swelling waters in the nearby creeks?

I stood there and watched them, engulfed in their music.

I edged around them.

They stayed where they were, in no mood to go anywhere.

Singing in the rain.