Good-bye Dracula!

Title:                      Good-bye Dracula!

Author:                 Tralan Nicola

Nicola, Traian (2012). Good-bye Dracula!: The Story of a Transylvanian Defector. Denver, CO: Outskirts Press

LCCN:    2012494768

UB271.R62 N53 2012

Subjects

Date Posted:      November 12, 2015

Reviewed by Hayden Peake[1]

Traian Nicola and his family defected to the United States in December 1979 while he was stationed in Islamabad as an officer of the Romanian Foreign Intelligence Department (Departamentul de Informatii Externe [DIE]). They settled in Virginia, where he is now retired. Nicola decided to write his memoir for two reasons. The first was to show what life was like in communist Romania even for members of the elite DIE, whose officers had privileges most others did not. The second was his impression that “nostalgia for Communist times is increasing in the former Soviet Bloc countries as well as in Russia.” (p. 1) He writes that he hopes his story will be a reality check for those inclined to return in that direction. There’ is at least one other reason for giving the book attention: Nicola is the only former DIE officer to publish an English-language memoir with firsthand insights into Cold War counterintelligence history.

Nicola’s story of his childhood and education under the strict Romanian communist regime is typical of the period. He attended university and graduated with an economics degree, although music had been his first choice. On graduation, he was assigned to Chimimport, an export-import organization connected to the Ministry of Foreign Trade. A brief trip to West Germany gave him a taste of the West, and foreign travel became his career goal.

Just over a year later, he was asked to join the DIE. He jumped at the chance-especially since foreign travel was a real possibility. He describes the DIE and military training that prepared him for recruiting Romanian citizens who traveled overseas. Eventually, he was selected to serve as a press attaché in the Romanian embassy in Japan. By then, he was married with children. The family spent two happy years in Japan. Nicola describes his activities there in some detail. Then, in May 1978, he and his family traveled to Bucharest on vacation. Before Nicola could return to Japan, Maj. Gen. Ion Pacepa of the Securitate (the moniker for Romania’s domestic security agency, Departamentul Securitatii Statului) defected, and all assignments for DIE officers were put on hold. Told he was being reassigned to Islamabad, Nicola at first refused to go. When the pressure became too great, he accepted, only to be told he would have to leave his baby daughter behind in Bucharest. Faced with that condition, he again refused. In the end, he was given a waiver and allowed to bring his family to Pakistan, a decision the DIE would regret.

Goodbye Dracula! is a moving story and an impressive reminder of what life was like for anyone seeking freedom in a Soviet Bloc nation during the Cold War.

[1] Peake, Hayden B. in The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies (20, 1, Spring/Summer 2013, pp. 117-118). Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. These and many other reviews and articles may be found on line at http://www.cia.gov

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