BERLIN (AP) _ The winners held victory parties, the losers post-mortems. Former East Germans held their breath, waiting for the promises of four straight elections to be delivered.

After what has seemed like a single, year-long campaign, voters in what had until October been a Communist country joined Germans to the west on Sunday and elected Chancellor Helmut Kohl to lead the united nation.

The election followed East Germany's first free elections in March, its local elections in May, and state elections in October. Kohl's Christian Democrats dominated each.

Along the way, questions of ideology began to shrink into the shadow of stark reality for many former East Germans.

''I care about my house. I care about my job, about clean air, a playground for my children,'' Hiltrud Kluger, 36, said after voting Sunday. ''I don't care about a market economy.''

Sunday's balloting was the last of the nationwide races until 1994.

The newly elected German Parliament, now free of the hyperbole-filled rhetoric of successive campaigns, faces the task of dispassionately fixing the broken eastern sector of the nation.

Mrs. Kluger, a mother of two, lives in the depressed factory town of Delitzsch, in the heart of the former nation's heavily industrialized southern region.

She would not say who she voted for, other than to say it was a mainstream party. But her reasons for choosing a party were the same as many other eastern Germans: to quickly improve the quality of life.

Eastern Germany is expected to face a sharp rise in joblessness in the first quarter of next year. Many former Communist subsidies that kept rents, energy costs and mass transit fees low will be lifted on Jan. 1.

But optimistic economic forecasts also predict new investment that could begin creating new jobs in the middle of next year.

Many eastern Germans believe Kohl's conservative, free market-oriented party is best able to deliver that investment.

Hildegard Neumann, 66, also a Delitzsch resident, voted for the Christian Democrats in all four eastern elections.

''We think that the Christian Democrats are the capitalists,'' she said. ''They are also Christians, and we need that.''

After World War II, Mrs. Neumann worked briefly for the U.S. Army in West Germany as a telephone operator, but came back to the East to be with family.

She worked as a schoolteacher for 40 years and said she fought efforts by authorities to get her to join the Communist Party.

''Once I was fired for three years because I said I believed in God,'' she said. ''I stayed at home. Then they came back and said they needed school teachers.''

Despite the delicate financial condition of a pensioner in a changing, depressed society, she said she is confident the Christian Democrats will improve her living standards.

''I know we've had four elections, but it's very good indeed that we can finally vote for the people we want in our government,'' she said.

Although Kohl's party buried the opposition, more than half of the nation's voters on Sunday chose somebody else.

Angelika Bobbe, a 35-year-old Berliner, supported Alliance 90, a minor party that includes the intellectuals and pacifists who led last year's revolt against Communism.

She was laid off last summer from a government agency that refurbished old buildings. She has been taking retraining courses under a program paid for by Kohl's government.

''There is absolute chaos in this land,'' she said. ''Extremism, greed. Joblessness was never a problem. People don't know how to react.''

The winners and losers knew how to react after the tentative results were in. In Bonn, Kohl's supporters sipped German sparkling wine and gulped chilled German beer. The triumphant chancellor sat with his wife, Hannelore, on a large pedestal at the front of the hall.

At the headquarters of the opposition Social Democrats, solemn organizers spoke about mounting a new charge in 1994.