Memories from another world
August 16, 2009Posted by on
There it is… Pascani… the city that always sleeps, the place were nothing happens or, if it does, it is not a good thing. Still, I came to love this small city where nothing can be kept secret for too long.
My first memory is a sunny summer day – I was 5 years old – and my parents prepared me and my sister for a visit to my grandparents. It was a 45 minutes trip by train, but my mom always transformed it into a great odyssey.
To go to any of my grandparents was about bulging luggage: bread, socks, medicines, oil, biscuits, detergent, anything my parents thought that the old guys needed or wished for. The truth is that they never asked for any of these things, they were happy just to see us, watch us play in the yard. From time to time I would find a lot of extra sugar or oil in my grandparents’ garrets.
And I do remember that it was hard to get those things: oil, bread, butter. We had to wait for hours in long queues, starting very early in the morning.
In fact this is how The Revolution found me: in a queue for eggs at the back of the main store, along with other kids – it was late December 1989 and we were on winter holiday while our parents were at work. I was 10, my sister was 7; she was in line for oranges, at the fruit stand nearby.
It was a very cold morning and I was bored after hours of waiting in front of the closed doors. The adults tried to catch a better place in front of us, but kids learned how to lie and say that their parents had to come to replace theme. Even so, very often there were loud disagreements, even fights. I was eager not to lose my place, to make sure I could buy the eggs my mom asked me to: “Alina, at least 10 eggs!”.
At 9 o’clock, or so, I saw my sister looking for me. Now she’s taller than I, but back then she was smaller. She was almost crying as she said out loud to me, trying to get closer through the other customers: “Ceausescu is down!” Those words meant nothing to me; I was only wondering why she left her queue. Then I saw she already bought oranges. Still, I didn’t dare to get out of line, to go next to her, to console her…
People were looking at her, and she said what she heard on the radio, at the fruit stand: in Timisoara and Bucharest people were fighting against the communists and that Ceausescu had fled.
Some of the adults told her to shut up, to stop saying stupid things, it is dangerous, “who’s your father?”, but then she started crying. They understood that there is no way she could lie about this sort of thing. Those cowards were scared. Most of them left the queue so I managed to get closer to the front of the line and ended up buying 20 eggs, not just 10. I was so proud, I knew that would make my mother happy.
Back home I was surprised to find her there: it was way too early, she was still supposed to be at work! But there she was, worried about us: we didn’t go straight home; we were slowed down by the people gathered on the streets. I will never forget those moments: I was holding my sister’s hand, trying not to lose her in the crowd. It was like we were the only kids there, everyone seemed so tall around us. Suddenly above us a red flag was floating, a big flag, covering the sky, turning everything shades of red. It was so close to me that if I wanted to, I could have touched it with my hand. But I had to protect the eggs, my precious eggs, so I gave up.
I didn’t feel the cold anymore. It smelled of oranges from my sister’s bag, she was looking at me with big brown eyes, her nose was red but she smiled at me. She was missing a tooth.
I remember wondering why the people were happy about Ceausescu’s leaving. Just weeks ago I had to dance like a ballerina in a huge show dedicated to the President. And I hadn’t wanted to take part in it: I had skinny legs and I was embarrassed to dance in the ballerina outfit. But no one noticed me, I was just a white dot on a huge map made up of white ballerinas. In the end I was proud of how I danced, like all the other girls; everyone seemed happy that day, sang songs, saying that they loved and cherished the President… and now THIS!
Christmas came quickly, but no one seemed to really care about that. In my grandmother’s house all the adults were talking about those incredible days, about Ceausescu’s trial, death, what it was, what will come, and I kept asking “why?”. Only my grandmother answered me: “Shh, my little olive. You’ll understand, just wait. It’s the end of a world, and no one can explain it now.”
Until that day I’d never seen the TV on during the day (the TV program wouldn’t start until early evening), but now there it was and we were all huddled around it, eager to find out what was happening in Bucharest. Late into the night we were still watching the TV- we had to see what was happening, when the shooting would come to an end. The shooting didn’t stop that night and a lot of people died… and for the first time in my life, I fell asleep in front of the TV.