Posts Tagged With: story

Village History


What you see in the picture below was the fresh, clean and cold water source from which almost all peasants in the village brought drinking water in my childhood. It was located on the other end of the village, opposite to our house. We drank water only from there, because people believed that wells’ waters are not clean enough and I think they were right. Me too I brought home water from there many times, it is a place full of beautiful memories for me. There women cleansed their sheep wool too, there the priest consecrated water a long time ago on the 6th of January, an important Orthodox celebration: the baptism of Jesus Christ (Boboteaza). The old church in that village (the one still there was founded in 1811) is consecrated to the celebration of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist and it was for certain signaled like this a few years ago, with its consecration, on the highway that runs maybe 500 meters or more from this small and almost deserted now village, named Colun.

The right side of the trough was for humans, the left side for horses and cattle, kept half full. They were separated by a stone wall.

The date of its renovation is no more visible in this picture, it was 1971, the year of my birth.
(Or it was 1970, precisely one of these years, I have pictures on my old computer, but the computer technician delayed very much to lend me my new computer, that was payed by my mother, with money from a land in this village, sold cheaply of course and divided between her and my uncle. She needed a washing machine, she washed her clothes by hand, and she payed for my computer. That man promised me that he will come quick with my new computer and the memory of the old one, I still wait and hope, there were poems and photos of mine and other things that I cared about, and this old laptop I use now is very inconvenient and its cursor jumps when I need to write quickly).

My mother told me an intriguing and unbelievable story — that this source was founded under the reign of Maria Theresa. The source is called “şipot” in Romanian, a feature that appears in some poems of a great Romanian poet and philosopher, Lucian Blaga. There was another source like this in the old times on the other edge of the village, close to our house, but it got dry before my birth.

In later years, French people who gave help to this village of my grandparents in the context of kinship among villages (there were either French or German in those villages), built a pipeline for the houses with water from a higher constructed pool. But, I beg your pardon, that water was not (always) clean. I saw this in the kitchen of my aunt’s mother, who used it. That woman survived one year after my grandpa, she was younger, but very ill. The source was still clean. My grandpa refused to connect his house with that pipeline. I still have a blouse from those helping French, who gave clothes too.

Up on the hill there is the old graveyard, upwards from this water source. In my childhood there was also the ruin of an old wooden mill, I don’t know if it ever was functional, because I remember only how my grandparents took their grain crops in other villages for grinding. Maybe I forgot about that old mill. When I was very little they took me to the mill to watch and I was very impressed, I cannot remember the surroundings where it was. But those were magical times when there was a farrier in the village and many other things.

I write here again historical facts about that area, that I wrote on other photos too, because they impressed me in the past. In the past I went in the attic of my grandparents and found important proves about my ancestors past or their war time participation, or how they changed their name from Sarafin into Popa. Sarafin, also found by me as Serafin or Serafim in official papers means angel, Popa means priest. At some time in his life my grandpa had both names in official papers, he was Popa-Serafin Ioan. But the village people still called me and my relatives too Sarafin. In his later years my grandpa was very proud that his name was Ioan and not Ion. I don’t remember precisely this, maybe he was Ion too, but I forgot. I still have my old postcards sent to them, but now I don’t feel like searching, it is useless, who cares? I think that maybe his son is Ion, not Ioan. There in that village most men were baptized Ioan and a few of them Ion. My paternal grandfather, who is said to originate from Târnăveni in Transylvania, and who was not Hungarian, changed his name from Moldovan into Moldoveanu.

That place where my grandparents lived was steeped in history, the neighboring village Scoreiu reminds me of the father of one of the most important figures in antique Dacian history and the village Cârţa (named now Kertz too in German on the highway plates) hosts the ruins of an interesting old Cistercian church, you can find it on the net. It is also linked to the name of Cârţan, a legendary figure in my childhood books and maybe now too, I did not verified yet, who was supposed going in pilgrimage to Rome. Dacian figures are depicted in their old traditional costumes on the Trajan’s Column in Rome, and you can find copies of its fragments in the National History Museum in Bucharest, that I visited a few times. Cârţa and therefore my grandparents’ village are located in the geographical center of Romania. Ucea, very close to that place, is officially recognized as the center of Romania. And my village is very close to Avrig, the birthplace of Gheorghe Lazăr, an important Romanian patriot, the founder of the first Romanian language school – in Bucharest, in 1818. My mother studied in Sibiu at the college bearing his name. From there the distance is not too long until you reach the Orthodox monastery from Sîmbăta de Sus, but maybe the main touristic attractions are the famous Tranfăgărășan route that starts close to the village https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transf%C4%83g%C4%83r%C4%83%C8%99an
and the Bâlea lake and waterfall.

sipot 1

sipot 2

In 1984 the government started to built there an artificial lake and a dam, like there are many on river Olt in that area. The dam was finished only in the ’90s.

Although the village of my grandparents was almost deserted in 2011, a few people made new accommodations even inside the village, like the one you can see in the picture below and fishermen built new houses on the outskirts, near the artificial dam lake.

Maybe in 2006, but for certain in 2007, I was there with my mother. My grandpa still had crops in the field those years and his horse and he took us with his horse carriage down, over the river Olt. There he showed us, among other things, a newly built tourist accommodation, but in an ugly newly created surrounding in my opinion. I don’t know if it is still there….who could have want to go there? It wasn’t close to the lake where most fishermen go, but it was close to a marshy large pond. Back then I did not have yet my camcorder or my small compact camera, I had a small Fuji and a single film roll and I could not take too many pictures.

The photo with the boat and the lake that you can see on this blog as a header is from there.

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And you can read my story, absolutely true, about the dam and other things here:

The Dam

In the collage below you can see images from the church built in 1811, according to the engraved plate I saw there. It is probable that the old paint and the old church furniture (pews and those “tables” – I don’t know their names – for Orthodox cantors) date from that period.

In my grandparents’ village, in September 2011, I could admire once again the old church, the old paintings and pews and icons, I assisted to the mass and made a lo-fi film, and I took some snapshots for those eventually interested in that old atmosphere. That day it was a special gathering, exactly like that one they organized in 1984, called “The sons of the village”. And exactly in 1984 they started to build the dam. It is in Southern Transylvania, near the river Olt flowing westwards, between Fagaras and Sibiu cities.

In the courtyard of the church there could be still guessed in 2011 the place were apparently was the ruin of another church. My mother told me that in her childhood the village was divided between Orthodox church and Greek-Catholicism and that her family belonged to the latest. And then the church was demolished (I don’t know for sure the story about that) but what seems more plausible from her stories is that the local authorities in the ’50s interdicted and maybe persecuted the Greek-Catholic church and the churches became Orthodox, one and alone in that village.

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The icons that you see in the images in the second collage below are not expensive as far as I know, they are new, but the church was looted by a band of thieves a few years ago. Some Gypsies killed the village priest that lived there since I was a child, in his own house, then they were imprisoned. The clothes worn by the woman in the image bottom left are the traditional folklore costume in that region.

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I went in 2009 and 2011 with my mother to the village graveyard to visit the graves of our ancestors, one of them lived almost 101 years old, and many of them were longevive people, like almost all the people in that village with fresh air and fresh water. I made pictures with their grave stone crosses, we searched for all of them and meditated about old times. It was one of the rare moments I was emotionally close to my mother. What saddened us is the fact that apparently some people profaned the grave of my great-grandmother, named Letitia Barbu (an old name of Latin origin), who was the mother of my maternal grandmother Olimpia and of a son Ioan, who died at only 21, in 1945, as it is written on his cross, at Bălăuşeri (a place that I visited twice), as a hero in WWII. I read somewhere on the net that there the battle was fierce. It would have been impossible in our opinion for the wind to take off her photo from the stone. Her husband’s grave, next to hers, was untouched. Letitia Barbu died at a younger age, because of ovarian or uterus cancer (that’s what my family told me). Here in the photo below you can see the memorial cross his parents erected on the main street village, the first photo is from a film made in 1990 and the second is a camcorder photo from 2009 or 2011, where you can read his obituary and the names of his father, mother and sister (my grandma) below.

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great uncle

Near the memorial for my great uncle, on the left side, recently, some people erected another memorial cross for a hero that died I don’t know where in the 1989 Revolution. I did not know him and no one told me his story. Between the two crosses there is a memorial stone raised for all heroes dead in WWII, although I was told that my great uncle was the only one from that village. That was raised by the state, and it could be possible that my ancestors needed to raise their own cross. That stone in the middle was adorned with an artificial flowers crown, like in the picture you can see below:

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Today, 19th of July, 2015, they took again some pictures from my old laptop. This picture with that monument too. I had many with that place. This picture was on my laptop maybe yesterday or a few days ago. Most of my files were on my old computer that broke completely in February or so. I had no money for sticks or other memory stocking devices. I had money for CDs a long time ago. Now I don’t have money enough not even for food. And even my CDs with poems broke when I put them in the old computer. Finally my mother bought me another computer. The old one started, then, before opening Windows XP, it was written on the screen “fatal system error”, I don’t remember the rest, then it shut down at the same stage every time I tried to start it. The computer technician said initially that it was a soft error then that I need a new computer. He said that the hard disk is alright so he will transfer my poems and photos on the new one. Since my mother gave him the money a few weeks passed, though he said that he will come with the new one in a few days. I still hope everything will be alright. Meanwhile, they stole some of my pictures from my laptop, including this one. They also stole from facebook photos I cared about, like those where I appeared in recent years together with my first cousin Irina and mother’s neighbors or my mother. I had likes and comments on them, I don’t know why they take my things. They continually hit me each day, they invent different things every day. This laptop is hardly functional when I need to write something quickly, I have to stay at a slow pace. I am sorry, I don’t understand what happened, I can tell you for sure that I did nothing wrong my whole life (44 years) and I did only good and I never had ugly thoughts of my own. I know for sure that I have a still functional CD with some of my pictures and both CDs with the films made in 1989 and 1990, I know where I put them, but now I am afraid to look in that place under my desk…sometimes they took things and many old photos with my relatives from my house too. It is true. It is monstrous. My family was always very poor (all my close relatives), and after all these years, after thinking in detail and about the whole I understood that my poverty was the main cause of all misfortunes in a row in my life. They never had money, I was always the poorest or almost in the groups I was in, I studied in vain 23 years in state schools and universities, and I obtained in vain almost only high grades or the highest rank. In the same time I read a great many good literature books or scientific books. It was a time when I used to read a book each day and I had hopes about the future, without any kind of pessimism. I was not vain, I just wanted to be alive and to have a job and a family and kids somewhere in another city in my country, not in Bucharest, where I could not get along with my parents, who were very violent and all their violence began with quarrels about money in the very beginning. They and others monstrously abused me for almost 31 years now. This is the story of my life. They always said as a kind of excuse that I was too kind and good.

Below is the old house of my grandparents in that village, the only one who had a crucifix with crucified Jesus Christ in front of it (named “troiţa” in Romanian, you can search on the net), a thing that is not common in front of people’s houses. Many years in a row they had lily-of-the-valley under the crucifix, that usually bloomed on Easter time. They are called “little tears” in Romanian. People made the sign of cross passing by and left candles lit under our crucifix. I was a happy child. I bought a very small compact Olympus digital camera in 2007, one of the few things I could afford all my life (now they are cheap) and I made this photo on morning light in September 2011. But they always change the dates on my photo files. I still have this photo in my camera.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I still have to add a few more things. For example a few photos that I took with Gypsies on the outskirts of my grandparents’ village. I created this collage with some of the best from the few photos I have with Gypsies. I made these photos on Fujifilm in the ’90s, walking around the village of my grandparents (in other neighboring villages, e.g. in Scoreiu and Cârţa/ Kertz in German), together with my grandma, because I had to write a paper about Gypsy/minorities life as a student. They were really hospitable. I visited a few Gypsy families, I made interviews (I still have them recorded on tape, a little deteriorated since then), I found interesting things about their traditions (betrothal, wedding, funeral, etc.), their deportation over Dniester/ Nistru river in WWII, their traditional clothes (head kerchief for married women and long dresses, usually red, round black hats for men, that wide leather belt for men, etc.) There were different types of Gypsies in that area, between Fagaras and Sibiu. It was a county fair day that day, that’s why they prepared cattle for sale or to buy or they shared beer together.
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Another fantastic thing is that I found there very very old houses, as you can imagine. Look for example at these 2 in the photos below. They the same imprint both, the strange thing is that 2 years before I made this picture, this house too was conquered by vines up till the cross (the cross or floral symbol atop that circle), exactly like the other one, somehow they fell down, I still have the older version. I don’t know what represents that symbol, maybe my mother was right and it has some link with the Austro-Hungarian rule. Another very interesting fact is that in the past (not so long ago, I’ve seen with my own eyes) houses were imprinted with signs designating the function of the proprietor, like farrier, firemen, etc.
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In the picture below you can see another interesting detail from a house obviously newer, dated 1897 , whose entire picture I still have it in my computer, it looks new compared to others. It seems that the other houses with the other symbol are very very ancient. But this symbol resembles very much the other one and the two attic openings are quite the same.

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Another interesting fact is that in people’s homes ceramic plates of German influence, normal in that area, were hung on the walls, and in our house too. Here is the picture of a plate that tells something about God, obviously of German origin, which I could not translate:

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Here is the link to a short videoclip I made with house dacay in that village:

House Decay

And here you can find another video i made with my photos from the village:

Below I add 2 more photos: my great-grandparents’ crosses (they were the parents of my maternal grandma and of that WWII hero, and they share the same name) and the cross of my grand-grand-grandfather (father of Victoria, my great-grandmother, she was the mother of my maternal grandpa). My great-great-grandfather Nicodim lived to be almost 101 years old and his photo appeared in the local newspaper together with my grandparents, while he was casting his vote in late ’60s. Unfortunately I don’t have that photo, it was taken by my mother’s brother, and I don’t know if he still has it. It was a communist vote and newspaper, but that memory was worth preserving.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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And last but not least, a photo of a part of my grandpa’s room, where he slept in his last living years, where we used to cook meals on an old cast iron stove in my childhood. You can see a part of those pottery of German influence (there are better than these) and if you look carefully at the photos on the wall you will see me and my maternal grandma Olimpia and in the old photo placed in the icon’s frame you will see one of my great-grandmothers (I forgot which one) dressed in the local specific folklore costume, that did not change too much from then. I still have one of my grandma’s costumes. And I already shown that to you in the pictures with the church mass. That green thing is a small cupboard inside the wall where they kept the family’s Bible and candles.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But this story wouldn’t be complete without the photo of some distant relatives (being a small village everyone was connected to everyone and distant kinship marriages were not rare, even my uncle and my aunt are 3rd grade cousins) that I took in the village’s graveyard and I believe that to be an important historic legacy. It is very very old and the costume the spouse wore is not similar to the traditional Romanian folklore costume that my grand-grandmothers wore. I suppose that it can be a matrimony between people of different ethnic backgrounds, maybe the woman was of German origin. The man’s costume is similar to Romanian men’s costume in that area. My mother said that it was him related to us, not her. My mother really knew many things about her family’s past, because after dining together we stood many times telling stories about old times. But one of the questions I have is: if that was in the beginning a small community of colonizers of German origins, then why did they found the village there or why did they come exactly there, where it was not a main commercial route, where the river flooded the lower gardens periodically and where there was very little farmland for corn or wheat and mostly pastures and forests? Why, when it was predictable that they will be assimilated?

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P.S. I don’t know if others have trouble viewing my photos, because on my editing page the last ones I added appear less clear than the one with our old house that I posted in the beginning.

In the video below you will find me as a child (5 years old) in traditional folklore clothes made by my great-grandmother which I still have (they appear in the last photo, they are at my mother’s place but I could not go there for a long time, when I went there I looked at them sometimes, I don’t have place in my apartment for all that, I still have two woolen adorned blankets, woven by my grandma who did this for many winters at her old wooden loom, like many other women in the village), and in another photo it is me at 15 years of age in grandma’s costume with traditional black head kerchief and black jacket and our wooden hay wagon (we had farrier to make wheels and horseshoes) with my grandpa — he was born in 1925, he was a young grandpa at 46, and my grandma was 42-43, being a bride at 17. May they rest in peace.

and…a final detail about me, something personal…some may think that my mother was not my real mother, even I thought like this sometimes…but there is physical resemblance between me and her, and I won’t count here those details, including hand bones and shape, etc. And my mother resembled my grandmother too. Below is a photo (I have many) where you can see how my mother resembled her mother and I at 9 years of age, resembling them. There was no physical similarity at all between me and my father…The old woman in the photo is my great-grandmother, the mother of my grandpa.

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I loved and respected very much my family and my ancestors, but everything turned wrong…and it was not my fault at all, believe it or not. That is my mother’s best silk dress that I wore myself many years after this shot, in one of my very rare pictures where I act as if I were happy, but watch my hand:

my mother's silk dress

Sorry, it is not the same dress but I won’t remove the picture…you can read the true and certain story of mother’s dresses and shoes or mine or about that furniture hiding poverty in fact on flickr.

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Categories: Memories | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Portrait of a Traveler


The ashtray of my great aunt P was silver-plated alike the old mirror sitting on the shelf under the window; it was an ashtray with a nude fisherwoman hauling a net for stubs and ashes with her strong arms, and, who knows, perhaps a goldfish would have appeared there to fulfill three essential wishes in everyone’s life.

Aunt P gave up smoking a long time ago. She used to smoke the finest Romanian cigarettes available in her youth. But she was a poor woman all her life, as well as the great majority of my relatives. Then she grew old, going through some interesting transformations for a single woman in the city: her large dark brown face warts went discolored, her legs became hairless, her hair became brilliant white with a tint of blue-violet gentian tincture used by many old ladies, her nails got curved and thickened, even though she still used her precious manicure tools, because in fact my aunt did not forget the way of life she adopted in the hair salon where she had worked. In the last ten years of her life, my aunt gradually lost her sight, but she was still able to wash herself under the shower alone, even though she did not quit for 15 years her room strangely built with six walls instead of four.

Times were spinning around my aunt’s house like a toy globe in a child’s hand, meridian after meridian. In the 60s her third husband died, leaving her to care for the three elder relatives. Her husband had roots among White noble Russians (he was a white émigré), and he found refuge with modest financial means in Romania. Coincidentally, my aunt’s brother was a different kind of adventurer, a former worker in the construction industry and traveler in the Arab countries, who had spent several years in a concentration camp in Russia, because he was a prisoner in the Second World War. Aunt P too had traveled in her youth around the world, as a stage dancer, together with a friend. She had pictures with her in beautiful ballerina white dresses. In addition to the hair salon, she worked as a public servant in a state institution. In the ‘70s the trolley wires circled my aunt’s home, and then they disappeared. In the ‘80s my aunt often walked around the city to visit her sisters and brothers and in the suburbs area too, to take a breath of fresh air and stretch her pretty legs on a lounger in the sunlight. She loved very much herbs of all kinds, to refresh her blood, but she was a perfect hostess for her younger relatives when they congregated around her round and small table for a card game named Ace of Spades, staking on very low value coins. In her later years she began to stitch and make superb needlework and to decorate cushions according to her Hungarian origins traditions, with incredible craftsmanship for the hand of an apprentice.

In the ‘90s, my aunt, aged almost 80, had traveled with some fear on a plane over the ocean in the U.S.A. to attend a wedding of one of her nieces from an elder sister. She was always the same lady with impeccable manners and a small head standing with her curled hair and her pink lipstick on her mouth over her thin and quite tall body, more and more fragile. My aunt’s house was neighboring the government’s building, and on the ground floor they set up kiosks for petty merchandise. Only the framed pictures of my aunt were the same: her husband, brothers and sisters, and relatives from afar.

I visited her from time to time and she joked that she was the doyenne of age in our family. I still have a few old books received from her. In her youth she loved rumors about celebrities, in her old age she listened to the radio sitting on her bedside. When I was young she said about me that I was like Lapusneanu, a Romanian ruler, who said “if you don’t want me, I still want you” and I could not agree to that. I loved my family with all my heart. Before she died, she synthesized the wisdom of life in a few words: “It’s better on the ground floor than in the basement, that’s what I think, and while my Lord still left a living time to me, it should be lived”. This woman was shrouded in a fragrance of mystery, but in reality she was simple like jar pickles. She kept the flavor of times gone by, but she was spiced with herbs and resistant, yet open minded. She has given me a few things before she died, but I only preserved her simple, cheap Romanian coffee cups and saucers. Yes, she had liked coffee and she died on New Year’s Eve, probably as a result of the aggravation of her aorta aneurysm and other age-related illnesses. Because the staircase to her apartment (which she no longer could descend for a long time), was twisted to a maximum, they came down first with the coffin and then with her in a blanket. I thought that’s exactly what her life was: twisted like ivy around some men, twisted, but fragile, rambling on devious paths in mysterious ways, where not all people sleep between four walls. And at the end of her journey my aunt offered once again a proof her proverbial capacity of adaptation. At the graveyard gate it was snowing, it was a very peaceful and thin snowfall, gracious like her ballerina days…

There are many other stories about aunt P which I regret I did not write in time before forgetting them. There are stories about her adventures with unknown men in cheap motels, whose advances she had surely rejected and the memory of her own youth in photos with Greta Garbo looks.

Categories: Memories, prose | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

A Cradle of Dreams


Before my parents bought their car we went each summer first with a fast train to my grandparents’ village located exactly in the middle of Romania. Then we were taking another slow train to reach our destination. Lord, how much I loved traveling by train! I was in admiration with the scenery all the way, but I preferred talking with people on the train. They were so kind and welcoming, asking me many things and giving me sweets or trifles. And when I grew up a little I was so happy to talk with other people telling me their life stories and I began to dream that I could help others in the future. The return to Bucharest was easier and cheaper, I was coming back with a slow train. I remember one winter when my grandmother brought me back to the city, and we were snowbound spending almost the whole night in train (such a delay never happened again in my life). I never liked to learn by heart the names of the stations because I wanted that journey to remain like a dream. Our small village station was closed after 1989. There was also a window for tickets and toilet and a well like in many stations, where I used to taste water before taking the train on our road back to Bucharest.
Stepping down from the train we were walking on the long and dusty road lined with poplars. Passing over the green river’s meadow, over a small creek where I played as a child, (even now I almost feel slippery stones under my feet), where water was clear, women were washing clothes or wool there, little fish were swimming inside. We were passing over the river on a small suspended bridge and if it was broken (damaged by storms or snow) on the cable ferry gliding slowly, which was named “ship” by the villagers. Usually a gypsy held the job of transporting wagons or cars on the cable ferry, he had a hut on the other shore and we were calling after him. That suspension bridge was an opportunity for dangerous childhood games (boys annoying girls, rocking the flimsy bridge to scare them or jumping directly in the water from up there) and it was swinging even at small weights, certainly fascinating for a child. Then we had to walk for a while until we reached the other end of the village where my grandparents’ house was the only house in the village with a crucifix in front of it with Christ hand painted.
The village was built between hills, in fact between the river and a long hill named “The Rib” guarding all village houses. Sometimes its waters were flooding the lower houses and the meadow. My grandfather was taking me across the water on his back and I was very happy, a child fascinated by the natural world, so rich in beauty and wonders. But I must admit that I started to discover the beauty of wild places only when I was twelve years old or so, because until then I was too small to understand and I was missing my other grandmother living in Bucharest. It was boring to spend the entire summer holidays in the village. Usually my parents were leaving me there.
Village houses were built along the main street, side by side. There were two drinking water sources, but the one near our house had gone dry before I got there as a child, so I was going frequently after drinking water with a one or three liter pitcher in my hand. In the center of the village was a crucifix (cross) covered with a roof, where people gathered in earlier times for ring dances, games and story telling. There was also a scale for hay carts. Almost all village houses had crosses printed in their walls under the eaves and benches at every porch where people were sitting on Sundays to talk and watch others go by, old women waiting for the herd to return in the evening from the pasture. It seems that even pigs were taken out in the old days to graze grass near the village boundaries. The village had once a flourishing period, there were many other houses and two churches above the main street (where only ruins remained), because the young ones (my mother’s generation) left to find their fortune elsewhere. When I was little I had been with my grandfather to the farrier workshop and I was allowed to heat up the bellows, watching how our horse was shoed.
There was also a primary school and the village local store (with a mailbox nearby) where a seller came on bike and where I was staring, buying sometimes a few things I liked: sweets, notebooks, stockings. Gradually I was received in many houses in the village, where I found ornaments resembling those in our home (towels, woven carpets, icons) and people were also very kind towards me, but I remained too shy and it was hard for me to yell from the street their names when I was sent by my grandparents to someone else with different tasks (in those times door bells were rare). One of my grandma’s cousins gave me beautiful flowers, other women did the same. The peasants had beautiful old names with Latin origin. A shoemaker of German origin was living near our house, where I asked once for much too many cookies or candies prepared by his wife. I think I was a greedy for sweets, but I quickly learned the rules of conduct.
Our house was isolated from other houses, we had a garden and a large courtyard paved with stones. The household was thriving, with daily hard work, with many cattle and sheep. I loved to stay in the barn at milking hour, we had buffaloes and sometimes I was singing little improvised songs, perched on the opposite manger, where some brooding hen was ruffling furiously her feathers. I was wondering why the buffaloes had no names. It was so sad for me when the calf was slaughtered usually in secret (because the law did not allow that) and I was praying in vain for his life, but the meat was tasty, one of the best. I suffered a lot when I saw it whipped to enter its enclosure before my grandma was milking for us. Sometimes I gave it sugar, feeling its rough tongue scratching my palm, caressing it between the small horns. I was also approaching the horse with some fruit or grass, but very carefully. I never was allowed to milk, because buffaloes are by nature dangerous animals, even grandma suffered because of them. And the horse was big and unmanageable, my grandparents did not let me ride it (other village girls went riding on the street and I envied them a little). Once grandma was in the hospital after a hoof kick and suffered a long time. But I have a picture with me on horseback, of course under strict control. When the herd came back in the evening I was waiting at the gate, armed with a stick (useless of course). I had to hide in the yard, especially when I was wearing red cloth.
In our house I found many old things and mysteries. Everything was left there as before – iron stoves giving heat for a short time (in the morning it was very cold), many ceramic plates hung on slats or walls, ceiling beams and thick planks on the ground, covered with mats. In the room where my grandparents were sleeping was a protective nylon where I choked once a mouse. But I stayed a long time on the floor with my hand pressing the poor creature, because I was afraid to take it out – finally my great grandmother came and threw it to the cat. In the table drawer there was an old wooden pencil case with pencils and pens, from which I was taking drawing tools for my princesses and fairies. Simple icons were hung on the walls, copies printed on paper. I was fascinated by small niche-cupboards in the walls. My granny kept inside her glasses, prayer books and candles for storm, because she was praying when it was thunder and lightning. Grandpa kept in old photos and documents. I was fascinated by an old pepper grinder with a crank. I do not remember if the grandparents had TV, but the refrigerator was not available a long time, the whole household was in a prosperous state, but obsolete, maintaining traditions, without any sign of modernization, as if time stood still there, but in a pleasant way. In the bedroom we had a cuckoo clock and a mechanical sewing machine. Really there were so many things to discover in every corner … and they did not change until today.
Grandfather was an expert when it was the time for slicing pork in winter, teaching me the anatomical parts of the slaughtered animal. Grandma was so kind to me. Apart from cooking delicious food, home-made bread, gorgeous cakes, incredibly delicious pies, she used to sing beautiful Christmas carols and she also taught me some prayers. In the winter holidays season it was so nice to hear the carolers singing. Once I even had a Christmas tree, although there such trees are rare, grandpa found it somewhere. In the evenings my grandparents were playing with me, we were tickling each other joking. My grandfather brought once a horse foot tightening rope and he tied my legs saying I was too unruly. We all laughed and everything was so magical. Grandma was weaving in winter on the old wooden loom. Those times women gathered in each other’s house to spin wool. I learned by heart the cycle of wool gathering, from shearing sheep to carpet weaving. Grandma was also knitting, but not too much, especially wool jackets and thick socks or mittens. Grandpa was bringing from the city bottled juice and sweets. I sat next to the table and it was fun to watch him put in the bottle for soda those small gas bombs, then combining soda with sour wine from the cellar, sweetened with a pinch of sugar. I loved to watch him sharpening the scythe and usually I was going with my grandma to the fields bringing lunch to the workers around 10 a.m., because they had been mowing since dawn hours.
They were working daily the whole week and Sunday was really beautiful, holy and Christian. The priest came in every home with baptism in January, when he was consecrating water in people’s jugs. Near the priest’s house it happened to me once a funny story with a turkey. I was returning home bringing fresh water (the priest used to say smiling that the pitcher is bigger than me) and a turkey attacked me, fidgeting around me. I decided to stand still. I was like a statue in the middle of street until the priest or someone else came and chased the monster. That happened because children were saying that when a bear attacks, you should better fake death.
The moments I liked the most were the hay working days, but I was spared of work although I liked it and I was able to do my part of work there. I had to force doors locked for me and then my grandparents seemed so amazed about my skills. I was coming back home on top of fragrant hay, holding that pole that was above hay in order to maintain my equilibrium. It was also beautiful in the forest where trees of different varieties were growing together. My grandfather knew all their names.
At home I liked to collect eggs from our hen nests, climbing on ladders, and I was feeding chickens in the yard calling them with a special sound to gather before dusk. I watched the hierarchical relationships between winged creatures and their habits. Tiny yellow or black hatchlings were so nice. When it was cold in autumn (the last series of chickens), they were gathering close to the stove in our courtyard kitchen and I kept them in my palms. Once again I broke the rules around me (because I was supposed only to read or to play around), and I cooked the first meal of my life there when I was twelve years old: rice and tomatoes with marrows. We had a small garden inside the big garden where flowers grew every summer (hawthorn, dahlias, basil) and we had also beans, carrots or other vegetables and spices. What a scent! Nearby there was a well were I had my fish, once caught by my father, a fish who lived in cold waters a few years. When it was sunny grandma was rinsing laundry there, bluing it with small chemical cubes.

Only when I grew up I began to discover there the charm of nights filled with stars, which were fantastically bright and so many there that I felt like floating on unseen wings, as if they were pulling me gently up from the earth. I grew there as a child in slow motion cradle of emotion.

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