- -  Day # 236  + +

EU > Romania > Timisoara

Child in time

Timisoara, RO (View on map)

Due to the turbulent history of the country, Romanian youngsters who are now in their twenties have all experienced their share of the communist reality. Some for as much as several years, while others were to young to really get a grasp of what was going on. Nevertheless, the Romanian childhood memories are very different from the ones I described in England and Italy earlier on this trip

Anna (24):

..remembers queuing for oil while the communist regime fell
Regardless of political changes, being a child in Romania is bound to be different from being a child in most other European countries. Many children do not spend the first years of their lives with their parents. They spend a lot of time working to make ends meet, and it`s usually the grandparents who look after the children until they are old enough to go to school. Also, children play freely in the courtyards between apartment blocks, which protect them from the crazy traffic on throughways.

TV and fruits
Anna (24, photo) remembers the first Milky Way commercial on TV as if it were yesterday: `Before the revolution, we could only switch the TV on and off. Every day had the same programs, only for two hours in the evening and it was always some political chit chat. Only Sundays were different, because we got to see ten minutes of cartoons. The radio and TV mainly broadcast the exact same program back in those days. I had to get used to the difference between the two. Once, I heard the tune of my favourite cartoon on the radio, and ran to the TV. My mum than explained me that it was no longer all the same and that it was just a quick jingle on the radio. Seeing that Milky Way commercial for the first time was like brainwashing. We didn`t have any advertisements before then, and all of a sudden we were told about this wonderful, flying chocolate bar from the United States.`

`Ban s and oranges were also rare during communist times. They were only available during Christmas, and many people still connect the sight of oranges with Christmas. On the rare occasions that we managed to obtain bananas, they were still all green and my mother put them on a shelf with sand so that they would ripen. It would take some time before we could eat them, which was always a moment to look forward to. Everything was scarce in those days. People got up at 4 in the morning to queue in front of shops, just to make sure that they were at the front of the line. Bread was about the only food product that was available without tickets, but there was a maximum of five breads for one customer.`

Anna remembers the moment of the 1989 revolution, which was another moment of queuing in front of a shop: `Somebody told us that the president had fled and that the revolution has started. My mum said that we would go home, but the lady in front said that it was better not to miss out on the cooking oil they were selling. The necessity of food products was simply too deep-rooted for her to think about it in any other way.`

Staying with family
Julia (24) remembers being brought up by her grandparents during the first four years of here life: `My mother took care of me for the first two weeks, but after that, she needed to return to work. I had a great time with my grandparents, as they were also taking care of my cousins. My parents came visit us once every few weeks. My cousins and I used to play outside a lot, plenty of children all around, and I remember asking whether I should go and buy bread, so that I could sneak out. I would obviously forget about buying the bread and come home with lots of scratches and wounds from all the playing. We had few toys, I had one doll but I don`t remember whether it was a Barbie or something else. There was little difference between boys and girls. We all behaved like boys and had the same hair cuts. That only changed by the time I got eleven or so.` Julia also tells me that sport was quite important in those days. `I did gymnastics for a while. We all wanted to be like Nadia Comaneci, who was the first gymnast ever to be awarded a 100% score in an Olympic contest.`

Claudia (24) was involuntarily raised by her six-year older sister: `I remember moments when she locked me into the bathroom and terrorized me. She was around 13 years old at the time and I think she was practicing to become a mum or something. She was always trying things out on me as if I were a guinea pig. I minded a lot back then, but we are best mates now and we are still sharing a flat. We are both working in Human Resources, even though she studied psychology and I did geography.`

Andrea (21) remembers how she spent the summers at her aunt and uncle`s place in the mountains: `My parents would leave us there for three months and we could just freely amuse ourselves and have a good time. One of my strongest memories was about the cow of my aunt having walked off one evening. My aunt said she`d go find it in the forest and asked us whether we wanted to stay home or come along with her, adding that it could take quite a while. We really felt like coming a long and spent pretty much all night looking for that cow. At one point, we found the dead body of another cow, which had been quite badly mutilated. My aunt said that the animal had probably been eaten by a bear. Only then, I realised that there were bears in the forest and that we could be at risk as well. My aunt said that the bears had just eaten so we didn`t have to be afraid. I`m happy she did because we caught sight of a bear just a little later. Ayway, we found the cow at 10 the next morning and the whole adventure ended well.`

At the same place in the mountains, we once entered a cave of which my aunt had told us that it was a place where thieves where hiding treasures: `I don`t know how we got in, but I do remember that it was full of snakes and we were happy that our aunt found us and helped us out again. Another thing I remember is how we used to `bake` cakes from mud and gave them to my aunt. At one moment, she actually bit off a piece just because we kept insisting that she`d try.`

Faits divers
Bogdan (24) feels happy thinking back of the time he spent in the mountains with his older brother: `He`s seven years older and he took me into the mountains when I was 12 years old. He taught me all the tricks and trades, and I am very thankful for that. I am now working as a mountain guide, while my brother is doing an MBA and has only little time left to spend in the mountains. My childhood was very happy. My parents left me a lot of freedom. They allowed me to drink and smoke, but I hardly didn`t ever. I was more of a pain in the ass in school. I organised a student protest when the principle wanted to force me to cut off my hair. I only did that after they said I was finally allowed to keep it long. I then threw all the hair on the desk of the principle. We also played other tricks with teachers, like getting drunk with one on the night before a major exam and shaving off one of his eye brows. He obviously couldn`t complain because how could he tell anybody that he got drunk with his students around? It surprising I never got caught for the things I did. I only got caught for the things I did not do.`

Bogdan (25) thinks back of a time he was visiting his aunt and uncle together with his parents. My cousins were much older and had already left the house. I was playing with some kind of soldier-toy and I would not go home with them. They tried to bribe me with a banana, which was quite something back in those days, and refused to give in. Then they left me at my uncle`s place and within a very short while, I got bored with the toy and wanted to go home. I fell asleep crying. It was a bit stupid, I could just have taken the toy home with me, but I somehow didn`t get the idea.` Bogdan`s first childhood memory was sitting on the arm of his grandmother: `They had just moved to a new village and were living in temporary accommodation provided by the state. My grandmother was talking with a men who was talking through a hole in his throat. I couldn`t understand a word of what he was trying to say, but my grandmother was communicating with him as if there was nothing abnormal about it. I was puzzled..`

Flaviu (22) has strong memories of the time he and his friend were trying to scrape chewing gum off the street to eat it. `We just wondered what it would be like and it was quite good, but I think I somehow outgrew the play.`

Alex (21) remembers how he got on a tram with is mum and lost her, just for a short moment. She went to the ticket perforator to validate the ticket. I thought I was holding here hand, but I wasn`t. I looked up and noticed how I was holding the hand of some old lady, who smiled to me in a very friendly way. Later, I realised that she represented my perfect vision of eternity and afterlife. She may be dead, but she will forever remain within the memory of somebody younger. Me in this case, because it will be something that I cannot ever forget.`

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