23 Nov A bite-size story: the communist era
I’ve decided to write this post as a footnote to the previous one. I would like to tell you a little bit about Communism, before any of you jump to the conclusion that I’m perhaps the only person to have an idilic view of this regime.
I grew up with communism, and despite the fact that my childhood was happy (made so by the safe nest that my parents guarded), this wasn’t a time of plenty. A city is more vulnerable to starvation than a village in the countryside, where people can be self-sustaining.
I didn’t have fields of strawberries to run through, or fruit laden trees, or huge vegetable gardens. We lived in a 40sqm apartment – all 4 of us + my grandmother for 6 months of the year. The shops were empty, with only jars of pickled beetroot and pre-boiled carrots to be found. We had times when meat, flour, oil, and eggs were rationed. We used to queue for days to get a chicken – if we were lucky, and if the ‘black market’ didn’t suck up everything in one go. We used to queue for 4-5 days to put petrol in the car. People really came together in times like this. We worked on shifts, keeping each other’s place in the queue.
I remember coming home from school and going straight out again to wait in a queue for food. When my mum (or dad, or sister) came back from work, they would replace me. People were even allowed to skip work to go and queue for food, imagine that!
We had chocolate a few times a year, especially when dad was sent on business trips abroad. He used to bring oranges, bananas, or chocolate in the lining of his coat, since these would not have been allowed in his suitcase. It was a good thing that airport security wasn’t as vigilant as it is today.
There was no other way to cook than by cooking seasonally. Preserving was not a fashion, it was a necessity. The pig slaughter every December provided us with meat or meat products for more or less a year. Of course, we were enjoying good quality ingredients: good vegetables when in season, home reared pigs, home-made preserves.
My mum had to make delicious food from what we had. She worked 6 days a week, and still managed to cook a feast for us. Not to mention the cleaning of the house and the washing of clothes. Yes, we helped, but it was never compulsory, and I definitely helped more around the kitchen.
This wasn’t just my family’s story, it was the same almost everywhere. I’m not even going to touch on other, more profound issues of what Communism meant, such as freedom of speech, civil rights, tolerance. It is not the time or place. Some people’s lives were profoundly altered by Communism.
Whilst researching for my book, I’ve come to see with great sadness how a country that used to be famous for its tolerance (hence so many ethnical groups settled in Romania), had been turned into a pot of hatered and betrayal during the tenure of this regime.
But that’s gone now. Since the revolution, we have been trying to learn from the past, put it behind us, and be better people, build a better country. It is happening, and I love seeing how we are transforming our lives in Romania.