Look what I just found! I'm sooooo excited! At laaaaaast! 29th May is a Thursday, though, so I'll be nose to grindstone...however, that's the premiere. Hopefully there'll be weekend shows, too. Oh...wow! But how to sing The Time Warp in Roumanian (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdu7xoHU9DA)? If you don't know this show, my dear Roumanian friends, see http://archive.filmdeculte.com/culte/culte.php?id=33 in French, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rocky_Horror_Picture_Show in English for plot and utter silliness.
PS. Where and what is the Kristal Glam Club?!!!! Just googled it and guess what?! It's only on str. J.S.Bach!!!!! Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Apparently, it resembles the Crystal Ballroom, Dagenham in 1977...Morte de rire! Bring it oooooooooooon! Pix at the bottom of this post from Nine O'Clock.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” premieres in Bucharest
The musical “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, directed by Alexander Hausvater, will have its Eastern-European premiere on May 29, in a Bucharest club. The show, created by Richard O’ Brian, was performed for the first time in 1975, in London and then conquered some of the most prestigious stages of Broadway, Western Europe, Australia, Africa or Asia.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is considered the most successful musical of all times all over the world, and it represents a parody of horror and SF films, combined with irony and sensuality, outlined by music, dance and theatre. The British musical also inspired the 1975 music comedy “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, starring Susan Sarandon, Tim Curry, Barry Bostwick and Meat Loaf.
The performance tells the story of Janet Weiss and Brad Majors, a newly engaged young couple on atrip. Unfortunately, their car breaks down and they must seek accommodation at the castle of the transsexual doctor Frank’N’ Furter, an eccentric scientist leading terrifying and unpredictable experiments.
In Romania, the show will be performed weekly at Kristal Glam Club in Bucharest. The cast includes eleven Romanian actors, including Victor Bucur, Sanziana Tarta, Filip Ristovski, Dana Rotaru, Silvia Launeanu, Matei Chioariu, Tica Alexe, Mirela Boureanu, and Marius Stanescu.
According to the organisers, the creator of the musical Richard O’ Brian himself is expected to attend the premiere in Bucharest.
by Nine oClock
Kristal Glam Club, str. Bach, nr.2 pix:
I'd like to apologise for having included a certain Nina Cassian in the below post. I hadn't done any research, and hadn't any idea of her history further than what was written in Blouse Roumaine. This morning I decided to dig a bit deeper because her photo gave me goose pimples in a baaaaaad way and...aie aie aie, is all I can say. Paragraph on N.C. removed at 21h this evening. She's gone never to return, at least to this blog, and probably to Roumania, too. George Bush deserves her, but the American people sure as hell don't.
Below, some incredible extracts taken from a beautifully written book, "Blouse Roumaine" (inspired by a Matisse painting) by Constantin Roman. It is a tribute to the voices of Romanian women, both heard and unheard. You can find the link to this wonderful book on the right of the page. The likes of Ana Pauker and the unpronounceable wife of Ceausescu aren't included, of course. This is a place for those I admire, and not those I abhor. Please read on, and spare these women and their experiences tender thought and much affection. Remember that these are only a few - their voices represent the thousands of other women who also lived through and survived (or sadly not) the same persecution, terror and unimaginable cruelty, during our lifetime. Here. In Romania. The country of my heart. Our neighbour. So nearby....
Sabina Wurmbrand (Sabina Oster)
Missionary of the underground church, Pastor’s wife, Political Prisoner, Exile, (1913, Romania – 2000, California, USA)
"...I was marched to the guard-room and put into a carcer. It was a narrow cupboard built into the wall in which you could just stand. The iron door had a few holes to admit air... After a few hours, my feet were burning. The blood in my temples beat with slow, painful thuds. How many hours could they keep me here?... Drops of water were falling from somewhere on the roof of the box. It was a desolate sound. I counted them to make time pass... I don’t know how long I did this, but at a certain moment I simply began to cry aloud to avoid despair.
"One, two, three, four," I cried, and again, "One, two, three, four..." After a time the words became inarticulate. I didn’t know what I said. My mind had moved into rest. It blacked out. Yet my spirit continued to say something to God.” (“The pastor's wife”)
“The Romanian Anne Frank” - Playwright, Holocaust Survivor, Exile, (b. Transylvania, 1929), living in Paris since 1969.
“I was born in 1929 in Transylvania (Romania). One good morning, when I was 11 years old I woke up to be a Hungarian citizen, without having moved to another place, another street, or even without having changed my shirt. At the age of 14 I was deported to Auschwitz, as a Jew. On my release in 1945 I had become again a Romanian citizen. That is why I have the greatest difficulty in establishing my nationality, other than from my identity papers which specified that I was Jewish.” (“Les beaux jours de ma jeunesse”, Ed Gallimard, Paris, 1996)
“If there is little mystery as to how one was exterminated in the camps, one knows relatively little as to the “conditions of life” on a day-to-day basis. What would be like to be an inmate of that hole, five minutes before he would clap out during a fight for a bed cover, a dish or a spoon…
How one was living in tattered clothes, hungry, weak, but preserving one’s sarcasm and aggression, an unimaginable vitality in civil life.
That raucous laughter! This is perhaps what is missing from the posthumous documents! That grotesque, ferocious and blunt side, which sharpens our misery much more than lamentations or tears. All in all a strange planet, inhabited by strange martyrs (without any vocation of sainthood), with an exorbitant rage for life, controlled by a sole rule of law – the survival.”
(“Les beaux jours de ma jeunesse”, Ed Gallimard, Paris, 1996)
Romanian exile writer and broadcaster, anti-Communist fighter, (b. 1923, Romania) living in Paris
Ceausescu’s brand of Communism:
“When Ceausescu delivered his speech against the invasion of of Czechoslovakia (by the Russians) he accredited the myth of the popular support he enjoyed. His acclaim by the crowds gathered in Palace Square in August 1968 lay at the basis of a suicidal complicity between the hangman and his victim. It is through this very act that we secured for ourselves our ‘originality’ within the communist context. The antagonism between “Them” and “Us”, which characterized the regime of Gheorghiu-Dej without as such circumventing its tragic dimension, dissolved in the derisive. On that tragic Shakespearean stage all characters of prime stature had disappeared leaving behind only the bafoons, whose whose ribaldry were empty of meaning..”
(“La apa Vavilonului 1960-1980”, Vol 2, Ed Humanitas, Bucharest, 2001)
Destruction of Romanian Élites:
“In Romania, the dissidence was an exception. Our rezistance was present when it did not exist in the other satellite countries and it ended just as it started with our neighbouring countries. We fought and died in the Carpathian mountains as the West was blind and deaf, soaking in its victory and forgetting its hostages. From the prisons where our Élite was destroyed came out in the 1960’s only the shadows of our earlier determination. Three succecive waves of terror – 1948, 1952 and 1958 had drained the collective organism. We caved ina quasy total silence. We sacrificed ourselves for nothing. With this sense of utter uselessness emerged from jails most of the survivors, some of whom, whilst “free”, remained at the beck and call of the Securitate.”
(“La apa Vavilonului 1960-1980”, Vol 2, Ed Humanitas, Bucharest, 2001)
Madelene "Madi" Cancicov
Lawyer, Political Prisoner, Writer, Exile
(25 June 1904, Bucharest – 6 June 1985, London)
Good and Evil :
“Evil is perhaps none other than the lack of courage to do Good. Because, as you can see, the Good is an uphill struggle, but Evil is a sliding slope.
What is extraordinary, tragic and dangerous in the realm of good faith is that one cannot suspect the existence of bad faith. “
“Le cachot des marionettes”
“ Judges are prodigal because their life is not at stake”.
“Le cachot des marionettes”
“Dear puppets on a string, I will have to bade you farewell (…) I have passed to you my poisoned chalice. You did not die of it but instead I could live.. I often asked myself: why do it? I could never remember it all and moreover I will never have the opportunity of putting it on paper. However I persevered so that such years of my life would not be completely wasted”
“Le cachot des marionettes”
“And the solitude: do you know what it means to forfeit one’s solitude?
“Le cachot des marionettes”
née Oana Cantacuzino, Exile living in France, Political Prisoner, Writer, Exile, (b. 1936, Romania)
“The eye of an evil God who hides his face and has absolute power over the prisoner.” (“Les Anées volées – dans le Goulag roumain a seize ans”, Seuil, 1991)
“The resistance in the (Carpathian) mountains was a dramatic episode. I realise that I do not know what name to give it, by what name to identify these men and women who died up there under the bullets, or simply of cold and hunger. Such appellations were found (for others): The resistance is French,” as it fights the Germans, the partisans are Soviet, as they fight the Germans. There are also the desperados and the mudjahidins, but there is no word assigned to those who had fought, arm in hand, against the Communists, in the countries of Eastern Europe, occupied by the Soviet armies.” (“Les Années volées – dans le Goulag roumain a seize ans”, Seuil, 1991)
“The passion of the Russians for wrist watches was a classic: it was funny to see them display several watches to their wrist, or an alarm clock hanging round their neck.” (“Les Années volées”, Seuil, 1991)
Soviet female army officers:
“As to the females of the Soviet army, they discovered in Romania the existence of such underwear as the chemisette and the bra, which they were so proud of, that they would wear it over their uniform, but nobody had the guts to laugh at such things. When the first Romanian refugees who reached the West, brought with them such images, they were accused of being CIA agents.” (“Les Années volées”, Seuil, 1991)
Poet, Philosopher, Essayist, Academic
Living in Cluj, (b. 14th March 1955)
Eugene Ionesco in Romania:
“He was cured as one would be, through a classic psycho-analytic therapy, by writing (like a writer would do, with all the pre-requisite exaggerations and not like a historian, with all its scientific precision), by stating the truth: this truth, which we no longer like.” (“Eugeen Ionesco in his paternal country”)
“The Legionary Movement is our national product, the revolt of our nasty and vindictive collective subconsciousness”… “ I believe that the source of some of the excesses during the Communist period is to be found in the inter-war period and in its excesses. Likewise, I believe that the reason of so many failiures during the past ten years – corruption, politicking, improbable justice, undemocratic behaviour is to be found in our history since 1918.” (“"Adevarului literar si artistic" (Nr. 547/ 05.12. 2000)”)
Marta Petreu is professor at Cluj University, a poet, essayist and a Philosopher and at the same time Editor-in-Chief of the magazine “Apostrof”, a platform from which she directs her criticism at the right-wing extremist nationalism in Romania. It is to be noted that the very mayor of Cluj, as a proponent of extreme nationalism is a graphic representation of professor Petreu’s attention. The interest is reciprocal with the difference that instead of using the same means of criticism through publishing professor Petreu’s opponents indulge in tactics of the more basic variety, involving threats of physical violence. As a result, both Marta Petreu and her publication remain rather isolated in a climate where it had become increasingly difficult to speak one’s mind.
Under Ceausescu’s regime Marta Petreu would have ended in a lunatic asylum or in the kind of isolated prison camp described by Oana Orlea, Madeleine Cancicov, Annie Samuelli, Sabina Wurmbrand (q.v.) and thousands of women tortured like them under the Communist dictatorship. Instead, in the post-Communist transition period such treatment is confined rather to intimidation and regular death threats. This is clearly quite an achievement considering the starting point on the road to NATO and to the European Union, that Romania wants to join. It is little wonder that she is expected to align and apply it laws in compliance to accepted civilised standards, before entry to such Clubs may be achieved. It maybe that Marta Petreu’s treatment, and that of other people llike her, may be a test case.
In 2002 the Writer’s Union of Cluj nominated Marta Petreu for the 2001 Henri Jacquier Prize given by the Institut Francais for her book “Eugene Ionesco in his paternal country”. Earlier, in June 2001, in New York , Marta Petreu was given by the Human Rights Watch the presitigious Hellman-Hemmett Prize, as one amongst 27 world authors who suffered persecution in their own country.
One could say, without fear of contradiction that for her courage and obduracy, combined with an incisive analytical mind and high moral values Marta Petreu falls in a very special category of exceptional women.
Elisabeta Rizea of Nucsoara
Peasant Farmer, Resistance Fighter, (b. ca 1912, Romania) living in the village of Nucsoara, Co Arges
“When these wretched communists came to power they took everything from us, the land, the wooden carts, -the hair off our heads – still, what they could not take was our soul.” (interview given on 20th May 2001, on the occasion of the private visit to her home of King Michael)
Elisabeta Rizea was born before the WWI, in a small village of the Southern Carpathians, in County Arges. She was a peasant farmer with a minute plot of land, a modest wooden cottage, covered in shingles and a few animals. Her every day dress was the national garb, embroidered with intricate patterns. She left school at the age of 14 to do what was expected of her lot - to help make a meagre existence off her small allotment. Her fierce opposition to the Communist expropriation and her husband joining the guerrilla fighters in the mountains led to torture and long years of imprisonment. She was branded “an enemy of the people” (“dusman al poporului”) and her household labelled “a home of bandits” (“casa de banditi”) – the worst possible indictment in the Communist state. Once in jail, in the notorious Pitesti prison, Elisabeta Rizea was held in chains and put on death row. She outlived her death sentence to tell her story, after Ceausescu’s fall.
“There is a certain quality in being detached, a merit in renouncing the worldly, which include also the territory of the Spirit. In order to find the Romanian Spirit one has to travel far into the desert, where it took refuge a long time ago, when confronted to the devastating violence of History. In the desert, in the void of scepticism, which wiped the table clean, it seems that it is there the remarkable Romanian Spirit. At this stage it seems that it may have something to tell, a superior message, but what it has to tell is of little interest to matters of History. One may percieve even grandeur and distinction in this Spirit which refuses to adhere to the world, even a certain superiority in this refusal. But who ever cares about refusal, about the non-resistence to the crime which now, more so than ever, is at the heart of History,? What may be the use of renouncing action? Maybe writing aphorisms like Cioran, meditating about the furility of action…… Finally, whatever may be its loftiness, compared to the values of the Spiri,t I still suspect there is something illicit in the smile of the Wise…” (“Au balcon de l’exil Roumain a Paris”, Ed L’Harmattan, Paris, 1999)
Sanda Stolojan (b. 1919) belongs to a family of Romanian scholars and diplomats. Her experience of western European languages and cultures dates to her childhood. She spent time at the Uranus Military prison in Bucharest. Her husband spent many years in prison, and at the infamous slave labour camp at the Danube-black Sea canal. These experiences caused an interruption in Sanda Stolojan's literary career. In the early 1960s, the bankrupt communist economy in need of cash, Sanda Stolojan and her husband were bought by a relation in France, for 25,000, dollars and were allowed to leave Romania for the West. Sanda Stolojan became a Romanian interpreter for the French Presidency for thirty years, from De Gaulle to Jacques Chirac. This privileged position allowed her to return to Romania as part of the official French delegations. In France she was one of the leaders of the anti-Communist exile group who sought to restore Romanian dignity in the face of Communist secret service agression. This milieu is presented in her recent memoirs published in Paris and Bucharest. Sanda Stolojan is a former president of 'The League for Human Rights in Romania' (1984-1990).
HERE'S the site again. Please do go and check it out.
and if they make you want to dash to your local bookshop, try these, too:
In 1949, Annie Samuelli and her sister Nora were seized by the Communists on trumped-up charges in a mass arrest of all Romanian nationals working for the U.S. and British Legations in Bucharest. After nine months of torture and interrogation, the two sisters were sentenced to long prison terms. Then, in 1961, after 11 years and 340 days in separate prisons and security cells, the two were quietly released from jail and exiled upon payment of ransom by a relative living in the United States. In this book, Annie Samuelli writes of those years of imprisonment with great sensitivity and a remarkable lack of bitterness. She describes her successful effort to sustain her own and others' spirits through the seemingly endless ordeal. This is an authentic, graphic record of one woman's odyssey in the shadow world of the Iron Curtain prisons. Reprint of 'The Wall Between'.
"I have lived, alone, in a cell, 157,852,800 seconds of solitude and fear. Cause for screaming! They sentence me to live yet another 220,838,400 seconds! To live them or to die from them."–from The Silent Escape
Victim of Stalinist-era terror, Lena Constante was arrested on trumped-up charges of "espionage" and sentenced to twelve years in Romanian prisons. The Silent Escape is the extraordinary account of the first eight years of her incarceration–years of solitary confinement during which she was tortured, starved, and daily humiliated.
The only woman to have endured isolation so long in Romanian jails, Constante is also one of the few women political prisoners to have written about her ordeal. Unlike other more political prison diaries, this book draws us into the practical and emotional experiences of everyday prison life. Candidly, eloquently, Constante describes the physical and psychological abuses that were the common lot of communist-state political prisoners. She also recounts the particular humiliations she suffered as a woman, including that of male guards watching her in the bathroom. Constante survived by escaping into her mind–and finally by discovering the "language of the walls," which enabled her to communicate with other female inmates. A powerful story of totalitarianism and human endurance, this work makes an important contribution to the literature of "prison notebooks."
Not much more to report this weekend, apart from a lovely evening with Flori and Alina Friday which began at Festival 39, then continued on the roof of the National Theatre where there's a huge open space given to tables and chairs, bars and places that sell mici, sausages, fried potatoes and chicken drumsticks - all delicious. There's an area for experimental theatre and musicians, and the atmosphere fun and sociable. There's an indoor bar as well, a bit more well-to-do, which was closed.
Saturday morning early, I went for an hours walk with Rosie before the rain hit to have a sigh at some of the beautiful houses in the side streets between Polona and Dorobanti, taking in str. Brasilia, str. Madrid and str. Prof. Ion Bogdan. I've no idea who lives in any of them, and was stupid enough not to note the street numbers when I took the photos, but you can see why I stand in front of them and gaze in wonder. If you can't, well, look a bit closer! Even the houses which are neglected and falling to bits have such charm - each brick, each bit of plaster, tells its own story, has seen so much, could report on incredible events both tragic and marvellous throughout the history of this incredible city. There's still the Nicole Tour 3 to do, and for that, I'm waiting for energy and a beautiful day. It will be a lovely walk, I'm sure, full of the usual Nicole Research and Fascinating Facts.
A private class with Eugenia, a walk round the new quartier (see below) and then a weekend at the cave for back resting purposes, which has been exacerbated by the dreadfully wet weather meant I didn't go to Lola's bar-b-q. So sorry not to see the girls. It's been ages since we were all together at the same time! Instead, I stayed horizontal, computer on chest and had fun email exchanges with Nicole, who sent me beautiful photos of Fagaras, Piatra Craiului and other joys, bringing fresh air and sunlight to my cave.
I just saw Tantza and told her about my move. She was so sad, kept wiping her eyes, but said we'd visit each other and she'd still make me all my favourite grub! And was very insistent that I keep up the Reiki. Of course I will! Bless her. She understands why I must go, no need to draw a diagram. Just a shame I can't kidnap her and take her with me.
And that's all for now.
Love, Sarah xox
Having finished a private class near Pta Dorobanti today I decided to try to get some exercise despite screaming back ache (it's so wet and humid, I guess that's why...) and have a trot round my new quartier. It was a lovely surprise to discover it was rather nearer than I'd thought, as from the Piata and cutting through a side street its only a ten minute walk, though I was walking quite slowly for fear of my discal hernia going into an utter sulk. I can catch a bus on Dorobanti to Pta Romana or Dacia without any hassle at all, and Stefan cel Mare metrou is a mere ten minutes.
It's such a lovely green, quiet area, and str. Bach is nicely sandwiched between Bartok and Beethoven with Puccini just around the corner. Gardens on both sides, one of which, at the front, is a park (see pic, right) with benches, fountains, a playground...really lovely. I've a supermarket over the road as well as a flowershop, bakery, pizzeria, newspaper kiosk and other 'petits commercants' which will make life easier.
I told Mandita yesterday. I was dreading it but it was fine. She said it was better to have light and space, that she was very pleased for me, I was to come back and visit often etc. I was so sure she'd be cross that I wasn't giving much notice, but not at all. I expect she's delighted to be rid of this bourgeoise who does nothing but complain about things that don't work, fall off walls and feels the cold all the time! I haven't told Tantza yet. Yesterday was her birthday so it wasn't the moment and I haven't seen her since.
Lucia and George are back. They look well and rested after their break. It was so good to see them. Bucharest without them is a bit like Paris without an Eiffel Tower!
Have a good day. Until later, maybe.
Love Sarah xox
Okay, all my dearly beloved Roumanian friends...do you really feel cousins to the Italians? Really? Honestly? Yes? Well then, have a look at the following and tell me if there's a connection. This is very funny!
Love Sarah xox
There's a new statue by Florin Codre at Piata Revolutiei...King Carol I has returned, on horseback, in front of the Royal Palace. The original statue by the Croatian Ivan Mestrovic of the afore-mentioned monarch was destroyed in 1948 by the communists. In 2005, the Minister of Culture decided to recreate the destroyed statue from a model that was kept by Meštrović's family. In 2007, the Bucharest Town Hall assigned the project to the sculptor Florin Codre (quote Wikipedia) who designed an original statue of King Carol I inspired by Meštrović's model. Perhaps it will replace the Toothpick and the Potato (Memorial of Rebirth, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_of_Rebirth sent by Nicole, my historical researcher!), that noone seems to understand (hence the nickname as that's what it looks like - see photo above). But it's caused a few issues.. apparently his legs are too short and he doesn't resemble the defunct Rex at all. I went to check it out. Call me blind and ignorant, but I think King Carol looks most regal, and I certainly didn't think he had the legs of Lester Piggott! Whether he looks like he should or not, I really can't tell as the face is too far up to make a ligitimate comparison (will get some binoculars and then let you know!).
Apart from the Toothpick and the Potato, there's also a statue of my dear Iuliu Maniu, though it's hard to recognise him. It's described as the 'Broken Man' and for this reason, I have warmed to it very much, knowing the story of Maniu. If the Toothpick and the Potato goes, will Maniu http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iuliu_Maniu go too? I do hope not. This monument of a broken man but an unbreakable spirit is fundamental 'lest thou never forget'. I just found a great blog written by a guy called Douglas called 'Half Way Down the Danube'. Here's what he says on the subject of the 'Broken Man'. I couldn't have put it any better myself. He took the words right out of my mouth. 'It's a bronze, larger than life size. Maniu is sitting in a chair, with a tree behind him. But the tree is leafless and rather abstract; it's like an ugly, spiky bronze candelabrum, giving no shade or shelter. Meanwhile Maniu himself has these big... cracks running all through his body. Like he's disintegrating, or someone is trying to chop him apart. And he's subtly disproportioned; his clothes are hanging on him, and his limbs are too thin, almost emaciated. All in all, it's a nasty looking thing. Most people recoil a little. So did I, when I first saw it. But: look again, and remember Maniu's story. Great liberal democrat, last honest man, spent his final years in a bleak Communist prison, froze to death and was thrown into an unmarked mass grave. The face of the statue is sad but calm; there's no hope in those eyes, but he's not broken either. The hands on the chair are turned upward, palms open. The body language is helplessness but not despair; he's accepting his fate, but will never admit it is right or fair.
If you know the story... the cracks in his body make it look like he's been, well, frozen and then thawed out. Well: there's Romanian democracy for you. Frozen for years under Communism, now thawed out, maybe not beautiful but present and accounted for. It's very appropriate that he sits in front of the Senate.
It's still an ugly statue. But the more you look at it, the more you realize how good it is. It's very rare in this part of the world to see the painful past acknowledged in this way. I think it's one of the best and bravest pieces of public statuary I've ever seen, and maybe the best in Eastern Europe. If you're ever in central Bucharest, make a point of stopping by'. Bravo, Douglas. Thank you for putting it exactly as it is.
Nicole has sent me a link to the Roumanian newspaper Cotidianul on the subject of the statue. It's in Roumanian, so sorry to all of you in UK and France. I'm hunting for an English or French version. http://www.cotidianul.ro/carol_i_vine_sa_mute_eapa_lui_ghildus-44530.html
Love, Sarah xox
Please read this great interview with the Roumanian poet, Ana Blandiana. It describes so many things that we lucky ones from 'the West' can't even gleen to imagine of life under Ceausescu's megalomanic rule, particularly during the 80's:
Find below also her poem 'Everything' ('Totul') discussed in above interview with explanations further down:
... Leaves, words, tears
Tinned Food, Cats
Trams from time to time, queues for flour
Weevils, empty bottles, speeches
Elongated images on the television
Colorado beetles, petrol
Pennants, the European Cup
Trucks with gas cylinders, familiar portraits
Newspapers, loaves of bread
Blended oil, carnations
Receptions at the airport
Bucharest salami, diet yoghurt
Gypsy women with Kents, Crevedia Eggs
The Saturday serial, coffee substitutes
The struggle of nations for peace, choirs
Production by the hectare
Gerovital, the Victoriei Avenue Mob
The Hymn of Romania, Adidas shoes
Bulgarian stewed fruit, jokes, sea fish
A few comments on the 'list':
'Totul' = 'Everything', a word used constantly by Ceausescu in his speeches, stressing that everything has been done by the party, that the people owe him everything.
There was no shortage of words, leaves or tears
The shelves of the supermarkets were bare, all that was left were tins of food
Cats - there was a rumour that an alley cat attacked and injured Ceausescu's beloved dogs when he went to survey the potential site for his Centru Civic - he ordered it to be caught and destroyed but it was impossible; "only a cat may look at a king" Instead he destroyed the Brancovanesc Hospital...
Trams ... only from time to time and then they were always full!
Queues for flour ... and for everything else: bread, oil. meat, petrol, eggs, sugar ... etc
Weevils - in the flour, the pasta, etc
Empty bottles - stock-piled for deposits, to bottle your own fruit etc, or when going out for oil etc
Speeches: no shortage of hot air from the conducator, he was known for his endless, monotonous speeches
Elongated images - TV reception was very poor and the pictures distorted
Colorado beetles: the scourge of potato crops, but there was nothing with which to combat them
Petrol: produced from Romanian oil-fields but mainly for export; strictly rationed and very expensive for the home market
Pennants: hanging everywhere for local footballl clubs, gymnastic teams, and of course waved for the Conducator
European Cup: the nation was obsessed with football - sport was not political
Gas cylinders: refers to the trucks loaded with cylinders of butane gas for domestic cooking use since mains gas was not readily available, even in Bucharest; these were also in short supply so excited crowds awaited the arrival of the truck
Familiar portraits: everywhere you looked there were portraits of Ceausescu - Big Brother was watching!
Export-reject apples: despite having been the bread basket of Eastern Europe, all food of decent quality was exported for hard currency
Newspapers: the skimpy party daily - 'Scinteia' had few uses other than as toilet or wrapping paper
Bread: rationed, a delivery would always create a queue
Blended oil: a euphemism for adulterated cooking oil; and that wasn't all - even flour was reputedly bulked up with sawdust
Carnations: no shortage
Receptions at the Airport: Ceausescu liked to make a fuss of guests with an entourage from the airport through streets lined with cheering people and flag-waving schoolchildren
Cico: a sweet beverage of indescribable flavour, a poor substitute for Coca-Cola!
Bucharest Salami: a very pale, disgusting substance made to a recipe given the seal of approval of the Conducator; said to contain the offal, fat and bonemeal of various animals. The high quality Sibiu salami was strictly for export only.
Diet Yoghurt: healthy food was completely unobtainable
Gypsy women with Kents: Kent cigarettes were the second currency in Romania in the 1980s, especially on the Black Market; the gypsies were thought to be behind the smuggling rackets. Kents were an incredible status symbol and even empty packets would often decorate the sideboard!
Crevedia eggs: considered the best and always likely to attract the longest queues
Rumours: in a world of dis-information and brain-washing rumours were rife
Saturday serial: the most populat TV programme - often important serials such as Dallas or Kojak; not to be missed when the remainder of the very limited programme was dedicated to Ceausescu speeches and patriotic folk music.
Coffee substitute: blends of chicory or acorns; real coffee was rare outside restaurants for western visitors or hard currency shops; a couple of bags of coffee beans were equivalent to a months salary on the Black Market
Peace: Ceausescu's constant call for peace and nuclear disarmament were used to woo the West: in particlular the US who granted Romania 'Most favoured Nation' status for its apparent anti-soviet stance
Choirs: also folk ensembles, the other main interest on the limited TV programme
Production figures: everywhere you went there were tables and graphs of grossly exaggerated production figures
Gerovital: the famous anti-ageing treatment, exported for hard-currency
The Victoriei Avenue Mob: Ceausescu's elite Securitate entrusted with guarding the route along the Calea Victoriei to the Central Committee Buildings; assumed to have been hand-picked orphans who were totally loyal - these were responsible for the continued resistance following the 1989 Revolution
Hymn of Romania: a much-publicised music festival to praise the leader and provide a focus for patriotic nationalism!
Adidas: those who ate meat at the time will know this was the slang word for two pigs' feet joined together
Bulgarian Stewed Fruit: something else that appeared in all the shops during 1984, having been dumped on the market
Jokes: despite the hardships the Romanian were (and still are) very humourous; jokes about the system were commonplace
Sea Fish: usually sardines from China or Vietnam, promoted as nutritious but usually delivered as a semi frozen, semi rotten grey mess to town food stores
Commentary: Why Does Monica Lovinescu Matter?
Radio Free Europe
By Vladimir Tismaneanu
Monica Lovinescu (GNU)
(Monica Lovinescu, a Paris-based literary critic and journalist who encouraged intellectual resistance to Romania's communist regime from the microphone of Radio Free Europe from 1964-92, passed away on April 21 at the age of 85.
The daughter of influential interwar academic Eugen Lovinescu, and a mother who was to die in a communist prison, Monica Lovinescu enjoyed tremendous prestige and influence in her native Romania. She was considered a chief ideologue in arguing that communist crimes were equal to those of the Nazis, and her work angered dictator Nicolae Ceausescu to the point that he ordered the beating in 1977 that left her in a coma. She recovered to return to her seat behind the microphone, where she observed the downfall of Ceausescu's regime in 1989.)
Monica Lovinescu matters because she was one of the most important voices of the Eastern and Central European antitotalitarian thought. Her passing away is a major loss for all the friends of an open society. My personal indebtedness to her -- like that of many Romanian intellectuals -- is immense. As a member of the Presidential Commission for the Analysis of the Communist Dictatorship in Romania (which I chaired), Lovinescu participated, even during the most painful moments of physical suffering, in the condemnation of communist totalitarianism. Her solidarity was unswerving, both morally and intellectually.
Lovinescu's crucial impact on Romania's culture is inextricably linked to her major role as a cultural commentator for Radio Free Europe (RFE). There is no exaggeration in saying that no other RFE broadcast was more execrated, abhorred, and feared by Ceausescu and the communist nomenklatura than those undertaken by Lovinescu and her husband, Virgil Ierunca.
For decades, Lovinescu fought against terrorist collectivisms, the regimentation of the mind, and moral capitulation. Her patriotism was enlightened and generous. Thanks to her, Romanian intellectuals were able to internalize the great messages from the writings of Camus, Arendt, Kolakowski, Orwell, Solzhenitsyn, Koestler, Cioran, Milosz, Revel, Aron, and the list is fatally too short. A spirit totally dedicated to modernity, open to the crucial polemics of the 20th century, Lovinescu wrote poignant essays on the what American critic Lionel Trilling called "the bloody crossroads, where literature and politics meet."
For years, her outspoken positions in defense of dissident writers and moral resistance to totalitarianism provoked the ire of the party hacks and their Securitate associates. Starting in 1967 and continuing today, publications associated with the most vicious, ultranationalist, and anti-Semitic circles among Romania's Stalinists have targeted Monica Lovinescu. On several occasions, in the 1970s-80s, attempts were made on her life.
For Ceausescu and his sycophants (many of whom are still thriving in the Social Democratic and Romania Mare parties), Lovinescu symbolizes all they love to hate: pluralism, tolerance, hostility to xenophobia, compassion for victims of both totalitarianisms (fascist and communist), and a commitment to what we can call an "ethics of forgetlessness." On the other hand, democratic intellectuals (Gabriel Liiceanu, Andrei Plesu, N. Manolescu, H.R. Patapievici, Andrei Cornea, Dorin Tudoran, Cristian Teodorescu, Sorin Alexandrescu, Mircea Mihaies, Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, to name just a few) learned from her that "memory is indispensable to freedom."
Lovinescu matters because she knew how to maintain the unity between ethics and aesthetics. In 1963, she wrote: "We live in an age in which impostures abound. They should not conceal however the other voices -- those of the victims." Her RFE broadcasts were precisely an antidote to the official mendacity, a voice of truth speaking for those condemned to silence.
Especially during the watershed year 1968, Lovinescu paid close attention to the ideological crisis of world communism and the importance of disenchantment among ex-Marxist intellectuals. At a historical juncture when Ceausescu masqueraded as a de-Stalinizer, Lovinescu exposed the tyrant's imposture and appealed to Romanian writers to emulate the ethical audacity of Czech and Slovak intellectuals such as Ludvik Vaculik, Vaclav Havel, Ivan Svitak, Ladislav Mnacko, Eduard Goldstuecker, Antonin Liehm, Pavel Kohout, and Ivan Klima. Thanks to Radio Free Europe and to Monica Lovinescu, Romanians had direct access to the iconoclastic pages of "Literarny listy."
At a time when many thought disparagingly about anything smacking of neo-Marxism, Lovinescu and her husband Ierunca highlighted the significance of revisionism for the destruction of communist pseudo-legitimacy. She wrote extensively about the importance of apostasy, which she described as the "voie royale" toward the awakening from what Immanuel Kant coined "the dogmatic sleep." Furthermore, while emphasizing the need for Romanian culture to avoid autarky, she proposed remarkable guidelines that decisively influenced the intellectual cannon in the country.
Lovinescu's writings have come out after 1990 from the prestigious publishing house Humanitas. A few weeks before her passing away, I reread her essays from 1968. They strike me as extraordinarily timely, insightful, and prescient. She understood before many others that communism was irretrievably sick, and she insisted on the role of intellectuals in the insurrectionary saga of Eastern Europe's opposition to Sovietism.
After 1990, Lovinescu and Ierunca saw many of their predictions (including the dire ones) come true. The legacies of national-Stalinism continue to haunt Romania's fragile pluralism. The lackeys of the ancien regime made it politically and financially. Dissidents were exhausted, marginalized, slandered.
Things changed, however, after 1996 and especially after 2004. The initiation by Traian Basescu of the Presidential Commission unleashed a national conversation along the lines of historical truth and moral justice. Immediately after President Basescu's condemnation of the communist regime as illegitimate and criminal, on December 18, 2006, I called from Bucharest and told Monica Lovinescu what happened. I mentioned the hysterical sabotaging of the president's speech by Romania Mare leader, and former Ceausescu bootlicker, Corneliu Vadim Tudor. Her answer was short and encapsulated the meaning of an exemplary intellectual and moral itinerary: "The noise doesn't matter. Truth was said. We won!"
Vladimir Tismaneanu is professor of politics at the University of Maryland, chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission for the Analysis of the Communist Dictatorship in Romania, and author of numerous books including "Stalinism For All Seasons: A Political History Of Romanian Communism" [University of California Press]. Since 1983, he has been a regular contributor to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
One of Flori's favourite poets, Nichita Stanescu:
Second Elegy: The Getica
for Vasile Parvan
A god was put in every tree stump.
If a stone split, a god
was quickly brought and put there.
It was enough that a bridge fell down,
a god was quickly put in its place,
or that a hole appeared in the highway,
a god was inserted there.
Oh, do not cut your hand or leg
by mistake - or by design.
They will promptly place a god in the wound,
as in every place, as everywhere,
they will place a god there
for us to worship, because he protects
whatever disunites itself.
Take care, warrior, do not lose
for they will bring a god
and set him in your socket,
and he will stay there, petrified, and we
will move our souls to praise him...
And you yourself will stir your soul
in praising him, as you would strangers.
Another kind of Mathematics
We know that one times one is one,
but an unicorn times a pear
have no idea what it is.
We know that five minus four is one
but a cloud minus a sailboat
have no idea what it is.
We know that eight
divided by eight is one,
but a mountain divided by a goat
have no idea what it is.
We know that one plus one is two,
but me and you, oh,
we have no idea what it is.
Oh, but a comforter
times a rabbit
is a red-headed one of course,
a cabbage divided by a flag
is a pig,
a horse minus a street-car
is an angel,
a cauliflower plus an egg
is an astragalus.
Only you and me
multiplied and divided
added and substracted
remain the same...
Vanish from my mind!
Come back to my heart!
English translation by George Mustea