Lots of you have asked about the results of our mayor vote. Glad you're taking an interest even outside Roumania. Imagine how proud I was to vote for the mayor of 'my' sector...and he won! Chiliman knocked'em dead in Sector 1. Hurrah! The mayors for Sectors 2 and 5 remain the same. The fight continues for central mayor, to be voted in two weeks. A very difficult decision though since it's between Oprescu and Blaga. It'll have to be Blaga however as Oprescu as mayor is unthinkable. Diaconescu is out. It reminds me a bit of the Chirac v. Le Pen fight we had in France...one can only vote Blaga, if you see what I mean. And one can't NOT vote.
What to tell you about the week so far? Saw Tantza yesterday who was quite depressed. She's home from hospital and her leg looks much better, but her get up and go has got up and gone. Please spare her a thought.
Tuesday (I think - lost track of time) I went on a mission to find Mestrovic's Bratianu statue on bd. Dacia, not far from the Roumanian Literature Museum and opposite the German Institute. It stands in a nice square backing on to the gardens and house of the Bratianu Foundation (which does...what exactly?). Who did I see there busily snapping the same statue but Dan, Nicole and Serge's friend. In Nicole's guidebooks she was quoted that the statue was in str. B. Amzei in the courtyard of the Collections, so that was my next port of call. I hadn't covered it on Nicole Tour 1 due to Rosie being with me - there was a large number of cats roaming around and I didn't want any fur flying.
The courtyard is no longer much to speak of. What used to be cobbled gardens filled with flowers, lawns and statues (perhaps this one?), there are now only cars and skinny though very talkative and friendly pusscats. I did find a bust of Bratianu, however, in the hallway of the museum. The architecture of the museum, university and surrounding houses is quite lovely, and I sought shelter under a tree from the hot sun for a while to absorb it all, very glad to have returned there.
My next visit was to Mavrogheni Church off Soseaua Kiseleff next door to the Peasants Museum. Rumi thought the statue was here. As I'd never heard of it, I thought I'd better go and have a nose. Delighted to have done so as it's a gorgeous church, built in the later part of the 18th century. It has a pretty garden, is quiet and an oasis of peace after the traffic on the busy Pta Victoriei nearby. There certainly wasn't any trace of anything vaguely Mestrovic-like anywhere in the gardens or the church itself. I spent quite a long time looking, then collapsed on a bench in the shade with a street dog to talk to. He didn't know anything about any statues either, but was appreciative of half a KitKat. So Rumi, if you're reading, your Bratianu is on Dacia, not in a churchyard. And very elegant it is, too.
That was my culture for the week so far.
Rebecca came in to work with Miri yesterday, who's become quite the most gorgeous, giggly baby. It was lovely to see them both. Apart from that, life at BC continues much the same. We're past the mid-term mark so it's a bit of a rush now to get the syllabus covered. Today being World Environment Day meant no photocopying (!!), so that rather slowed everything down. One of my students gave me the address of an osteopath at the Osteoclinic. I'll call him Monday and make an appointment just to meet him before I let him anywhere near my back, dodgy to say the least since Monday. The weather has been weird with ever-changing pressure which probably explains it.
The Bookfest is on at RomExpo, and I shall pop in Saturday morning on the way to Bellu - my mission for this weekend. Would you believe that I went to every bookshop on Dorobanti, this end of Stefan Cel Mare and Magheru for a book on the afore-mentioned cemetry - none anywhere. Not even Noi or Cartaresti. Not even a pamphlet. Thank heavens for Nicole and Internet! Speaking of Nicole, she's still suffering terribly from lumbago - today being Day 10 of her ordeal, with no improvement despite horse pills. Please spare her a thought too, and send her healing vibes.
Lucia has left for Geneva back Sunday afternoon, Aura's plane took off (with her in it, presumably as I have no news to the contrary) bound for Istanbul at 19h30 this evening return early July, Mary has left for Paris and Gaby is with her mum 25km from Bucharest...so the team is depleted.
And that's my news. The BC timetable has seen to it that I have no life from Monday to Thursday, and tomorrow I have cover to do for a colleague on paternity leave, plus a private lesson with Eugenia and a cup of tea with my Tantza. More as it happens.
Two sad pieces of news to share with you: Lidia in Brasov lost her beautiful black snoutzer dog Nenah this week, and Dana has just e-mailed to say her dog died this evening. How awful for them both. Losing an animal is like losing a child for those of us who either don't have any or whose children are now grown and no longer need nurturing. I remember Paul Dunn preaching at St. Paul's after the death of Norrie's dog (or maybe it was his own dog - I don't remember). He said that there is, of course, an animal heaven, full of glorious adventures, especially for dogs - bone burying and digging, cat chasing, tummy rubbing, ear scratching, rolling in lush green grass and endless good nosh. I know that this place exists for animals for they deserve it far more than we do. Infinite loyalty and goodness, trust and fidelity. Animals don't know cruelty from their own race, how to torture one another, how to double-cross or destroy lives for pleasure. For that reason, heaven is there for our wet-nosed, four legged friends. I'm quite sure of it.
Love to you all, Sarah xox
Sunday night already, and just back from the celebration for 60 years of Israel and a little time with my Lucia and George. It was a lovely evening, and albeit having to leave early and the absence of the klezmer I was so dying to hear, the show was great and the ambience even more so. A lady sitting near us told Lucia she felt as if she was in Israel.
The foyer of the National Theatre was decked with stalls of books, travel info, school data, religious objects, jewellery, art, wine and there was even a group of children dancing traditional folkmusic which was rather sweet.
It was a very moving show. The whole audience seemed to know every song. They were up on their feet dancing and singing, even the crumblies amongst us!
I knew Caru' cu Bere had always been a beer cavern, founded in 1875 and so-named because a beer cart delivered there...but that was the extent of my knowledge. Its history, however, is fascinating.
As the Peace treaty was being signed in Berlin in 1878, Ioan Cabasan was buying a delapidated house behind Zlatari Inn, on str. Stavropoleos in central Bucharest. At the time, much of the original Constantin Voda Inn there before had been demolished. In 1861, this was a large open area, opening onto the Stavropoleos and St. Ioan cel Mare inns. To the south, imposingly towering over the slums was Nicolae Brancoveanu’s palace, where the Mogosoaia Bridge began.
For an businessman, this space was pretty interesting, albeit a dump! Soon more substantial incentives appeared, such as the wooden panelled circus “Walhala,” alternatively used by German artists and politicians.
The constructions of “La pisica neagra” and “Baltador,” both located in the Zlatari Inn wing opening onto Stavropoleos, rapidly turned the area into promising commercial potential. In 1878, a merchant from Bacau, Dumitru Marinescu, set about building a brewery in the neighbourhood, finished in 1899 and known as the Bragadiru brewery. The owner was already looking for clients to sign sales agreements, and among them was Cabasan. Under such favourable and fool-proof circumstances to trade, the latter decided take the plunge into business. On May Day 1879, he opened a beer house in the building on str Stavropoleos and named it “La Caru cu bere” (The beer cart).
It was to be shared with the Capsa brothers’ company, a celebrity untouched by the passage of time. A new era began. The owners commissioned the plans for the reconstruction and redecoration of the pub to Austrian architect Siegfrid Kofezinsky. Radical reconstruction and improvement works began in 1888 - the date is mentioned in several memoirs - and was completed eventually in 1924. The old, modest building was demolished, the central building erected, along with the cellar, the kitchen and the front part, in neo-Gothic style.
The interior is decorated in a myriad of styles, with a Byzantine influence represented in balconies and banisters, combined with the gilded frescoes and the stained-glass windows of the Bavarian academic style. A statue of old Ghita the cellarman holding a lamp in his hand was added later at the foot of the stairs, next to the balcony. The pub features were also changed, and in 1902 it was both a beer house and a restaurant, although ads tried to reassure the old customers that “special beer from the Bragadiru brewery is served every day and evening, until after the late night shows.” Brothers Nicolae, Ignat and Victor Mircea, born in Cata village near Medias, had new ideas, French rather than German. As far as the menu was concerned, customers from Transilvania, the most numerous over the years, reminded them of the taverns at home. The Praguer sausages with horse radish, frankfurters, boeuf salad, mushy peas were very popular not to mention the always present “small bottle” of “Lacrima Cristi” wine, which old Ghita the cellarman took care of for over a quarter of a century, in the cellar. Beer drinkers were offered draught beer directly from the cask. (pic left: the bar)
“Caru cu bere” was indeed unique and its unrivalled fame was secure. Before the WW1 outbreak, one of the brothers, Victor, abandoned the family business and set up his own beer house especially for officers, under the new Military Palace inaugurated in 1912. Ads indicate that he took full advantage of the fame gained in “Caru cu bere,” and he named his pub “the Victor Mircea beer house.” A man of innovative spirit, he was also the one who took over the management of the restaurant inside the Gara de Nord (railway station). Thus, the Stavropoleos pub was left with two owners only. Soon, Ignat was also to try to start his own business. With his brother Nicolae’s support and advice, he bought a tavern and costly transformed it into a beer house named “Ignat Mircea.” He too tried to take advantage of the fame that “Caru cu bere” had secured for the Mircea family. He failed however, and in 1929 the Roumanian-British bank declared him bankrupt. Unfortunately he didn’t go down by himself. As he had guaranteed his brother’s credit and the bank threatened to take away his pub, Nicolae committed suicide, falling from the second floor above the cellar, as we learn from the newspapers of the time. Bucharest locals decried the misfortune, but equally clear was their concern with the future of the famous pub. Times were testing but the company and the beer house survived.
Apparently, the new owner did not interfere with the “house customs,” which explains the popularity of the beer house among the German officers between 1942 and 1944. Then came the occupation by the barbaric Red Army and the abusive seizing of the pub in 1948-1949 (so-called “nationalisation”). The Russian officers, bothered by the “German paintings,” ordered that they be covered in red paint, so that everybody would know who the new master was, and that decorations be covered in white paint. Whether communist or apolitical, Bucaresteans were appalled by the mutilation of their beer house and shortly after Stalin’s death 1953, works were carried out to remove the red paint.
Under new ownership, the “bourgeois” tradition lost its appeal: the horse radish Praguers were replaced with the more popular Olt sausages, the mushy peas were taken off the menu.... “Caru cu bere” was perhaps doomed to become a regular Socialist beer house. Clients were still numerous however, and most of the time graced by artists. The decadence lasted until 1986, when large-scale restoration work began, coordinated by painter Nicolae Gheorghe. He restored not only its past elegance, but also its lost dignity, at the expense of proletarian clients. Today, the Caru' Cu Bere is part of the City Grill network. Murals and frescoes on the walls and ceilings and the gilded decorations look just as they did 100 years ago, tables have been reconditioned, along with the oak wood furniture. Superb stained-glass windows filter the light, and chandeliers have regained their lustre. Downstairs in the cellar is a genuine museum displaying beer steins and pints from various periods. There is also an unrestored part of the building that gives access by winding stairway to other apartments and rooms above and behind the restaurant (see pic right). I have to go and check it out!
It's a great place to meet, drink and eat, the live music is usually very good, though sometimes a little overbearing, and ranges from gypsy music - see HERE, traditional Romanian music. No kitsch at all (with the exception of 'Voulez-vous Coucher Avec Moi'!!!). Bravo! Just a little word of advice: don't forget to reserve in advance - the queues sometimes stretch past Stavropoleos Church, and as the service isn't that rapid, you could be standing there waiting all night! Everyone wants to experience a bit of Caru' cu Bere, and who can blame them, for this is a sparkle of Bucuresti de Alta Data, a memory of the Little Paris that was and is still present here in this haven of marble, wood, frescoes and ambiance.
Foreign tourists who visit Romania are advised to avoid pickpockets, taxi drivers without taximeters and stray dogs
by Radu Rizea HotNews.ro
Miercuri, 28 mai 2008, 9:51 English | Bucharest
"Thieves, taxi drivers who don't use their taxi meters, stray dogs, unpleasant surprises with restaurant bills and the aggressive driving are main issues in the Lonely Planet article about Bucharest, in the 2008 edition of the guide.
The guide warns that pickpockets and thieves are an issue not only in Bucharest, but also in Brasov, Constanta, Iasi, Suceava and Timisoara. Bags should therefore kept zipped and out in front, so they can't be cut.
In restaurants, the author finds three problems: different menus (one to order and a more expensive one, when it is time to pay), prices per 100 grams, while the portion is at least 400 grams or serving other wines than ordered, at significantly higher prices.
The guide also warns tourists not to use taxis without taxi meters and to avoid dogs, claiming that each and every citizen in Bucharest was at least once bitten by a dog. Furthermore, medical services are not trustworthy enough in case a tourist is bitten.
The Lonely Planet guide, taken over in 2007 by BBC Worldwide, publishes some 500 titles, produces the "Lonely Planet Six Degrees" TV series for Discovery Networks and owns the lonelyplanet.com and lonelyplanet.tv websites.
The author of the article says he stayed for 18 months in Romania in order to gather information. Similar recommendations were published by Le Routard guide for the 2006-2007 edition."
Yes, yes, okay it's all true. Taxi drivers without metres are cruising for targets and you'd be an idiot to get into one, there are restaurants who rip off tourists, the medical services are chronic if you're daft enough to travel without medical insurance which entitles you to good care at the Euroclinic. But as for the dogs...guys, what on earth would you be doing touching a wild dog anyway??? Come on. Even if you're a passioned dog-lover, you can tell which dogs you can pet, and which ones would rip your arm off at a glance. Be reasonable!
Of course there are negative points travelling here, but that's the case in EVERY country. I haven't read the 2008 Lonely Planet, so I can't really comment. I just hope that the wonderful things about Roumania are mentioned, too - the incredibly overwhelming generosity and hospitality, the warmth of the Roumanian people, their fabulous and completely silly sense of humour, their gift of throwing the most marvellous parties at the drop of a hat, the art, literature, music and history, the beautiful buildings and parks, the great food... I could go on for hours, and that's only Bucharest! The joys of the mountains, coast, delta and countryside would take another week!
I've always appreciated LP for its excellent guide books and hope this isn't the beginning of the end of that particular happy relationship! Don't be put off by the criticism. Just be streetwise and sensible, wherever you're travelling. This is one country not to be missed - it'll touch your heart and perhaps even change your life as it did mine. It certainly makes you prioritise and look inwards. How I love it!
Incidentally, the pix are all mine (apart from the book cover at the top) showing: Rucar, Cheia, Piatra Craiului, a lovely church carved into the mountains visited with Lucia and George (can't remember the name - sorry), Agapia, the Atheneum, a road in Bucovina, violinist in str. Lipscani, fountain at Pta Unirii, hay-making near Piatra Neamt, another field in Rucar, hay cart somewhere in Moldavia and a cobbled street in Sighisoara. Roumania really does look like this. So, let's have no more of it! Do notice there isn't a street dog in sight. But if you want one, là voilà! I'm sure you'll agree that he doesn't look very vicious! Actually, he ate my Easter cake as we were leaving Cocos monastery....
Radio Roumania International
"Launched at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Bucharest, the project is an effort to reconstruct the history of the Romanian gulag. Arrested by the communist political police in the late '40s, while a high school student, the former Christian-Democratic MP and member of the Senate Committee for the investigation of abuse and corruption, Constantin Ticu Dumitrescu (http://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantin_Ticu_Dumitrescu), is the president of the Association of Former Political Prisoners and initiator of the Lustration Act- the law that was supposed to ban former communist dignitaries from power.
It just keeps coming. Scandal on TVR - Corneliu Vadim Tudor goes balistic...what a foul man. He was one of the beasts who slammed Monica Lovinescu...need I say more? See Stiri: http://stiri.rol.ro/content/view/127566/8/
Enough of that. Going to work.
Nine O'Clock, 30/05/08, issue 4192
PIN accuses: 24 newly-born on Oprescu’s list of supporters
The row between the leaders of the National Initiative Party (PIN) and the independent candidate for Bucharest mayor, Sorin Oprescu, continues even during the last days of the electoral campaign. PIN representatives accused yesterday that the list of supporters tendered by Oprescu at the Municipal Electoral Bureau (BEM) includes a number of 24 new-born babies and a man who left for Italy five years ago. ‘Following a telephone-conducted inquiry into the list of Sorin Oprescu’s supporters by PIN Vice-president Lavinia Sandru, aside from not even 1 per cent of those questioned admit to being signatories, another incredible finding was unveiled: 24 babies born on 13.04.2008 and 16.04.2008 respectively appear to have signed in favour of Sorin Oprescu’s candidacy,’ according to a PIN release to the press. By the time ‘Nine O’ Clock’ went to press, Sorin Oprescu had not taken a stand about the accusations against him.
I really can't accept this 'right not to vote' stance...how can I? People died so we could go to the polls. It's the very fundamentals of democracy. If one isn't happy with the state of things, then go vote - it's a voice. If you don't vote, you have given up your right to have an opinion, so shut up and stop moaning. That's my view. I understand that here in Roumania it's a very difficult choice to make - is there a single unblemished candidate? Between Basescu, ex-Iliescu and Becali, it's a hard decision. But there are some better than others. Chiliman for a start. My Roumanian friends, my ex-pat friends with the right to vote (ie. residents' permit) - get out there Sunday and make your voices heard. For me there's nothing more cowardly than a non-vote. You're not showing anything by it, you're proving nothing. Only that you don't care. And that, for me, is unacceptable. Here ends the sermon!
Please find below article this morning from Nine O'Clock.
The Deep Revulsion
Nine O'Clock, published in issue 4192 page 4 at 2008-05-30
The right not to vote is just as important of that of expressing your option.
Candidate X is a notorious Securitate man. His file is the evidence! Candidate Y has built his wellbeing by doing business with the underworld. Another one was interned in bedlam; it’s been proved: his medical report was published in a newspaper… Sounds familiar? These are just a few of the ‘revelations’ published in the press during last week.
Only three days left until the first round of local elections and the battle is heating up. As usual, the ‘heavy dossiers’ are thrown on the market in the run up to the polls. Things that could have (and should have) been published long ago. Some of them, trivial. Others, which should have been brought to public knowledge right away.
But no! They have been kept as ‘decisive’ campaign ammunition in the view of those who sneak them in now – against pay or not – on various media channels. They will only make the stench even worse of an electoral campaign that stinks bad enough already… Still, they will have an effect: to make the deep revulsion anticipated for June 1 even deeper.
What will happen Sunday? I can bet the turnout will not exceed 40 percent nationwide, and will hardly reach 30 per cent in Bucharest. One telling signal was the referendum last year, despite the political stake and the passion thrown into play. Another signal is that people have matters of their own to deal with. And the last, and not least, electoral programme viewer ratings being quite low in the past few days.
None of them succeeds in gathering more than 150,000 viewers at most before the small screen. Does this attitude from the public deserve condemnation? Yes, according to some fellow journalists. In my view, no. The right not to vote is just as important as that of exercising your option. Both have been won and both deserve respect.
It is rather the attitude of politicians and analysts that deserves condemnation, who are oblivious to the fact that the surrounding world is changing. That people are fired by passions other than their leaders. The gap grows increasingly wider. The deep revulsion has explanations of its own, a trend worthy of some serious debate…
The run up to the elections has taken on a certain frenetic edge. Posters everywhere, distributors tearing around with flyers, pens and matchboxes screaming 'STOP jafului, STOP coruptiei!' (Stop the rip offs, stop corruption!)either people are sure of their allegiance or they're so confused by the dodginess of each and every candidate that they are not voting at all. I must say that I've spent a lot of time thinking about who will get my vote, proud, at last, to vote for someone somewhere and as this is the country of my heart, I won't let this pass without my cross in the box...I have at last decided. But it's between me and the ballot box, so you'll never know!! Haaa! Suffice to say that voting for a candidate from PD-L (Basescu's motley crew) seems a lot less damaging than supporting PSD (ex-Iliescu) or PNG (that idiot Becali)...however, there's not a great deal of difference between the lot of them. As Gaby says, 'the roots come from the same tree' and as we all know, the famous apple never falls that far! Most of them come from the old school anyway. But I can't ignore my right to vote for the mayor of my favourite place to be.
Here are the choices:
1) Sorin OPRESCU, independent candidate, though linked to Iliescu. Looks like a lizard, is mafioso without shame, director for the municipal hospital, and a surgeon (apparently a good one). He's tried for mayor before with PSD, was up against Basescu in 2000...and lost. I've a very bad feeling that this time he'll be luckier. When I look at this photo, he reminds me horribly of Ceausescu and gives me goose pimples.
2) Vasile BLAGA, PD-L, Basescu's right hand and every inch a red-faced bulldog. He was minister of the interior and thus responsable for public administration. It's his first attempt for the Town Hall. He's a strong chap, Gaby says 'a tough geezer' (who taught her that?!!!).
3) Cozmin GUSA, PIN, was in PD but protested against Basescu. Now he works alongside Lavinia Sandru anoher ex-PD (not in the French sense!). He's founder of PIN. He's young, has new ideas and seems quite savvy as to what Bucharest really needs. He promises 'a studio for every Bucurestean' meaning everyone has the right to a roof over his head. See http://www.cozminprimar.ro/ . Slogan: 'Ce e în gusa, e si în capusa' - I speak my mind
6) Marian VANGHELIE, PSD but may be independent as too many candidates from PSD..frankly have no idea. Maybe he doesn't know either. He's illiterate, speaks appallingly and has the same 'charisma' as Becali. He was mayor for Sector 5. People there were pleased with him as he painted the blocks in pretty colours, created soup kitchens and offered cheap tickets for New Year celebrations for the over-60's.
7) Andrei CHILIMAN, PNL for sector 1 - intelligent, well-educated and from a good family - my favourite to date...
Even the street dogs, maidanezii, are doing their bit. The Roumanians are so inventive! See what Rosie's distant family are up to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRIZI3km5HY
Conclusion...Razboi la Bucuresti...orasul este în fierbere! The young and the restless part 1 and there's no stage better than Bucharest! Watch this space.
I met Adriana Georgescu again in April 1990 in University Square in Bucharest. I knew that she was now living on the other side of the Channel in a British town. That she had changed her name, after a new marriage, to Westwater. That her appearance had been changed not only by the passing of time but also by the incurable trauma of her prison experience. I had followed year after year her evolution and her tragedy. Still she seemed to belong amidst the youth here. When they sang with humour – a humour pierced by bullets – the "golanilor" anthem. And then, kneeling, when they picked up another refrain, "Oh Lord, please come Lord, to see what is left of the humans". Between the lyrical-revolutionary illusion of the beginning and the disconsolate premonition of the end was Adriana's real place.
Adriana Georgescu was a symbol of the obstinacy with which Romanian students and youth in general defied the Soviet occupation after the war. Near Mihai Fărcăşanu's unmistakable silhouette leading the Liberal Youth demonstrations, and inseparable from it, was Adriana's golden hair, athletic slenderness, confident laugh. Newspaperwoman, very young attorney, just out of the University, then General Rădescu's Chief of Staff, the anti-communist resistance found in her an emblematic figure. She was also to become one of the first sacrificial victims of the first show trial in the long series that Nicolschi imposed upon Romania, a series that was to lead to the unfinished symphony of horror at Piteşti. That diabolical stage hadn't yet been reached, but even these initial exercises had been enough to change Adriana's whole existence, henceforth accompanying all the stages of her life with their unending nightmare.
When we met in Paris at the end of 1948, despite what she had been through, Adriana seemed unchanged. She was still General Rădescu's Chief of Staff, stopping here on the road of exile that was to take him to the United States. Adriana could still laugh as well as before, she hadn't given up hope. Of course it was also true that all of us, students or recent graduates, in Paris in sufficient numbers to turn Boulevard St. Michel into a sort of Calea Victoriei away from Romania, we all shared the same recklessness of our age. I only knew one exception: Virgil Ierunca. He walked among us actively pessimistic and was the only one whom I never heard using at New Year or other holidays the ritual formula, "Next year in Bucharest". I myself had come to Paris with the firm belief that Malraux could be convinced to set up international brigades to free Romania.
But I had come to a Paris that was convalescing after one war and unable to prepare for another, and I was among Marxists, Marxist sympathizers, communists, and other fellow travellers for whom Moscow was an anti-fascist Mecca. Among the representatives of the Great Powers who made up the Nuremberg Tribunal, the representatives of the Gulag were trying the heads of the Nazi concentration camps.
One couldn't talk about the satellite-ization of the East without being labeled a fascist. Our stubborn refusal to admit to the division of Europe and the flagrant injustice of the peace was not dulled by aggressive contact with reality. We printed newspapers, we agitated, we held meetings, we knocked on all the doors, we wanted to open eyes that had chosen to remain closed. Such an out-of-sync attitude cannot be explained only by our youth. A very mature Grigore Gafencu did the same thing at a different level. In the United States Committees of the Captive Nations were formed – we even had two, one led by C. Vişoianu, the other by General Rădescu and Mihai Fărcăşanu. The legitimacy of regimes that came to power in falsified elections seemed easy to challenge.
And we kept fighting. Without weapons, without those tanks in which we still dreamed of returning to Romania. We fought with our pens, with our words. Only in 1956, when we saw in amazement that the bloody suppression of the Hungarian Revolution took place without any reaction from the Western Powers (a single United Nations plane carrying the General Secretary of the UN to the Budapest airport, in answer to Imre Nagy's desperate call, would have probably been enough to stop the slaughter and to change the course of history), only then did we realize that our wish was in vain. And since then there have been many types of exiles. The ones determined to continue – true courage, said Simone Weil, is to fight when there is no hope – did it, each in his own way, living their life as a hiatus between what was, and what had almost no chance of coming into being. Others more or less adapted. Others assimilated. And in the waves of exile that followed some were strictly "economical". Seldom "political". In 1956 there occurred the first great loss from the first great exile: Grigore Gafencu, while coming back from a radio station where he had launched a last appeal to save a revolution which could have spread beyond Hungary's borders, was brought down by a heart attack.
But it wasn't yet 1956 when I saw Adriana again in Paris. We still lived with the conviction that eyes must be opened. In the cafés of St. Germain-des-Près, instead of talking about existentialism and looking for Sartre and his cohorts, we came up with a strategy. Adriana would write an eyewitness account, and I would translate it into French. The sooner the better. The urgency was measured by the number of prisons that were filling up in Romania. We agreed that she would bring me every day what she had written the previous night. When she didn't have time the night before, she would write at my house and I would translate it on the spot. "My house" was in fact an attic room ("chambre de bonne" the French call it), the kind poor Parisian students had in those days. And for the first time in my life I was quite poor. But I admit I didn't completely dislike this bohemian lifestyle, which I hadn't known in Romania: university eating halls, rooms without running water, unlit staircases.
There, at 44 Boulevard Raspail, Adriana climbed daily to the seventh floor, and of course there was no lift. Sometimes with three or four pages written in a hurry, sometimes without any so she had to write while I prepared something to eat. Because Romania had broken cultural ties with France we were left without stipends and had only minimal student aid. I didn't really know how to behave when one is left with nothing, but for some reason poverty was connected in my mind with mămăliga. So we looked in all sorts of specialty stores for corn flour, which was rather expensive in those days, out of which, I due to my ignorance, Adriana due to her extreme concentration on the manuscript, we made a rather poor mămăligă. We ended up with some lumpy stuff which we complemented with American chocolate. Various American charitable associations sent food and second hand clothing parcels for East European refugees. They shipped it all together so that our chocolate smelled of... moth balls. We smoked and we drank, Adriana tea and I coffee. And we worked.
When she left, usually late, down the unlit staircase, Adriana sometimes dropped the pages that had been translated, or threw them crumpled into the waste-paper basket. They weren't very important to her, she wrote with a single goal in mind: "to open eyes". During our breaks we behaved childishly or even ridiculously: we put Romanian words to the French Partisan song and imagined ourselves in the first battalions that would throw open the prison doors. We projected the obsessive, in those years, images of the French resistance onto the Romanian reality. And after an intermezzo of hallucinations we would start again: she to write, I to translate.
When she got to her first experiences with prison and torture, Adriana put her fountain-pen down. Her whole body started to tremble. Her teeth were chattering. (This trembling has accompanied her throughout her life, it has been her eternal present.) I gave her another cup of tea. I opened the window that looked out over the Paris roofs. But she was still in the darkness of the Bucharest prisons. Before starting to write again, she told me, still trembling, all the things that she couldn't put down on paper. Then gradually she calmed down and wrote, torturously, sparely, allusively about the unnamable. She threw those pages into the fire immediately after I had translated them into French, seemingly believing that by burning them she could also consume her past. The paper turned into ash but her burden remained.
But even among her prison memories were episodes that were not tragic. She remembered with humour and tender emotion her prostitute and thief cellmates. In order to translate Romanian slang into French, a friend introduced me to one of his resistance comrades who talked only in argot. Plain, massive, primeval even, seemingly still holding in his hand the machine gun which he hadn't yet completely set aside (he told me he kept his weapons hidden under his bed), a simple and courageous man – he had also been behind bars for honourable reasons – he told me everything he knew. Thanks to him the Dâmboviţa felons, thieves, and prostitutes were able to talk just like those on the shores of Seine. A single word remained unchanged: "rag" – the friendly way Adriana's prison-mates called her. I remember it because Adriana and I adopted this name and used it later in our conversations, and after her departure for England in our mail. Never "dear Adriana" or "dear Monica". We used "rag" instead as a sort of a link – unconscious? – between what we were hoping for then and what was never going to happen.
Adriana busied herself not only with the writing of the book, finished in record time due to our rhythm and working style. She was always active. As a member of the Liberal Party. As Rădescu's secretary. She made things clear to politicians, newspapermen, she went to meetings, she kept talking, she kept talking. At the trial brought by the heads of the democratic parties from East and Central Europe against the communist author of a book that was making waves in those days, L'Internationale des Traîtres, Adriana, in her deposition, warned the West that if it failed to do something for the "other Europe" it would eventually be faced with neurotic societies. Her prophecy, based in part on her own suffering, was confirmed by the state of Romanian society after 1989.
The book was published by Hachette in 1951. I signed the translation with a pseudonym (Claude Pascal). I had a hostage in Romania: my mother. In spite of this she was arrested in 1958, at the age of 70, sentenced to 25 years, and in the end murdered in prison through the denial of medical care. Not, however, because my pen name was deciphered, but absurdly (and what wasn't absurd in communist Romania?) for "espionage". How? By sending me printed silk scarves on which she supposedly drew... military maps. Needless to say, my mother didn't know how to draw maps and I never received any scarves from her.
Despite the leftist milieu, Au commencement était la fin was favourably received in the French press. Adriana assumed that the Romanian Embassy bought the whole edition so that the book wouldn’t reach the public. I don't know if this was the case, totally or partially, although such "mass purchases" were used by the communists at the time. In any case the whole edition sold out.
What is left to say is why I think the publication in Romania of Adriana Georgescu's book is salutary and of current interest. Salutary because we suffer, and are going to suffer for a long time, from Romania’s image in the media as the Eastern European country with the weakest dissident movement. And, with a few well-known exceptions, this is a fairly accurate description of the last decades. But not of the first decades after the war. The resistance movement in Romania after 1944 was probably more numerous, more unified, and more determined that that in neighbouring countries. And longer lasting. In September 1947 in Vienna, after I had clandestinely crossed a border (even though my passport was in order… but that is another story that I am not going to tell here), I was in the office of a French officer in order to get a new visa in my passport already filled with stamps. Behind his desk there was a huge map of Romania with small flags marking the resistance bases in the Carpathian mountains. The officer wanted to know if I was aware of any other resistance centers. I wasn't. I was aware though of the resistance that was more or less open in society ("civil society" we would call it today; and it existed in those days).
I was the delegate of the Literature Department of the University of Bucharest to a large student congress in May 1947 in Cluj. The communists and the various "fronts" behind which they were hiding wanted to force us to stigmatize and "fire" the professors resistant to the new order. We withstood the pressure so well (universities from the whole country were represented) that the congress ended without any positive results for the communists and with the Royal Anthem being sung in a large hall filled with students. I was lodged in the medical student dormitory, and we plotted in long sleepless nights what tactics to follow. Among the intellectuals there was the same determined attitude. Together with Ştefan Augustin Doinaş and other members of the Sibiu circle we went to see Lucian Blaga. Blaga wanted to know details about how the Bucharest writers and university professors were surviving. His long periods of silence were punctuated by anxiety and determination. "Silent as a swan", Blaga was listening to the future.
I think this initial resistance has to be emphasized in order to re-establish the truth, to honour those who are no longer with us, and to rid ourselves of one of our rare undeserved complexes (so many are justified!).
As far as the current interest of this testimony goes… I assume it isn't necessary to dwell on it. The readers will judge for themselves. For me it was enough to meet Adriana again in University Square in 1990.
There are some essential differences though. In 1945 we had a civil society, but also the Red Army, in a land abandoned to Soviet "influence" . In 1989-1990, the society, with a few well-known and wonderful exceptions, seems ill, "neurotic", Adriana would say. On the other hand, Europe is no longer divided, and the Red Army is busy at home.
In 1945 everything depended on foreigners. Now everything is in our hands. In principle, there is no reason for the beginning to be the end.
Paris, March 1991
See also: http://www.romanialibera.ro/a123276/la-sfarsit-a-fost-inceputul.html (in Roumanian)